Promise of spring

In the Garden
Ralph Purkhiser, Purdue University Master Gardener

     Regardless of the prognostication of a certain rodent, we have now crossed the half-way point of the winter season.  Daylight increases a little more each day.  Winter is far from over, but the promise of spring is showing a little more each time I walk through the gardens.  I had blooms of early daffodils to take to church on Sunday.  Last year, there were no daffodil blooms in February, and the hellebores were also later in the season.  This year, the hellebores started blooming in January, and there are more blooms each day.  These early bloomers are tough plants and will take whatever the weather throws at them.  I am also seeing foliage for the later spring ephemerals poking through the soil.  If we get some very cold temperatures, we could see some damage to said foliage, but we will still have blooms when spring finally gets here.
     I was recently given a box of produce that was past prime.  The donor knew I would take it for the compost bin, but I am using part of it to start some plants for the spring.  In the past, I have shared how my grandmother taught me to start a rose from a cutting using a potato.  It is a pretty simple process.  One simply uses a sharp, pointed object to poke a hole in the potato.  Take a cutting from the rose bush at a leaf junction.  A little rooting hormone on the cutting increases the likelihood of success.  Put the cutting in the hole, bury the potato in compost, peat or some other medium.  Cover the plant with a plastic tent or a glass jar to increase humidity.  The moisture in the potato will supply the moisture needed for roots to form.  In a few weeks, roots will form and the cutting will sprout leaves.
      Recently, I have been seeing videos of people using this same method to start succulents.  Most succulents root fairly easily anyway, but one could put several cuttings in a large potato.  Fortunately, while the potatoes I was given are beyond human consumption, they are still solid enough to allow me to do some experimenting in the greenhouse.  I plan to try some succulents and also to take some cuttings from some shrubs in the landscape.  It will be a good way to spend a winter day, and I may just get some extra plants for the garden.  It will only cost me some time and a little rooting hormone.  I will let you know how my experiment works.
     Valentine’s Day is coming up, and colorful potted plants are showing up in garden centers, supermarkets and department stores.  There are a lot of choices and an informed choice may give your Valentine a remembrance for a long time.  It is important to remember that most of the blooming plants have been forced in greenhouses, using artificial lighting to trick the plants into blooming out of their normal bloom seasons.  No matter what the plant, the blooms will eventually fade and drop, but some of the plants will survive to bloom again, but not necessarily for Valentine’s Day next year.  The forced tulips, daffodils and other bulbs may be planted outside in the spring.  Forcing takes a lot out of such bulbs, so they may not return, but if you have a place where you can experiment some, go ahead and plant them.  You may get blooms again in a year or two.  The miniature rose bushes are hardy and may be added to the landscape or kept as a houseplant.  It may take a while to see blooms, but they should return for several years.
     Some of the plants are tropical plants meant to be grown indoors.  My greatest advice for such plants is to re-pot them soon.  If they are in decorative pots for the holiday, it is likely the roots have been crowded.  Many of these pots do not have drainage, which is essential to almost all plants.   Do some research, and find out how the plant needs to be treated, and your gift of love will last for many years.
     Another way to give flowers is to buy a packet of seeds for each of your Valentines and tell them to grow their own!



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