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Every Saturday I have two regular features on GardenLine: I begin the program with I Love This Plant/I Hate This Plant, and I start the second hour with Green Thumbs Up/Green Thumbs Down. This morning, they came together nicely and even tied in with the Valentine’s Day holiday. I love it when things spontaneously mesh.

The plant I am loving today is Kalanchoe “Magic Bells.” Like other Kalanchoe, this one has succulent leaves, but instead of a compact crown of tiny, bright flowers, this plant has a tall spire that is topped with green bell-shaped blooms. I fell for it in the garden center and brought it home last week.

This plant has “impulse purchase” written all over it. My suspicion is that this Kalanchoe isn’t very long lasting… not that the red and orange flowering types are long-lived plants. If I want to keep one around I’ll have to take cuttings, and since it is triggered into bloom by a dry spell and short days, I’ll need to stop watering in the fall if I want those cuttings to flower.

Even if I end up tossing it in the compost I’m loving this plant. Like other flowering plants that are sold at this time of year, this purchase satisfies a longing for warmer weather. It is our way of anticipating the gardening season, or pushing spring, as Lou and Peter Berryman say.

Which brings me to my Green Thumbs Up/Green Thumbs Down for the week. My thumbs were solidly up for such a purchase. As the winter is, hopefully, winding down, we need seeds and flowering plants to remind us that the season of rebirth is at hand. I played Lou and Peter Berryman’s Pushing Spring Tango to illustrate, and pointed out that it contains tips on romancing out-of-control plant people, on Valentine’s Day and beyond.

Pushing Spring Tango

It isn’t forty four degrees 

There is no green yet in the trees 

It may be March but even so 

There’s still a foot of snow 

Tonight it’s gonna freeze

What green there is is in her thumb 

As her seed catalogs have come 

She can take those five below nights 

As long as she has growlights 

Her life is not so glum


Don’t try to tell her she has to wait for robins to sing 

Don’t ever say she’s jumping the gun by pushing the spring 

She’ll wave a dirty trowel and say so what if I do 

If you had spent your life in Wisconsin, you’d push it too

You could try wooing her with wine 

Although you’ll have to stand in line 

Behind a tuber in a tub 

An ornamental shrub 

And cuttings off a vine

Don’t bring her poems of romance 

But know the names of all her plants 

Don’t buy a diamond to surprise her 

But bring some fertilizer 

And you may stand a chance

Now you are nothing in her eyes 

If you don’t photosynthesize 

If you have leaves instead of hair 

Then you may get somewhere 

I doubt it otherwise

Don’t bother opening your shirt 

Unless you’re green she doesn’t flirt 

She will ignore your conversation 

Her mind’s on germination 

Her heart is in the dirt…

Cute, isn’t it? Love the song and love the plant. Happy Valentine’s Day… now get out there and push the spring!

A cool new plant takes our attention away from the still COLD outdoors.

A cool new plant takes our attention away from the still COLD outdoors.

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