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Saturday essay: A greenhouse morning

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Contact Colin McNickle (412-320-7836 or

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Friday, April 19, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

The Chinese cabbage, Swiss chard and three varieties of lettuce have taken on decidedly human characteristics in the greenhouse.

They appear to stretch their leaves and yawn as the light switch is thrown on after the wide greenhouse door swings open in the early morning. They'll welcome the refreshing breezes as the sun rises and those dark and cool overnight 50s become the sunny and warm 70s.

That warmth, over the last week, has coaxed their young roots to push deep into large planters and buckets, bucked up for the new growing season with a touch of mushroom manure and other organic goodies. The now-adolescent roots will serve them well during this weekend's cooler spell.

Their attention suddenly seems to turn to one corner where there's just been something of a horticultural ruckus — a surprising snapping sound, not unlike that of a locked and loaded rubber band being released.

At long last — after stratifying in the refrigerator over the winter and taking nearly seven weeks to germinate — a half-dozen persimmons from the Outer Banks of North Carolina have broken through their white sand and soil bed. There's a barely perceptible “Ah!” as, now free, a spot of water is applied.

The morning check is done. The door screen is lowered. The door itself is propped open. And just as the light is about to be switched off, an imagineering gardener senses smiles, nods and winks all around.

­— Colin McNickle

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