It's February and I'm Thinking of the Garden

I have already ordered plants or purchased seeds for this year's garden. Although it is too early to start most seeds I have tiny Lisianthus plants already growing under lights. You may also know these flowers by the name, Prairie Gentian or Texas bluebells. Starting this early is the only way to be sure that the plants will be mature enough to be planted in the warm garden soil of late May and still produce flowers before the end of the growing season. Perhaps you have seen Lisianthus in flower bouquets. The flowers truly resemble roses especially when the blossoms are double. In the single petaled Lisianthus there are four large petals which are usually ruffled. The colors range from white, actually a creamy color, to pale pinks to shades of lavender. Eustoma as it is properly called, makes an incredible cut flower. The cut blossoms last well over a week and they are incredibly beautiful. Several years ago my friend Lee and I accepted an invitation to do the flowers for an outdoor wedding to be held in the church located on the property of the Amherst Museum. Most of the flowers were cut from my garden. Lisianthus flowers were used in all the wedding bouquets. The wedding party was so pleased and I was thrilled to have my garden represented at a wedding!

I hope that you are also thinking ahead to your gardens. But in the meantime take the time to take good care of the plants in your home. I am sure that you have read somewhere to cut back on the water you give your houseplants during the winter but this is not necessarily true. The air in many homes is ever so dry in the winter. If anything your houseplants will be increasing the humidity of your home by transpiration, giving off water through their leaves into the air. This in turn pulls up water from the roots. Please don't water once a week Your plants don't know about schedules. They only respond to the environment in which they are placed. I try to choose one area, a window or a shelf, each day. Those plants get special attention. The leaves are washed off. The roots are checked. Frequently plants will end up in a sink where they are washed and then deeply watered. They look better and are healthier as well.

While you are giving attention to your indoor plants also note how much light they are receiving. Plant books will frequently mention putting certain plants in a window facing a certain direction. It's just not that simple. Our northern bay window is excellent for the lipstick plant which thrives along with streptocarpus and orchids already in spike. Our southern exposed windows give only low light plants enough light due to the overhang of the house and the lace curtains. If a plant looks unwell and there is no insect, water, or disease problem, the problem is probably the amount of light the plant receives over the course of a day. Experiment. Move your plants around. They need a vacation too !

Now pay attention to the plants you overwintered such as geraniums or impatiens. Give them a light fertilization. Replenish the soil mix. Clean up the plants. You may wish to make cuttings from other plants brought indoors at this time as well. This is when I make additional cuttings from the rosemary plants and from scented geraniums as well as from zonal geraniums and impatiens. What a thrill it is later on in the year when you have many plants from one. Just keep in mind that there are laws regarding the propagation of some plants until the companies that originally developed them recuperate their investment of both time and money. The home gardener is seldom prosecuted but please don't sell protected plants at your garden club sale.

Forever Young Magazine - February 2009