, Salem, MA


January 31, 2014

Spring is six weeks away, no matter what


Trust me — mulch is far better than stones.

Plant with the tips of the bulbs exposed about a quarter of the way above the stones or mulch and add about 2 inches of water. They will be blooming in about 14 to 20 days. Start them in a cool, bright place, like an unheated cellar or porch, then bring them inside when the tops are about 4 to 5 inches. They will grow, bloom, smell heavenly — and probably fall over.

Now, finally an experiment from the nice people at the Cornell labs who have the same problems as you — and think they have a cure for it: give them a drink — I mean a real drink! Call it a “happy hour” for narcissus:

After the bulbs reach a height of about 4 inches, carefully drain the water off the bulbs. Replace the water with a 5- to 6-percent solution that’s one part 10 percent alcohol to two parts water (no cheese and crackers necessary). Continue to replace the gin and water for as long as you have the plants.

Cornell warns us not to increase the percentage of alcohol — more is not better!

Q: I got a Chia Pet for Christmas. Have you ever seen one? It looks like a lamb, and it’s supposed to grow green grass for fur. What’s really going to grow on it? Is it safe? What do I do with it? Can it go to the office and survive?

A. Chia Pets! Deja vu all over again! They first appeared in 1977. (I guess that dates me!) The first Chias were simple animal shapes — now you can even get characters from “The Simpsons.”

These clay figures, which do indeed grow tiny plants on their bodies, were popular several decades ago then disappeared. Now they’re back with new shapes.

Each comes with a packet of seeds which, when soaked in water, form a gelatinous seed coating that sticks to the figure. The seeds are smeared onto the clay figure, which has ridges in the unglazed, ceramic body to catch and hold the seeds. Just like a standard clay flower pot, the figure absorbs and holds water. Stand the clay figure in a saucer of water and voila! In a few days, the seeds sprout, and you have the illusion of fur or hair.

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