HELEN LANG: January and February bring us new seed options

The start of another year and we wonder what it will bring.

The start of another year and we wonder what it will bring.

World peace? Beautiful idea but, unfortunately, unlikely. Some country is angry with another and away we go again — another war! However small, they cause terrible suffering, usually amongst those least able to survive the turmoil: children, the elderly and the handicapped, with none of them responsible for another ugly war. When will mankind learn to work things out peacefully?

Thank God Canada is not trying to expand its borders, attempting to be the biggest bully, the strongest nation on earth. We are ready to defend what is ours, but we are using words, not weapons. Long live our wonderful, peaceful country!

This month and February will bring us new seed catalogues to scan as we sit by the fire, dreaming of spring and digging the good earth, quite forgetting our arthritis, our other aches and pains … for the moment anyway. I must remember to get more pain pills, I think the bottle is nearly empty. And like all good Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, we need to be prepared.

I have a couple of magnificent Amaryllis (both red) in bloom right now, gifts from other years, and they are glorious.

If you have amaryllis in bloom, do keep them watered until they begin to die back, then give them one feeding and put them somwhere out of sight while they perish. Then store the bulbs in a cool dark place, watering the bulbs lightly for several weeks as the long foliage sags and dies.

Leave the dying leaves on the plant until they turn greyish-brown and dry, then these can be cut off and discarded. Do save these large bulbs as they will bloom again next time, as Christmas 2017 approaches.

When your Christmas cactus finish blooming they too may be stored for blooms next Christmas. Keep them going for at least a month with small doses of lightly fertilizd water. Then they, too, may be allowed to almost completely dry out.

Amazingly they seem to be able to survive until summer, when I put mine outside in part shade for a month or more, bringing them inside before frost and storing them in a cool dark cupboard until October before watering them. And then you can start the whole business over again.

If you keep up this routine, after several years you’ll have a monster Christmas cactus that requires a strong person to move it. Make them be very careful when transporting it as the stems tend to be brittle.

If a piece breaks off, don’t shout at them, just pick up the piece and slide it under soil. Put a stone on top to hold it in place, water it a little at a time and almost certainly it will send out roots.

Your helper will think they are becoming a horticulturalist and change jobs. So don’t tell them, unless you want to be poor. The pay is small, unless they become famous — which, under the circumstances,  seems highly unlikely.

If you feel kindly you could tell them and let them dream sweet dreams of the marvelous plants they are responsible for. Why, they cure both cancer and heart disease — but only if you insist on dreaming. So, why not make it a big, worthwhile fantasy?


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

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