Welcome to Winter

There are still a bunch of things to clean up in the garden but now that the first serious frost has hit I’m officially announcing an end of autumn in my garden and the beginning of a very early winter.  The cannas were blackened last night, tomorrow’s high might not rise above freezing, and Friday’s low is predicted at 18F.  For those of you on a Celsius scale that converts to pretty damn cold, especially for very early winter.  Fortunately I was able to run around like a total fool at the last minute in a cold drizzle with freezing fingers, and bring the bulk of the non-hardy plants in before the frost.  Obviously it did occur to me that I could have done this much more comfortably on a warm and dry October weekend, but….

overwinter plants

I ran out of space in the winter garden so these tropical leftovers have taken over the garage and pushed the car out into the driveway.  Who needs a warm, frost-free car in the morning anyway?   

Hopefully over the next few days all these irreplaceable goodies will find a longer-term spot which gives them a little light, a warm-enough temperature, and also gives the car enough room to get back in.  The garage has been cleaned after all, and it would be a shame to not use it for the two cars it was meant for.

overwinter rosemary

Non-hardy to the left for when the door is closed, semi-hardy things like rosemary to the right to cozy up to the shelter of the garage, yet still get some outdoor air and sunshine.  I’ll drag them all in when it drops below the mid 20’s.  

Two of the shop lights are already in use back in the winter garden.  Against better judgement I’ve brought in a bunch of potted geraniums (pelargoniums) rather than the smaller, less bulky cuttings I normally do.  Hopefully there aren’t a billion pillbugs and slugs hiding within the pots.

overwinter pelargoniums

Geraniums under the growlights of the winter garden.  Rest assured they will soon be joined by a few dozen snowdrops and cyclamen… and whatever else finds its way in 😉

This newfound love of geraniums (or pelargoniums if you prefer the official name) makes me 95% sure I’m well on my way to becoming my grandmother.  I’m not sure what my wife thinks of this but I’m sure my grandmother would approve, and I’m sure she would also approve of some of the more interesting flower types which are now safely blooming under cover.

pelargonium flower

A closeup of ‘Fireworks bicolor’… nice enough flower but the name?  I think they could have done better than ‘bicolor’ to describe the bloom….

I’m fine with moving things indoors.  The winter garden seems to fire up earlier and earlier each year and it’s a nice quiet spot to just putter around in… assuming I can still get back there once all the garage plants are stuffed into their winter accommodations.  We’ll see how it goes.  Seeds need cleaning and packaging, a new plant order needs planting, and there’s a strong possibility 100 snowdrops are on their way to our doorstep.  We won’t even mention the temptation of a Brent and Becky clearance sale.  I already feel weak.

31 comments on “Welcome to Winter

  1. johnvic8 says:

    You are so far ahead of me in getting ready for winter. Thanks for giving me a boost…or shove…or whatever.

    • bittster says:

      We had such a cold freeze that it was a good thing I finally got moving when I did. I’m with you in procrastinating the winter prep for as long as I can, it’s so much nicer to always think we have so much time and to enjoy as much of it as possible!

  2. I placed my very restrained bulb order today! Here’s hoping for a warmish day or two late next week! This year I actually brought the indoor plants back in well before necessary, and this gave me time to shower them down with the hose AND spray them with an organic pesticide! It also gave them a little time to re-acclimate to the indoors before the heat got turned on! Nonetheless, the Schefflera still sulked and dropped lots of leaves. My front porch impatiens finally bit the dust after Wednesday night. Don’t think I’ve ever had them make it to November 8 before!!!

    That’s one heck of a rosemary plant you have there! Good luck with the rest of your tasks!

