Dear Sun Spots: I know you have heard this many times before, but thank you for helping me and others many times over. I now need help again.

Every year, I get many seed catalogs and again this year I am tempted to order seeds and start my own plants. Problem is I can never get decent plants to grow. I seem to have a green thumb in every area but this. I have gotten kits, read many books and have tried many ideas people have given me, but I still don’t seem to get healthy plants like the ones in nurseries. Are there any classes in the area that teaches people how to start their own seedlings?

Also, I grow many annuals and perennials that I would love to make into flower arrangements this summer. I have taken classes through adult education courses on arranging, but it wasn’t enough. Where do florists go to school to learn arranging?

Finally, are there still any ceramic shops open in the area? I would like to buy a Nativity set to paint for my son and future daughter-in-law for Christmas next year. – No Name, Wales.

Answer:
You might want to contact The McLaughlin Garden & Horticultural Center, 97 Main Street, P.O. Box 16, South Paris ME 04281, (207) 743-8820 and www.mclaughlingarden.org, which often offers classes in both of these and may be willing to help you out. In fact, Director Lee Dassler of McLaughlin says a class, “Flower Arranging for Your Valentine,” will be Saturday, Feb. 7, from 10 a.m. to noon. It’s a chance to learn the basics of flower arranging with Michael Desplaines, owner of Copperline Ranch, and to explore unique and interesting ways of arranging flowers and plant materials. The fee, which includes everything you need to create your own arrangement, will be $25 for nonmembers and $20 members. Preregistration is required: 743-8820.

You also may also be interested in McLaughlin’s “Flower Paintings & Architectural Perspectives at the Portland Museum of Art” on Tuesday, Feb. 10, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Participants will tour two special exhibitions at the Portland museum: “Flower Paintings from the Collection” and “The Maine Perspective – Architectural Drawings from 1800-1870.” The latter exhibit features more than 50 drawings, from early amateurs to trained designers of the time, including Richard Upjohn, Alexander Parris and Charles Bulfinch. The tour, lunch at the museum café and transportation to and from South Paris are included in the $40 fee. Preregistration is required: 743-8820.

Sun Spots would also urge you to contact your local adult education department at your high school to see if they offer any classes in flower arranging.

Regarding ceramic shops in the area, the Sun Journal published an article on paint your own pottery called “Clay Play” on page E6 on Sunday, Feb. 1. The article included Clay Play, Senter Place, 124 Maine St., Brunswick; www.clay-play.com; (207) 725-0397; and Wild Woman Pottery, 390 State Road, West Bath; www.wildwomanpottery.com; (207) 443-3859.

Dear Sun Spots: My daughter is getting married soon and would like to order a crystal bouquet. These are very expensive and as she has been unable to locate anyone that has ever purchased one, we are turning to you for assistance. We have found limited information on their Web site and want to make certain of their reliability. We have e-mailed the Better Business Bureau of Pittsburgh but have received no response. We know the company is located in Pittsburgh, (866) 795-1671, Web site at www.austrian-crystal.net. Any input that you or your readers could provide would be greatly appreciated. – Rita Bragdon, East Corinth.

Answer:
In addition to responses from readers, Sun Spots did not locate any information about the company other than their Web site after doing a Google search. So, perhaps other readers familiar with this company would be willing to share information with you.

This column is for you, our readers. It is for your questions and comments. There are only two rules: You must write to the column and sign your name (we won’t use it if you ask us not to). Letters will not be returned or answered by mail, and telephone calls will not be accepted. Your letters will appear as quickly as space allows. Address them to Sun Spots, P.O. Box 4400, Lewiston, ME 04243-4400. Inquiries can also be posted at www.sunjournal.com in the Inform Us section under Press Release.


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