February 19, 2016

Winter in the Conservatory

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Did I say conservatory?

I don't have a conservatory. But I do have a sunroom, with windows on three sides.

Outside its south-facing windows, the light casts long shadows through the Oak trees.

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On bright, sunny days, the light illuminates many tracks from squirrels, rabbits, birds, raccoons, and humans.

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Looking out from the inside, I can almost imagine the snow as a sandy beach.

Inside, the sun is bright enough to encourage plant growth.

Because it's closed off and only partially heated, the sunroom is cooler and more humid than the rest of the house, so scale insects and spider mites don't thrive here.

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I've noticed as the days are getting longer, many of the rock garden plants are looking happy.

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Unfortunately, some hens (Sempervivums) are elongating before forming chicks, although others are ready to fill in.

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I saved a few Fuchsia plants before the first hard frost. They aren't flowering yet, but this should give me a head start on some hanging baskets.

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The Meyer Lemon, which had some major issues in late fall and early winter, is sprouting new growth. I'll save that story for a future post.

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The toad is watching over all the progress.

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This was a happy accident: I plopped some variegated English Ivy (Hedera helix) in with Purple Shamrocks (Oxalis triangularis). I really like these two together.

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The few strands of Ivy that I brought inside in the fall have tripled in volume, shown here with a Spike (Cordyline australis).

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The Walking Iris (Neomarica longifolia), which grew two new "babies" this past summer, is showing signs of generating more.

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My potted Cyclamen has survived several years now--going dormant on the back porch during the summer, and booming back to life during the winter. No blooms yet, but I expect them to start any day now.

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I don't use grow lights, but I'm experimenting with some seeds in the sunroom. If they're successful, I think I'll try more.

What about you? Do you seed-start or overwinter plants inside during the winter? I'm finding it's a little addicting.

50 comments:

  1. Oh that is a lovely pocket garden! I can't imagine how the total picture of a sun room is, i assume the sunlight pass through glass, so it becomes hotter as the heat bounces back and forth, making a little greenhouse.

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    1. Hi Andrea: Yes, it's hard to get a good shot of the dimensions of the room. I posted about it about a year ago. It's on the back of the house facing south, and with deciduous trees in the back, the sun is strong in the winter and blocked by foliage in the summer. This helps with our heating and cooling bills. It is like a mini-greenhouse in the winter.

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  2. Conservatory/sun room six of one, half a dozen of the other. You've got some lovelies there and the hedera/oxalis combination is very nice indeed! I keep things over in my new greenhouse and started a few perennials and tomatoes from seed last year.

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    1. Good point, Peter. I'm amazed whenever you do a post about your greenhouse. You have an amazing collection of plants in there! I've been adding more plants to the sunroom during the past few years, but I like to clear it out during the summer, so I can keep the room open for myself and the cats, without worrying about plant damage. Also, it provides a great view of the garden.

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  3. How nice to have such a sunroom! I am overwinter a bunch of plants in my potting shed which just has one window. The citrus plants are in the garage and get rolled outside on warmer winter days. What a great idea to save cutting from fuchsia for the following year. I'll have to remember to do that instead of buying new plants each year. I don't have lots of luck growing succulents indoors. My hen and chicks are outside and usually do well through the winter.

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    1. Hi Karin: I do enjoy it, especially in the summer. It's chilly in there during the winter for sitting, but ideal for overwintering plants. Wow, that would be nice to keep Citrus in a garage and have them survive OK. I've never tried saving the Fuchsia before. It will be interesting to see if they re-bloom. Many varieties of Hens and Chicks can survive our winters, but usually if they're planted in the ground. I tried to keep them on the back porch a couple of winters, but found the freeze/thaw was the hardest part about trying to get the potted ones through the winter. But I will put them back outside in May. :)

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  4. Lucky you having a sun room. Call it what you want it is a nice place to have your plants. I just have my indoor plants stuck in front of the patio doors and various windows around the house. I have learned which plants I can bring in and successfully overwinter. I am going to start some seeds again this year. As a matter of fact with this warm front coming through I am going to fix up my milk jugs for some winter sowing. I will fill them, plant seeds and set them out in a protected place hoping for some starts. We will see what happens.