    • bittster says:

      My resolve crumbled last night and I ordered a bunch of tulips from easy to grow bulbs. I was so sure I was done and then this happens, so much for putting my feet up and kicking back….
      I’m impressed with your houseplant care. It might make you even happier to know I’m already seeing aphids on my shoddily thrown-inside-geraniums, and there are still plenty of plants sitting around, neglected on the floor of the garage 😉

  3. rusty duck says:

    Why do we always leave it until the last minute? I just can’t bear digging things up when they still look good. Even if it’s just to transfer them to the greenhouse. I even contemplated leaving a strelitzia in the ground until I read it was only hardy down to 10C. It had already reached almost 0C by then.. I hope it will forgive me now it’s tucked up in the (relative) warmth.

    • bittster says:

      You’ve hit it on the head! It’s just so painful to take something growing so well and cut it back to drag it into a spot where it won’t be nearly as happy. Good luck with the strelitzia, I’m sure it was much heavier and muddier than when you first planted it!

  4. Amy Olmsted says:

    What temps do you keep your winter garden at? I have a sun porch with a portable heater that I keep at 59* on the coldest days/nights……but sometimes I think even that is too warm. I can’t lower the temp any more than that.

    • bittster says:

      Hi Amy, I would guess that in the depths of winter the back room stays in the forties, with draftier areas being cold enough to freeze any soil or pots which haven’t been moved. I’m usually fine back there with a sweatshirt on but it’s definitely on the cooler side rather than warmer.
      I should really get a thermometer back there to see what the temps really are, I never gave it much thought and always just left it as ‘cool’ 🙂

  5. We have already had a couple of the nights in the teens and I think we might be looking at single digits tonight. But I wasn’t expecting to wake up this morning and see snow on the ground. I still have three small shrubs and a tree to plant, plus a lot of bulbs. Definitely asking myself “How bad will I feel if this doesn’t get planted?”

    • bittster says:

      We also got our first snow this week. Only about an inch, but I guess winter is getting a little serious about showing off.
      Of course I ordered a few bulbs last night. That should make you feel nice and smug as you consider the hundreds you’ve already planted and you sip a warm beverage as I consider braving the cold to get mine in. I have a few other things which also should be planted…. Maybe December will be warm 😉

  6. Eliza Waters says:

    I love pelargoniums because they continue to flower easily in my sunspace that can reach 45 in Jan. and they don’t flinch. This cold front is a bit of a shock. 12 tonight or lower as we are in the hinterlands. It has ended the beautiful color of the Jap.maples, viburnums and the other late color – so sad to see it all go in one fell swoop. I’m hoping the dahlia tubers will be okay – I didn’t get them dug up yet. The ground is freezing. I’m looking forward to more seasonable 40s on Sunday, so I can resume my garden chores.

    • bittster says:

      I managed to get all the tubers and roots up last weekend, and I think they’ll be fine even though I did abandon the ones in the deck containers. The freeze had penetrated the pots and I thought that was the perfect excuse to just let them go. I always have extras anyway lol
      Yes, the sudden loss of fall foliage was sad. My paperbark maple went from just starting to color right straight to gray. Oh well, at least we still have our geraniums!

  7. The garden needs lots of raking, cutting down etc. But last night’s temp of 9 degrees has me temporarily paralyzed. The only plant I brought indoors is a fancy pelargonium.

  8. Cathy says:

    You had a really long late summer/autumn then until your first frost hit. We have had some cold nights, but your temperatures are Really Cold! Glad you managed to get all the most important stuff indoors in time. That Fireworks pelargonium is really pretty. I have never seen any unusual ones here. I won’t keep any of mine this year as space is a problem – German houses typically have the radiators under the window sills, plus our windows open inwards unlike in the uk where they open outwards… that means all my houseplants would have to be crowded up against windows where the heating is on low, i.e. in rooms where I rarely see them and hence forget to water them! I think your shoplights are a brilliant idea. Now, I wonder what your Tuesday View will look like next time you share a glimpse of it… 🙂

    • bittster says:

      I also don’t have any windowsills which would work well for houseplants. They’re either too narrow or I have’t been able to get permission to put a plant there, so the lights will have to work for now. I used to have spare bedroom which took in a few plants, but just like you it’s the spot where you forget to check, and when you find dried up plants in February it’s just not as much fun!
      Fancy geraniums are hit or miss here as well. This spring I was able to find a few, but it’s been several years since I last saw them available. Hopefully I can get a few through the winter!

