HELEN LANG: When snow has fallen, turn to indoor plants

We go all winter with no snow and then, just when we figure spring is just a breath away, we get a nasty blast of winter

This is actually being written on Feb. 26 and it is snowing. We go all winter with no snow and then, just when we figure spring is just a breath away, we get a nasty blast of winter.

It’s not fair I tell you, pretty as it is! I protest! (Not that it does a bit of good.)

I am reminded of the poem (not a very good one): “The wind doth blow, and we shall have snow. What will the robin do then? Fly into the barn, to try to keep warm, and tuck his head under his wing. Poor thing.”

Personally I haven’t yet seen a robin but I’m told that at least some of them have arrived, so if you have seen one, maybe you could cut up and throw out an apple, a pear or maybe some cranberries, raisins or grapes. I’ll bet they’d be welcome!

This is the weather that will clear the berries off the piracantha. The starlings welcome them every year! Orange deposits everywhere!

The snow has blown in, onto the balcony. All the pots are wearing white hats and the poor crocus are bent double with the unexpected weight. I know it won’t last and it is pretty, but have a heart! Enough already!

My stubborn daughter has huffed off to Victoria, annoyed that I’d suggest she wait for a better day. Oh dear! When will I learn to keep my mouth closed? Never? Probably! I repeat, “Oh dear!”

Let’s come inside where it is warmer and talk about indoor plants, shall we?

I know African violets are considered good plants to give old ladies and I do have a couple, but refuse to be old in spite of the odd wrinkle and a pronounced limp.

One violet has been up to mischief and now there are four plants in the one small overcrowded pot. It is sitting anxiously waiting for division and  transplanting into three additional pots — a job that fills me with anxiety. I do hate to kill a plant, even when there are three more than I need, or want, and dividing these promises to be a job for a brain surgeon with a delicate touch.

First, I’ll soak the mother plant until it is thoroughly wet through.

Then I’ll turn it over and try to decide where to split it. I’ll use a fork to very gently pry the roots apart without breaking too many.

Finally, very firmly, I’ll bend the root ball back until it divides on its own. I’ll do this a second time if I have a piece with too large a cluster of roots.

Now, put the kettle on and make yourself a cuppa, sit down and relax, before planting the sections of root — preferably in soil meant for African violets.

You did it! Well done!


Helen Lang has been the Peninsula News Review’s garden columnist for more than 30 years.