I am in one of my very favorite places, The Americas Mart in Atlanta, Georgia, a place where buyers from all over the world come to see what is new and exciting.
It really is. Not our wimpy, “Ooooh, we’re getting an inch of wintry mix today, call in the National Guard” D.C. weather, but genuine winter weather. “Here” is Marquette, Michigan, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, on the shores of Lake Superior. The U.P. might tax your geographical awareness. It’s tacked on to the top of Wisconsin, which is, you know, the state surrounding the Green Bay Packers. I’m visiting relatives for a couple of weeks, taking advantage of my recent retirement. This is the land of snow blowers, short, cloudy days, and generally cheerful people. It’s a nice town, with a lot of snow.
If Behnke’s were still open, I’d be writing about the first hellebores coming into bloom, and prepping you for all the new perennials that will be appearing this spring. But I’ll leave that to others as I ponder where to shop this spring, the horrors of paying full retail price for my plants and supplies (the horror!), and how much time to devote to the garden; just like you.
What January and February are really good for is for gaining knowledge–sharpening your most important tool, your mind. I encourage you to take a leap beyond gathering information from the internet, much of which is just information a writer has grabbed from some other internet writer and passed along as wisdom.
If you are using the net, consider the source. The University/University Extension publications are great, although sometimes their recommendations for pest control are out of date. The University of Maryland Extension Home and Garden Information Center is a good first stop. For information on specific plants, I always look at the Missouri Botanical Garden website.
I’m not much into social media and blogs, but I like the writing of Robert Pavlis and his website Garden Myths. He emails a couple of times a week, approaching gardening questions with a look at the science behind our common gardening beliefs. I’ve learned a lot from him over the last couple of years. Meanwhile, in the world of face-to-face learning, all of the local public gardens and many of the local garden centers have lectures that are free or inexpensive, and well worth your time.
This is the time of the year when it’s easiest to devote a couple of hours to meet local, regional and sometimes nationally-known speakers. They usually have excellent photos and handouts, and it’s almost always worth the effort to attend. You can ask questions (Live Chat, what a concept) and maybe meet some folks that have interests similar to yours. Garden center staff are always pleased to see people this time of the year when it’s slow, and they are more able to answer your questions before the spring surge hits.
And speaking of meeting people, there are some great garden clubs and plant societies out there worth investigating. They usually have a guest speaker for their meetings, and between the speakers and the members, you can learn an awful lot. During the year they may offer field trips to visit private or public gardens. Younger readers (if there are any) may think that clubs are full of old people, but, heck, gardening is an area where older people’s experience is useful, and we seldom bite.
Two that come to mind are The Beltsville Garden Club and the Horticultural Society of Maryland And of course, there are a myriad of specialty groups devoted to more narrow interests, like the National Capital Orchid Society which has their spring show and sale coming up in February at Homestead Gardens in Davidsonville, MD. (see flyer)
So, take advantage of the mild winter months of the D.C. region and learn more about your plants and gardening interests. Visit a garden center, try out a garden club, take in a lecture. It’s worth your time and you spend too much time on Facebook anyway.
Larry Hurley, Retired Behnke’s Horticulturist