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Colorful Seasons Garden Center staff Bryce and Sharon Brickweg - a nephew-aunt team - were busy in the greenhouses this week preparing for the planting season. Bougainvillea, dipladenia, primrose, pansies and succulents are the first plants out on the tables at the greenhouse. (Photo by Amy Chaffins)

Bursting with spring splendor

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Echo Press
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Alexandria Minnesota 225 7th Ave E
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56308

Under all that snow and ice, Mother Nature is patiently waiting to sprout green grass and nourish delicate spring flowers.

Believe it or not, spring is on the way.

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In the meantime, here's a little hope. Spring has already sprung at local greenhouses.

They're buzzing with activity in preparation for Minnesota's precious growing season.

Right now, geranium plugs are being potted, pansies are leafing out, dipladenias are blooming bright pink trumpet shaped blooms, and a variety of annual flowers will soon sprout from thousands of hanging baskets.

"We've planted begonias this week and next week we'll have a bunch, over 500, that we're planting for mixed baskets," Bryce Brickweg said. Brickweg has worked full-time for Colorful Seasons for six years.

His aunt, Sharon Brickweg, has worked for Colorful Seasons for about 15 years and she said, "In March, we get really busy planting."

The greenhouses at Colorful Seasons Garden Center in Alexandria are incubating for now.

Dainty plants are sprouting everywhere inside their main greenhouse. The pansies were transplanted into 4 ½ inch pots about a month ago. Diamond frost was transplanted into packs this week. Bowls of tulips are bursting with blooms. Primrose plants are peeking out of their pots. Over the next month, more and move inventory will arrive.

And in a few weeks, staff said they'll start seeing more customers poke their heads into the greenhouse.

"Especially after daylight saving time when it starts staying light out, people want to be outside," Bryce said.

"People want to work outside and start getting their yard ready and they start thinking of planting," Sharon said. "People are starting to gradually come in and look at seeds, too."

During the doldrums of winter, they said people are stopping into the greenhouse to soak in a little sunshine, as well.

"It's always sunny and 70 in here," Sharon said. "A lot of people come in just for a therapy session. When it's so cold outside, you come in here and don't notice at all. It's a happy, sunny spot here."

Plus, if you're itching to get your hands in the dirt and plant something now, succulents are a good option. They're expected to be a hit in 2013.

"For people in Minnesota who want a little something in their house right now, planting a succulent is something you can do now. They're adaptable as a houseplant," Bryce said.

There are dozens of new varieties of succulents from which to choose. The tropical plants have been popular the last few years and Colorful Seasons has expanded its selection for this season.

As far as starting seeds, herbs can be started now, but for things like tomatoes and peppers, it's probably better to wait until the end of March to start those seeds, Bryce and Sharon advised.

Over at Anderson Florist Greenhouses and Garden Center in Alexandria, the little green-leafed baby plants are thriving as well and soon enough, they'll adorn local gardens, patios and decks with a stunning array of bulging blossoms.

Owner Lori Schultz said after a wonderfully crazy Valentine's Day rush, they're switching gears and getting ready for the growing season.

They've started seeding and transplanting seedlings to trays.

This week, they've started assembling hanging baskets comprised of geraniums, lobelias, petunias and a mix of beautiful, lush, trailing annuals. In all, they'll prepare about 600 before Mother's Day.

During the week of March 11, Anderson's has about 15,000 plant plugs coming in and they'll bring in more staff to get them all planted.

"So, we're going full steam ahead and we're digging in the dirt," she said.

Anderson's has 11 greenhouses on site and they'll fill them up with inventory over the next couple months.

Schultz said, "People have already started coming in with their notebooks and they're laying out their garden. It's awesome." She said right before Easter they usually see an influx of customers ready to get flower and vegetable seeds started in the house.

According to Schultz, here's what's hot for 2013: Hot peppers.

"We usually grow a couple of the very hot ones like the ghost peppers and we've got four or five new varieties that are even hotter than a ghost pepper," Schultz said. "People are just going bonkers saying they can't wait."

Microgreens - tiny-leaved spinach, lettuce, peas, beets packed with nutrients - are also a popular item for 2013, Schultz said. They're already a hit on the East and West Coasts, particularly with celebrity chefs and Andersons will sell them this season.

The first big event before the growing season starts is Anderson's Palm Sunday Open House, March 21-24. They'll offer tours, Easter displays, a petting zoo and treats.

"It's an opportunity to show people what goes into growing the plants," Schultz said.

By the way, officially, the first day of spring is March 20 and Easter is early this year - March 31. And generally, here in west central Minnesota, it's usually safe to start planting in mid to late May. That all depends on the weather, of course.

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Amy Chaffins
Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.
(320) 763-3133
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