Preparing for Winter, Planning for Spring

Yesterday, I brought my house plants into the house. When the weather prevents growing in the garden, I find it comforting to have plants inside.

After their sojourn outdoors, plants need to be inspected. My anthurium and phalaenopsis orchid had scale. The geraniums needed repotting. Two succulents in my collection needed dead parts removed and repotting. This is also a good time to check the plants that remained in the house through the summer. I had two Rex Begonias that needed repotting and my String of Pearls plant needed pruning.

And, of course, “their rooms” needed to be rearranged to accommodate them during the winter. When deciding where they will live, consider their light and water needs.

I do have one house plant that never gets moved or repotted. It is a Christmas cactus that I bought in college (many years ago) and gave to my mother when I moved to New York. By that time, it was very large. She had a tortuous regime in the fall to cause it to bloom which it did profusely. When she died, I carried it back from Iowa on the plane in my lap. It has been in the same pot all this time because I don’t want to repot it for fear I will break off the beautiful drooping branches.

Fortunately, it does very well, even blooming without the torture. My grandmother had a huge Christmas cactus when I was a girl and I am sure she never repotted it. I don’t think she could have found a pot large enough!

This is the time of year to acquire bulbs for planting. If your favorite mail order source cannot supply what you want, several local plant centers have bulbs. I will be planting several gardens next year that are “visited” by deer and need bulbs whose flowers deer do not like. Tulips are one of my favorite spring flowers but, if deer are even a possibility, don’t even think about tulips; they are like candy to deer.

The tulips will begin budding; you will eagerly anticipate the flowers only to wake up one morning to find them all munched away.

There are flower-producing bulbs that deer avoid (so far). The various alliums produce remarkable flowers in many forms from the ones that look like large balls of purple, white or pink on tall stems to some that are like purple, blue, or white small balls on skinny stems or allium schubertii that is like floral fireworks. Planted singularly or en mass, they are breathtaking and they come back reliably each year.

Daffodils are available in several colors, color combinations, sizes and shapes. They bloom at different times throughout the spring so it is possible to have them for a long time with careful planning. Be sure to look for the words “perennial or naturalizing” for daffs that will rebloom for several years. Plant some species and miniature daffs for surprises next spring; tuck them into corners and crevices.

Crocus and snowdrops are the first flowers of the spring and so welcome when they arrive. There are various types of snow drops that bloom at slightly different times but I like the very early ones because I am ready for them early! Squirrels do not like tommasinianus crocus but they often replant the other types. A mass planting of crocus is a luxurious harbinger of spring.

Muscari or grape hyacinth is not favored by deer. White Magic and azureum are my favorites. Other choices: Puschkinia, chinodxa, squill, the various frittilaria and anemone blanda which when planted with black mondo grass is astounding!

A lot of work to do!

Jeanelle Myers is a professional gardener and consultant, for gardening discussion you can call her at 631-434-5067.

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