The Cure for Spring Fever

Color chases away winter blues

Mother Nature is busting out. Leaves are unfurling, buds are bursting and grass is growing. Winter is history, and with it dull brown and gray landscapes. Spring has sprung, and its bright greens, sunny yellows and cool purples leave us hungering for more. We want — no, make that need — color. The fever has infected us. There is no escaping it.

Looking Sharp

    Longer days and warm sun have lured us outside. Yet it’s going to take a lot of labor before we love what we see. The unraked leaves from last fall mock us. Undesirables, like chickweed and bugleweed, are taking over flowerbeds, as always outpacing the desirables. Left to proliferate, they threaten a full takeover, a weedy coup.
    Whether your back, arms and legs are ready or not, now is the time to rake away the last of the leaves and yank out the pesky weeds. Good tools will make the job easier.
    A garden spade or even a smaller hand-held weeding tool will get to the roots of even the deepest growing weeds and at the same time aerate the soil. Use a sharp pair of garden shears to snip away brown stems and leftover flower heads on perennials; long-handled pruners that provide more leverage may be needed for shrubs and errant tree limbs. A flat-edged, sharp shovel is the tool to give planting beds a sharp, crisp finished edge. Dig below the turf line and create a small trench. Grass usually spreads horizontally, and it’ll take a while for it to figure out how to cross the ditch to get to the flowerbed on the other side.

Break Free

    Even in a mild winter like this one, most gardens still lose a plant or two. We may have escaped bitter cold and ice, but voles, moles, digging pets and aging plants take their toll.
    Yanking out the dearly departed provides opportunity to try something new.
    Think outside of the box when choosing replacements. Old stand-bys are safe and dependable, but too much of a good thing can be boring. Instead of well-known and commonly used evergreens like cherry laurel, boxwood or yew, consider a more colorful alternative. Nandina comes in several varieties, some compact, some tall, and all providing year-round color from their gold and red foliage or clusters of red berries.
    The ubiquitous forsythia, Bay Country’s harbinger of spring, is everywhere. Quince blooms at the same time as forsythia, but its corals and reds are a breakout change from the expected yellows. Plan for autumn and plant grape hyacinths underneath: The purple and coral is a great combo.
    Azaleas are an easy choice, but they are not the only spring-flowering shrub that thrives in our area. Spirea, spring blooming camellia and deutzia are just three out of dozens of shrubs that color spring.
    For shady areas, there is a veritable buffet of new varieties of old-faithfuls to shake up the routine. Check out new introductions of acubas, pieris and mahonia. With varieties sporting variegated leaves, interesting structure and colorful clusters of flowers, these sturdy shrubs bring spring color where you need it the most.

Small Flowers, Big Impact

    Perennials — plants that return each spring — are back. May-blooming iris, June-blooming salvias, July and August sages. Every month brings dozens if not hundreds of new varieties to choose from. In between perennial blooms, use annuals — plants that do not make it through winter — to keep color constant.
    First out of the gate are pansies. These perky flowers brighten gardens and patios. Plant them in containers — any container, the more creative the better. Rusty watering cans and broken down old boots get a new lease on life when filled with pansies. Pansies fade away in the summer heat, but they don’t go away forever. These sturdy little bloomers are prolific self-sowers. Next spring you’ll likely discover pansies popping up where you least expect them — like in-between the bricks on your patio. They’re some of the first to flower and feed spring fever.

Color Outside the Lines

    Are you short on garden space, or is your thumb more brown than green? You don’t need to dig in the dirt to satisfy your appetite for color. You can go to pots. They’re everywhere, in every size and shape and in every color. Purple, red, green, yellow: One or a cluster will provide instant vibrant color to any space. Got a stack of old clay pots? Give them a new colorful life with a can of spray paint. Wash them, let them dry, and then unleash your inner Monet.
    More color, more color: Pansies and pots and your fever still hasn’t broken. Next remedy is to think bigger, brighter. Think furniture. No, not the stand-by gray, black or brown steel versions, though they’re nice, too. To break this fever you’ll need to go vivid. Poppy-red rockers, tropic-teal tables, daffodil-yellow Adirondacks. Chairs and tables in bright colors are all the rage. An extra bonus: These colorful tonics to winter blues are made from recycled plastic, so they won’t fade or need repainting in a year or two. Better still, the color penetrates all the way through, so scratch and dent to your heart’s content.

No Yard Needed

    If you’re struck with spring color fever but lack outdoor space, color can still be the remedy. Bring it indoors. Back in those golden olden days, spring meant down with heavy velvet draperies and up with breezy bright cottons and linens. Dark woven rugs were rolled up and replaced by light, airy sisal mats.
    New window treatments and floor coverings out of your budget? Treat the fever with inexpensive throw rugs and pillows in bright colors. Glass vases in every shade of the rainbow filled with a bouquet of store-bought daffodils or iris sing spring.
    Still feverish? Take it to the next step and think paint. A bright color even in small rooms, like a bathroom, will give you a change of season — and attitude. Consider cool lavender, calming sage or cheery periwinkle. If you’ve always stuck to neutral walls, this may be stepping too much out of the box. But hey: It’s just paint. You can always go back to white. If you must. But you probably won’t.
    Fair warning: The need for color is contagious. Don’t be surprised if the fever starts in one room then spreads to another. And another. And another …