Yes! Size matters. But size is relative. Big is not as important as biggest. Inside the house the Orchids are huge and amazing; the seedlings in the basement are rapidly increasing in size and quantity. Just outside the back door on the other side of the patio there is about 3cm of bare earth and then a 30 cm wall of snow. From that tiny bit of bare earth, yesterday, March 19, there appeared the biggest flower of the year. An 8cm Snowdrop with four 2cm blooms hanging from it. Spring is here! Yes, I know it will snow next week and cover it all up but share my momentary joy after this longest of winters.

Further out in the backyard I keep watching the new Witch Hazel that I planted last spring. They bloom in the late winter and it appears to have lots of flower buds (picture left,)opening on it. I don’t want to miss this first sign of life out there. About half of the shrub is still under the snow, so it may not fully bloom for another few? days. The large pussy willow in the neighbour’s yard, (picture below,) has started to show its bright white catkins. Nevertheless, I just faxed in my order for seed potatoes and chose the later delivery date because I cannot imagine having workable soil for a few weeks yet.

Last week was the great “Canada Blooms” show in Toronto and I was there twice. I presented my talk on Vertical Vegetables on the Thursday and did a long, leisurely tour of the show. It was improved over last year, in my humble opinion , a wider variety of gardens and of plants within those gardens. An excellent section in the marketplace from VIA rail. They are promoting taking their trains to visit a variety of gardens and several of those public gardens had booths there as well. It would make a great holiday and if you have the time, not to mention the money, you could go from Butchart Gardens in Victoria BC to Halifax Public Gardens in Nova Scotia. Check out the ideas on Via’s website.

Saturday was the annual Garden Writer’s Association meeting where about 40 - 50 of us get together to share, discuss, eat and drink. Always fun and interesting as we are, all in a variety of ways, both compatriots and competitors. The garden industry takes advantage of our presence and plies us with lots of free samples and enough press releases that I could shred them and make mulch for a significant section of the garden. I sift through the information and pass on to you what I see as interesting or significant, (see Via rail above.) The fine folks from Fiskars, (those great black and orange tools,) were there as usual providing us with their latest products and I will report on them as I have a chance to use them. Although few of you will know her, one of our members, Veronica, does a huge job of organizing this event and we all thank her for her efforts.

Meanwhile back in the basement, most of the Peppers have germinated and have been moved out from under the humidity retaining cover. Several of the annual flowers, including the new Viola and the Osteospermum (picture left,)have outgrown their seedling stage and have been transplanted into larger cell packs. I think the Osteospermum will have to make it into even larger pots before they find the garden in May. They are usually sold in the garden centres in 10 - 15cm pots. I need the snow to melt enough so that I can get the cold frame open and operable. I will plug in its heating cable this week to start to warm up its gravel floor. There goes the Hydro bill, but it doesn’t count when it’s for gardening. Despite the additional space from the new lights, I’m still going to run out of space before planting time. Just because I doubled my space and as a result tripled my planting doesn’t mean the math shouldn’t work does it???

I now have a timing dilemma. Some of the earliest crops in the vegetable garden are those known as oriental vegetables such as Pak Choi and Guy Lon. They grow quite quickly and love cool soil. I need to start them about 4 weeks before they go into the garden. Is that this week or next? I’ll hedge my bets and plant some this week and some in a couple of weeks. This will get me into the garden as soon as possible but also stagger the cropping time. One Pak Choi is delightful, two are plentiful but half a dozen all ready at the same time tends to feed us and the compost heap.

My newsletter subscribers get to ask me questions. Just ‘reply’ to the email newsletter. It is always interesting to read the questions; mostly to see if I actually can answer them or if I have to wade into the textbooks to research the answers. If that happens then we all learn something.

David asks? I have a large Cedar hedge that I pruned last summer but it has apparently gotten so wide at the top that I missed several branches in the middle that continued to grow substantially taller. What do I do?

Ken answers! You must trim them back; otherwise they will take over and you will have a Cedar forest rather than a hedge. Do it as soon as you can get outside and work on it. Get yourself a pole pruner that is designed for pruning trees and reach into the centre of the hedge with them. Cut below the top level, if you can, to inhibit new growth in that difficult to reach area. When pruning the hedge this summer try to prune as much as possible to reduce the width of the hedge. You must, however, leave some green on each branch because Cedar is unlikely to break new growth from the older wood.

May all my readers enjoy the Easter season and the new life in our gardens that comes along with it.

111 Trent St. W.
Whitby ON