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Acorn Time 

If other Triangle neighborhoods are anything like mine, they are currently bathed in acorns of all kinds. Or maybe this is a Raleigh thing--it is the City of Oaks, after all, and I don't remember anything like this from my old neighborhood in Chapel Hill. The acorns are everywhere, crunching with a delicious sound under car wheels, falling against our walls so that it sounds like someone's trying to break in, bouncing around me while I'm trying to eat a civilized dinner at a patio table. The oaks seem to be taking the wide net approach to reproduction.

But why not use these acorns? Oaks make wonderful trees; maybe they make wonderful houseplants as well. I'm going to give it a try, and here's the recipe I've found on the Internet so that other experimental souls can, too.

Select acorns that look clean and fresh; discard any that have holes in the shell. Use soon--acorns do not keep well.

Start with a coarse soil mixture: maybe 50 percent pumice, 25 percent potting soil, 25 percent compost.

Styrofoam or paper cups make great nurseries for the seedlings (poke holes for drainage); fill them almost all the way up and place an acorn on top. Dig the acorn halfway into the soil, either laying on its side or with the pointed tip down.

Leave cups outside, though possibly protected from birds by chicken wire. Water as needed.

When the seedlings are 4 to 6 inches tall, remove the plant from the cup and loosen the soil around the roots. Cut the taproot high up, close to the plant, to stunt the plant's growth.

Replant the seedling in a bigger pot, using the same soil mixture; position it so that the acorn is resting on top of the soil.

Handle the plants gently and keep them out of direct sun for the next two weeks; after that, they should be hardy and growing well. The plant can grow to be a foot high within the first six months!

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