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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #252--- Sweet Peas are among the many seeds we started this week.
March 10, 2016

In the old Canadian poem, “Strange things happen under the midnight sun.” The same seems to be true in my garden at any time of the year. The big Hibiscus standard that winters in my Solarium is doing very well this year and will probably start to bloom soon. There has been this small weed growing in the pot, that I have left there because it lets me know, by wilting, when I should maybe give that big plant some water. I looked at it today and discovered that is has, not only flowered, but is producing seeds. I’m growing weed seeds in my house over the winter!!! I took the picture and then eliminated them. In real life, the Hibiscus will actually show some signs of wilting before that little weed does. You would think that it was growing in the top few cm’s of soil and should wilt first but that doesn’t seem to be what actually happens. It’s my reason for not pulling the weed out, other than pure laziness, but it’s apparently not a valid reason. It’s gone tomorrow.
The Tuberous Begonia seedlings have all been transplanted and they are thriving without the competition of a few dozen other seedlings sharing their space. This week I have finished sowing all of the early vegetable seeds. Three kinds of Pak Choi plus Broccoli, Cauliflower, Kohl Rabi and Cabbage. I also seeded some Sweet Peas. The first ones seeded are already emerging from the soil. Those first few seedlings emerging are always an exciting reminder that spring is rapidly approaching and we will be back in the garden soon.

I know that I have over mentioned the Witch Hazel this spring but it has been glorious. It is now in full bloom and I can see its mass of deep red blooms from the kitchen window. I no longer have to go out and get close to it. It has also, suddenly this year, become a sizeable little tree and that makes it’s presence in the garden all the more impressive. It didn’t bloom at all last year because of the record cold February, I guess that’s why I’m enjoying it so much this year. Outside of the Witch hazel and the Snow Drops there is very little in the garden that is showing much advancement because of the early warm weather. Somehow most of those plants seem to know when their season is and a few warm days in March really aren’t going to make that much difference to their natural cycle. Even the lack of a deep frost in the ground doesn’t seem to hurry much. I did notice some early growth on the Oriental Poppies this morning but most of the bulbs are following their usual cycle.

I was in the local garden centre, Vandermeers, this week looking for a decorative house plant for the lobby of the church when I happened open a display of interesting Streptocarpus. They are great flowering house plants. Bloom regularly, easily propagated from leaf cuttings and quite reliable but having fairly dull blue or white flowers. You can see in the picture the very interesting broken colour patterns in these extra large blooms. They all appear to be purple and white but many of the white areas are actually bright yellow. My camera just didn’t want to capture that colour. They were so interesting that I actually took out my wallet and bought one to bring home. I really don’t need, or have space for, another flowering house plant but there it is on the kitchen island, showing off its unusual colour patterns. The Assistant Gardener’s comments cannot be recorded here.

This is a crazy week as we prepare for our Garden Writer’s meeting. It’s held at Canada Blooms and brings together about 60 of my garden writer friends. You don’t care but you should care about going to downtown Toronto to see the great Canada Blooms garden show. Great ideas, lots of bright blooming flowers, interesting plants and landscape ideas and a market place with some great plants and a few gimmicks that I’m sure you can sort out. I’m speaking there Monday at noon if you want to come and listen.

Now it’s time to answer a few of my reader’s questions. Don’t forget to check the front page of the Website for frequent short ideas for current gardening activities.

Glen Asks? I was interested in your comments about the algae in your pond. I have the same situation in mine. It is hard to remove because of the gooey consistency. I am not sure if the normal treatment during the summer months will work in the cold water.

Ken Answers! I have no good answers as I have never had this much algae in the winter before. When the ponds are clear of all ice I will try to manually remove it with a net or whatever might work. As for algicides I've never really used one but may be forced to look at them this year. Stay tuned.

Carol Asks? Do Christmas Cacti belong in the same category as Poinsettias? I received a gorgeous cactus in December and dozen of little buds followed the blooms. Now, I have dozens of little dead buds. Did I water it too much OR not enough? Should I pick off the dear little buds and hope some others will replace them? Should I pitch the whole thing? BTW, I had it in a south window . Now, it's in a north one.

Ken Answers! Yes, Christmas cactus bloom under short days just as the Poinsettia does but it makes a nicer houseplant when it's not in bloom. Getting it to rebloom is not as difficult as the Poinsettia. Hard to tell why the buds died, was it coincidental with its move from South to North? It is a plant that will be happy in full sun. Let the buds fall off and wait patiently until next Christmas to see if it will bloom again. Mine go outside in light shade for the summer.

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