It’s no mistake that gardening catalogs and websites feature the newest, brightly colored and unusual perennials in the coldest, darkest months. So start reading now to see what catches your eye and make a list of some new perennials to try come spring!

Certain perennials, such as astilbe, dianthus, and helopsis (those that grow in the spring and summer, die back in the fall, hibernate, and grow again the following spring) are excellent choices for our growing zone. These plants are hardy to Zone 4 and should do well in all parts of Vermont except the more hilly areas.

These plants are beautiful to look at, and their blooms attract beneficial pollinators.

It’s almost pruning time for some shrubs and trees! Learn which trees and shrubs you can prune to get more fruit and flowers this spring

There are several cultivars of each species that can pack a colorful punch in your gardens and borders.

Astilbe is a shade plant with dark green leaves and usually white, pink or red flowers. But a variety called Dark Side of the Moon, which grows two or three feet tall, has black leaves and purple flowers.

Dianthus, or Sweet William, has silvery blue leaves and spiky flowers that look like tiny carnations. One variety is part of the Fruit Punch series called Funky Fuschia. This variety of dianthus boasts double flowers that produce large cut flowers.

Heliopsis grows about three feet tall and looks like a small sunflower. A variety that grows to just two feet tall and will fit into a small space is called Bit of Honey, which has variegated yellow and green leaves. This adds contrast to your gardens, even if they are not in bloom.

Sedum is a mounding plant perfect for hot, dry spots in your garden or landscape. In a series called Rockin’ Round, which has red stems and green leaves, there is a variety with yellow flowers called Bright Idea.

A variety of Russian sage called Perovskia Bluesette grows only one to two feet tall and does well in the garden or container. Most Russian sages grow three or four feet tall and then fall over, making this compact a nice alternative.

Q: I enjoyed your talk about Epsom salts from the National Horticultural Association. How about fertilizing orchids with a weak Epsom salt solution? – Brad in Kansas City, MO

Answer: Orchids love magnesium, and Epsom salts are magnesium sulfate. This helps the orchid to grow and bloom.

Just be careful. Start by looking at the ingredients in the fertilizer you use for orchids. Discontinue Epsom salts if they contain excess magnesium.

If you don’t see any magnesium on the fertilizer ingredient list, go ahead and try a much lower level. Start with one teaspoon of Epsom salt in a gallon of water and use it maybe three times a year as the orchid begins to grow and send up flower stock.

One way to monitor progress is to use the solution on one orchid rather than another and see if there are any differences.

Everything gardening You are supported by your listener! Submit your gardening questions and puzzles and Charlie can answer them in the upcoming episodes.

You can also call Vermont Public at 1-800-639-2192 and leave a voicemail with your gardening question.

To hear Everything gardening during Weekend release Vermont public broadcaster with Mary Williams Engisch, Sunday morning at 9:35.

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