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Home-grown tomatoes that stay fresh all winter; resilient geraniums

Q Have you had any experience with a tomato called ''Long Keeper''? The description in one of the newly arrived catalogs sounds intriguing. To be able to keep fall-harvested fresh tomatoes until the end of winter is almost unbelievable. Is flavor really better than store tomatoes?

Yes, we've tried it with reasonable success and have had tomatoes last until well after New Year's Day.

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We concur that they taste much better than tomatoes found in stores this time of year. However, don't expect the flavor to be as good as your favorite variety eaten fresh off the vine.

Long Keeper is a medium-size tomato with golden orange-red skin but red flesh. It must be picked when it has good color (not green), and it needs to be handled carefully to prevent bruises. It also needs to be staked or grown on a tomato fence.

Q Your article about keeping geraniums over winter prompts me to share an experience of a year ago. We have two large pots of them at our front entrance. Because of a long fall season a year ago, I brought some blooming ones into the house in December. Wanting to add Christmas decorations to the pots, I threw the rest in a corner behind some shrubs, intending to dispose of them later. In January, we had more than a week of record-breaking cold (below 20 degrees F.) in our area of Texas. In the spring I was surprised to see these same geraniums sending out new green shoots from the bare stems. I cut them back and planted them in the pots, and they are still blooming a year later (as of December). We appreciate your helpful column.

We, in turn, appreciate your sharing this experience, which shows how hardy geraniums can be. Also, thank you and all the other kind readers who make such gracious comments about the column.

Q I was given a small potted Marguerite daisy plant for Mother's Day last year. I grew it outdoors during the summer, twice moving it to larger-size pots. After I moved it back indoors it became huge. I now think the pot is too small, since it starts to wilt about every other day. We do not have room for a bigger pot and wonder if we can cut it back and have new shoots come on again.

Marguerites (both yellow and white) have a tendency to outgrow their pots quickly. They can be cut back, but you will soon run into the same problem.

Marguerites root easily from cuttings, and you can try some in water (to which you should add a small piece of charcoal). Also insert some in moist perlite. Cuttings need good light but not direct sun, as they will wilt. Those in the perlite would benefit from a loose plastic tent over them to conserve moisture.

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Q Is there any foliage plant that will grow in a vase of water in a wall bracket where there is subdued light? I do not have room for a regular pot, and the only daytime light comes from a window about 10 feet away on the opposite side of the room.

Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema) is one of the best plants for this situation. Although it thrives best in bright light (not sun), it will do quite well in light from across a room. You have variegated ones to choose from as well as plain green. Daytime temperatures can range from the low 70s to low 80s F. Night temperature shouldn't go much below 65.

A bean-size piece of charcoal in the water helps keep it fresh. To increase the light, hang a small mirror behind the wall bracket. It also will enhance the plant itself.

If you have a question about your garden, send it to the Garden Page, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, Mass. 02115.

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