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My children, who got me a microwave oven for Mother's Day, tell me I can dry flowers for dried arrangements in it. Do you know how this is done? Yes, microwave ovens are useful for flower drying. You must use a drying medium such as perlite, borax, silica gel, fresh calcine kitty litter, cornmeal, etc.
Lay the flowers on a layer of the drying material in a dish or box (use no metal), sprinkle medium on top, and put it in the oven. For thin-petaled flowers you will need only a minute or two. For thick-petaled flowers and large blooms you will need a longer time.
You will need to experiment with the first blooms. Most need no longer than 5 minutes and many much less.
Recently we stayed at a motel in Virginia where there were handsome, compact plants with large spade-shaped leaves. Some were plain green, others had cream leaves bordered with green, and others had green leaves bordered white. Some also had fragrant lily-like blooms on tall stems coming from the centers. The clerk said the only name he knew was ''plantain lily.'' Is there another name, and would these plants be hardy in South Dakota?
The plant is hosta or funkia, a truly handsome landscape plant of which there are several hundred varieties.
The American Hosta Society, 5605 11th Avenue South, Birmingham, Ala. 35222, has done a good job of promoting these long-neglected plants. It is very hardy, growing in all states and in areas of Mexico and Canada.
Hosta tolerates heat if grown in shade and watered well, preferring a rich humusy soil, but grows well in ordinary garden soil as well. It survives where temperatures drop as low as minus 35 degrees F. if the soil is well drained.
Many local nurseries now handle these fine perennials, as do several mail-order houses. For a list of sources write: Mrs. J. M. Langdon, secretary, at the above address.
Is it possible to start clematis from seeds?
We know of two seed firms that list clematis seeds: Park Seed Company, Greenwood, S.C. 29647 and Thompson & Morgan, PO Box 100, Farmingdale, N.J. 07727 .
It has been our experience that seeds may take from one to nine months to germinate. We were advised to plant them in one of the soilless mixes in an ice-cube tray, moisten, and then put in the freezer compartment for three weeks. This we did. Since they were a mixture of varieties, we had seeds germinating over the above time span.
In the spring our large bed of jonquils, narcissus, and hyacinths is beautiful, but when the foliage dies it is bare during the summer. Can you recommend a perennial that would bloom but would not interfere with the bulbs. The bulb bed gets full sun.
All perennials increase in size so it is not advisable to scatter them in among the bulbs. Many would soon overtake the area. We plant bulbs in the foreground of our perennial bed. Then when the foliage dies down we plant annuals, such as zinnias, marigolds, and snapdragons in between them.
We leave an inch or two of the bulbs' stems visible until the annuals are in their places. There are peonies, iris, lythrum, shasta daisy, lilies, and a few others in clusters in the background, so we'll have continuous bloom all season long.
We also have a small rose bed in which we plant bulbs. The roses and bulbs, in fact, seem quite compatible.
Generally, we plant low-growing annuals, such as portulaca, dwarf marigold, and alyssum, in among the bulbs. We like this better than leaving bare ground in the rose bed.