When February arrives in Zones 3 and 4, we know there’s still plenty of winter left. It takes a determined, strong character to deal with snowstorms, cold temperatures, and icy roads.  I count myself among them. We’re tough, but we keenly look for subtle signs of spring. Already, days are getting longer and when the sun is shining, fluffy snow begins to melt into crusty, crystalized snow. Hope and Anticipation! My gardener’s brain starts racing, “What do I to start from seed this month?”

A few annual flowers I was impressed with last summer are on my wish list again this year. They’re slow-growing and take some time to get to blooming size so now is the time to plant the seeds. Jolt Cherry dianthus was one of the most asked-about plants in my front flowerbed last summer. It was often mistaken for a phlox because of the size of the flower heads.  Once it started blooming, it didn’t stop until hit by a killing frost. I always start lobelia from seed because some years I’ve had a hard time finding them in local garden centers. I think it’s a great little plant to tuck into containers and I use it a lot. The delicate little flowers weave their way through other plants for a delightful effect.

Jolt Cherry Dianthus is a non-stop bloomer

Lobelia's tiny dark blue flowers make a big impact

Petunias look delicate but they’re tough as nails. I grow them in hot, dry conditions on the side of my driveway and in containers whipped by wind. Despite all the new introductions, Wave petunias are still my favorite. They’re very easy to grow from seed.
Dragon-wing begonias are also remarkably easy to start from seed. Despite the fact that begonias are widely available, I can often get over 20 dragon wing begonias from a pack of seeds for the price of one plant at a garden center.

Beautiful Purple Wave petunias will bloom all summer long 

Bright red Dragon-wing begonias echo the color of the wall

I have many shady areas in my garden where I want a splash of color. Impatiens are one of the few reliable annuals that will bloom in shade. In my zone 3 gardens, I’ve been disappointed with New Guinea or Sunpatiens because I believe they need more heat than we get in this part of the country. The old-fashioned, standard impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) have performed exceptionally well for me. Impatiens are readily available at garden centers however, this is one time where I’m being frugal and nurturing. I’m plunking on my Mother Nature hat, rolling up my sleeves and putting my hands in the dirt. The soul of a garden is that of its creator – me!

No other annual will bloom in the shade as consistently as impatiens

Orange can be a difficult color to use but in this shady spot it gets center stage