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Gardening: Faking Out Nature

A few things to do while spring hits the snooze bar.

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Free-standing or attached to the house, glass or plastic, big enough to drive through or just a modified milk jug, greenhouses are our way of bringing the equator to the back yard. If you deal in tropical plants, grow from seeds or just think winter's keeping you down, check out these Web sites (a lot of greenhouse kits are easy to mail): www.homegreenhouses.com, www.gothicarchgreenhouses.com, www.backyardgreenhouses.com. Closer to home, try Griffin Greenhouse and Nursery Supplies: (804) 233-3454.

Now you've built the thing on a north-south axis and survived your first storm. It has heat (be careful with propane heaters — fumes can hurt plants), a couple of light bars, maybe a minifridge. And, of course, all those plants that were taking up space in the kitchen, living room, spare bedroom, on top of the TV — those plants have moved out on their own and now have their own well-lighted pad. (They promise to call.)

But, like kids in their first place, they won't keep it clean. It's your job to run a neat greenhouse (cleaner than the house anyway, where all the people are crammed in, along with skis, pets, CD towers and unused exercise equipment). Clutter provides homes for pests, who also would like to fake out Nature. Don't crowd the plants either: That just provides homes for smaller pests, such as fungus and aphids.

It's been a fairly mild winter, a lot of warm, sunny days. Remember to open the vents (or if it's a poly rig, open the windows or doors) and give the place a little air. Now hurry up and build one before the greenhouse effect makes it unnecessary!

The Big Show Arrives

Or forget it. Maybe winter's your time to rest, to scan those seed catalogs and wonder why they can't make corn grow already popped. Armchair gardeners, take note: the Maymont Flower and Garden Show, Feb. 9-12, is right around the corner, a taste of warmer days during a cold month. This year's theme, "Table for Two," picks up on Valentine's Day with grand garden exhibits from 20 garden centers, landscapers and designers. Also new is "StreetScapes," small-scale gardens with the urbanite in mind.

The speaker series is headlined by Rebecca Cole of the Discovery Channel show "Surprise by Design," talking about butterfly and container gardens. David Pippin talks about "Entertaining With Flowers" and Mark Viette discusses "Easy Landscaping for Small to Medium Spaces." But the enthusiasm award goes early to Betty Staples and Jason Anderson for their talk, "Everyone Can Prune!"

There's a Garden Party Preview Feb. 8, 6:30-9:30 p.m., with food and drink. Tickets are $75. The show at the Greater Richmond Convention Center starts Feb. 9 at 9 a.m. Tickets are $7-$12. Call (804) 358-7166, ext. 310.

In March: Nursery News

Ever wondered where trees and plants in garden centers come from? Not big storks. No, commercial nurseries and local garden centers get together at places like Baltimore's Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show, held Jan. 11-13. Tune into next month's Home Style to find out what I learned about patenting trees, tree spades and the double-headed knockout rose.

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