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Time to get growing, Port Coquitlam biz owner says

Cold, wet weather keeping gardeners away, but spring blooms to arrive soon
Wim Vander Zalm, owner of Art Knapp Plantland and Florist in Port Coquitlam, with flats of colourful annuals as well as spinach and kale that can be planted now despite the continued cold, wet weather.

Continuing cold, wet weather has kept many green thumbs out of their gardens and away from Wim Vander Zalm's store.

In fact, on a rainy Friday, the owner of Art Knapp Plantland and Florist is the most exotic bloom, sporting an orange pullover in contrast with the dull, grey sky.

"We're four weeks behind," said Vander Zalm as he surveyed the flats of primulas and pansies and cold-weather vegetables ready for planting. "Even the snowdrops are just in bloom now and they're usually [ready in] January."

Typically, the Port Coquitlam garden centre would be bustling with shoppers snapping up colourful annuals for their pots and garden plots. But that is not yet the case, says Vander Zalm, a noted garden expert who penned a book in 2013 titled Just Ask Wim!: Down-to-Earth Gardening Answers and said this has been second coldest winter and spring in his 30 years of gardening.

Typically at this time of year, the colourful geraniums and other annuals would already be on display but Vander Zalm said they are not ready yet at local nurseries.
"They are going to be lagging behind," he said.

Still, cold weather food crops can be planted now, Vander Zalm said, as long as gardeners are hardy enough to withstand the torrential rains while they dig.

The day The Tri-City News visited Vander Zalm, the rain was pounding so hard on the greenhouse roof, it sound as if the four horses of apocalypse were bearing down.

But beneath the cover were dozens of spinach, beet, radicchio, kale, lettuce, onion and cabbage seedlings that can be set out now, along with a colourful array of primulas and pansies, to add summer colour, and now is a good time to plant fruit trees and berry shrubs.

Starting plants from seed is also possible, but only indoors and be sure to allow them to germinate in a warm place, such as on top of a fridge, and keep them damp with a mister.

This year's winter die-off may be harsher than in previous years and Vander Zalm said he expects some plants may not have survived the long winter chill — lavender and rosemary, for example. And when replanting, Vander Zalm advises checking plants' hardiness, Zone 7B is preferred.

As for the chafer beetle lawn pest, some may not have survived the cold winter either, but for those needing to replant their grass, some new chafer-resistant seed blends are available.

Meanwhile, it won't take long for gardeners to give up waiting and head to the garden store. As soon as the weather warms up to about 17 C and if a few rays of sunshine peak out from the clouds, the crowds will arrive, Vander Zalm predicted.

Then, "it will be mayhem, people will be swarming because they want to get started."