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Five hardy plants to jump-start your garden

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Lily bulbs are ready to grow as soon as they arrive. In fact, they’re one of the few bulbs that can be planted in frozen soil, says Dugald Cameron of Gardenimport, a mail-order nursery in Ontario. For a good show, plant bulbs in groups of three or more. They prefer well-drained soil and a sunny location.


Bags of onion sets (small bulbs ready for planting) are available in early spring. Steven Biggs, co-author of No Guff Vegetable Gardening, plants his sets more densely than recommended, thinning out some of the young ones to use as green onions, which leaves enough space for the remaining sets to grow into large bulbs. “Worms often push out newly planted sets, so I just push them back into the soil,” he says.


One of the most cheerful early spring plants, pansies thrive in cold weather, especially the Cool Wave series. Pop them into a container by the front door, a window box or straight into the garden. These tough annuals (perennials in milder regions) will tolerate even a late frost. Spring would not be spring without them.


Roses available this early in the season are typically sold as “bare-root” shrubs. In this dormant stage, they pretty much look like dead sticks. But looks are deceiving: These will spring to life and produce gorgeous summer blooms. As such, it’s important to keep the roots moist before planting. The rose experts at Pickering Nurseries in Ontario suggest placing them in a bucket of water while you prepare the planting hole. Once planted, shield the canes from drying winds and sun by mounding up the base with soil, exposing only the tips. Remove the mounded soil about two weeks after planting.


Made for cool weather, these spring-blooming perennials can be planted even when they are in flower (a feat for most perennials). The most common varieties are polyanthas, which are difficult to overwinter in colder parts of the country. If what you want is a splash of colour in your spring containers, pick up a few pots, water them well and pick off the spent flowers to keep them blooming until the warm weather arrives.

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