By Roger Erpelding
Sun rooms are great. They can brighten up a cold winter’s day as well as serve as a greenhouse, if you have enough insulation and supplemental heat. This winter the plants have done well in the sun room–plenty of light, with the temperature almost always staying above 40 degrees. Mary the Kafir lily has bloomed; the forced bulbs grew to the point where they could be enjoyed on the west kitchen counter; the geraniums grew and bloomed as the days became longer; and the citrus trees developed new growth and blossoms in April.
With our frosts earlier in the week, I delayed taking the plants out until May this year. Last year they went out on April 24, but this spring has turned off a bit cooler as April progressed. On May 2, we began by taking out the oleanders, the hardiest of the sun room plants. Hawkeye Bob assisted me. We used a large lawn cart to transfer them (one at a time), to an area of rocks and shrubs where Beth will place a wooden bench and footstool later this spring. Her rule is “It can go on the rocks if it has a saucer.” Good enough.
We did have a frost on Tuesday morning, but the oleanders weren’t hurt. This encouraged me to bring out the four large citrus trees on May 3. I did this job myself, with the help of the lawn cart. Again, these plants have saucers, so they will be in the same area as the oleanders. These are large potted citrus trees, and are a pain to move. Their new growth is discolored, curly, wrinkly, curled and bent–just plain ugly!!! Much of it will wither and fall off outdoors in the wind as it is not solid. This is typical, and nothing to worry about. And as I wrestle with them I can only remember the ten tangerines I ate from one of the trees last winter.
It was cold that night, 36, but the fruit trees can take it. So on May 5 I moved out 3 smaller citrus trees. They were carried by hand with their saucers. In addition to this, they will rest atop plant stands which I had carried out the previous evening. I also took out the two geraniums which were in bloom, and placed them on the patio table. They are a bit lanky, but probably will not be trimmed back, at least in the near term anyway.
And on May 6 I brought out the tomatoes, peppers, aloe vera and Christmas cactus. I will plant the tomatoes and peppers in the garden later, but right now they are near the magnolia tree, sheltered from the warm sun, yet getting enough light to enable them to adjust to outdoor living.
On May 3 I received a large box of perennials from Bluestone. They look a little travel-worn, but will survive. Beth read each plant container to me, and I prepared a Braille list. I then made 7 labels with dymo tape, and affixed them to flat metal stakes. These stakes resemble popsicle sticks, except they are thin metal. When this task was completed, Beth again read the containers and I placed a stick in each one. Now I will be able to plant them independently at my leisure. Even before going out to the gardens, in my mind I have a place for almost all of them.
And if that isn’t enough, it is time to purchase more plants! Beth and I will be attending the Master Gardener plant sale on May 6, and working at the sale on May 7. We also have trips planned to several greenhouses within the next week. Our future schedule also includes planting, pruning and weeding. A very busy, yet rewarding part of the year. If you are obsessed with gardening like me this is the time of year you look forward and live for.