Greenhouse Life – Moving Plants Back Indoors for the Winter

A SOUTH AFRICAN BULBS, MASSONIA JASMINIFLORA, SLOWLY EMERGES ITS TWO LONELY BUT QUITE BEAUTIFULLY PATTERNED AND TEXTURED LEAVES, AFTER BEING DORMANT ALL SUMMER UNDER GLASS.

 Now that the heat of the summer has ended, the plants and bulbs that have spent the summer under glass, hot and dry, not unlike the lands from which they come from, are beginning to emerge – sometimes even before they are watered with their first fall soak with the hose pipe.

MANY TENDER PLANTS ARE BEING MOVED BACK INTO THE PROTECTION OF THE GREENHOUSE. THESE INCLUDE CITRUS, ABUTILON, THIS LARGE PAIR OF TOPIARY, COMPLETE WITH THEIR UNDER PLANTING OF CUPHEA AND NASTURITUM FOR SOME FALL COLOR UNDER GLASS, AND MANY OTHER TENDER PLANTS, JUST IN CASE FROST COMES UN ANNOUNCED.

 In an effort to avoid getting the call from Joe while at work one day – that “we’re gonna get killing frost tonight” call, I have been slowly bringing plants back into the greenhouse. Anyone who has a greenhouse or who keeps their collection under lights for the winter is familiar with this annual task. Many feel it is laborious and sad, but I look forward to it. When I was a child, I would help my parents move tubs of agapanthus and Angel’s Trumpets into our stone cellar, and then help my mom pick every blossom in the yard – even the marigolds, which we would then place in tin buckets on the glassed-in porches, providing cut flowers for the house for at least a few more weeks. The scent is unforgettable – sharp marigold, that unique scent of chrysanthemums and even the scent of sticky nicotiana.

CAMELLIA POTS LINED UP ON A GARDEN BENCH FOR INSPECTION. SOME NEED TOP SOIL, OTHERS, A LITTLE TRIM. THEY WILL REMAIN OUTDOORS UNTIL HEAVY FROST THREATENS, BUT A GOOD EVALUATION ALLOWS ME TO EDIT THE COLLECTION, AND CHECK ON BUD FORMATION.
Now that I have a greenhouse, scent also plays a role. During the hot summer, the greenhouse remains rather dry and dormant – it feels dead, even through there are some shrubs and tree planted into the ground, it seems that there is nothing special going on in the greenhouse – especially when it it 110 degree inside, but as soon as I begin bringing in the many ( far-too-many) pots of small shrubs tender tropicals and bulbs, the tubs of Camellia, agapanthus, the many large topiary etc, the space inside transforms from a dry desert into a moist, damp and fragrant proper greenhouse, and I just love it as a seasonal marker – not unlike the radiators coming on in the house for the first time, with their unique, comforting scent of warm dust bringing back memories of snowstorms and cozy winter, the unique scent of a greenhouse in Autumn does much the same thing.

IN 1805, A PROPER NEW ENGLAND ESTATE GARDENER WOULD LIFT THE MANY TUBEROSES WHICH WERE PLANTED IN APRIL OUTSIDE, LIFTED FROM THE GARDEN, POTTED INTO LONGTOMS, AND BROUGHT INTO THE PROTECTION OF THE GREENHOUSE UNTIL THEY BLOOMED.

 My Tuberose Project that I wrote about earlier, was essentially a failure, but I did get two plants to blooming size. If you remember, In January, one of my antique gardening books from 1805 outlined details on how a New England gardener ( on an estate) would plant Tuberoses ( The Tuber Rose) in rows in the kitchen garden, and then dig them up in September, potting them into long-tom pots and placing them in rows in the glasshouse, were they would bloom in October and November, perhaps even until Christmas, providing cut flowers for the home and conservatory. Clearly, I would have lost my job as a gardener back in 1805, but my excuse is that any gardener in 1805 would have far more free time to focus on their task at hand, and not having to write a blog or work. That said, I can’t wait until my two lonely tuberoses bloom in a few weeks, and with 24 plants still in the garden, their roots will have become stronger should produce more flowers next year, after being dug and kept cool and dry all winter.

OSMANTHUS FRAGRANS, A SCENT OF FRESH ALMONDS, SO TRADITIONAL IN MANY OLD NEW ENGLAND GREENHOUSES DURING THE FALL AND WINTER
 In the greenhouse today, with a gentle, cold rain falling down, it is beginning to feel very fall like. It’s the scent really, that annually bring s me back to that first visit to Logee’s greenhouses in the mid- 1970’s, or a garden in southern France in 1990 – scents which here in New England mean very little to native residents, unless they added  some travel memories into their mind. I treasure my personal collection of scents-which-recall – those of Rosemary, the sweet almond smell of Osmanthus fragrans,  geranium leaf, sweet violet flowers, lemon and rose scented geraniums and of course, the scent of chrysanthemum foliage.
A NEW COLLECTION OF RHODODENDRONS HAS YET TO BE PLACED INTO THE GREENHOUSE, I AM ALLOWING THEM TO GET SOME RAIN OUTDOORS UNTIL FROST COMES. THE RHODODENDRON SECTION MADDENII ARE VERY INTERESTING AND QUITE COLLECTIBLE BY PLANTSPEOPLE. ONCE COMMON IN NINETEENTH CENTURY NORTHERN CONSERVATORIES, THEY ARE NOT HARDY OUTDOORS HERE IN NEW ENGLAND, AND THEREFORE, HARD-TO-FIND. 

Ferns and tender cutting of succulents are moved in first since any temperature changes can affect the tropical ferns, and cuttings root better with some warmth.
 

NERINE SARNIENSIS BULBS ARE QUICKLY SENDING UP THEIR FLOWER BUDS, WITH THEIR LONG, THIN STEMS LOOKING LIKE COLORED WANDS, WAVING AROUND TRYING TO GET THE STRONGEST BEAM OF SUNLIGHT. SOME POTS OF THIS CHALLENGING SOUTH AFRICAN RELATIVE OF THE AMARYLLIS ARE SENDING UP THREE FLOWER BUDS EACH. DARE I BRAG :)

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