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  1. It has been a most unusual winter here in my corner of Pennsylvania, with virtually no measurable snow on the since Christmas and abnormally warm temperatures. On Valentine’s Day last week I hiked with friends, and at the halfway point, we were all in our shirtsleeves! This is what my back hill looks like today:
At this point in most Februaries, this hill is buried in at least a foot of snow.

Many friends have written about and posted pictures of snowdrops, winter aconite, and crocuses blooming weeks ahead of schedule, but I have none of those here. I do have some buds on one hellebore, though, and some catkins on the wild pussy willow tree at the edge of our cul-de-sac have begun to open, both considerably earlier than usual.

While I really enjoy being able to walk to my mailbox without taking time to put on a coat, or to trot barefoot across the back deck to empty the compost bowl, this weather fills me with worry. Will the new perennials I planted in late fall survive without their blanket of snow? Will we have a plethora of annoying insects this spring and summer because it didn’t get cold enough for long enough to kill them and/or their egg sacs? Will we have an early drought because there’s no snow melt? And what about the fruit trees? Are they forming buds too early, only to have them potentially freeze when/if we get a spate of normal temperatures?

Bear with me for a moment as I climb up and out of that spiral of pessimism. If you’re still reading, thank you! The remaining five items on my Six on Saturday list shall be positive and uplifting, I promise!

2. It’s February, so of course I have some amaryllises blooming! ‘Flamenco Queen’ bloomed on two stalks, with four flowers on each, in late December. I was initially disappointed in her because the bulb was huge and more expensive than I generally spend. I was delighted, therefore, to discover in mid-January, a third stalk growing between the new leaves! This stalk sports seven bright raspberry-red flowers with apple-green throats, with diameters of at least six inches. It was a perfect Valentine’s Day flower!

Hippeastrum Amaryllis ‘Flamenco Queen’ has redeemed herself!
Amaryllis ‘Flamenco Queen’

A friend gave me this amaryllis for Christmas, and I have no idea what its name is. It came from a very good grocery store and was just a few days away from opening its first flower when she gave it too me. Like ‘Flamenco Queen’, it put forth two bloom stalks at Christmas, (but with 6 flowers on each!) and then sent up another stalk a couple weeks later. The flowers on this third stalk started opening about ten days ago. There’s ever just the slightest tint of orange in this bright red blossom.

A mystery amaryllis, but a fine performer, especially for a grocery store purchase!

It will be a matter of just a couple days before ‘Tinkerbell’ opens. This is her second year to bloom for me, and I’m very pleased to see she has two stalks. That’s quite the rarity for me with my repeat bloomers!

Looks like this stalk of ‘Tinkerbell’ will have six flowers!

‘Apple Blossom’ may be my very favorite amaryllis, with its sweet, delicate pink hues, and I treated myself to a brand new bulb this year. I had hoped it would bloom for Valentine’s Day, but Mother Nature deemed it not to be. It looks like it will be another week to ten days before I see this baby flower.

‘Apple Blossom’ is taking her sweet time, but she’ll be beautiful soon!

I have a large collection of amaryllis bulbs now, dating back to 2013. Many have shrunk considerable and have given me nothing but leaves for several years. At the end of this growing season, I need to take stock of these bulbs and make some tough decisions . . .

3. I have new houseplants! Six, to be exact, all acquired in this new year. In early January, after a trip to Longwood Gardens, I was inspired to buy Calathea lancifolia, aka Rattlesnake Plant, and Peperomia argyreia, aka Watermelon Peperomia. The trickiest thing for me with these plants is keeping the humidity near them high enough. I’ve put a saucer of water on the table between them, and so far, it seems to be working well–no crispy leaves! They’re next to a north facing window where they get plenty of light, but no direct sunlight. (I moved the Calathea for the picture!)

The undersides of Rattlesnake Calathea’s leaves are a lovely, rich burgundy shade.
Watermelon Peperomia

A few days later, I was perusing a big box hardware store for clearance sales on pots, when I was very tempted by some huge, healthy, inexpensive tropical plants. I did not give in and buy another Calathea or Alocasia, but I did come home with a small, manageable Fittonia The white veins on its leaves appeal to me. I’ve taken care of its humidity and light needs by placing it in my kitchen under a grow light. The light it gets is filtered through a taller plant above it.

Fittonia ‘White Anne’, also called Nerve Plant.

Over a month passed before I bought more new plants! Then, just yesterday, I bought three in one shot! Two of them are tiny, though, so do they really even count?

This is Aloe ‘Pink Blush’. Isn’t it adorable? I repotted it today in a mix of commercially prepared cactus soil, orchid bark, and cactus grit. This very cute pot has no drainage holes, so I will be especially careful not to overwater this succulent!

Aloe ‘Pink Blush’, in a cute cat pot!
There’s a lot of texture in these leaves! Aloe ‘Pink Blush’

I also bought a tiny Sansevieria with yellow edges that glow in the late afternoon light. This one did not come with a cultivar label. I put it in a pot that reflects the lime green in the leaves, and yes, this one does have a drainage hole! It’s all of about two inches high.

My major purchase yesterday was this Ficus elastica ‘Tineke’ commonly known as Variegated Rubber Plant. I love the shades of yellow, pink, cream, and green on its leaves. It will live near an east facing window.

Ficus elastica ‘Tineke’
A splashy Rubber Plant leaf (Ficus elastica ‘Tineke’)

No more houseplants for me now, for at least the next day or two, hahaha! Seriously, though, I am Out. Of. Room!

4. I have a little more space for houseplants in places I couldn’t put them before, thanks to my husband who bought me two halo-style grow lamps for Christmas. They’ve been in place for about six weeks now, and I’m ready to call them an early success. A Dracaena fragrans (corn plant) that I had cut down last fall because it was too tall and unwieldy has sprouted three new shoots under one of the lights, and a Peace Lily that hasn’t bloomed in over a year has a bud about to open under the other. I was a little concerned that I might be trying to light too many plants under one light, but so far, no one seems to be suffering.

They look a little other-wordly, but seem to be effective!
New growth on the Corn Plant appeared within two weeks of introducing the grow light.
You can see the new bud on the Peace Lily in the back, behind the two week old roses that need to go!

5. I’ve bought my first seeds for this summer! Tithonia for the butterflies, and French filet beans for me! I’ll start the tithonia indoors in early March.

6. I’m very excited that I’ll be going to the Fling this September in the Philadelphia area, organized by Karl Gercens of Longwood Gardens! My daughter and I visited Longwood back on January 8, the final day of their Christmas show. Here are a few of my favorite non-Christmas sights from that day:

Paphiopedilim ‘Rosy Dawn’ in the orchid room.
Cattleya Paprika ‘Black Magic’
Giant fiddleheads on a Tasmanian Tree Fern
Sabra Spike Sage (Salvia confertiflora) along the Garden Path in the Main Conservatory
We walked the meadow trail all the way around to the Webb Farmhouse, which now serves as an interpretative space for the meadow.

So that’s what’s been going on around my house’s plant life for the past couple months. Thanks to Jim Stephens, at Garden Ruminations for kindly hosting this weekly summary of garden activity!