Thursday, September 11, 2008

Five ways I prepare for cold weather gardening

Notice I didn’t use the W word. You all know that we hardcore gardeners would naturally find it somewhat difficult to get through the Northeastern and Midwestern cold months, so should it surprise you that many of us have developed strategies to make the non-gardening months fly by? Of course it doesn’t.

At top you see one of the ways. I love buying cut flowers for inside; indeed, I don’t really like cutting flowers from the garden even at the height of the season. (The reason this mantelpiece is so funereally lush is that this is the only place the cat won’t bother them.) I do cut flowers in summer, but I think cut flowers and cut flower arrangements are a whole other species from flowers in the garden. I buy flowers in the summer, but I buy even more in the winter and early spring. The early spring flowers, especially tulips, seem to lend themselves to indoor arrangements, which brings us to …

Forcing tulips and hyacinths. I have also forced unusual tazetta daffodils (NOT paperwhites) and scilla. I have great luck with hyacinths and even tulips, thanks to my root cellar and bright plant room. One hyacinth can scent a whole room and a table of them is very pretty. The tazettas appear in December and January, the hyacinths appear in late January/early February, and the tulips in late February.

In the late winter/early spring I am also very busy ordering plants from Bluestone Perennials, Select Seeds, Plant Delights, and Brent and Becky’s. This is a very long process because it takes a while to winnow out enough plants to make a second home equity loan unnecessary.

I’ve noticed that houseplants are somewhat of a dirty word around the garden blogosphere. People who will go to any lengths to keep their outdoor plants going—not to mention cheerfully replace them when they croak—turn into miserly pessimists when it comes to indoor plants. God forbid one should die; that often means an end to all future indoor gardening endeavors. Well, I love my houseplants; sure, they die periodically, but, just like outdoor plants, they can be replaced.

And then there is indoor seed-starting. I have failed miserably so far, but haven’t totally given up. It seems to be all in the lighting; perhaps this winter will be the time to conquer that hurdle altogether.

There are so many more than five ways; after all, we're gardeners, no matter what month it is. I must say, blogging all year-round makes four season gardening much easier.


Carol said...

Yes, let us count the ways we garden when it is cold outside (without using the "W" word).

Excellent point about houseplants... they die sometimes. So just compost them like you would an outdoor plant, get another one, and move on!

Carol, May Dreams Gardens

Dee/reddirtramblings said...

Great post, Elizabeth. I'm one of the ones who doesn't take very good care of my houseplants. It's because I forget to water them. Truly. I used to bring in my outdoor pots, but I just move them against the house now.

Of course, my winter isn't as long as yours.~~Dee

Leslie said...

I agree with you...I don't cut flowers to bring inside although I do sometimes collect a few in the winter...we often have at least one or two things blooming then. But I do love my houseplants...I think I like to pretend I'm outside when I'm stuck inside.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I don't have many indoor plants but the ones I have I wouldn't want to do without. THey give the house a goood feeling.

I haven't had such good luck with forcing bulbs but will try again this year. I am also looking forward to trying Winter Sowing that I read about last year. People starting seeds outdoors in gallon milk jugs.

Kathleen said...

I wish I could do more indoor gardening. My darling* cats eat all of my houseplants.

The only thing they leave alone is my aloe plant, and they occasionally nibble the ends (I think they want to show it they are still boss)

I plan to make them an edible indoor garden this winter from lemon grass, mint, and catnip stuck under a growlight. Maybe then I will be allowed to have a fern.

*denotes sarcasm

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

I'm one of those who doesn't have many houseplants. I'm like Dee, a chronic forget to waterer. I have managed to keep a couple of Cacti alive. Another problem is that I don't have much window shelf space for plants & no south-facing windows. I think I'll get some bulbs to force this year. I like to plant Scilla in a pot with dwarf Daffodils.

EAL said...

Scilla force surprisingly well.

Anna said...

I don't own a single house plant. But we have such a long growing period here that I'm glad for the break. I do think forced bulbs are especially nice. Forget seed starting indoors or out. I tried this year and my seeds came up with weeds.

Barbarapc said...

I'm a bit of terror (although a guilty one) to house plants. After I visited Barbados and saw what the plants were supposed to look like when they were growing in perfect conditions - I set a lot of mine free. However, I'm amaryllis mad - I always make sure I have a slew of them in January - nothing nicer than a burst of colour with all that white outside.

Elvira said...

When opening the windows kicks in the furnace it's officially that cold season which shall not be named. What I love best about cut or forced flowers is the smell! Aromatherapy and they are beautiful to look at.