Thursday, January 29, 2009

Winter vacations for plants


As we Northern gardeners go about our off-season business, watering our small collections of houseplants, poring over seed catalogs, and visiting conservatories, the business of growing goes on. Minutes from our houses, hot, steamy greenhouses are teaming with vibrant plant life, tended by professionals.

I visited a friend recently who actually maintains a summer patio garden filled with small tropical trees or such warmer zone plants as jasmines, citrus, and so on. At the end of the season these plants are all picked up by a local greenhouse, which takes care of them for her all winter. In the late spring, the truck arrives and unloads them back into her garden. She's also got a subtle and unique little water feature, as you see above. As counterintuitive and perhaps non-sustainable as that may sound, I find the whole notion rather seductive. I love tropical and warm zone plants (I think tropical has to be below a certain latitude, but I’m hoping you’ll give me the latitude to stretch the term a bit) like banana, olive, mandavilla, jasmine, ylang ylang, aglaia, and many others. I’d love to sit on the patio in summer and be surrounded by the fragrance.

Oh, I suppose I should be satisfied with zone 5 perennials, many of which are surely fragrant enough—indeed some of my visitors assume my oriental lilies are not winter-hardy. But I may look into storing just a few big tropicals at a greenhouse myself. Until then, I’ll have to keep dragging unwieldy pots of jasmine, musa, and gardenia—along with others—down the stairs and outside every year. I am sure around this time of year, they'd rather be enjoying a luxurious vacation in some greenhouse with lots of caretakers tending to their every need!

10 comments:

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I would love to be able to send my house plants on a vacation. Heck this time of year we allll need a vacation.

TC said...

I'm guessing your friend's greenhouse is heated? I still have big dreams of owning a greenhouse some day, not for commercial purposes, I could never afford the heating costs. But I might be able to afford a wood stove to heat a small greenhouse. Trees are sustainable.

jodi said...

My only concern with doing something like this is the experience that someone (and I can't remember who this morning, obviously more coffee is needed) did something like this, and brought home insect pests from the greenhouse she had had 'plant-sitting'. But it sounds tempting to me, especially for my succulents, which start looking a bit light-deprived at this time of year. I have actually thought about approaching the hort program at a local college about succulent sitting for me, perhaps for next fall-winter.
Of course, if I'd just win that damn lottery, I could build my own proper solarium, with hottub and many plants...

Susan aka Miss. R said...

One of the greenhouses I buy from overwinters many of the tropicals used by the horticultural therapy program at New Bridge. He does it gratis. These plants give back each season to those who tend them and deserve their winter vacation! Here's a link to a photo of the traffic stopping garden from Ray Roger's book on Coleus http://snipurl.com/b04gq

Helen @ Gardening With Confidence said...

I always felt our community whould offer from a service like that; it's a neat idea. Even considered doing it myself, then moved on to other fun things instead.

Jon said...

Thanks for this sensible idea of having a local greenhouse "plant sit" a collection of tropicals during the winter. Where have I been not having thought of doing this before? My back sunporch is so crowded with plant refugees I need a machete to get through it just to water them!

It is always a treat to visit your lovely blog which is one of my favorites and why I have it linked on my sidebar.

Jon at Mississippi Garden

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

I like Jodi's idea of winning the lottery & building my own greenhouse, but absent that, sending the tropicals to someone else's greenhouse (and have them worry about watering the plants) makes good sense. Heck, even if I had a greenhouse, I'd probably forget to water them & they'd be dead anyway.

Kylee said...

Well, you KNOW what I do. LOLOLOL

Cindy, My Corner of Katy said...

That water feature is so cool! I'm looking for ideas for my courtyard. That one goes on the list.

lisa said...

That's a great idea, especially as a money-maker for a nursery who may be struggling. When my lotto ship comes in, that sounds like something I could incorporate into my "business plan" :)