Lifestyle

COMPLETE HOME GARDENER: Remember, all this rain is good for our plants

This may be one of the coolest springs ever recorded in western Washington but there really is a silver lining to the gray weather. Listening to the lament of gardeners at nurseries, at spring events and on Facebook, I just have to share a few things you may have forgotten. This cool spring weather does have advantages.

So here are the top five things to love about the cool spring.

1. Flowers last longer, blooms are brighter!

It is the hot sun that fades the color of tulips and dampens the enthusiasm of daffodils. Cool, cloudy days mean colors stay brighter, petals persist longer and no bloom fades before its time.

Consider this the longest, most colorful spring ever. It is also the perfect weather for adding plants to the landscape. Trees, shrubs, perennials and groundcovers all will adapt and thrive much better when planted on cool, cloudy days.

2. Primroses, pulmonaria and pansies are so very pleased and multiplying.

The cool weather means the soil is cold. This makes early bloomers and perennials happy. Happy plants put down more roots as they decide to stick around. Species primroses like the purple and yellow “Wanda” variety, the double English primroses and the small flowering pansy varieties are spreading their roots and growing more robust every day the temperature stays below 70 degrees. Pulmonarias are rock-hardy perennials that bloom early and then display beautiful, silver-spotted leaves until warm weather begins. This year the pulmonaria have become the divas of the garden, hogging the spotlight as they spread their roots, display their foliage and cast their seeds into the cold, damp soil they love.

3. You don’t have to water your lawn or worry about a water shortage this summer.

Of course most lawns are full of moss thanks to the cool damp weather, but moss is green and doesn’t need mowing. Our summer water supply is healthy. This will be a good summer to add plants or improve a lawn by reseeding.

4. Warm season weeds take longer to go to seed.

You’ve still got time to dig out the dandelions and smother the shot weed before they finish blooming, dry up and spread their billions of new seeds all over the landscape. The weed seeds are late. Get to them now.

5. Finally, this cool spring weather is the gardeners answer to the Fountain of Youth.

The Beach Boys can have their wrinkled and Botoxed California girls. Here in western Washington free facials are right outside the door. Put on your boots, garden with gloves and get outside during misty, rainy weather for an infusion of skin-plumping moisture - no needles required. Gardening in the rain is not only good for the skin, but if you learn to bend and stretch slowly as you garden you get the benefits of a yoga workout. Focusing on a job well done raises self esteem. Moving around outdoors increases blood circulation and works the heart. If you plant some cool-season vegetables like peas, lettuce and Swiss Chard you’ll be improving your nutrition as well. I see younger and younger people at garden talks this spring. Or maybe they are just growing younger-looking from gardening in the rain.

It’s time to celebrate the clouds, respect the rain and look around at the emerald green beauty and long-lasting color of spring 2011. It’s the best spring ever for adding plants, getting ahead of the weeds, improving your health…and enjoying the garden.

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Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and several other books. For book requests or answers to gardening questions, write to her at: P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, 98022. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a personal reply.

For more gardening information, she can be reached at her Web site, www.binettigarden.com.

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