  9. It’s been many years since we kept actual cars in our garage. We also had a sudden cold turn in the weather around here, though I don’t think it went below 25 degrees or so. It’s supposed to turn mild again next week. Interesting that you have become a Pelargonium enthusiast. Some years I get one or two, other years I don’t.

    • bittster says:

      My fingers are crossed that I get my garage space back before the real cold weather kicks in. There’s holiday talk about “creating space” to put up a gymnastics set… I’m afraid that space is where my car would have fit.

  10. Chloris says:

    That time of year again what a bore. What I really need is a sliding roof to go over the whole garden. I hate this digging up, wrapping up business.
    We have two garages but neither of them ever see a car. They are so full of stuff you can hardly get in. And we have only lived here 7 years. And it’s not my junk, no plant ever gets through a garage door. They are full of strange man things like cables and drills.

    • bittster says:

      I’ve been trying to cut down on all the strange man things which fill the garage. The space would be much better used as space for growlights and terracotta and potting soil storage and maybe its about time I admit I don’t need half the stuff, and don’t actually like using it all that much either.
      Digging, wrapping, and lugging are not at all fun and yet another example of gardening tasks which look much better on glossy magazine layouts rather than on the formerly clean floors and formerly tidy back storage rooms.
      I guess it’s worth it. We’ll see. Maybe more trees and shrubs and groundcovers are a smarter idea.

  11. I do recall going through the same thing for oh so many winters! My first home had a root cellar – oh that was heaven.
    Pelargoniums have become quite the exciting plant, I agree! Much more than just a red geranium in a pot!

    • bittster says:

      This is the time of year I really admire your new climate. You have camellias to look forward to and we have ice.
      A root cellar sounds excellent, but all I’m imagining is too many steps and too-heavy pots and tubs 😉

  12. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I have my winter plants inside thank goodness. It is nice that you can make room in your garage for some plants. our garage is full of, ahem, junk and cars. It is funny that B&B’s sale is making you weak. ha Have a nice weekend anyway.

    • bittster says:

      Haha, up until this summer our garage was well packed with all kinds of stuff. I’m not going to call it all junk, but someone else here would disagree and in my defense if it was junk then it should’t have been so easy to give away. But much of it did go away and hopefully I can recover my clean garage again once the plants are settled in elsewhere!
      I did order bulbs last night. 50% off at Easy to Grow Bulbs and a few tulips which I thought would be nice to have. Stupid online shopping.

  13. You are so.o.o dedicated, Frank, giving up your garage to overwinter plants! I don’t go that far with my gardening obsession. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. P. x

    • bittster says:

      You have a wonderful Thanksgiving as well!
      I’m still trying to get my garage back, but now there’s talk of Santa and gymnastics equipment, and that the garage might be warm enough for a decent play area… assuming one of the cars doesn’t come in for the winter…

  14. Ian Lumsden says:

    I have only just had to take in the tender plants here in the UK. Gardening at the moment is to do with visiting gardens and checking out catalogues. The spring bulbs have been fed, watered and top dressed. And weeded.

    • bittster says:

      Ugh you have been responsibly industrious! Fortunately I’ve avoided most catalogs, but there are still spring bulbs to plant and possibly one last run with the lawnmower before things freeze up too solid. I’ve been enjoying your garden visits, that’s one thing which I miss living here in such a gardening backwater.

  15. Peter/Outlaw says:

    “100 snowdrops on their way to our doorstep.” Hooray, Frank’s back. I was worried earlier when you mentioned something about no new bulbs this year. I hope you fully enjoy your winter garden again this year! No freeze here yet.

    • bittster says:

      You’ll be pleased to hear I’ve potted up 30 or so snowdrops for the winter garden and placed another last bulb order, this time for tulips. Hopefully that will be the last ‘last’ order since I was really planning on spending much more time with my feet up rather than with my feet freezing.

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