Yesterday I put in my first volunteer hours for the URI Master Gardener program. Until I actually complete the class and get a lot more hands-on experience, I'm trying to limit myself to "actual gardening," versus for example, fund-raising, event coordination, or working on the gardening hotline. But because there's not that many projects in my end of the state, I volunteered to staff the "Ask a Master Gardener" Booth at a flower show that's nearby. Since I have to put in 50 hours, I figured this was a quick way to get in three hours.
I was nervous about staffing the booth. The person coordinating the show told me not to worry: you can always tell them to call the hotline or visit the website. And there were a couple of questions that I wasn't able to answer, but the other person with me wasn't able to answer them either, so I didn't feel too bad. But I was able to talk intelligently to a woman who was having some problems with her hydrangeas (mine is persnickety), and a man who was having trouble with his hollies (mine are thriving). It's not that master gardeners know so much more than anybody else about gardening, it's just that they're able to find correct information more easily. It takes time to figure things out though, but we have access to a lot of resources, including scientists at the cooperative extension center.
Anyway, the local high school kids have a greenhouse and they were selling plants at the flower show, so I bought two cyclamen to cheer up the house. When I came home, my neighbor was pulling into his driveway, and when we got out of the car he started grumbling good naturedly about the cold and how he couldn't wait until spring and then he started heading inside. I said, "Wait, take a look at these," and I brought the two cyclamen out of the back seat. His mouth fell open a little and he was speechless for at least 10 seconds, because the flowers were so improbably colorful against the rest of the brown and white landscape. "Those are beautiful flowers!" he said finally. Look at the picture and try to imagine how boring it would be without the red and purple of the cyclamen.
When my husband saw them, he said "Whoaaaa. We're going to kill them. It's too cold in our house!" Actually they do best when the temperature is between 50 and 60 degrees, so maybe our cold house won't kill them!
I can't say the same about our cats though….