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Two springs are better than one

by Elaine Cerny & Special to
| April 11, 2010 9:00 PM

I have a confession to make. I cheated and have already seen spring. Actually, I just returned from a two-week trip down south. As we drove through Utah, spring began to appear in the form of big clumps of daffodils and lots of flowering trees.

The farther south we went, the more spring blooming flowers appeared. It even went too far when clumps of iris appeared that were already done blooming! At that point I was really happy to know that once home, spring would start all over.

Of course, being a gardener, the first thing I did when we got back (Easter Sunday) was to walk around the yard and check out the progress of the bulbs and perennials. They didn't disappoint me, having sprouted up an additional couple of inches. Lots of flowers have started blooming including many colors of primroses, scilla with its gorgeous blue bells, violas in several color combinations, anemones, and best of all, several large lenten roses in a soft mauve with burgundy speckles.

The earliest spring flowers bloom when planted next to a building, facing south. I don't have such a spot, so will have to wait a bit for the daffodils. They are full of buds, but none had opened yet. Soon, very soon.

Since I have a LOT of houseplants, I hated to saddle anyone with the chore of coming over to water them. So, before leaving, I put nearly all of them on wicks. If you haven't tried this, it's easy. Just find a lidded container to sit each plant on. (Margarine and Cool Whip tubs work well.) Fill the container with water and add a bit of fertilizer if desired. Poke a 6-inch wet piece of yarn a few inches up into the bottom hole of the plant. Water so you can see water coming out of the plant and down the wick. This starts the capillary action. Then insert the wick into a small hole you've poked into the container's lid and sit the plant on top. I have successfully used this method on African Violets for as long as a month.

Wicks work great for plants that like to be kept constantly moist. But other plants such as cactus and orchids, (those needing to be well drained between waterings), don't do so hot with this method. I've had good success by just watering each of these plants well, then enclosing the plant with a large plastic bag around the top of the pot. This keeps the moisture in a bit longer and usually works on a large plant up to two weeks.

If you should get home and find a plant where the wick didn't work and the foliage is hanging limp, don't despair. I came home to a couple of coleus plants looking like death warmed over, but was able to revive them overnight.

To do this, sit the plant in the sink and give it a very generous drink of water, then spray the foliage until it's dripping wet. Use a large container such as a dishpan or a large bucket and add about an inch of water in the bottom. Put in the plant and completely cover with a large plastic bag. All this humidity will work wonders in your makeshift "hospital." By morning, your plant will have recovered and be ready to put back in a window.

I had taken my tuberous begonia bulbs out of storage and planted them just before leaving. They each had tiny "mouse ears" shaped leaves beginning to grow. In those two weeks, the leaves took off like gangbusters and are now 4 inches across. That's what I call "Simply Amazing."

Elaine Cerny has gardened most of her life, starting as a kid in 4-H. Since then, she has always kept a garden of some sort, growing everything from fruits and vegetables to flowers and house plants. She has belonged to garden clubs in three states. She is an active member of the River City Gardeners Club in Post Falls.

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