You guys it’s like Christmas over here! Why? Because Erin just informed me the USDA has just come out with some new planting zone classifications and we have been bumped up from a Zone 4 to a Zone 5!! What no one else sees that as a big deal? Well it is because that opens up a whole new world of plants I can pick from. Between Zone 5 and Zone 4 there is a huge drop off in plant selection. Until I got into gardening I had no idea the limited options that are available to gardeners up here in the frigid north…OK it’s not that bad but seriously it’s hard being in Zone 4. It’s so frustrating looking through plant catalogs and gardening magazines when everything I like is Zone 5 or higher. This is how it often goes when I open my Fine Gardening Magazines:
I open the magazine and some across a gorgeous garden picture. The title reads “Hardy Shade Garden.”
“OMG that is perfect!” I think. “I have lots of shade and I need hardy plants for our colder climate.”
I get excited and start to think of where I could incorporate those plants into my garden.
Then I read through the fine print of what kind of plants they are.
Hmm…a bunch of names I don’t recognize but I’m still learning so that could be the reason.
So I skip the scientific names and go right to the zone range listed for each plant.
Every single thing is listed for zone 5 or higher!
I get annoyed that I can’t own a single plant pictured and have to stop reading the magazine.
Repeat every month as gorgeous garden magazines fill my mail box.
Why tempt myself by reading about awesome plants that won’t grow in my area? I know, I know I could have tried zone 5 plants out before and see if I had any luck with them but I’m a new gardener and I’m not confident enough that I could keep them alive. That’s not to say I haven’t accidentally bought a couple zone 5 perennials before. For the most part they have all survived (what can I say it’s survival of the fittest over here in my garden) but I tried to stick to perennials I knew could survive many winters in my zone. Garden centers like to buy outside of the zone they are in and often the tags are pretty liberal in what zones they say the plant can grow in. You have to be smarter than the tag or find someone at the garden center to tell you how likely that plant is to survive/thrive in your zone (that is at the real nurseries you can find knowledgeable people not at Home Depot all of you fellow renovators).
Note: If you don’t know your planting zone check out the USDA’s website and enter in your zipcode.
The icing on the cake is for Christmas I asked for a subscription to a gardening magazine that I’ve fallen in love with after only one magazine! It’s a new state specific magazine that just started this month called Wisconsin Gardening. They write about local garden topics, photograph beautiful gardens around the state, suggest the best performing vegetables for your area, show how to design flower beds with plants you can actually grow , and give out seasonal advice that is timely to your area (national magazines try to do this but because they cover so many areas it’s often past the ideal time to do these things by the time I get the magazine).
This new magazine has breathed a whole new life in my itch to garden. In each issue they have separate columns for each area of the state the north, the southwest and central, and the southeast which more or less is how the state is divided by zone. They have recruited some prominent figures in the gardening community including Edward Lyon, director of Allen Centennial Gardens on the UW-Madison campus; Lisa Johnson, Dane County UW-Extension employee who trains master gardeners and is a frequent guest on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Garden Talk;” Sharon Morrisey, who appears weekly on FOX6-TV’s “Wake-Up News,” writes the garden calendar for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and trains master gardeners in the Milwaukee area. In this first issue they discuss how to create a four season garden, hot new plant varieties, how to build and use raised beds, unusual tomatoes to start from seed, organic lawn care, landscape design with hostas, pruning, invasive plants, and protecting ancient trees. It has something for every gardeners’ interest. I can’t wait for the next issue to come!
If you’re a gardener in Wisconsin I highly suggest you go check this magazine out. If you’re in a different state you should check out the State-by-State Gardening website to see if they have a magazine for your state.
In other non-garden related news I’ve added another thing to juggle in my busy schedule. Studying! I’m studying for a big professional test I’m hoping to take in April. A co-worker and good friend of mine is studying with me. We started right after the first of the year and have been studying 6 days a week! We have to learn/know/be fast at so much material in a short amount of time it’s mind boggling. It’s essentially 9 years of my life crammed into an 8 hour test. With the bonus of stuff I’ve never learned but I guess am supposed to have to be a well rounded engineer. The 3″ thick study book we’re using suggests we study for 300 hours before the test. 300 hours in 3.5 months! We’re doing about 16 hours a week right now so we’ll be more at 250 hours by the time the test comes around. I think that’s all I can do so hopefully it’s enough.
For the past 4 weeks my schedule has been three nights a week stay after work studying until 9pm. Two nights a week stay after work studying until 8pm, run home, let the dog out, change, and go work out with my mother in-law until 10:30pm. Saturdays and Sunday mornings I try to squeeze in all of my cleaning around the house, running errands, blog writing, and working on the remodel. Sunday afternoon we meet at a library and study for another 4-5 hours. This schedule doesn’t leave much room for anything else like say…relaxing. I’m eating every lunch and dinner at work, seeing Flannel Man even more rarely than I did before, the dog is left alone way too much, and I can barely keep up with the mess that is living in a construction zone. Of course I’m putting way too much pressure on myself to pass because I don’t want to do this twice and once this is out of the way it opens up a whole new set of opportunities both professional and personal. If I don’t have a melt down before my test in mid-April it will be a small miracle.