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Finding happiness one bloom at a time
Stuck at home? Bring a little bit of happiness to your life with flowers this Winter.
Many of us have been safe at home for many months. One way to make your homestay a little cheerier is to add flowers. A recent study published by Jeannette Haviland-Jones, PhD, reports that research now proves flowers have an immediate impact on happiness. A professor of psychology at Rutgers University, Haviland’s study reported participants felt less depressed, anxious, and agitated around flowers. This confirms a long–held belief about flowers, as Haviland noted, “Common sense tells us that flowers make us happy.” In other studies, it is also noted that workspace is positively affected when flowers are present, to which Haviland commented, “Flowers bring about positive feelings in those who enter a room.”
So how can you bring a little bit of happiness to your life with flowers this Winter? Cut flowers are always great, but there are also many flowering plant options available for gardeners as well. Flowering plants tend to be a better value as they last longer, some for many years.
During Winter months, forcing bulbs indoors is a great way to do some cold weather gardening. Easy Winter favorites that are readily available now include are Paperwhites (narcissus sp.) and Amaryllis. Paperwhites and Amaryllis are tropical bulbs and do not require a cold period. Both types are a great addition to any holiday décor.
African violets are another all-time favorite that does well indoors and can be easily propagated by leaf cuttings. The stem of the violet can be placed in water or in soil for easy rooting and many violets can be started from just one stem cutting. Start several at a time and pass the happiness around by sharing with friends and family!
Orchids are another great indoor plant that has become very popular in recent years. Orchids are a very affordable option, these flowers last weeks at a time, re-flower, require little care and come in a variety of interesting colors, shapes and sizes. As a result, orchids have become an all-around “go to” plant for all occasions.
These recommendations are not the only plants that will flourish inside this Winter. Potted miniature roses, holiday cactus, kalanchoes, periwinkles and primroses are also good options and can be transplanted to a semi-shady outdoor location this Spring. In addition, there are always interesting options at local grocery stores and box stores. Head to a retail location near you to see what new plants and varieties are available, as well as old favorites.
Michigan State University Extension encourages you to let the inner gardener in you nurture a plant during these Winter months. It will lift your spirits and bring happiness to those you live and work with!
Keep your amaryllis growing for years
The amaryllis plant, originally from South Africa, produces beautiful, showy flowers to cheer up the Winter gloom. Select a large, firm bulb. Choose a pot that will be large enough to allow roots to grow and tall enough to provide support for a large bloom. Plant it with one third of the bulb above the soil line, water it enough so that the roots are wet but not soggy and put it in a place with bright light. If it dries out, give it a little more water.
It may seem slow to get started, but eventually it will produce a leaf or a bloom stalk. Each bulb seems to be different about which comes first. Don’t worry, as it will eventually produce both. When you see growth, the plant will enjoy Winter sun but doesn’t require it to bloom. Water the bulb so it doesn’t dry out, but don’t keep it too wet so that the bulb rots. When the flower blooms, it may require staking as blooms can be tall and heavy.
Once your amaryllis has bloomed, it would be a shame to give up on it. Just cut back the stalk of the bloom and treat it like a houseplant. Some of the leaves will probably die back, but new ones will take their place and by Spring it will look green and healthy.
What your plant will prefer is for the pot to be put outside for the Summer in a sunny spot protected by the wind. During a hot spell it may prefer partial shade. Water it when it seems dry. A key factor is to fertilize it regularly, biweekly works well, with an all-purpose plant food such as Miracle Gro. Occasionally, one of the bulbs will decide to bloom again in the Summer.
Bring it inside before frost and stop watering and feeding it. Let the foliage die back as you would Spring bulbs outside. Some of bulbs are quite stubborn and seem to refuse to die back. After the leaves have mostly died back, pull off the dead leaves, take the bulb out of the pot, shake off the dirt, and let it dry out. Put it in an open sack or box and leave it in a basement or other cool place where it won’t freeze. Check on it occasionally. (Michele Worden’s comments on what to check, “possibly a desiccated or moldy bulb. Those are the two issues. That is why I just leave them in the pot and put them in a paper bag and put them in a dark corner. 3 months later they will be growing. If you are late checking on them, they will look like ghost plants – all white. But they green up soon enough in the light)
Let the bulb rest for at least six weeks. Repot it in a pot that gives the roots enough room to spread out a bit. If the roots seem long, you can trim off the ends of some of them. Once you have planted it, put it back in the place where it grew before. The length of time letting it rest can be coordinated with when you want it to bloom again, but if you wait too long to replant it, leaves may start shooting up without your help.
