Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Who's In the Greenhouse?

I'm always hoping to find a blog post that features a peek into someone's greenhouse.

I'm curious what others use to fill the space. Tootsie and Bren have collaborated on a blog solely for greenhouse gardening. They garden where the winter is really, really cold and there is snow. Like Darla, I garden where there is never snow. If there is snow we find it really a novelty and it doesn't last.  We do, however experience temperatures in the teens which will turn a tender plant as brown as if it were in the frozen north. The difference is that the ground does not freeze, so we can expect many plants to just die back to the roots and return in the spring, except in that one rare year when cold comes and stays a while and too many plants die.

While I was waiting in the truck today in Dothan while He-who-mows bought steel for his new project, I made a list of the tropical plants in my garden. I found only four that summer outside that cannot stand even a bit of a freeze: Bromeliads, Epiphyllum oxypetallum, Christmas Cactus and Kalanchoe. Four more live in the enclosed porch in less light: Spathephyllum (Peace Lily), Birds Nest Fern, Parlor Palm and Heliconia.

Everything else lives outside year round, but 20 of them die back to the roots. Sometimes it is June before I know for sure they're coming back. Often I have new Pentas and late returned Pentas crowding one another because I'd given up on last year's plants returning. Kept inside, they're ready to go when the last frost is done and there is no waiting for sprouts to grow.

There are about 20 tropicals that I've brought in that are also outside in the garden. Most will survive being killed back to the roots. Meanwhile, I want winter blooms and greenery with a tropical flavor and they supply that need.

Of the gingers, I only bring Alpinias inside. The rest want a rest period and would die back anyhow when days are short. I bring in three different: Shell ginger, variegated shell ginger and a small alpinia that we call Cardamon ginger because of the Christmas potpourri fragrance of the leaves. I'm hoping that keeping Shell ginger green all winter will encourage some second-year blooms after it goes outside in spring. Alpinias are underplanted with common Ferns.

If you are wondering about the purple skirt,
it covers the water barrels that act as a heat sink.

I potted and brought in my Bird of Paradise with a frill of Ferns at its base. It surprised me by returning from the roots last spring after being outside all winter. Anything that persistent needs to overwinter in a warm place. Maybe in a few years it will bloom. Meanwhile it looks really tropical indoors.

Lemon grass in pots is for the delight of the pets who chew the leaves. Cymbopogon can be used in Asian cooking or for making a tea.

Foxtail ferns die back and are another late emerging plant. I potted them and planted some alyssum seeds to hide their bare ankles.

Pentas cuttings are everywhere in several colors. They are a good house plant and bloom all winter once rooted. I read that they root better in water so I made several little bouquets in addition to those in soil.

Other butterfly delights that will bloom inside are Porterweed -- already one has blue florets -- and Duranta. Newly rooted cuttings will bloom inside and can be planted out to add tall plants in the garden next summer.

 I keep a side list of things that I will not try again. Last winter I tried to overwinter an Emerald Philadendron and an Anthurium. They wanted more shade and a better humidity than they got and were so pitiful by winter's end that I tossed them. This is not a contest; I've nothing to prove. Lush and healthy are my goals. Better plenty of something common like Begonias and Firecracker Fern than a struggle with an expensive plant that wins in the end by dying.

Among the plants I intend to find soon are Pineapple Sage and some tillansias for the Epi Tree. Yes, there is room for more plants. I can take the little clay pots off the upper shelf of the potting bench and all those begonias in white pots will fit there.

Next to come: Forced Bulbs, White Shrimp Plant and Plants with Purple Leaves.

What's in Your Greenhouse?

Secrets of a Seedscatter    


  1. I love the purple skirt. Colorful and functional! My greenhouse looks rather stark compared to yours at the moment, although it was only recently installed. No tropicals in my greenhouse. At the moment it's holding a few fall vegetable garden seedlings, and a collection of native plants waiting to be planted. The benches are mostly empty though, as I'm about to tackle a rather hefty greenhouse watering project, with the hope the seedlings can mostly water themselves come spring!

  2. This was my first year with a greenhouse. It is so tiny compared to yours. I did veggies and even though winter is coming I just planted more lettuce and spinanch. It was really cool to see yours.

  3. Some day I hope to have a greenhouse. I imagine mine would be crammed full of all those wonderful plants that aren't hardy here, or that won't survive our wet winters.

    Have you ever been to the blog Driftwood Ramblings? It's written by a woman from South Africa, and isn't always about the garden. She shows lots of pictures of day trips she take with her husband.

    But quite a while ago she did a long post about her greenhouse. It's here: http://driftwoodramblings.blogspot.com/2010/12/passage-of-time.html

  4. Thanks for the shout out. I have started moving the very tender tropicals in, like variegated ginger, crown of thorns, moms of millions...our weather is still pretty warm, as I am sure yours is. We just never know when that frost will fall.

  5. I really enjoyed seeing inside your greenhouse, and appreciated all the information about what will stand a freeze and what won't. I don't have a greenhouse, so I try to plant only things that will survive. I'm giving pentas a try now, because of you. Although I may plant something on top of it if it takes till June to start showing! Your greenhouse is very full, and yet everything looks so organized and pretty.

  6. I wish I had a greenhouse. It is the perfect spot to overwinter many plants. Your greenhouse is organized so perfectly.

  7. Maybe we are very lucky to have all year of gardening possibilities, and we don't need to safeguard our plants against winter temperatures. Maybe if i am in your climate i might not do any gardening at all, as i will get depressed when the plants i've tended will just die. Here, they just stay there in full sun!

  8. You have organized this greenhouse, perfectly. I have also a greenhouse, but it’s not well maintained properly. After seeing this greenhouse, I will try to maintain my greenhouse.



I look forward to comments and questions and lively discussion of gardening and related ideas.

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