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Getting dirty never felt so good

Well, well, well. Will you get a load of that? That's my picture on the tags affixed to the geraniums you'll be seeing in garden centers soon. I am beside myself with glee. Giddy, really.

The debut of Anne's Choice Geraniums couldn't have come at a better time for me personally. Last summer, while we were picking out the name for this new line from Harts Nursery in Jefferson, it never occurred to me that I was inadvertently writing the mission statement for my life.

Just after the picture was taken for the tags, I was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive form of lymphoma. Then, not too long after that, I started the triple play of cancer treatments: surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. March 1 marked my last treatment day.

Sure, Anne's Choice is a line of geraniums. But for me, it represents a huge accomplishment. Anne's choice is life Ñ I am one of the lucky ones who gets another chance at it. Although it will be two years before the 'official' all-clear comes my way, my oncologist, Dr. Fred Ey, considers me cured.

Looking back, it seems strange how the seasons mark my recovery better than any clock or calendar. While the garden was dormant, so was I. Now, the bulbs are coming up, and my hair is growing back. Slowly.

There is so much to look forward to. Spring is coming, and the garden needs us again. So let me impart some gentle reminders about what master gardeners are doing this time of year. Clip out this 'Gardeners To-Do List' and add it to your list of chores Ñ I mean, 'opportunities for joy.'

•ÊRoses. If you haven't pruned them by now, get out the clippers. The fellas up at the Washington Park International Rose Test Garden say the only thing worse than doing a lousy job of pruning your roses is not pruning them all at. So have at it.

•ÊSharpen your mole traps, or be prepared to live and let live. A mild winter means more mole babies move into your neighborhood, slurping up worms like spaghetti. Capital punishment is the only proven mole deterrent, but you won't get any help from me on this one.

•ÊGet out the slug bait. Gardeners' choice on this one: Crushed eggshells, beer in margarine containers, copper strips around your veggie bed, Corey's and Sluggo all work.

•ÊIt's time to start cutting back, watering and fertilizing the begonias and fuschias you wintered over, but don't put them outside until next month (when you'll reintroduce them to outside air gradually).

And finally, I get to get out there and join you. More tips next time.

Anne Jaeger's gardening program airs from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturdays on KPAM (860 AM). Her 'Dig It' gardening segment is broadcast three times a week on KOIN (6).