Often over the Summer, some bulbs will produce bulblets along the side. If you want to create more plants, pull them off gently and plant them again when you replant their parents. They get bigger quickly, but it may take a year or more before they bloom. I have shared five over the years with friends and family and still have three from the original bulb. I traded one bulb with a neighbor, who also had started a bulblet, and now have two of another color.
Amaryllis are wonderful plants, forgiving of a bit of neglect and will continue to delight you year after year. Using brief instructions from Downtown Home and Garden, a retailer in Ann Arbor, MI, I experimented to see what would work. The above are guidelines, but your amaryllis will be in a different location than mine and you may have to adjust. One advantage of keeping the same plant year after year is that you will become familiar with what it prefers.
10 Things Nobody Tells You About Poinsettias
Written By Michelle Slatalla Published: December 21, 2020 on the Gardenista website
Shared by Molly Bacon, EMG Trainee
Michele Worden, our president, forwarded an email with a link to this article. I learned new information about the Poinsettia, to include the ‘i’ is not silent; I have always pronounced it incorrectly. The one fact I did know and had experience with is their growth habits in nature. While living in Southern California, we had a Poinsettia growing on the side of the house. Every year, it would grow up to the roofline and have some spindly red and green leaves. Though many years ago, I still find this fascinating.
Another informative article can be found at
Botanic Garden Update
By: Karen Schmidt, Botanic Garden Coordinator
2020 was such a challenging year for our country – a terrible pandemic, divisive political issues, extreme storms, and other weather conditions. With the stress of all these factors, the public found comfort, peace, and inspiration in the Botanic Garden. Record nursery sales highlighted a renewed interest in home gardening, and that was reflected in visitors to the Botanic Garden as well. People flocked to the Garden to walk the labyrinth, hike the trails, stroll around flower beds, practice yoga or tai chi on the lawns, picnic on the pavilion, meditate in the Secret Garden, read on a shady bench, or visit with friends. The Garden was a safe outdoor place where visitors could maintain distance from others while enjoying the park. Masks were a common sight. 2020 reinforced for us how important and how valuable public gardens are for a region.
There was a great deal of construction going on this Summer as well. The Sugar Maple Allée, with its tall native maple trees and 14’ wide beds and 10’ wide walkway, was extended all the way down to the new labyrinth. A 150’ long circular garden was planted around the labyrinth, featuring Gingko biloba trees and medicinal perennials and shrubs as a component of the Healing Garden. A beautiful new steel pergola was constructed over the Secret Garden and subtle landscape lighting installed in both the Stable Garden and Secret Garden, making it a magical place after dark. A new Fairy House Trail was constructed in the Garden’s woodland and hundreds of native woodland flowers were planted along the trail. Thousands of Spring-blooming bulbs were planted this Fall in several of the gardens, and 28 trees and shrubs were installed.
The largest project this Summer and Fall was the construction of new paved roads and parking lots throughout the park. Old gravel roads were harvested and replaced with topsoil, seeded, and mulched, adding almost two and a half acres of new planting areas for the Botanic Garden. The design of the new paved roads, along with berms, water retention swales and underground pipes allow for the capture of storm water run-off, redirecting it to the wetlands and preventing erosion and stream damage. Thanks to the Traverse City Garfield Township Recreational Authority, the roads project has been transformational for the park! If you haven’t seen it yet, you will be amazed and delighted.
Although the Visitor Center is closed for the Winter and COVID keeps us from offering in-person classes and workshops, our Program Committee is working on a series of on-line classes. November’s Make-And-Take Winter Porch Pot class was a real hit and there are more online offerings to come. Check out our website, www.TheBotanicGarden.org, and our Facebook Page for additional information. A new feature on our website, under the ‘visit’ button, is our self-guided audio tour. Whether you listen to it at home or on your phone as you walk the Garden, this audio tour will explain both the history of the site and the various features of each garden.
2020 was a dark and challenging year for all of us, but there were rays of sunshine as well, and we have exciting new plans for the future. Here is to a new year, where gardening and gardens continue to enrich our lives.