Have you been looking at the calendar impatiently? I have, and as March rolls around, getting towards the end of the month always makes me happy. It’s not hard to guess why. After months of the severe Canadian winter, signs of spring are super welcome.
But how to actually believe that the dark days are actually on their way out? After all, the skies are generally overcast, there’s still that smart nip in the air. You certainly cannot bring out the lighter jackets yet. For me, I look for any green, growing things at home, and in the garden. There can be no other surer harbinger of spring.
In the garden
Just today, I looked out into the forlorn garden and saw a flash of pink. I could barely believe my eyes. Braving the bitter wind, I went out to inspect. It was my small and trusty heather, tips pink with bloom. I felt an enormous surge of pleasure. At last!
Heathers and heaths are actually part of the same genus. And there’s hundreds of cultivars. They bloom in the summer (and I see, spring too!), and form mounds which make them attractive landscaping choices. Living in the city, I don’t have a huge garden, so space is precious. My aim is to grow plants that are hardy, attractive and long lasting. Nurseries advertise heathers as ‘spreading mats’. Heathers are actually used in making Swedish herbal medicines. How wonderful to think that in a few years, my garden plot will feature these lovely hardy species!
The blooms offer a sophisticated pallet of colours ranging from white, to yellow, mauve, orange, red and yellow. The foliage is another story. It is actually evergreen, so it has the wherewithal to weather the brutal winter winds in my zone. Once the blooms of the heather have been spent, trim them to allow for a bushier growth next season.
For best heather growing tips:
- Choose from a reputed nursery and plant in early spring/summer
- Space them out – they like their own territory
- They like soil to be acidic
- Water regularly at first to make sure the ground is moist, but don’t allow sogginess to develop
- Then leave them alone
I noticed that my indoor plants are gearing up for the season as well. I have a lovely emerald fern which is putting out new fronds. The delicate tracery of its green leaves makes the heart ache! There’s many types of ferns, but I just love this one. You’ll see these ferns tucked in bouquets, complementing the showy roses and lilies. They are used as fillers by florists, but in my home, they reside happily as the star in their basket-shaped porcelain container. They need sunlight and are easy to care for. I generally water them once a week and they’ve consistently rewarded me with their gracefulness.
Next to the ferns is the other beauty – the croton plant. Alas, it does not have a happy reputation. People say it is hard to grow, and fussy, just like an old aunt who you can’t satisfy no matter what. In tropical countries like India, where I grew up, I’ve seen them outdoors, drawing people like moths. I mean, who wouldn’t be attracted to their colourful foliage? The broad leaves deck themselves in yellow, red, orange and a young green.
The reason crotons have a bad rap is that they are stressed when you move them. They like to stay put. So when you’re re-planting or re-potting them, the shock may make them grumpy. This summer, I’m going to be re-potting mine. So I hope she’s not going to give up on me.
At the moment, just in the throes of awakening from her winter sleep, my croton has even birthed two new leaves. They are glossy and charming. The mature leaves are deeper crimson and orange. Why do I want to re-pot the croton? The soil needs to be changed after a couple of years, new nutrients need to be added. New soil will give that extra boost to the plant. I’ve been told that in case she does sulk and starts shedding her leaves, I should continue watering and taking care. She’ll come around!
Crotons can lose their vibrancy when the colours fade and the leaves become just plain green. If you’ve had this happen, don’t despair. Its only because you’ve forgotten that they are actually tropical natives (growing mainly in Malaysia and Indonesia). So a key ingredient for them to thrive is sunlight. Put them in a sunny spot and water deeply. Allow the soil to feel dry to the touch and you’ll know it’s time to water again.
I’m happy to be talking ‘green’ again, and would love to hear your stories of welcoming spring.