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January is a good time to step back and take stock of your 2018 gardening year. What worked and what didn’t, taking into account the weather that was thrown — literally! — at us. What with record-breaking rainfall in some areas, eight tornadoes in Connecticut, and the usual summer heat and humidity, we all have tales of spectacular successes and dreadful disappointments. I consider all of it grist for the mill as we consider plans for 2019. What to change, what to do more of, and how to become a better gardener.

But not all of this happens in a vacuum. While we were toiling in our own gardens, there were changes underway. Many of the newer plants that you will find in garden centers this year are stronger and better able to handle the weather challenges we face.

More colorful annuals that answer our needs for weather resistance and strength as well as pollinator power go by the name of Luscious® Royale Cosmo Lantana camara


There’s also an improved million bells called Superbells® Rising Star™ Calibrachoa which will deliver better performance. 


Native varieties are enormously popular and are being used extensively in newer garden designs because of their ability to stand up to see-saw temperatures, strong winds, and unpredictable moisture conditions. Maybe that’s something for you to consider as you go forward. Some natives like columbine for early season color are very familiar to you.

The same is true for the later season color that blue asters deliver.

But what about a long lasting trouble free plant like mountain mint? (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium)
  This beauty is renowned for its ability to grow in dry, open, rocky woods, dry prairies, and fields, along roadsides, along streams, and in open wet thickets. Just about anywhere it can get some sun. It is generally avoided by wildlife, long believed so because all parts of the plant emit a strong, mint-like aroma when crushed.


I have a suggestion to help spark your garden dreams. Why not carve out some time to visit one or more of the upcoming flower and garden shows that start in February? These shows are brimming with inspiration via speakers, fully landscaped demonstration gardens and marketplaces. The marketplaces have numerous vendors selling and displaying all manner of horticultural items in exhibitor booths with a variety of choices from arbors to butterflies to seeds to violets and everything in between. Plus you’re likely to meet other like-minded plantaholics and learn a great deal from a wide variety of seminars that come free with your ticket.

The first major one in New England is the Connecticut Flower & Garden Show, set for Feb. 21-24 in Hartford at the Connecticut Convention Center. The education and motivation you’ll get from that one will whet your appetite for the country’s oldest indoor flower show: the Philadelphia Flower Show. It’s scheduled from March 2-10. That one is followed by the Boston Flower & Garden Show at the Seaport World Trade Center from March 13-17. Colorful display gardens and vibrant floral designs, examples of popular and healthy food gardening trend ideas for adopting sustainable gardening practices and air-cleansing indoor plants are just a few points of interest to seek out. The website highlights the inclusion of small-space gardens, homesteading hobbies, edibles-as-ornamentals and family and pet-friendly spaces for outdoor relaxation and entertaining. Maybe you can make it to the 3rd Annual Maine Flower Show during a late season ski trip. That one is set to run from March 28-31. Just when your fingers are itching to get out into the garden but the weather might stop you, you can get over to Providence for the Rhode Island Spring Flower & Garden Show. That show will run from April 4-7 at the Rhode Island Convention Center. It promises to bring together all entities within Rhode Island who have any connection whatsoever with gardening and horticulture: gardeners both professional and amateur, horticulturists, nurserymen, retail garden center owners, and farmers. After that you should be ready to start working in your own garden.

If none of the dates and/or locations work for you, an internet search for your state may reveal an event closer to your hometown: lots of states have them. A second likely source of information is your local library, a rich font of knowledge. Your town might even be sponsoring a trip or two to chase away the winter blues to some favorite garden-oriented destinations like one of the above-mentioned flower shows or a nearby botanical garden with a fantastic toasty warm conservatory. Since many flower shows are sponsored by master gardener organizations, your local county extension office may know of conferences/symposiums in the local area that are scheduled in the next few months. Even if a master gardener group isn’t holding one, it’s very likely that people in the extension office know about such things.

Even if you’re not a gardener, just seeing endless arrays of flowers and being able to smell their assorted fragrances will lift your spirits and shake the winter doldrums. Under any circumstances, these outings are a gardener’s treat and can even be turned into an overnight “short break” for a not-too-close destination.

Time to get those tickets!


Written by Lorraine Ballato, Author of Success with Hydrangeas, A Gardener’s Guide

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