As I was heading out to Stamford the other day to teach the Master Gardener class on Soils, Plant Nutrition and Fertilizers, I noticed that the snowdrops at the base of the foundation were already in bloom. I haven’t checked on my black pussy willow yet but as I strolled through aisles of vendors at the CT Flower & Garden Show in Hartford yesterday, I noticed bunches of soft, fuzzy pussy willows for sale, a sure sign spring is on the way.

For the last decade, at least, the UConn Home & Garden Education Center and the UConn Soil Nutrient Analysis Laboratory have had a joint booth at the Hartford Flower Show. We offer free soil pH testing for anyone who brings in one-half cup of soil or so (yes I know some years it is hard to collect a soil sample in February!) and both UConn staff and UConn Master Gardener volunteers are at the booth to answer gardening questions from the public. If we don’t know the answers on the spot, we will research the question and phone, mail or email our findings to you. We also take this opportunity to let folks know about our Perennial Plant and Garden Conferences to be held March 11 and 12 at the Storrs campus as well as the CT Master Gardener Association Conference held March 27 at Manchester Community College ( ).

Gardening and soil questions and comments are of course received by us all year long. Upon returning from a talk a few weeks ago, I found a message to call back a homeowner who had something very important to tell us. When I called back, the person described to me a most interesting plant. It seems she had purchased a witch hazel, Hamamelis mollis ‘Pallida’ for its late winter, airy, golden blossoms. One branch of her shrub, however, had red flowers which had begun opening last November.

I suspect this was because the plant was grafted and the red flowering stem arose from the root stock. I have seen this happen on roses where there is a red rose on the end of a stem but all the other stems are producing yellow roses. The person was nice enough to send me a photo of her curious but delightful plant.

Bicolor witch hazel

On another note, finish up those seed orders! I just came across some information stating that cucumber seeds might be in short supply because of the terrible seed-growing season last year on both sides of the Atlantic. There should be enough seeds to start with but procrastinators may be faced with limited variety selections the longer they wait to purchase seeds.  

Purchase cucumber seeds early!