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ASK GEORGE; TULIPS will keep mum happy.

Mother's deserve a day of special treatment. and no doubt most of you will be selecting a bouquet of flowers in readiness for tomorrow or will be visiting a florist in the morning.

Mothers need to be reminded that their hard work is not unappreciated and I believe there is no better way to express your gratitude with beautiful cut flowers.

For those of you who have decided on tulips, the most elegant and fragrant of flowers, I have made a list of tips:

Cut the stems to different lengths to make the arrangement look natural and give it more shape.

Choose blooms that are the size of fat buds. If they are too tight they won't open.

Think about colour. What message do you want to send to your mother? Red signifies power and violet piety while orange suggests pride and self respect, or possibly blue for meekness. White symbolises purity while yellow is for light and knowledge.

Be adventurous. Look out for those dramatic ``parrot'' style tulips with decorative edges, or elegant lily flowered types with slim pointed petals.

Don't get in a flap over foliage. Ask the florist to put some suitable green with the bouquet such as frothy fern.

Make your gift last longer by changing the water in the vase on a daily basis or use some cut flower food from the florist.

Remember, tulips grow anything up to two inches in water so cut them a bit shorter and they won't flop over.

Another tip for prolonging the blooms is to drop cooled, melted candle wax of the same colour as the flowers into the bottom of the tulip cups, the petals won't fall.

Never mix tulips and daffodils together as the stems discharge a slime which cuts short the life of tulips.

Most purchases for Mothering Sunday will ideally be made today. To keep your gift looking good between buying and giving, wrap the bunch of tulips in a cone of wet newspaper with stems exposed. Then place the bunch in cool water in a cool place overnight. Make sure the vase is clean.

Once the tulips are in a vase keep them in a cool place and out of direct sunlight and places which might be draughty.

Finally, remember to include a card with a special message.

Once you have followed all of the above advice, your mother will be able to sit back and enjoy the tulip arrangement long after Mothering Sunday has passed!

A Point Of Interest

The exotic shapes and colours of tulips from the magical east caught the fancy of Dutch society and became a status symbol.

Bulbs began to be valued by weight like diamonds and changed hands for thousands of pounds at today's prices and bulb traders could earn about Pounds 30,000 a month, a hundred years ago.

That is when tulipmania struck Holland.

At one time the payment for just one single bulb included two loads of wheat, four loads of rye, four fat oxen, eight fat swine, 12 equally fat sheep, two hogshead of wine, four barrels of beer, two barrels of butter, 1,000 pounds of cheese, a complete bed and a wagon worth of 500 guilders to cart it all away.

In Britain, too, tulipmania was rife. The stock market crashed, some people became rich overnight and others sold all their possession in order to buy a bulb.

But more about it some other time. I have run out of my allotted space.

Is it too late to save a neglected Aspidistra?

Q: Mrs M Guthrie. of Clifford Bridge Road, Wyken, writes: Please tell me how to rejuvenate a very dilapidated Aspidistra houseplant. My daughter rescued it after being completely neglected in an office. Not only are the leaves completely brown, the new shoots which the plant is trying to produce are also discoloured.

Is it possible to split up the roots and then repot?

A: As I have already told you many weeks ago, I shall publish your letter for the benefit of other readers. But first I must get something off my chest. I have given up trying to understand how people in an office can bear looking at a pot plant day in and day out, a plant which is crying out for help, and not do anything about it.

Thanks to your daughter, that pot plant will now enjoy a new life.

Although an Aspidistra is known as the cast iron plant, there is a limit to how much it can stand. It is a member of the lily family and hasn't got roots as such but rhizomes.

Yes, you are right, these rhizomes must be divided in spring and planted up in J.I compost number 2. Plant one section per pot three inches deep. Keep the plants out of direct sunlight. It has had enough of it already.

Q: Mr W Jopling, of Ripon Close, Allesley, writes: My sister-in-law gave me a small orange plant which she grew from a pip. It is now 1ft tall after having transplanted it into a 5 inch pot. Could you give me any advice on its future development, and whether it would grow outside?

A: This plant will grow happily for 25 years but not outside, I am afraid.

Yes, you can keep it outside during the hottest part in summer but then it must be moved under glass. Give it a fortnightly feed of Baby Bio during the growing season and wipe the leaves with a damp cloth.

Look under the leaves for signs of red spider mite, etc. Just in case. You can kill these insects by hand if you spot them in the early stages.

Q: I have a great, big clump of pampas grass with loads of dead grass in the centre. Several people including two gardening experts told me it always has to be burnt out. I thought I better ask you for help.

A: And this you shall have. These two experts only gave you half an answer, and that half was wrong too. That dead grass doesn't have to be burnt out at all, but those sword-like leaves are difficult to cut off and burning them out makes things much easier, that is all.

Don't do it now because there is a danger of damaging new growth which you can't see under the dead grass. Wait until winter.

Q: I have a five-year-old plum tree which needs to be moved next winter. Is it too old to be moved? Also, is there anything else I should know?

A: The tree is only five years old and still a baby and can be moved. I am glad you have written to me now because there is something you can do to help the tree grow better in its new place.

Dig around the tree now about 18 inches around the stem and 18 inches deep. I know you will cut through some of the longest roots but that is the idea.

This action will encourage a closer root system to be formed. Don't forget to stake the tree once transplanted.

Jobs For The Week

Greenhouse And Conservatory

With the likelihood of warmer days (if not always nights) remember to open the ventilators whenever possible, making the most of opportunities to change the moist air in the structure for drier air from outside.

This will do much to reduce the problem of mildew and damping off in seed trays.

Always monitor the seedlings carefully and if necessary the trays and pots should be treated with a copper fungicide if damping off is spotted.

You can sow bedding species in the greenhouse or conservatory as this will allow you a little more control over pests and diseases compared to those planted directly into the border soil. But if the days and nights are too cold for sowing just wait a week or even two. Don't rush things.

If you have sown any plants last month or so, they may require pricking out into trays or pots. Allow enough space between plants to grow on until the danger of frost has passed. Again, when pricking out, trays, etc, they should always be watered with a suitable fungicide.

Prick out the seedling as soon as they are large enough to handle but NEVER pull them up by their stems, always by the seed leaves. It only takes a little pressure with your thumb and forefinger on the stems and you have ruined them.

Out In The Open Garden

There is much to do outside in the ornamental garden. Seed sowing can begin, with many species of annual bedding plants such as Ageratum, Dahlia, Calendula (pot or English Marigold), Candytuft, Stocks, and Pansy, ready for sowing directly into their flowering positions as soon as the soil is dry enough to be workable.

Keep An Eye On The Weather

The weather will be playing its usual tricks this month. A sudden warm spell can lull the inexperienced into a false sense of security, as plants begin to shoot early and one may be tempted to remove protective coverings from half-hardy species. But it is still early and frosts are far from over. Tender shoots may need more protection than ever at this vulnerable time.

A Topical Tip

Always apply a moss killer before raking out the moss otherwise live moss spores may actually be spread by the action of raking.
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Boenish, George
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Mar 13, 1999
Previous Article:FOOD & DRINK; Sweet stalk.
Next Article:Prizes wait for artists.

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