HERE AT A GARDEN FOR THE HOUSE, January marks the first month of spring. This is the time to sow seeds outdoors (even if you have 15 inches of snow on the ground), and to clip forsythia branches for indoor bloom. Then there are the bulbs (like hyacinth ‘Blue Jacket’ up top) … and the houseplants…which also need attention:
Seeds. Order these from catalogs now, especially if you have specific colors or varieties of plants in mind. Among other things, I hope you’ll order Berlandiera lyrata, the “Chocolate Flower.” Winter-sow the seeds this month or next, you’ll be rewarded with bright yellow, cocoa-scented flowers all summer long.
Seed-sowing. Plants your seeds outdoors in containers now, as I do, and in spring you’ll be rewarded with a forest of perennials, annuals, herbs and even vegetables.
Forsythia. It’s not too early to force these branches. Cut sprays at varying lengths, mash the ends with a hammer, and submerge in a tub of cool water for several hours or overnight. Then arrange in a vase. Placed in a bright but cool window, a brilliant bouquet of goldenrod-yellow will emerge in about 3 week’s time. And here are other branches you can force this winter.
African Violets. How these loathe the dry air that defines the heating season. To increase moisture, set plants on a humidifying tray of pebbles and water. This applies equally to plants grown in windows or beneath fluorescents.
Amaryllis. Has the flower bud emerged on your new plant? If so, move it gradually to light and sun and heat (not more than 70F), and increase water as need indicates. Check your older stored amaryllis for signs of growth. Then renew top layer of soil and provide water. Keep cool and dim until stalk is about three inches high.
Cyclamen. Take care that there is always water in the saucer (or bowl) beneath this plant.
Geraniums. Move rested plants back to sun and warmth (not more than 65F, please). As growth develops, water more freely and feed regularly with a high-phosphorous formula.
Hardy (Dutch) Bulbs. If you have tulips, hyacinths, etc., in cold storage, bring them to a bright, cool window now.
Petunia. Grown in full sun or beneath fluorescents, and provided with ample moisture (mine are watered daily now) and high-phosphorous fertilizer, this plant will give you flowers and the accompanying sweet scent of summer even as snow blankets the world outside.
Poinsettia. To insure months of beauty, keep cool and just barely moist. Mine flourish in an east window that receives only a few hours of morning sun.
Primroses. Fragrant malacoides and buxom obconica both require coolness and constant moisture. As with cyclamen, keep water in the saucer at all times.
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