Nursery Notes: Mid-winter brings thoughts of spring

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Deep winter. Short days, cool weather. I confess that I need to consult the calendar and give some thought to exactly what day it is. This is the time of year gardeners like to dream of spring, what new kinds of tasty fruits they would like to plant this growing season and, perhaps, an apple that keeps really well. Two new varieties are Nicola and Aurora Golden Gala. Or a different coloured pear, perhaps a red Bartlett.

The new year’s seed catalogues arrive in the mail. What changes to make in the veggie garden this year? Rotate the crops and enrich the soil some more.

Last year was a tough kind of year to call. The early part started off so nice in February and March, with the later part of spring turning out so cool and wet. It was hard to get the heat loving crops off to a good start. Being the eternal optimist, I am expecting the best spring yet — or at least not the worst one ever.

There are always more new and appealing plant varieties coming out, different brands of nursery stock in new and different coloured pots, and new seeds or plants hybridized from exotic localities. It is almost hard to keep up with them all.

In the sea of all that is new many things remain the same. Every winter we do a little more work on the house and to the shop in the nursery. Recently, removing wallboard in the retail shop of the nursery revealed a really old poster for some interesting plants time has seen fit to reinvent. I have somewhat of a collection of them now, posters and articles featuring plants from the ’60s and ’70s. The trend nowadays seems to be to breed smaller, more contained versions of the shrubs so they are more appealing to homeowners with smaller suburban lots.

Given the increased time scale of tree production, a lot of the newest introductions are released by nurseries when someone notices an interesting “sport” occurring on a regular tree, that is to say, a naturally occurring variation is spotted by some observant individual and from there it is grafted onto new rootstock and many trees are produced from there. A lot of people are surprised to find out that most all trees for sale in the nursery are actually commercially produced varieties budded or grafted onto a rootstock and not actually just some tree grown from seed over time. By producing grafted material, we can be sure that tulip tree you have purchased will give you exactly the flower colour, shape and size you are expecting several years down the road.

As with all future garden plans, now is a great time to look at the structure or bones of your garden and identify the strengths and weaknesses therein, all kinds of things to think about while you are dreaming winter away.

Evan and Wendy Davies own Beltane Nursery at 2915 Highway 3 in Erickson.