While the ground is frozen, take the opportunity to plant some seeds in your fertile imagination instead. The coming months are packed with visiting speakers and mailboxes overflowing with this season's seed catalogues. Need more? Grab a hint of color from bright horticultural magazines and nurture your gardening passion with a bit of regional travel.
Here are a few highlights:
■ Yew Dell Botanical Gardens in Crestwood: In the January/February issue of Horticulture magazine (Hortmag.com), Yew Dell is featured as one of the country's 10 inspiring public gardens that have opened in the past decade and are being restored, supported in part by the national Garden Conservancy (Gardenconservancy.org.)
The garden's researchers study and develop plants that will thrive in this region, and they share their results in display gardens and programs such as the vegetable garden design seminar at 10 a.m. Feb. 11, and hellebore day, which begins at noon April 7. New varieties of this winter- blooming evergreen will be discussed and sold. Yew Dell is just east of Louisville at 6220 Old LaGrange Road. Traveling there from Lexington is an easy day trip. Find a full schedule and details at Yewdell.org.
■ Floracliff Nature Sanctuary: The sanctuary, which encompasses 287 acres in southern Fayette County along Interstate 75 on the Kentucky River Palisades, has announced Floracliff Field Studies, a series of workshops designed to highlight biodiversity with hands-on experience.
Topics and dates include: back-yard wildlife habitats, June 22 and 23: mushrooms, July 13 and 14; aquatic biodiversity, Sept. 7 and8; and conifers, Nov. 3 and 4. Go to Floracliff.org for details. Cost is $50 a session.
Want to get outdoors sooner? A guided winter hike in the Elk Lick Falls area is scheduled for 1 p.m. Jan. 28. The falls contain a 61-foot-tall deposit of exposed travertine. You also may volunteer for work days, scheduled for Feb. 4, March 3 and April 7, starting at 10 a.m. Call (859) 351-7770 for more information and to register. The fee for hikes is $7 a person or $12 a family; volunteer work days are free.
■ Arboretum on Alumni Drive: Indoor Gardening with Micro-Greens features instructor Shari Dutton presenting an introduction to sprouting culinary seedlings. The program begins at 10 a.m. Thursday at the visitors center, 500 Alumni Drive. The cost is $7, or $4 for Friends of the Arboretum.
The Founders Lecture Series features two internationally recognized speakers. George Briggs, executive director of the North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville, will speak about "Uprooting Conventional Wisdom in the University Arboretum" at 7 p.m. Feb. 8. Eastern Kentucky University professor Tammy Horn, author of the recently published Beeconomy and who has introduced bee yards to spent strip mines in Eastern Kentucky in a reclamation effort, will discuss "Native Flowers, Shrubs and Trees Attractive to Honey Bees" at 7 p.m. March 22. The lectures will be in the Gluck Equine Center auditorium, 1400 Nicholasville Road. Admission is $5, or free for students and Friends of the Arboretum. Go to www.ca.uky.edu/arboretum for more information.
■ Fayette County Cooperative Extension Service: The popular Gardener's Toolbox series has begun its 2012 programs. Growing tomatoes, back-yard asparagus beds, cover crops and blackberries are a few of the planned topics. The first two programs are on cool-season vegetables on Thursday and home composting on Feb. 21. Advance registration is required. The events begin at 6:30 p.m. at the extension office, 1140 Red Mile Place. Some programs are free, fees for others go up to $50, depending on the program. Go to the horticulture page at www.ces.ca.uky.edu/fayette for information.
■ Seed and garden catalogues: Winners and survivors in this year's catalogues are not only gorgeous and tasty but have been selected for their ability to withstand the elements and extend the growing season. High Country Gardens (Highcountrygardens.com) supplies plants that generally require only moderate watering. Take a look at the new annual blue Serena Angelonia, which I had a chance to preview in my garden last summer. Compact 12-inch spikes of small blue flowers that appear delicate but act tough form a perfect backdrop behind spreading white petunias and golden marigolds. You also can find a great collection of ornamental grasses to add four-season interest in your landscape.
The herbaceous perennial Brunnera macrophylla, named Jack Frost for the silvery-white variegation that ices its otherwise rich green, heart-shaped foliage, is a shade-lover that tolerates sun well. Its spring-blooming, true-blue flowers look a lot like classic forget-me-nots, but the foliage is the main attraction for most of the summer. It was named the 2012 perennial plant of the year by the Perennial Plant Association (Perennialplant.org), so you should be able to find it easily in garden stores or from mail-order sources such as White Flower Farm (Whiteflowerfarm.com.)
To learn more, delve into these and other varieties with interesting leaf patterns and enticing appellations, such as Emerald Mist and Looking Glass, at Perennialresource.com.
Sunshine Daydream is the 2012 award winner from All-America Rose Selections (Rose.org). A mellow-yellow grandiflora, it's a continuous bloomer with lustrous, deep green foliage that resists black spot. This is the first year that AARS roses were judged under "no spraying" regulations, with an eye toward choosing roses that could be grown sustainably in home gardens. You can find it at Wayside Gardens (Waysidegardens.com.)