Thursday, October 08, 2009

When you don't have a greenhouse


This post might be titled “Don't let this happen to you,” but, as crazy as it looks, I actually enjoy tending to my growing collection of overwintering tropicals and tender perennials.

It started over five years ago, when I bought a gardenia and a jasmine and kept them in this upstairs room over the winter; both bloom from May through August outside (the jasmine starts flowering inside in April). A few geraniums and an orchid followed. Then I converted the room from an obsolete home office to a full time plant room, with wood floors, humidifier, and some special lighting.

Now there is a large banana, several good-sized colocasia, a large alocasia, 6 orchids, a variegated abutilon, a large plectranthus, and many other common household foliage plants, as well as the plants I started with. Most of them go outside right after last frost. The room has a south-facing window and some high-powered compact fluorescents, which stand in for the usual shop lights many use—although I know they are not really great for the purpose. I find all indoor plant lighting to be unworkable in anything but a basement where no one will view its ugliness, and I am trying to find a better alternative.

In late December, pots of forced hyacinths and narcissus will join these plants, followed by tulips in February. That's when it really gets exciting and feels the most like real gardening.

Sure, I've had plenty of plants die inside. So what? Plants die outside too. The only ones that bother me are the orchids; they're expensive and I try to make sure they survive-with good success so far. And there are some houseplants (throughout the house) that I've had for 10-20 years.

Some day though … a real greenhouse. Or better yet, a conservatory.

15 comments:

danger garden said...

You are not alone, I've started bringing in my agave and tender succulents for the winter. My collection is growing! Although unlike you I don't have an extra room, they go in the basement with growlights. I dream of a green house!!!

Kaarina said...

I have been dreaming of a greenhouse and wanted to take over the ditched ones I saw when visiting Heronswood the other day. SO sad to see an empty greenhouse :(

Nell Jean said...

It's amazing what one can do, with an east or south facing window. Before we put up a small greenhouse, I wintered my epiphyllums in an east window of the utility room, forced hyacinths there and kept cuttings over. I trundled flats of seedlings in and out the tool shed on a kitchen trolley.

Some of the plants I grow, like white shrimp plant and strobilanthes, only bloom in short days. They'll come back from the roots, but never bloom in the garden, only in winter protected inside.

It's all fun and gives us dreams to strive for.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Soom my livingroom at one end will look just like this.

Gail said...

The cat rules the house and there are no plants brought inside. Sigh, I love the cat! gail

Carol said...

I've got some plants 'staged' in the garage ready to bring in to the house once I make sure most of the bugs and spiders have moved out of the pots. Then the plants go into the sunroom which has east, north, and west windows so I make do with that. But none seem to be quite as big as yours...

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

It must be wonderful to walk into that room in January. Close your eyes, and you can pretend it's June.

Anonymous said...

Did your header change? It's pretty aweful and hard to read. I'm hoping it's a rough draft. Although maybe you wanted to look like you were intoxicated when you made it? maybe?
- Sara C.

Carolyn gail said...

I'm sandwiched between two houses so not much light except for a west facing dining room. I'm told that I must get some grow lights for the succulents or they'll not survive.

I love having plants indoor during the long winter but I'd dearly love to have a really large sunroom or conservatory for them to thrive in. So if we win the lottery, Elizabeth,w e'll have our dream some day.

chuck b. said...

This room looks like a fun place to spend the day. I would have a room like this too, if I had, erm, the room. Do you have to water them more or less when they're indoors?

EAL said...

less, Chuck, way less. Overwatering is the number one way people kill plants in the house.

I'll kill a few anyway, I'm sure, without overwatering.

kris at t.m. (or bwold, whatever) said...

I love it (and the warning) - maybe because it looks sooooo familiar... I call mine "the plantry" (it's a very chilly south facing entry way). The rest of the house becomes "the jungle" and I pretty much can't see out any of my windows anymore.
Cheers!

Jean said...

Wow, I'm really impressed with your plant room. When you say you have high powered CF lights, what is that exactly? I'm assuming it's different than the usual bulbs you can buy? I'd hate to lose an orchid as well although I never seem to have much luck getting them to flower again. So sometimes I wonder what the point is of caring for them year after year!

Pam said...

Your 'plant' room makes me laugh - you do need a conservatory!!! (so, is it just the word...con ser va tory...that is so enticing? or is it residual obsessions with CLUE, and a desire to murder a neighbor in the conservatory with a candlestick...or better yet, a hoe?). Anyway, many of the things you mentioned can stay in the ground in coastal SC, but plant greed trickles in...and now I want citrus year round and I don't have a well-protected area and so I want a conservatory too...and I was thinking (aka wishful thinking) that perhaps someone would drop one of these in my back yard:

http://www.antiek-anresto.be/architectural-antique/antieke_bouwmaterialen/bouw-antiek/product25.html

Blackswamp_Girl said...

Brilliant. I am going to turn my studio room into a wintertime plant room, now that I see how great and inviting yours looks. (I can think of nothing that would do better at making me want to spend more time in there, and I really should. :)