Early Color For Early Birds

EC-00Retail centers—it’s time to get your game on. If you don’t have color already, you should; the bleaker the winter, the greater the desire for color once the first warm weekend arrives. Temperatures don’t always remain warm this time of year, so customers will be looking for cool weather performance as well. In this issue of Field Notes, we’ve ranked our available crops by their ability to handle the cold nights; fortunately, we have an assortment of choices to add variety to your early spring color benches. The following are shipping this week:



The Lenten Rose offers the best cold performance due to a thick waxy coating on both the flowers and the leaves. Since the plant naturally blooms this time of year in gardens it’s accustomed to the diverse conditions March presents. Flowers are fabulous, varied, and last a long time. We have (14) different cultivars—each one with a distinctly different blooming style.



Violas are naturally sturdy and color hardy, even more so than pansies. Johnny jump-ups like to bloom just as the last of the snowy weather gets ready to leave. Most violas are still close to their species, so their cold performance remains strong. We have a large selection of solids, bicolors and mixes blooming right now—our violas make up a beautiful color bench all on their own.

(Daffodil, Hyacinth, Tete-a-Tete and Tulip)


Bulb plants are especially adept at handling cold weather, as long as their buds are tight and green. If you need hardy bulbs because you cannot bring them in on cold nights, ask for bulbs with green buds. We have both green and in-color bulbs in stock, so we can provide a mix to allow your inventory to cover more weeks.



Technically, pansies belong to the viola family so they offer strong cold weather performance. Breeding has created big flowers, however, presenting a larger target for cold hard rains and frost burn. This feature, although desirable, takes them down a notch in the cold-hardy rankings. The good news is that pansies are efficient at replacing damaged flowers. Like a shark’s teeth, behind every flower is a bud ready to take its place. Wait a few days and you will see any damaged blooms replaced with fresh new ones.

(Hyacinth, Daffodil, Tete-a-Tete and Tulip)


The green on a bulb plant can handle temperatures a few degrees colder than the flowers themselves. Flowers can withstand very cold nights and blustery days, but a hard frost will hurt the flower more than the leaves. If the nights drop into the twenties, protect the pots in bloom. These flowers all perform about the same in the cold as well—no one type is better than the others.



Cottage Garden Bowls are Early Spring Combos planted with colors that can handle cool nights. These arrangements cannot tolerate frost, so protect them or bring them in if night temperatures get into the thirties. With no frost in the forecast Cottage Garden Bowls will do just fine.



Alyssums are cool-loving plants but they are not frost-tolerant. The flower color becomes more vibrant when there is a nip in the air, and they are great filler plants to cover the soil in bulb gardens and combo pots. We grow the Easter Bonnet series because it is the best March alyssum we know. Rose, violet and white are the colors shipping this week.



Snapdragons need protection from frost, so they are best used in early season combination pots now. A little later, they will work well in gardens because they thrive in the cool April air. We like to offer the Montego series this time of year because it is a dwarf snapdragon—just the right size to drop into containers and mixes. Five colors of Montego are shipping this week as well as three colors of the Speedy series, if you need them.


It takes more work to be open this time of year: you need to keep an eye on the weather and you need to have a working plan to move or protect your inventory. The temperatures in March will vary from warm to cool to cold and back again.

Expert retailers know how to make March profitable, even with the extra work. There are enough early bird customers out there, and a center stocked with interesting color will naturally attract business. The key is to have plenty of material on hand just as the early birds start to flock around—and they always show up during those first warm weekends in March.