Dear Garden Problem Lady

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I know we celebrate Valentine’s Day on February 14 with hearts and flowers but – why flowers?

Why not? Doesn’t everyone enjoy a beautiful bouquet of flowers? Then there’s the long tradition – not of early Christian martyrs so much as the American advertising industry. Cupids, hearts, cards, chocolates and flowers. As you strip the leaves off those red roses that have no smell and show them off in a tall vase, you can enjoy the chocolates. Love – sometimes beautiful, sometimes fleeting – makes the world go round. February 14 falls on a Wednesday, and 2024 is a Leap year!

My love has given me a beautiful potted cyclamen plant. How long will it last?

Most cyclamens die of root-rot from being over-watered. Your Cyclamen will last indoors as long as you keep it away from direct sun, in a cool place – as low as 45’F at night and 65’F max during the day. It needs indirect sun and very little water. Water rarely, when soil is dry, and only around the rim of the pot, never to the heart of the plant. After about 4 months the flowers will fade and the leaves slowly drop. It will be going dormant. Put it in a dark cool place like a shed. In early autumn you can begin watering again, and then adding high-phosphorus fertilizer. New leaves will appear. Look online for instructions on re-potting if you think the plant needs new soil.

My daffodils came up on December 9, 2023. I worried they’d bloom way early, but in mid-January – winter!  Temperatures in the teens. Freezing cold. Big snow. Now, as I ask this, the thermometer is going back up into the sixties. Tell me please if there’s anything I should, or even can, do in my garden right now.

Well asked. Your daffodils may survive. The most damaging part of very cold weather is desiccating wind, which robs inner moisture from leaves and roots. Of course, severe cold itself kills too. And whip-saw sudden high temperatures again, followed by more winter, cause the most damage of all. But what can you do? – except clean up – and next year prepare ahead. But “clean up” means collect broken-off branches only – nothing more. Making any cuts can increase existing damage. Deep rooted plants can survive. Others that appear totally dead may also survive. Best to wait. “Preparing ahead” means mulching all tender shrubs in the autumn with several inches of porous, light mulch. Vulnerable shallow-rooted camellias can be protectively wrapped in foam or burlap.

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