Counting down the days until spring…

display of orchids

This has certainly been a good winter to stay indoors and think about spring. Although, with all the sub-zero temps we’ve had this winter, any day above 10 degrees and no wind feels like spring is already here! Even though the greenhouses are empty here, that doesn’t mean we can’t find inspiration elsewhere.

Over all, it has been a busy winter. Right after the new year I attended the Northern Green Expo. I haven’t been there in a couple years and it was nice to catch up with people and see the new layout. It was also fun to go through the tradeshow and see how people decorated their booths. My favorite was the Bluebird Nursery booth.

repurposed stand mixer into succulent planter repurposed toolbox into succulent planter

Aren’t these fun and unique? It shows how, with a little creativity, anything can become a planter.

In late January, Mary and I went to the Winter Carnival Orchid Show at the Como Conservatory. Orchids are a great way to enjoy flowering plants, even during the dreary winter months.

display of orchids

It was fantastic! I had no idea that Orchids came in so many sizes, colors, and textures.

Green and pink orchid  ruffled white and purple orchid

Lady slipperunique pink orchidlong orchid

This one had flowers smaller than the nail of my pinky.

tiny orchid

And it wasn’t even the smallest one there. Some had flowers so small, you had to look through a magnifying glass to see them. It was a fun event to attend and well worth the trip to the cities!

At the beginning of February, Mary and I attended a pollinator symposium held at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois. It was amazing. The speakers were so inspiring, I came home with visions of transforming my entire yard into a pollinator haven. I already provide larval host plants such as butterfly weed for the monarchs and fennel or dill for the swallowtails in my garden, plus as many perennial and annual nectar plants as I can fit. Now, after the symposium, I’ve been thinking about what trees and shrubs (serviceberry and eastern redbud are at the top of my list) I can add to my yard that will also support our pollinators.

By the way, did you know that you can have your yard registered as a monarch waystation? A waystation is a place that provides resources for the Monarchs on their journeys north and south. Check out Monarchwatch.org for the specifics.

We couldn’t see as much of the Arboretum as we would have liked, due to an oncoming snowstorm. But we took full advantage of the 30 minutes we had before the symposium began and power walked the area around the Thornhill Education Center.

Sterling pond at the Morton Arboretum

We made it to Sterling pond before we had to head back. On the way there, we spotted Illinois’ Millennium Landmark tree. According to the Arboretum website, this oak tree is more than 250 years old and is the oldest living tree on the property.

Millennium oak

I love how interesting oak trees look in the winter. The words ‘craggy’ and ‘majestic’ come to mind.

Meanwhile, here at the nursery, we are starting to get ready to fire up the greenhouses. Pete has put the first batch of soil in the shop to thaw.

Large bags of planting soil

Every winter is different, but he likes to give them at least 2-3 weeks for thawing and also to let it warm up enough that it doesn’t shock the plugs while we are planting.


It won’t be too long before these empty greenhouses are buzzing with activity. After all, the first day of spring is less than a month away!

Written by

Cathy Maxson is Sargent's Gardens Perennial Growing manager. In addition to making sure Sargent's grown plants thrive, she enjoys growing in her own garden, canning fruits and vegetables, traveling, and walking her dogs.