If Easter is a herald of spring and new beginnings, then this is the perfect weekend to start a new yard and garden column and talk about spring flowers.
First let's get to know one another. Born and raised in Lisbon, N.D., I became a gardening addict at age 5. By high school I was a wild and crazy teenager who expanded our Lisbon garden to include large plantings at my grandparents' farm between Fingal and Alice. While normal classmates were busy dragging Lisbon's Main Street on Saturday night, I was doing things like helping my dad build a basement root cellar so I could grow and store more potatoes, onions and carrots.
College selection was easy. Where else but the North Dakota State University Department of Horticulture and Forestry?
After graduation I was employed by the Horticulture Department in tree and shrub research under Dale Herman. Next, I accepted a position with NDSU Extension Horticulture. I traveled throughout the state conducting programs in all phases of horticulture. During that time I began the weekly "Hortiscope" column, which NDSU's Ron Smith so ably continued for the next 28 years until his recent retirement.
While at NDSU I met a pretty girl who worked at Fredericks Flowers. On our second date we transplanted seedlings at the NDSU greenhouses. No one can say I didn't know how to show a girl a good time.
Within a year we were married and purchased a nursery-greenhouse business in south Fargo. For the next 20 years, Mary and I worked side by side at Agassiz Nursery, which we later renamed Kinzler's Greenhouse at Rose Creek.
The big flood of '97 hit us hard. All of our greenhouses were nearly waist-deep in April flood water.
Those 20 years of growing flower plants, vegetables, trees and shrubs for our great customers will never be forgotten. Many will remember daughters Amanda and Sara growing up and working in the greenhouse. Then came sons Isaac and Jacob.
But enough about me. We've got business to discuss.
Easter lilies are a crown jewel of horticulture. The gleaming white petals and unsurpassed fragrance are perfect to the point of being a major religious symbol. They denote purity, saintly holiness, and the resurrection of Jesus.
When purchasing your lily, make sure the store wraps it if outdoor temperatures are chilly. The distance across the parking lot to your cold car can damage blossoms if unprotected.
Once you've got your lily home, good care will increase its flowering time. Easter lilies prefer moderately cool temperatures. Avoid drafts from open doors or heating ducts. Place the plant in bright or filtered sunlight, but not in hot, direct sun.
Here's a florist's trick to prolong bloom. As each flower begins to open, remove the yellow anthers. These are the pollen-covered sacs in the middle of the flower. If pollen does not come in contact with the stigma (the flower's central green-white stalk) pollination cannot occur. Flowers will remain open longer as a result. Remove "spent" flowers as they wilt and fade.
After blooming, the plant may be discarded. Or you can re-bloom it outdoors as a perennial lily in your flowerbed. Re-blooming indoors in a pot usually fails because the bulb's food storage has been depleted in the production of the lush blooms.
After Easter, continue giving the plant the same care indoors as before. Add Miracle Gro or similar fertilizer with each watering, following label directions Make sure the lily is in a window that receives some sunlight.
The plant will need less frequent watering following bloom. Foliage will begin to turn yellow, then brown. This is natural.
By mid- to late-May cut back the brown stalks to several inches above soil level. Remove from the pot, and replant the bulb in its new permanent home outdoors. Choose a protected flowerbed in full sun. Plant four inches deep in Fargo's heavy soil, or up to six inches deep if your soil contains more sand or loam.
Your Easter lily will re-bloom in September this first season. Being a perennial bulb, it will emerge each spring with a normal bloom time around mid-July. Because Easter lilies are a bit tender in our region, maximize protection by planting near the house foundation and cover with a layer of mulch in the fall.
For now, I'll close with a word of encouragement for us all. Often people have told me they just aren't good at growing plants. They claim they don't have a green thumb. Nonsense! We can do it. Remember, we're growing together.
This column was written exclusively for The Forum.
Don Kinzler writes a weekly yard and gardening column in SheSays. Readers can reach him at email@example.com.