Idle hands and the devil

Two more snow days for the kids, another below zero (-18C) forecast, and one sunny day.  I was fine with the first two but the sunny day set off my spring fever.  Of course with snow everywhere and no other gardening options to be had I ordered more seeds.  I had to.  There’s nothing else to do and even the winter garden has me bored.

cyclamen coum in pots

Under lights the cyclamen coum are still going strong. I love the large flowers on the white with their blackberry noses, I wish a few of the others had blooms as large.

Who knows what I’ll do with all the new seeds.  They’re surplus from the N. American Rock Garden Society’s seed exchange so at 20 packets for $5 they’re what I consider practically free.  Even better when you consider the non-profit nature of NARGS, in that case 40 packets at $10 makes more sense, and when you add on the 20 packets from the American Primula Society which just arrived last week well then you might get a sense of the trouble I’m in.  I already have enough seeds stratifying in the cold to fill my beds once over, so I’m not sure where these will go.

growing seedlings under lights

The second growlight in a warmer part of the garage is in business now. A few cane begonias have been watered and potted up and two pots of plain old onion seedlings are on their way.

I still have to deal with the Annie’s Annuals catalog sitting in the kitchen.  I have it in my head that I need an eucalyptus tree for the deck this summer plus a few non-hardy yucca and some succulents.  I’m afraid that if I don’t get some snowdrops blooming soon I may yet stumble into that mess.  -I would add some delphiniums too even though each year they’re crushed by winds just as they reach their majestic peak…..  but some plants are worth a little heartbreak.

rooting coleus cuttings

Happy birthday to me. A returned gift and $40 credit at Lowes meant a new shoplight for a new spot. This one went in a warm corner of the basement and is perfect for giving new life to the sad little overwintered cuttings which have been sitting in a water filled coffee cup since October.

I should be responsible.  I already spent way too much money on snowdrops and ordered way too many irresponsible tropical bulbs from Brent and Becky’s.  Odd choice considering how much I complained about digging them up last fall.

overwintering succulents and tropicals

Overwintering succulents and tropicals fill the far corner of the barely-heated workshop/winter garden area. Dry and cool keeps them mostly dormant until warmer weather returns.

I hope an end is in sight.  Next week shows five days straight with daytime highs above the freezing point and one day when there’s even the possibility nighttime lows stay just above 32F.  Come to think of it I better start some lettuce and broccoli seedlings, in a few weeks they’ll be perfect to go out into that cold frame I never built.

oleander flower bud

A sign of promise, a flower cluster forming on the overwintering  oleander.   I think it formed last fall and hopefully will grow and develop as soon as the pot gets some water and goes outside.

So I’ll keep my fingers crossed…. if only to keep them from clicking on an ‘order now’ tab since I was looking at geraniums (pelargoniums) this afternoon and thinking a few scented and heirloom ones would be a good idea.   I need a first crocus or snowdrop bloom to get me out of this and back to my senses!  (we all know how reliable snowdrop blooms are for bringing a person back to their senses).  I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂

Movin’ on up

The calendar and weather are beginning to agree, and both are now saying autumn is here.  While daytime highs flirted with the 80 degree mark it was easy enough to ignore first frost preparations, but cold and rain finally came through and it’s time to face the inevitable.  To get things moving I collected all the cacti and succulent pots and staged them close enough to the back door to make things near at hand in the event of some late night freeze emergency. cacti and succulents on the deckhidden frogMoving them around might give stray bugs and frogs a chance to find better winter quarters.  It’s always a nice surprise to grab a pot rim and find a nice squishy frog instead of gravel.  Apparently I was much more disturbed by the incident than this little guy.

Where all of these pots are going is still anyone’s guess, but I suspect most will go into the heated garage to sit out the winter on some dimly lit shelf away from any direct blasts of freezing weather.  As long as the soil stays dry enough they should settle down into some kind of dormancy that will take them through to spring.  Only the tall purplish euphorbia and pinkish pencil plant will stay in the brighter, warmer house (and get a few drinks of water throughout the winter).preparing tabletop succulents for winterThe summer vacation did them well, and many have come close to doubling in size since I put them out in April.  Cacti and succulents always seem so slow growing, but then all of a sudden you have a 5 pound cactus sitting on your windowsill and realize once again ‘slow and steady’ won the race.potted succulentstabletop planting of succulentsA favorite new addition is this clump of ‘living stones’ or lithops.  The name pretty much says it all and I can’t believe everyone doesn’t love these little guys…. little dull pieces of liver, boring stones…. who would say such nonsense!  They bloom too, and if you want to start a new obsession, check out this lithops post at the anxious gardener.  I hope winter care really is as easy as just a windowsill with no water -because I can do that.

This collection grows each year not just from the tiny pots I pick up here and there, but also from the little gifted bits and cuttings that any fellow gardener is almost always willing to pass on.  Tiny leaves and pieces dropped into a open spot quickly become new specimens.succulent cuttings

In the above pot there’s a barely noticeable scrap of cactus pad at the lower right of the pot.  If it grows I’ll call it Disney magic, in honor of it coming back to life from a shoe trampled bit on the side of a frontierland path…. and so the collection multiplies….

This was a good summer for blooms.  Agaves put on their first ever show and the blooms were a hit with the hummers.potted agave bloomThis one sent out several blooms.potted succulents floweringAnd this no-name cactus from my aunt in Maine blooms and multiplies year in and out.  Just about every family member has a couple of these 🙂cactus on deck

Sure the in and outs of cactus growing are more work than planting a daylily, but my succulents and cactus collection still isn’t out of control.  Aside from taking them in for winter they’re as close to no-maintenance as one can get for a tabletop or deck planting… I pretty much rely on rain to keep them going.  Maybe  when I run out of old fishtank gravel I’ll have to look for a new collection limit but until that happens I think it’s my duty to see how far this can go.

Now if only everything else was as easy to winterize!