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“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.” –John F. Kennedy

Some of us have ponds in our yards so it is time to prepare them for the winter. Be sure to keep the water free of dead leaves and other debris to prevent decay that can harm the fish. Bring tropical plants indoors before temperatures hit 40 degrees. Move your hardy plants to the deepest part of the pond to protect against freezing. If your pond is below the freeze line, your fish should overwinter just fine. Be sure to keep a portion of the surface ice-free with a pump and/or heater to allow for gas exchange. Also, stop feeding your fish once the temperature dips below 55 degrees, as their metabolism grows too sluggish for food.

If you have not brought your amaryllis out of its dormant stage, it is time to do so. I brought my amaryllis out last week and it had already started to grow. Some of the leaves were about a foot long and pure white. After a week in a sunny window, the white leaves are starting to turn green, photosynthesis, and new leaves are appearing. Keep it watered when the soil is dry. After flowers are finished blooming, fertilize your plant. In spring, take outdoors until October and then the cycle starts again. Do not divide your plant since it really likes to be pot bound. Only divide it when it is about to crack the pot.

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Another plant you may enjoy for the holidays is the paper white narcissus. It is the easiest of bulbs for forcing. If you like the fragrance, which some people do not, you will be happy to know the plant will bloom for several weeks. As the flowers fade, the petals become dry and papery giving the plant its name. Unlike other spring bulbs, the paper whites do not require a cold period before planting and can simply be grouped in a shallow bowl or glass tube vase containing pebbles or gravel. Add enough water to the gravel that it reaches the base of the bulb. Be sure to check water daily to make sure the roots get moisture. You can also pot them in potting soil in a clay or plastic pot. I think that is easiest. You may need a support since they tend to get a little floppy. Once they flower, paper whites will maintain their blooms best in a cool location and away from direct sunlight.

Now is a good time to think about propagating some of your indoor plants. Plants root most easily when you use a rooting hormone. If you don’t have one, gather a willow tree branch, remove leaves, and cut branches into small pieces. Cover with boiling water and steep overnight. Strain and use the liquid to soak cutting you wish to propagate for 12-24 hours before planting. Excess willow water can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks or can be poured around new plantings to promote root development.

Contact Phyllis Both by email at Phyllis.both@saukcountywi.gov or by telephone on Monday mornings at the Sauk County University of Wisconsin-Extension office, 608-355-3253.

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