It may not feel like spring, or look like it, but one little corner of my world at Posey Lake is a colorful slice of the season.
Giant pink and red geraniums on the sun porch are two and three feet tall and are loaded with full, beautiful blooms. On a dull, overcast day it's a joy to sit on the wicker porch swing and take in the beauty. The mini greenhouse also has been captured on film because it may never happen again.
For anyone who may want to try for a similar jump-start on gardening, here is the recipe. First, of course, you have to have a glassed-in sun porch. Mine faces south, if that matters. Next you have to have geraniums that have so outdone themselves in summer you can't bear to throw them out when the first frost warning comes in the fall.
When you haul the giant plants onto the sun porch, be ready to have a backache from the lifting; it may last for a month or so, But with each aspirin, remember the pain will be worth it in a few months .
How do you keep the geraniums alive and happy on a porch that has no heat? This certainly is not a region of the country where you can depend on sunshine pouring through the glass windows on a daily basis, but an occasional dose does help. One solution is to decide just how important and valuable the 10 geraniums, and a dozen begonias are.
If the answer is very important, they are worth their blooms in gold, a gas heater can be installed on the porch. Though the porch has been without heat for 40 or more years, the winter of 2005-06, when natural gas prices were so high, was the year I had to make that decision. Why change your habit of untimely judgments?
Just in case the wall heater unit failed to please the plants, the west porch window was covered with heavy plastic. Don't you just love the way leaking air bows out the plastic after it is applied? It proves that applying the protective plastic was the right thing to do.
Mr. Ed helped with the plastic, but Lucy Howe of Hudson, Mich., is the person who gets the credit for carrying out the save-the-geraniums plan during my three-month absence. It's one thing to haul the plants indoors, but quite another to work with them during the cold months until they can again be made comfortable outdoors in May.
When I returned home on a cold, snowy day, three months after my departure for Florida, when I opened the sun porch door I saw an incredible floral rainbow. I quickly took a picture in case the flowers didn't last because it would make a great Christmas card photo - if I can find it next fall.
Lucy told me what she did to produce the gorgeous display. Her first step was to trim the dead leaves from the plants and to cut off old or nearly dead branches. One geranium was so large the big pruning shears were needed to cut off a branch. Every 7 to 10 days the plants were watered with five cups of lukewarm tap water, and once each month they were fed Miracle Grow, following the manufacturers' formula for the same quantity of water. Every two weeks she rotated the plants away from the light to keep the growth well balanced.
Reluctant to take any credit, Lucy said it was the gas heater that did the trick. The moisture created by the heat on cold days created a hothouse effect.
It will be wonderful to move the big blooming babies outdoors when it's time, and at the same time cut back on the number of annuals purchased. Now, of course, I wish I had moved more plants indoors.
The gas heater was $440, so did I save any money? Saving was not the sole point of the exercise. The plants were too beautiful after weeks of care to let them freeze. I have a sun porch, I have a friend who likes to garden, and I have always wanted to heat the porch. The geraniums will see another season thanks to that winning combination.