Monday January 18th is fast approaching, and I’m wondering how many people know the significance of that date. It’s called Blue Monday and is considered to be the most depressing day of the year. Hmmm…. I’m of mixed feelings about this. While it’s important to acknowledge mental health and shine a light on it, do we really need to name a day after it? But I get it, January and early February are difficult months, we are past the glitter and glamour of the Holidays and it’s most likely either raining or snowing. It’s a time of year that is lacking in bright spots… or is it?

My solution to the winter blues is to embrace them, the colour not the feeling. Lifting your sprits can be as easy as adding some early spring flowers into your space, be it your front door planter, garden beds, or balcony/patio containers. You might be amazed at just how much colour you can have, as long as your area is not covered in six feet of snow. I really do encourage everyone I know to head down to GardenWorks and check out the selection of what is in bloom and what makes you happy. But in the meantime here are a few of my favourites to cheer you up.

Primulas (Primula vulgaris) are the Queens of early spring colour and when I buy my first ones I officially feel like spring has arrived, no matter what the calendar or weather says. Their rosette of crinkly green leaves surrounds a mass of flowers that literally come in a rainbow of colours, red, yellows, pink, white, purple and even a blue/purple. Saying they are easy to grow is a bit of an understatement, I plant mine in a pot by the front door and then don’t do much else. A cool weather plant they are hardy from Zone 3 to 9 and can even withstand a little frost. They like moist well-drained soil, but you want to make sure not to overwater them (they’ll rot) or let them dry out (they wilt but easily bounce back after watering). Mine are under an overhang so don’t get any rainwater but I still only have to water them once or twice a season. The only care that I do suggest is to pick off any spent flowers (to encourage more flowers) and pull off any brown/yellow leaves. They are perennials but many people treat them like annuals. After they finish blooming I like to plant them out in the garden and hope for a repeat performance next year. But if you don’t have a yard to plant them out in, just enjoy the show and then let them go.

Winter heath (Erica carnea and Erica x darleyensis) are another cheerful spot of colour in the winter. These evergreen sub-shrubs, which are really more like ground covers at only 10 to 25cm (4” to 10”) tall, are a mass of pinks, purples and even white. they often start to bloom as early as November and continue on all winter long. Cultivars of Erica carnea are the hardiest being able to survive in Zone 3 (with protection) and can be seen happily blooming in the snow.

They are extremely low maintenance plants that do very well in our naturally acidic soils. Just make sure to plant them in well-drained soil, their shallow fibrous roots don’t like wet feet. Also they are best planted in full sun, partial shade will work but they can become leggy. Their tiny little needle shaped leaves are a bonus even when the plants aren’t flowering, as they come in colours of green, chartreuse, bronze and even golden. And another bonus is they are a great plant for pollinators, winter heaths are a bit of a lifeline for native bees that are active at this time of year. Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a heath and a heather? Heaths are member of the genus Erica spp. and heathers Calluna spp. just in case you were curious.

I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the iconic spring bulbs, as a source of joy and colour at this time of year. But you kind of missed the boat if you forgot to plant them in the fall. Fear not, head down to GardenWorks and you can buy some potted bulbs that someone else planted for you. All you need to do is replant them or even more simple just pop them into a planter and voila, instant spring. Some of my favourites to look for are:

  • Snowdrops with their pure-white, dainty, nodding flowers look amazing in a small pot, lining a pathway or massed around the base of a tree.
  • Miniature daffodils are always cheerful, especially the adorable ‘tete a tete.’ Add them to any planter or somewhere you can see them up close.
  • Iris reticulata is a beautiful shot of blue, the good kind. But also come in shades of purple, white and even yellow.
  • Crocus come in white, purple, yellow and pink and can be planted almost anywhere (including the lawn).

But there are many more to be found, all you need to do is go and find what makes you smile.

So when Blue Monday rolls around this year, let’s all embrace the winter blues but also get yourself some yellow, pinks, white and purples. Consider it an act of mental wellness and find all the colours of early spring.

Written by Ingrid Hoff

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