Moth Orchids

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With the holidays behind us, winter seems to stretch out as far as we can see. I don’t know about you, but I’m more than ready for a tropical vacation! We can’t afford tickets to a balmy beach or verdant rainforest, but I can manage to plunk down a mere $19.95—or less—for a blooming orchid. My imagination will have to supply the rest.

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Valentine Cyclamen

Cyclamen persicum_DBG_LAH_6366.nefIt’s Valentine’s Day, one of the busiest days of the year for your friendly neighborhood florist. My husband knows I like receiving flowers on this most romantic of holidays. He also knows that I appreciate getting a plant that is still alive and growing, as opposed to cut flowers that will soon wilt and be composted.

One popular Valentine plant is the Florist’s Cyclamen. These cyclamen are decidedly beautiful—delicate and romantic—but are difficult plants to keep indoors.

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Pretty Poinsettias

Poinsettias_20091218_PLH_5602Everywhere we turn, we see red. Poinsettias decorate our homes, churches, businesses and stores. How did a tropical plant become such a pervasive symbol of Christmas? Are poinsettias poisonous? And what should I do with my plants once the holidays are over?

With their bright red color (although they also come in salmon and white now), it’s not surprising that we like to brighten a dreary winter landscape with poinsettias. It’s  too bad they’re only available during the holidays; they’ll live for years given the right care.

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Crown of Thorns

euphorbia-splendens_crown-of-thorns_blkforest_lah_6087Tomorrow is Good Friday, the day Jesus wore a crown of thorns.  In visualizing that painful headpiece, it helps me to think about the sharp spikes on the plant with the same name.

As the scientific name indicates, Euphorbia Milii is first cousin to other Euphorbias, including poinsettias, the wide variety of spurges, and Snow on the Mountain. All these species share common characteristics such as inconspicuous flowers surrounded by showy bracts, and a toxic, thick, milky sap. This latex can not only cause skin irritation, but if it comes in contact with a mucous membrane, extremely painful inflammation can result. Some species’ sap is even carcinogenic.

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Gardeners, Start Your Bulbs!

crocus-blackforest-27mar2006-lah-001-cropThe first crocus of spring. Sunny yellow daffodils naturalized under trees. Beds full of crimson tulips—it all starts now.

After gardening all summer, it’s hard to add yet another chore to the pile of things to do this month, but planting bulbs should be near the top of the list. Getting them in early not only affords you the best selection at the garden center, but gives roots time to grow in still-warm soil, preventing frost heave and providing the best start to next spring’s bloom.

Pick a location that gets plenty of sunlight, particularly if you intend for your bulbs to come back year after year. Most bulb species bloom well the first year, but here in Colorado they tend to diminish with each successive growing season. Especially in the case of tulips, assume that you will need to replace them annually for the best display. Even other species will need ideal growing conditions if they are to increase in size and number.

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