Monday, December 18, 2006

A list of "should haves"

A sliver of sunlight grows more and more slender as it pokes through the needle-barren tamaracks, casting a long reach across the forest floor. Its decreasing size signals the impending clouds which will bring us yet more rain. It's an odd sight for mid December as the fields are bare below my office window, save for snow swaths trapped between the rows of brown and tipsy daylily scapes, long since the colorful attention grabbers of the lower field.

One-two-three, ten-eleven-twelve, sixteen in all..... mounds left on top of the septic leach field by the star nosed mole or one of his relatives who enjoy burrowing through damp locations, looking for worms and other delicacies. I need to make a mental note that come spring and soil temperatures of 50 or higher, I'll sprinkle Milky Spore down there on the off chance that the area also holds a collection of beetle grubs. Piles of fresh dirt left by these little animal rototillers are a signal to gardeners that something is going on in that area and needs attention lest the mole or the beetle numbers grow too fast.

As I sit here to write, the outside temperature is 41 and there is a slight wind blowing. I just returned from walking Karl, the wonder dog, and the temperature feels lower than the reading. If Karl could talk I know he would have commented because he dislikes cold and hates wet feet. He's really not meant for Vermont but there's no challenge that he was meant for this family!

Gardeners like the population at large, always have a list of "should haves". I'm looking at a "should have" right now. On the bookcase next to me sits a Hippeastrum.... a "should have"..... an amaryllis. I should have planted my amaryllis back in October but I didn't plant them until late November. Now it appears that my reds and whites and pinks, intended to complement our poinsettias on Christmas Day will give no more than a pale green accent. Yes, I should have planted them earlier.

Amaryllis are a great houseplant which is readily available online, in garden centers, hardware stores and big box stores everywhere right after Labor Day. They are priced from about $5 on up to $16. The come in a variety of colors and bulb sizes, some sold boxed, some in bulk, often sold from wooden crates. The convenience of the plant leaves no excuse not to try a couple for additional holiday color around the house.

We generally buy several prepotted amaryllis so we can give some away as gifts to guests who stop by to see our tree and have never seen or grown an amaryllis before. I sometimes buy slightly larger bulbs in bulk to plant ourselves but this year we were just too busy. The larger bulbs produce spectacular plants with several strong scapes which bloom on and on way past the celebration of the New Year.

When amaryllis are finished blooming, many think of them as disposable plants and with one plop they're in the trash. My mother was a junk collector from Depression days and she couldn't throw away a spare smile. She'd always carry the gone-by pots to the cellar and put them in an area which wouldn't freeze. Since the house was built in 1826, there were too many places in the cellar that did freeze in those days so care was important. When spring came and we were well into June, she'd drag out the bulbs and give them to my Dad to plant. He'd care for them until fall, dig and dry them in the sun for a couple days and then scoot them back to the cellar until Mom could plant them in October. Every year the bulbs got bigger and those two gardeners would pat each other on the back for what a good job they had done. You can do exactly the same thing, hopefully without an 1826 house, and enjoy a fine flower again and again. Go ahead! There's still time to find some and they'll be in bloom long before you ask which day Lincoln's birthday falls on.

From the mountain above Peacham Pond where wrens continue to feast on mullein seeds and tall gray clouds close out the last of the afternoon's sunshine.

George Africa

1 comment:

IBOY said...

Strange year: they are predicting thunderstorms for us in the morning, here in Iowa... somehow I think we'll pay for this later, but it's nice for now.