Once again the new normal in winters is proving itself to be completely abnormal. Instead of celebrating the depths of winter last week with a warm blanket and a seed catalog I found myself outside in the sun clearing dried stems from around snowdrop sprouts and spreading mulch and compost on top of the earliest spring flower beds. I loved it for a few days, but to see snow and freezing temperatures in the week ahead was much more reassuring, if only to keep the flowers asleep until safer weather returns. It is winter gardening season after all, and the 2017 winter garden has been up and running since the holidays.
The cool (but rarely freezing) workshop which adjoins the back of the garage is home to my often celebrated winter garden. A collection of overwintering bulbs and potted plants survive the cold in this dimly lit room, and each winter they are joined by a table top full of forced bulbs, early seedlings, and whatever else I can’t leave to freeze outside. I’ve upped the number of fluorescent light fixtures to three this year and am feeling rich with all the extra growing space!
Interest in the winter garden rises and falls opposite the outdoor temperatures. Colder weather means more tinkering indoors, warmer weather results in general neglect. This week I bucked the trend though, and brought in a tray of primula seedlings before the approaching snow and ice locked them up in their protective mulch pile.
Three plants have become standards for my winter garden. Snowdrops are the first. They’re an addiction so I can’t really reason out why I must grow them here when they’re just as successful (and nearly at the same stage) as under lights… but I do. Cyclamen and primrose are a different story. Their bright colors and their overall happiness in this cold back room really cheer up a gloomy winter evening and make this my new favorite place for sorting seeds and planning the new season’s garden.
As I hide out in my man cave it gives me the necessary time to fully enjoy the snowdrops and other goodies which are coming along under lights. The bulk Galanthus elwesii which I bought as dried bulbs and potted up for forcing have given me a few nice surprises, but I will spare you from most of those photos. Here’s one though which I will put in, it’s a particularly tall one growing alongside a peculiar climbing asparagus which I grew from seed last winter. Asparagus asparagoides is a noxious weed in several tropical areas outside its native African range, but here under growlights in Pennsylvania I think we’re safe. To be honest there’s nothing really special about it, except that it’s super special… if you know what I mean.
Ok one more snowdrop.
Until the cyclamen get into full bloom and the primroses burst into flower I’ll just give an update on the hyacinths I potted up just before Christmas. They’re starting to sprout and I’ve moved them onto the coldest windowsill of the workshop for some light. Once the flower stems start to come a little more I’ll move them under the grow lights as well. The fragrance of hyacinths will be a nice addition to the winter garden.
So that’s where the winter garden is this year. I planted onion seeds yesterday and in my mind the primroses already look as if they’ve grown a bit since coming inside. It’s exciting but also dangerous to start so early on that tricky road to spring fever, but maybe the next four days of below freezing weather will help. I’ll just need to ignore the fifth day when the high is predicted at 50F (10C)… a temperature too high for February and one which is sure to bring on the first outdoor snowdrops.