Opinion

HELEN LANG: Amaryllis has its seasons confused

An amazing phenomenon has occurred in the living room. An amaryllis, which normally blooms at Christmastime and is dormant at this time of year, now has two enormous white blooms with delicate pink edges.

It is very elegant, standing more than three feet tall, with a strong stem that so far has needed no support. It must be that west-facing window again, doing its thing with all my plants. I am thrilled, of course, although it may not flower again this coming Christmas.

There is another amaryllis sitting on a table in the same window and instead of a flower it has produced five long leaves, two of them huge, each more than two feet in length (I just measured them).

It’s enough to make a fella nervous with all this exuberant wildlife spreading itself in all directions. Am I about to be swallowed by this forest of greenery? Nah, I’m still the tallest. And certainly stronger than the African violets.

Today I’m going to dig up the narcissus bulbs and allow the foliage to die off. I know I shouldn’t, but I need the pot for the carrot seed and I’m going to empty another container, now holding a dead honeysuckle, which never did make an effort to grow.

As I’ve said before, if a plant makes up its mind to die, die it will, and there is sweet nothing you can do about it. (At least that’s been my experience.) Anyway, in this second pot I’ll plant the chard seed.

Meanwhile my pole beans are making great strides upwards, although they still haven’t quite reached the trellis that will, hopefully, support them.

When they start to flower (this is some way off) I’ll have to pollinate them by brushing one blossom after another with my soft makeup brush, but it will be a pleasure.

My cheeks may, in future, be yellow instead of pink, but in a couple of months I should have lovely homegrown green beans and I wasn’t planning on entering a beauty contest anyway.

If you are growing winter squash (I’m talking about either acorn or Hubbard here), the transplants should be planted at the top a low hill of earth, surrounded about eight to 12 inches out from each plant, by a shallow trench which you use to deeply water the roots several times a week.

Every couple of weeks add a dose of fish fertilizer or MiracleGro to the water and then get out of the way or you’ll get trapped by the spreading vines.

A hint has come my way which I’d like to share with you. Rhubarb leaves are poisonous and if boiled 10 minutes in a pot of water (which you’ll later have to strain) may be used to kill aphids by spraying on affected plants.

I’d start out with a cold, diluted mixture for soft leaves, just in case the spray is too strong for them, but it’s great if it works instead of having to use a pesticide.

Helen Lang has been the Peninsula News Review’s garden columnist for more than 25 years.

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