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Signs of Spring?


So here I am, wandering around with my nose towards the ground, scrounging for signs of spring. I’ve found a few — snowdrops 2 inches high with their white buds clearly visible, a few dark red sprouts that are surely tulips, and teeny red buds on the ‘Jens Munk’ rose, a rugosa hybrid from Canada that sneers at winter and breaks dormancy earlier than anything else around. It’s primed, ready to come roaring out of the gate as soon as it gets a good clear signal. The other roses are still snoring away.

‘Jens Munk’ rose– Photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries

I expect my perennials to stand up like troopers when that time comes, but an e-newsletter today from the Ornamental Growers Association of Northern Illinois reminded me that there may be trouble in River City, mainly on our woody plants. Soon windburn and salt damage will be showing up on yews and other conifers, and there may be frost cracking on some tree trunks as well. (Remember all the sycamores in Evanston that had to be cut down earlier this winter?). On the positive side, the severe cold may have zapped some insects into an early eternal rest. (Bow heads here for a quick word of thanks.)

So even if it still feels like winter, spring is sneaking up on us, and this is nature’s last call for starting seeds indoors. I’ve got leftover ‘Milano’ and ‘Better Boy’ tomato seeds that need to be sown forthwith, along with a little-leaf basil (‘Fino Verde’) and some poblano peppers. It’s still too cold to go outside and sow greens like arugula, lettuce and a mesclun mix, but they’re coming next on the agenda. Just like spring.

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questions

Can you tell me if the African daisy Osteospermum ‘Springstar Aurora’ can be winterized here? It is a healthy plant?

Would it help to apply a starter fertilizer on a poor green lawn in December? Will it give it a head start for spring? It hasn’t been reseeded.

I keep seeing photos of interesting plants I’d like to grow, but they’re labeled zone 6 and I’m in zone 5. What can I do to successfully overwinter these marginal plants? I’d like to try them, but I don’t want to waste my money.

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