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propagation propagation your own plants or, with permission, from other people's greenhouses and gardens. Here's a real kitchen-tested recipe that comes from frond lovers Shelley Dillard and Dianne Smith, who manage the Victorian fernery at The Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia. It's simple, nearly foolproof and uses everyday materials you may already have in your home, including cupcake liners.

First a quick note about fern biology. Rather than seeds, these primitive plants propagate through dustlike spores that are typically produced by the little brown dots (known as sporangia) found on the undersides of their fronds.When ready, the spores fall to the ground and grow into small mosslike creatures (known as prothallia) with teeny heart-shaped leaves; this is the first fern stage.With enough moisture in the environment the second stage develops, which looks like baby ferns. Growing your own ferns is a perfect activity in a warm little greenhouse on a cold winter's day.—rob cardillo

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[STEP 1 ] Select a frond from one of your favorite plants and check the back for ripe brown spores (produced in the dark dots, or sporangia, on the undersides of the fronds). If ripe, the spores will rub off easily onto your fingers. Snip the frond, place it in a folded sheet of paper and put it in a dry location for a week or two. [STEP 2] Soak several standard peat pellets in warm water.When fully expanded, tear and pull away some of the netting from the top opening to maximize your planting area. Place each pellet in an individual foil cupcake liner.Take the stored frond out of the folded paper and tap a little of the black, brown or yellowish powdery spores onto the pellets. Be careful if you're starting more than one kind of fern.The microscopic spores tend to drift like dust and can stick on hands and clothing and may fall onto other pellets. [STEP 3] Place the fern cupcakes in a plastic tray and carefully add a few teaspoons of water to the cupcake liner to ensure that the expanded pellet stays moist. [STEP 4] Cover each cupcake liner with an 8-ounce clear-plastic tumbler to create a miniature high-humidity terrarium. Keep the whole tray in a warm spot with indirect light. [STEP 5] Depending on the type of fern, you'll have to patiently wait two to six weeks to see the mosslike first stage (called the prothallia) develop.Thin them carefully with small scissors and allow only two or three of the largest ones to remain.Add a little water as necessary to keep the environment moist. [STEP 6] Wait another six to eight weeks till you see tiny true fronds appear.Then transplant the baby ferns into a larger flat filled ^ with good-quality potting mix, and give them | more light.You can separate and repot them 5 later when they begin to crowd each other. £

fyi Depending on the species, fern spores ripen on most hardy outdoor types from May through June. For houseplant ferns, spores can generally be collected spring into summer.

November / December 2005 These winter nights against my window-pane Nature with busy pencil draws designs offerns — thomas b ai le y ald r i c h

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Building Your Own Greenhouse

Building Your Own Greenhouse

You Might Just End Up Spending More Time In Planning Your Greenhouse Than Your Home Don’t Blame Us If Your Wife Gets Mad. Don't Be A Conventional Greenhouse Dreamer! Come Out Of The Mould, Build Your Own And Let Your Greenhouse Give A Better Yield Than Any Other In Town! Discover How You Can Start Your Own Greenhouse With Healthier Plants… Anytime Of The Year!

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