Garden Thoughts for February
At this time of year, thoughts often turn to indoor gardening. If you're
like me, you've managed to accumulate a few potted plants over the Christmas
holiday - Poinsettias, Azaleas, etc. These fill the need for bright flowers
at this dull time of the year, and we happily purchase them thinking that
they'll be more permanent than cut flowers. Too bad this isn't always the
case. When these hapless plants are yanked from their cozy greenhouses, and
thrust into winter conditions on our windowsills, they often suffer a fatal
OK, maybe it's just my dark windows and atrocious watering habits but
shortly after arriving, these plants often drop their flowers in a stress
response. Then I nurse them along for a few months in hopes of planting
them outside. Is it worth it?
If you have poinsettias, enjoy them over Christmas, then, unless you have a
greenhouse you should go ahead and toss them on the compost. With good care
and light conditions, you could grow these plants all year, and maybe even
keep them from getting too leggy. However, unless they receive the right
amount (and that means lots!) of sun through the summer and again prior to
December, they just won't flower sufficiently to justify all your work. You
're better off buying fresh ones.
Evergreen Azaleas, Hydrangeas, Chrysanthemums, Cyclamen on the other hand
stand a good chance of doing well in our gardens, and are definitely worth
some effort to keep through the spring. These may need water a lot more
often than regular houseplants so keep an eye on them. They also should be
placed in the brightest window you can manage. As the weather warms, avoid
You'll need to keep these plants fed, watered and loved until May, when you
can start the hardening off process. This involves setting them outside in
indirect sunlight for one hour the first day, two the second, etc gradually
increasing the time and amount of direct sunlight. This is the point where
my plans often fall down. For best results, you can't rush this stage.
Once the plants have been conditioned, you can plant them in your garden.
You'll have to wait through one or two winters to be certain you've got a
hardy variety, and it may take a year or two before you see the flowers
again - but - it's a worthwhile gamble. Hopefully you'll have something a
little different from the plants usually sold in May, that will remind you
of the giver for years to come.
Karen Barber is an architectural and landscape designer in Campbell River.