Ask the gardening expert

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Since I've begun to grow primroses I have fallen in love with them. I am astonished at the variety, and want more. Where can I find more? I've noticed mine look a little bare, do they spread? I'm wondering what to grow with them?

Some species of primula have been grown for centuries, they seem to embody the comfort of home and cheerfulness of spring, and as their name suggests, primula are one of the first, or primary, plants to suggest winter's end.

I'm quoting excerpts from Joanne Rolfe's informative article on primroses in the February 2005 addition of 'Dig' magazine. Joanne suggests, "combine colorful primroses with shade-loving plants such as fern, hosta, blue forget-me-nots, bleeding heart, and the feathery pastel plums of astilbe. Primula also partner well with rhododendron, camellia species because they all like a somewhat acid soil." In time they increase, and nestle their way around their companions 'in a quite charming way' as Joanne Wolfe says.

I am sure you will find primroses and many other plants of interest at the Home and Idea Fair coming up the last weekend of April, actually Friday the 26th, Saturday the 27th and Sunday the 28th This event is one of the largest plant sales in the northwest. It is held at the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds each spring. (Watch for their ad in the Columbian, coming up soon) The three-day plant sale is a production of the Specialty Nursery Association of Clark County. The association is comprised of small independent nurseries that specialize in plants that are new, and unusual, and ones not often seen in most garden centers. It's the most exciting and fun sale of the year. And I'm sure there will be primroses, galore!

I remember you suggested that gardeners make sure their tetanus shots are up to date. My neighbor got a bad infection working in a bunch of weeds and a brush pile the earlier owner left behind. I remembered your warning last year, so I told her not to treat it herself, and she should see her doctor. She said that at first the staff wondered if she might have tetanus, but tests came back negative. The doctor also went on to explain the importance of the shot and keeping up with the booster every 10 years. Just thought you might like to know.

Thank you, yes, I like reminders. We all get so busy, and time flies. Before I read in my HMO home health book I didn't know 'lock-jaw' infection comes from the soil. As I think back, I don't believe I heard this warning in my horticulture classes in college. In view of the fact that we don't hear the warning often enough, it does make me want to remind gardeners. As I read in my Garden Gate Magazine (June 2012, issue 105), "Lockjaw, is a serious disease caused by bacteria that lives in the soil and enters our body through breaks in the skin. Be safe and talk to your doctor about a vaccination and remember to follow it up with a booster shot at least every 10 years."

My mom gave me a division of her beautiful blue African violet. It was blooming then, but now won't bloom for me. I have it in good light, water it once a week, even gave it a beautiful new container. I've tried giving it a night light this last winter, still nothing. Can you guess why?

I'm not a great African violet grower, but I can run through a checklist for you, see if your methods and locations agree with Garden Gate magazine's thoughts on the subject. So as I see it there must be a problem with one of the four things- light, fertilizer, growing medium, or pot size. Any one of them may cause it stop blooming.

They say African violets need at least eight hours of bright filtered light. But then they also need 8 hours of darkness to bloom. Then they tell us we should feed the plant weekly, (7-7-7). The soil should be light, and type that does not pack down in root system, then last of all is pot size; make sure the pot is no deeper than 4 inches, and the width only 1/3 the size of the leaf span.

African violets must be more resilient than they say, because I have mine in a 12" terra cotta clay pot that is much wider than the plant, I fertilize when I remember to which is maybe every six to eight weeks — maybe. As I peeked between the leaves last night, I see many buds formed and about to bust forth, all through the plant.

They are a jolly mystery to me. I know there are many people reading this that are champion African Violet growers, and are shaking their heads right now, and I'm sure they can grow circles around me, and I'm glad they can. But that doesn't take the fun out of it for me.

Celeste Lindsay is a WSU-certified master gardener. Send questions to mslindsay8@gmail.com.

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