Sun Room Fun

By Roger Erpelding
Contributing Writer

With February here, and most of the seed catalogs being fully perused, and orders submitted, focus transfers to the sun room. And fortunately, there is plenty to focus on.

Earlier this week, Beth observed that the final tangerine hanging on the tree was looking a little rough. When I grabbed it, I immediately noticed its skin was wrinkly, soft and ugly. But it was very much intact, and really felt none the worse for wear. A good way to judge fruit ripeness in citrus fruit is to see if it easily separates from the tree. This one was hanging on for dear life. But, all other indicators showed that it was ripe and ready to be picked. So I gave it several good yanks, leaving part of the skin on the branch. Upon peeling it, I found the inside to be firm to the touch, and fragrant to my nose. I have been raising and harvesting tangerines for several years, and this may have been the tastiest fruit from my dwarf citrus orchard. And speaking of citrus trees, they continue to bloom prolifically. Even the three very young plants are in full bud.

Due to an abundance of sunshine and a warm greenhouse, the clivia miniatta, (kafir lily) is now in bloom. It has four flower stalks, and quite naturally, the one nearest the east window has broken out in flower first. They usually have a slight and pleasant fragrance. However, this year the hyacinths and citrus fruit have completely drowned out everything else. The smaller kafir lily, a yellow cultivar that Beth has named “Charlotte” continues to do well in the spare bedroom. It is a young plant, and I believe it will be at least two years before flowers appear. Nevertheless, a friend of mine has two clivia that bloom in June, so we could be surprised this spring.

There have been two pots of “forgotten hyacinths” in the sun room this winter. I found the first while I was moving some plants in early January. It had not been watered since I brought it in in November. It looked fine and is doing well. A few days ago I was picking up dead leaves and flowers off the floor, and I found another pot hiding under the plant stands. It again had not been watered all winter. It was in full bloom, and again, seemed to thrive on neglect. I placed it in a sunny area, watered it thoroughly, and in turn, it has been a prolific bloomer that is now past its prime.

Around the first of the month, Beth observed that there were tulips blooming on the south table–flowers without leaves. This had to be the early double “Easter egg murillo” cultivars. I had been watching them as well, and they have a habit of blooming almost before leaves appear. I transported them to the kitchen where we could observe their flowers in a wide variety of pastel colors–yellow, pink, orange, red, and a cream-white. They have a slight fragrance. Their down fall is the death of their double flowers, which leaves a mess all over the counter and floor. But they are worth the mess.

I have about 8 pots of hyacinths blooming in the sun room, one pot in the “man cave” and one pot on the west kitchen counter. This has given Beth a great opportunity to play “pick of the litter.”  From my view, all the cultivars have done well in bloom form and fragrance. My favorite from last year, aiolos, did all right as well, but it didn’t stand out as it did last year. Hollyhock (a pink double) and Peter Stuyvesant (a plain dark purple) scored high on Beth’s list. Of course, pink fondant is a constant with Beth, so it’ll be grown each year. It is early, fragrant, and easy to force.

The daffodils are now gone. They did their job, and were in full flower during Beth’s birthday. We’ll try them again next year.

The iris reticulata just weren’t blooming indoors, so I relegated them to the north end of the east side of the sun room. They do not bloom as quickly as I thought they would. There were three flowers on them last Saturday, all of which are purple, according to Beth. She really likes them, so I’ll try again next year. They are small bulbs that can be forced in a small pot, so they are space savers as well.

The crocus near the south window in the sun room bloomed their heads off, and now they are finished as well. As usual, they are easy to force, require little space, and always seem to do well.

Around Christmas time, a friend of mine called to tell me that his oleander was in bloom–indoors! Our two oleander have never bloomed in the sun room, and this year is no exception. Ed’s plant is near a south-facing picture window–ours are kept right in the middle of the sun room. This affords lots of indirect sunlight from the south and east, but they are too big to be placed next to the windows. We could do so, but it would limit or eliminate space for the rest of our plants.

Yesterday Beth ordered a SEED SAVERS EXCHANGE catalog for me. I have also saved my BURPEES catalog until now to read. The former catalog may not arrive until early March, which is no problem; the latter is here, and I plan to order soon.

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