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Preparing for a Spring Wonderland

Experts offer advice on what to do now to create a pleasurable outdoor space in spring.

Experts say some flowering plants like dormant hydrangeas can be planted now and bloom in spring.

Experts say some flowering plants like dormant hydrangeas can be planted now and bloom in spring. Photo courtesy of Merrifield Garden Center

Chilly January temperatures can make spring seem far away. However, it’s closer than you think. A recent Residential Landscape Architecture Trends survey from the American Society of Landscape Architects showed that as the weather gets warmer, many want an undemanding, outdoor space.

Local landscape designers and builders actually recommend planning now for an outdoor, warm-weather wonderland, and suggest a few simple tasks that homeowners can do today to get ready for spring.

“Take pictures and bring them in to your local garden center to get ideas and thoughts. Things are slower at nurseries now and we have a lot more time to spend with you and give you ideas.”

— David Watkins of Merrifield Garden Center

If you’re planning to build an outdoor living room or patio, this is the time to begin: “It can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a few months to complete a project, depending on the complexity,” said Steve Magill, remodeling consultant for Case Design/Remodeling, Inc., and an Oak Hill, resident. “People who are smart book a contractor in January.”

Magill suggests developing a plan as soon as possible. “Do you want a koi pond or fountains? Is the design driving the budget or is the budget driving the design? These decisions should arranged, finalized and ready to go for spring and then they can enjoy the outdoors.”

Begin compiling a spring garden wish list. “Take pictures and bring them in to your local garden center to get ideas and thoughts,” said David Watkins of Merrifield Garden Center in Merrifield, Fair Oaks and Gainesville. “Things are slower at nurseries now and we have a lot more time to spend with you and give you ideas.”

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Experts say pruning now will lead to a healthy spring landscape.

There are some flowers that can be planted now to yield bursts of colorful blooms this spring. “If you can find them, you can still plant spring bulbs like tulips or daffodils,” said Randy Best of The Behnke Nurseries Company in Potomac and Beltsville, Md. “With caution, you can plant dormant, deciduous trees and shrubs, but you might mulch them heavier than you normally would.”

Best added that some evergreen plants like junipers, pines and spruces, as well as flowering varieties like dormant hydrangeas, can be planted now to bloom in spring. “You can plant a maple tree now with no problem,” he said.

Experts warn homeowners not to overlook maintenance during the frigid winter months. “It would be nice if everybody could make sure that their plants are watered thoroughly throughout the winter, because if the ground freezes and the plants are dry, they will die over the winter,” said Watkins. “I would also recommend cutting back any perennials that have died, and add mulch to help protect plants.”

Magill says that taking care of routine tasks means one less thing to do this spring. “Make sure your gutters are cleaned and free of fall leaves before snow falls on the gutters,” said Magill. “Have roofs and chimneys checked before the snow and have chimneys re-pointed, if necessary.”