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(HOST) Commentator Henry Homeyer finds planting bulbs – indoors and out – a good cure for those rainy day blues.

(HOMEYER) October, for a sun-loving guy like me, was a bit grim. It rained nearly every day, and then at the end of the month we had a big snowstorm that knocked down trees and broke branches. It was a bit depressing. My response? I planted things.

Whenever there was a break in the weather, I’d go outside and plant daffodils, tulips and other bulbs. This year I had also planted some fall-blooming crocus in September, and most of them bloomed in October, which helped my mood some. Unlike the spring crocus, these come on long, fragile stems – up to 6 inches long. They looked great until it rained, then they fell over. Their rich purple-blue flowers lay there partially open, like trout gasping for breath on a riverbank. I think they’d do better in the lawn, where the grass would help to hold them up, so I’ll try that next year.

I also bought some amaryllis bulbs and paperwhites to force in the house. Both are wonderful.

Amaryllis are those bulbs the size of tennis balls that are sold as kits, complete with potting soil and a plastic pot. If you follow the directions, and don’t overwater the bulb, it will, like Jack’s Bean stalk, reward you with a tall, fast growing stem. At the tip will be a fat flower bud that will open up to show-off anywhere from 3 to 7 blossoms the size of small birds. And just as lovely. The colors range from fire engine red to snow white, and all the shades in between. All they need is some sunshine and a light watering once a week until the blossoms appear, and then two waterings
a week.

Paperwhites are equally amazing. Not only do they bloom beauti- fully, they are highly fragrant. So fragrant that some people avoid them. I like the fact that I can smell them as soon as I walk into the house. It reminds me of spring.

To grow paperwhites, select a shallow bowl and fill it two-thirds
the way up with small stones. Then place the big bulbs among
the stones so they sit pointy-end up. Add water until it just kisses the bottom of each bulb. They should never sit in water. Roots will develop quickly, extending into the pebbles like thirsty camels stretching their necks to get to water. Then, ever so slowly, the bulbs will produce leaves, then flower stalks. I figure it takes about 6 weeks or so to get blossoms, but it varies from year to year.

Growing things indoors is generally more of a challenge than growing flowers outdoors. Houseplants depend on your know- ledge and attention to survive. But amaryllis and paperwhites
are just about foolproof. I think I’ll go get some more. They’ll
cheer up everyone who comes in the house. Especially on cold, rainy days.

This is the gardening guy, Henry Homeyer, in Cornish Flat,
New Hampshire

Henry Homeyer is a gardening writer and columnist. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.

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