Spring Thinking: What to Plant This Season

Gardeners are planning their planting for spring.

| April/May 1995

  • Variegated calamint
    Photograph by Jerry Pavia
  • Red Rubin basil
    Photograph courtesy of Territorial Seed Company
  • Dwarf ladies’-mantle
    Photograph by Andy Van Hevelingen
  • Cat’s whiskers
    Photograph by Gwen Barclay
  • Blue porterweed
    Photograph by Gwen Barclay

In most of the United States, at least north of the Mason-Dixon line, there is a nameless season between winter and spring. You know this season: the weather can’t decide what it wants to do, gardeners feel unfulfilled, and the frost-free date is like the proverbial watched pot. It is a time of speculation, planning, preparing, of waiting for spring to decide to stay.

In search of a cure for this kind of malaise, we called a few adventurous herb gardeners around the country and asked them a simple question: “What are you excited about growing this year?” Tell us, we said, about new plants—or new varieties of old plants—that you’re planning to try. What quickens your pulse when you think about your garden in spring?

The results of our informal survey follow. Commercial sources (where available) are listed in parentheses at the end of each plant entry.

Rocky Mountain high and dry

“I’m the worst sort of plant collector, without a hint of self-discipline,” says Marcia Tatroe, of Denver, “so I try dozens of new plants every season. In deference to the semiarid climate where I live, the first thing I look for in a new plant is drought tolerance. New plants must exhibit other qualities as well: I especially seek out plants that are edible, fragrant, everlasting, suitable for cutting, or attractive to butterflies, birds, or beneficial insects. If the plants also take care of themselves with a minimum of fussing, so much the better.” With these criteria in mind, here are five of Marcia’s spring picks.

• Stardust statice (Limonium tetrago­num ‘Stardust’, sometimes sold as L. sinense). The florets of this perennial everlasting promise to resemble those of Marcia’s favorite statice, sea lavender (L. latifolium), but are white with pastel yellow throats. Soft yellow color is invaluable in the garden to bring out the sparkle in the blues. Marcia will plant Stardust with lemon-yellow snapdragons and blue Cupid’s-dart (Catananche caerulea) for a long-blooming trio in a sunny corner of the garden. All three prefer lean, well-drained soil that never stays wet. (Shepherd’s Garden Seeds, 30 Irene St., Torrington, CT 06790. Catalog $1.)

•Butter Cream nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus ‘Butter Cream’). Nasturtiums are Marcia’s favorite edible flower, but she wants a soft, creamy yellow one that won’t upstage its less boisterous neighbors in a whiskey-barrel planting. She has hopes for Butter Cream, which she will pair with fragrant dark blue heliotrope and apricot calendulas. “If the color is a disappointment, we’ll just eat the darned things,” she says. (Shepherd’s.)

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