HELEN LANG: You win some, you lose some in the garden and the house

I wonder if you can imagine my mingled delight and horror when I found a sprouted begonia tuber growing in the dark, in my utility room

I wonder if you can imagine my mingled delight and horror when I found a sprouted begonia tuber growing in the dark, in my utility room.

The sprout is about four inches tall and a rather peaked looking. So why has the silly thing decided it’s time for it to get growing?

It is now on a table by a window and soon will take on some strength but there is a long wait before it can be put outside. I’ll keep it as cool as possible before it can go outdoors and bloom. I’ll keep it watered and fertilized and talk to it nicely. It will have to be nursed for several months before it is warm enough for it to go out on the balcony. It will be interesting to see what is likely to happen in the meantime.

Begonia bulbs are horribly expensive, so I can’t just let it die. At least it will give me something to talk about during these dark days when the only things growing strongly are weeds.

I have dead-headed the amaryllis but headless they will have to remain until they, too, can be put out-of-doors. I must say they look pretty ridiculous this way. However the hibiscus on the same table has three fat buds which promise flowers within a week.

You win some and you lose some, whether in the garden, or in the house. As usual the poinsettias refuse to die, although one small one has been casting off its leaves, stubbornly holding onto its red bracts.

I’m reminded of a poinsettia many years ago that refused to die. I did every mean thing I could think of to kill it … left it in a drafty place, in a dark corner, held off on the watering, said mean things to it, but it didn’t care. Finally, in June I had had enough and consigned it to the compost pile where, reluctantly, and very slowly it finally perished.

I felt so badly about treating it that way that I began to avoid going to that side of the house and piled garden refuse by the back door.

I avoided looking at the remains of the now leafless and red bracless skeleton poinsettia, by staring at passing cars, or dogs, or kids, or passing adults who looked at me nervously, thinking me mighty strange.

I rather wish poinsettias hadn’t become a part of the Christmas scene. Chrysanthemums have the decency to shrivel up and turn brown, so that you have to discard them or face amazed looks from friends.

I think I’ll vote for them as decorations next Christmas.

Helen Lang has been the Peninsula News Review’s garden columnist for more than 30 years.