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    over bf Jan 18    OVER THE BACK FENCE – JANUARY 2018   over bf Jan 18


“Every gardener knows that under the cloak of winter lies a miracle ... a seed waiting to sprout, a bulb opening to the light, a bud straining to unfurl. And the anticipation nurtures our dream.” Barbara Winkler


The snow descends, silently, peacefully, creeping in like magic, overnight. We awake, gaze out the window, and, with shock, yet pleasant surprise, discover the clean, white blanket covering the grey garden. Our mindset now suddenly changes- autumn is a thing of the past- it is time to turn our thoughts away from warmer days, and truly embrace the winter that nature has thrust upon us! Our bodies, too, sense the change; with shorter daylight, we, too, seem to follow the example of the hibernating animals, and become a slothful lot, sleeping in a bit in the morning darkness, and taking refuge a bit earlier in the dark evening, in the cozy nest with a good book and a warm blanket!


Several readers have asked me to guide them as to how to preserve the Christmas gift plants they have received. Poinsettias, for instance, are everywhere at Christmastime- gorgeous red, pink, white, and all their variations. Their leaves, or bracts, are actually what are coloured-the actual flower is at the tiny yellow centre of the plant, and quite non-descript. You should remove the plant from its foil wrap, so it can drain freely; it doesnt like to be soggy! Keep in a sunny window, and only water when dry. It likes a room temperature around 70 degrees (20 degrees Celsius).


Cyclamen is another popular winter plant. It enjoys similar conditions as the poinsettia, with the exception that it dries out quickly in our dry homes; mist it every other day, and it will be happy; again, don’t overwater (as I have sometimes done!). How is your amaryllis doing? The average plant will flower 7 to 10 weeks after planting; stake it as it grows taller. After flowering has finished, cut the stalk down to about 2 inches, but allow the leaves to continue supplying nourishment to the bulb for several weeks; then stop watering and let it die down; it may be stored for another season in a cool, dry place. (OR you can chuck it- it is not expensive to buy a new one!)


I hope that you will enjoy your quiet January, staying safely indoors and looking out at the winter wonderland in your backyard.


Yours in gardening, Lynn Near


P.S.  Since January is the time for New Year’s resolutions, I have made one also. My resolution is to retire the Over The Back Fence column; although I have enjoyed writing the column for more than 10 years, the monthly deadlines for publishing new ideas is becoming a little too onerous. I have decided to free up some of this time to pursue other interests. Thank you for your many years of encouragement and feedback – it is what has kept me going all these years!