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KUSA - Gardens are just starting to come to life but indoors we can enjoy a touch of the tropics. As you plan and start your outdoor plantings, lift your spirits with beautiful blooming houseplants.

Many varieties of orchids bloom in winter, adding immeasurably to our homes with their exotic beauty and fragrance. Many varieties are very easy to grow and don't deserve their reputations for being fussy. Bright, indirect light and regular fertilizing are all that is required for success.

While many orchid aficionados devote themselves primarily to growing only their favorite flowers, I like to mix it up. At this time of year, great orchid companions include hydrangeas, anthuriums and pocketbook plant (Calceolaria). The latter is a charming annual native to Chile. It produces pouch-like flowers in brilliant shades of yellow, orange and red, often with contrasting spots. Keep them cool, moist and in bright light to extend their blooming season.

Another spectacular beauty is the Canterbury bell (Campanula medium). This old-fashioned biennial is a fixture in English cottage gardens but it's difficult to manage in Colorado. The "Champion" series is compact and makes a lovely indoor flowering plant in winter or spring. The cup-shaped bells may be pink, white, lavender or purple. Keep the plants cool and in bright light. Deadhead them to keep them in flower and display them on the spring patio in cool weather above freezing.

For expert advice on growing orchids, visit the Denver Orchid Society Show and Sale on Sunday at Tagawa Gardens. Take your camera.

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