Days are getting a little longer every day and I dream of flowers. Then, walking around the garden on January 13th, what do I see; the first flower!
The temperatures have been warm enough for spring bulb foliage to appear and even for hellebores to send up buds, but a flower, this early? Yes, a hellebores plant standing in a protected area behind the gazebo opened up its first bloom. It was a welcome sight which I shared with family, friends and co-workers.
A propagation project, multiplying my Escargot begonia from leaf cuttings is taking its sweet time. Back in September these plants were brought inside to make it safely through the winter. Unfortunately, I am always a little neglectful of watering indoor plants, especially when they are just brought in and need the most care. As a result, the leaves got a bit crispy around the edges and although it did not detract from the overall appearance of the plant, I did want to clean it up. Always ready for some gardening indoors, I cut off those few cripsy leaves and checked my decades old gardening book on multiplying plants from leaf cuttings.
I found a few suitable containers to start the cuttings in; left over dishes after ordering Chinese food. Each dish came with a see-through cover which closes tight, keeps in humidity and is just about perfect for starting plants. I mixed some potting soil and perlite together to create a well draining potting medium and cut the leaves up in quarters. Now I had to make sure the margins of each leaf cutting remained in contact with the soil in order for roots and leaflets to grow. That was easier said then done, the leaves are curly and no amount of pushing it in the soil would maintain contact on all sides.
Off to the garage I went in search of something, anything that would help. I found what I was looking for when I came across plastic wire staples, normally used to attach (telephone) wire to the baseboard along walls. A wire staple on either side of the leaf cutting was all I needed to maintain contact with the soil.
I watered each container, put the cover on and stuck them on a windowsill. Unfortunately, a leaf cutting will start growing roots a lot faster with warmer temperatures then in a house which is kept on the cool side in winter. So I waited, and waited. When Christmas came near and I needed room for decorations, I checked my containers for growth, any growth, but there was none, or so I thought. Ready to call it a day, the dishes were put outside… in the cold. A few days later, just about ready to toss everything in the garden, I checked to see if at least there was some root growth in any of the dishes and there was. Everything was moved back indoors again and I waited some more.
Finally weeks later I have the beginnings of baby plants. Each cutting has two, three or even four new leaves developing along different parts of the leaf vein, indicating individual new plants. Come spring I will be able to put out more pots with Escargot begonias and even share some with friends.
Gardening is a slow process, but making a new plant from a bit of leaf is pretty miraculous. In the middle of winter I watch new plants grow and a flower unfold. January is not so bad after all.