With a sweeter, milder flavor than traditional red beets, this golden variety is an easy to grow, low maintenance root vegetable. Soak the seeds in water for 24 hours before planting in a sunny spot in early spring (3-4 weeks before the last frost). Space them 2 inches apart if growing for greens or 4 inches apart if harvesting for the roots.
A cross between a cabbage plant and a turnip, rutabagas have a longer growing season than both of those (about four weeks longer) but the extra time is worth it. The flavor is sweet yet savory and milder than turnips. Try it in a root vegetable gratin, mashed with carrots or roasted with a topping of fresh parsley and apple cider vinegar.
Also known as Rooseheart, this member of the Brassica (mustard] family has a striking exterior with chlorophyll hues and subtle shades of pink and magenta. The watermelon radish is known for its mild, slightly peppery flavor and pairs well with salads with creamy dressings or in combinations of sliced apples and fennel.
Plant ‘Purple Sensation’ ('Allium aflatunense) to keep color in your garden after the spring bulbs open, and before the summer perennials start. This allium produces round, violet-purple globes with hints of blue and pink. The stems grow 24 to 30 inches.
Another heirloom allium, ‘Nigrum’ has softball-sized, silvery to grayish-white heads with six-petaled florets. Bees and butterflies visit the flowers, but deer tend to leave the plants alone. Expect blooms from late spring into early summer. Allium atropurpureum is also shown here.
Often advertised as the world’s largest corn maze, Richardson Farm in Spring Grove, Illinois offers five separate maze games within its sprawling 33 acre spread. This year’s theme is The Chicago Blackhawks, the 2015 Stanley Cup Champions.
An heirloom allium, Atropurpureum is a great choice for a cutting garden, with stiff, tall stems that support burgundy-purple to wine-red florets. Watch for the blooms to appear from late spring into early summer.
Most cooks value fresh garlic, and many a gardener also enjoys its large spring Allium flowers. The ones that grow best locally are often shared between gardeners, who plant individual cloves in the fall and harvest and dry the bulbs the following spring.
Looking for perennials that bloom in late winter? While most primroses flower in early spring, some species add color to the late winter garden. Sow the seeds outside from January to March, or look for potted primroses in bloom at nurseries or garden centers around that time of year. Enjoy them as houseplants, but don’t feel guilty if you toss them when the flowers fade. It’s tricky to keep them going.
While you don't often see heucheras grown as houseplants, these low-light perennials can be potted up in fall and briefly enjoyed indoors. Just be sure to return them to the garden when the weather warms back up. The plants, also known as coral bells, bloom in spring, so give them the cool, spring-like temperatures they prefer. They'll also benefit from being housed in a deep pot, rather than a shallow one. Shown here: heuchera 'Mint Julep'
If you’re having trouble finding true-blue flowers for your garden, look for muscari, or grape hyacinths. Hardy in zones 4-8, these little bulbs, which are available in white and various shades of blue and purple, like full sun and soil that drains easily. They mix beautifully with other spring-blooming flowers, such as daffodils and tulips. Plant them in the fall, 2-3” deep, spacing them every 3-4”.