by Connie Oswald Stofko
Here are some great last-minute gift ideas for gardeners from Lockwood’s Greenhouses, 4484 Clark St., Hamburg.
They’re all plants that gardeners can enjoy in the house now for their flowers or berries, then plant outside in the spring and enjoy as perennials for years to come. Of course, you can buy them for yourself, too.
The first choice is a wintergreen called Gaultheria procumbens. As she showed it to me, Teresa Buchanan, garden center manager, crushed one of the red berries—It smelled like chewing gum! When you crush the leaves, they smell like wintergreen, too.
This plant is hardy to a colder Zone 3 (Western New York is Zone 5 or 6), but you can’t put it outside right now, Buchanan said. Just as we sometimes force paper whites, amaryllis or other spring bulbs to bloom inside during the winter, this plant has been fooled to bloom and form berries out of season.
Right now it thinks it’s fall rather than winter. It’s not dormant; it’s actively growing. If you put it outside now, the abrupt change in temperature will shock the plant.
Instead, enjoy it indoors for the rest of the winter. Put it in a sunny window. Keep it moist; don’t let it dry out.
In the spring, when the ground can be worked and the danger of frost has passed, you can plant it outside, she said. It’s a low-growing ground cover. Place it in part shade or morning sun. Keep it moist. You’re aiming for a forest-like environment.
“The plant will establish itself in the garden,” Buchanan said. “I use the word ‘perennialize.’ Once the roots are established, it will come back year after year.”
Another plant you can get now is a helleborus in bloom with white flowers. It’s not a rose, but its common name is Christmas rose.
Follow the same indoor care instructions as for the wintergreen plant and plant it outside in the spring.
Also available is a different variety of helleborus that gets pink flowers and blooms later, so it’s called a Lenten rose.
Still another lovely choice is a real rose. It’s a small plant with miniature blooms. The petals are red and white. In the spring, it can be acclimated to a sunny garden.