Topics for our weekly garden column often originate from what's happening in our own gardening life. My wife, Mary, recently experienced the passing of her mother, Betty Schouviller. At the funeral, Mary received houseplants, a dish garden and a spring bulb garden among the many floral gifts. As we took the live plants home, it occurred to me that many people are similarly faced with how best to care for these houseplants after a funeral or a hospital stay.
Q: I saved several coleus plants from last summer's outdoor planters, and I've been growing them indoors this winter. I'd like to start cuttings from them so I'll have more coleus for spring planting, as they did so well on my shaded deck. I've heard it's easy to start cuttings in water. - M. Larson, Hillsboro, N.D. A: Coleus are fun and easy to start from cuttings, and it's also a great children's gardening project. Yes, coleus will root easily in a glass of water, and I've used that method frequently, but there's a better way.
FARGO — Gardeners experience a common conundrum. Each year seed companies fill catalogs with hot new flowers and vegetables, tempting gardeners away from varieties they've come to know and love. What's a gardener to do? Do we plant our favorite old reliables, or try eye-catching new varieties instead, especially if limited space doesn't allow both? New types might become our new and improved favorites, or an entire growing season could be wasted, wishing we had stuck with past preferences.
In a recent column about long-lived houseplants, I invited readers to share stories about their own older-than-average plants. Houseplants become part of the family, and responses came from states north, south, east and west as people were eager to tell their plant histories.
Q: I don't have a question, but I have to share this with someone and since you know plants, it is you. Last year for Valentine's Day I received an orchid plant from family members. It bloomed for months so I truly enjoyed it. When it was done blooming, I looked online for care and decided it was a lot of work, but since I can't bear to throw out a plant, I put it with my other plants. I watered it occasionally, but sparingly, because the pot had no drainage hole. It was the most neglected of plants.
FARGO — If anyone doubts gardeners are a happy bunch, just visit a garden center in May. Shoppers high with spring fever swarm greenhouses, giddy as they fill their carts with the fervor of a rabbit eating a fresh rhododendron. Claiming that gardening improves people's lives is a fine thing to say, but can it be proven? Texas A&M University assembled a list of gardening's positive life effects, and it's based on well-cited research. Following are their fascinating evidence-based findings:
Q: When I read your recent article about making Christmas centerpieces, I thought of some I've made and wish to share a photo of one that has a little story behind it. — Jack Fuller, West Fargo.
FARGO — You'd think gardeners who are passionate about their lawns, flowerbeds and landscapes would be weeping hysterically at season's end. But there's an unspoken gardening truth that we quietly acknowledge. We relish the growing season with gusto, but we're secretly OK with it pausing for a while. The key word is pause, not end. We might be resting from weeding, mulching and mowing, but our minds are already planning to make next year's tomato crop the best ever, and we need the eye-popping perennial we saw on last summer's garden tour.
Q: I'm being attacked by yellowjacket wasps every time I step out my door. I've set out traps that work especially well but have not found a hive. The trap uses a homemade recipe containing six ounces of vinegar, two tablespoons sugar and one teaspoon salt. I've emptied the trap several times, but there seems to be an unending amount. I'm concerned that they're attacking our huge apple crop. - Laura, Glyndon, Minn.
If we could identify gardening's golden age, what period in history would it be? The installation of the palace gardens at Versailles centuries ago? Or maybe the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in the time of King Nebuchadnezzar? No, it's today's gardens. Heck, they didn't even have Wave Petunias back then. We're living in an unprecedented age of plant availability. There's a never-before-heard-of quantity of new plant varieties that we can plant throughout the growing season. In the old days of bare-root trees and shrubs, planting was confined to spring and possibly fall.