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    1. Yes, it's a pleasant room. It's what sold me on this property. I haven't used it for plants us much as the previous owner did, but I like to keep it open and clear for the great views in the summertime. Oh, good luck with the winter sowing! If I get around to it, I'm planning to try to get some Milkweed started that way.

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  5. You do not have a greenhouse, but they have beautiful plants at home and bravo for that. Regards.

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    1. Hi Giga: No, I'd love to have a greenhouse, but this is the next best thing. :) It is fun to experiment with seed-starting and overwintering plants.

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  6. As you know, I'm a HUGE seed starter - everything in the veg garden is started from seed. But my track record overwintering plants is not that great - just ask the rosemary plant that ended up in the compost last year.

    Love, love, love the rock garden...is that in a shallow or deep pot? We have a south facing window in our family room & I've placed a long sofa table there with a few plants, including a mixed succulent planter. So far so good - After so many years of failures, I think my brown thumb when it comes to houseplants is finally turning to green...well, at least on the edges ;)

    Oh, what I wouldn't do for a sunroom! We are toying with building a small addition to the house and guess what's on my wish list - yup...an extension off the kitchen to house my lemon trees. And lime trees. And maybe an orange or two.... :)

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    1. Hi Margaret: Yes, I'm amazed at all the plants you start, grow, and harvest from seed! It's incredible, really. Until recently, I didn't have much luck with houseplants, either. But I think the cooler temperatures of the closed-off room help to keep the scale and other problem insects at bay. The rock garden is actually three deep pots full of sandy soil and rocks, and various succulent and semi-succulent plants. Good luck with your new plants--sounds like it's going well! I highly recommend adding a sunroom. Lemon and Lime trees--nice!

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  7. What a nice way to enjoy your overwintering plants without going outside. Anytime ivy triples is a good thing, some of mine are so slow, it seems to take years.

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    1. Hi Shirley: Yes, it's working well this year. Thanks. I love Ivy in pots! I wouldn't put it in the soil because it's invasive here, but it's fabulous in pots. :)

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  8. your bowl of little succulents is looking very happy!

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    1. Yes, actually I should have mentioned it's actually three matching pots of succulents. This is the first year I've brought them inside, and it worked, so I'll probably do that again next year.

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  9. Look forward to hearing how your seed-starting operation works in the sunroom!

    I only tried starting seeds once indoors in the past. I didn't have enough light to make it work. I'd like to build a larger seed-starting operation in my garage, but I think that will have to wait until next year. (We're dealing with some unexpected home expenses at the moment.)

    Your toad statue is the piece de resistance! :)

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    1. I am starting tall snapdragons this year, too. I cover the seeds with plastic wrap so I don't have to worry about keeping them moist before they germinate.

      I am also starting campanula Rapido, a pink begonia, White Swan coneflower, anemones and poppies, along with a lot of cuttings from coleus. http://talking-to-plants.blogspot.com/

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    2. Aaron: There's something about that toad. I've been meaning to try to find other creatures created by the same artist. Need to do that ... Regarding the seeds: I probably won't get into it big time, and I'm not one to want to mess with grow lights (although I respect people who do), but it's fun to experiment a little bit.

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    3. Rachelle: I've never tried seed-starting Snapdragons before. They might not work because the seeds are old, but I thought I'd give it a go. That's a good idea to add the plastic wrap! I might have to try that. I've been lightly misting them frequently, so I'm hoping that will help.

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  10. It really makes a difference to bring little bit of gardening life into the house over the winter! We don't have a sunroom or conservatory but, we have great southern exposure. Last fall, I brought in Coleus, Begonia and Gerbenia daisies. I have high hopes for getting a jump on the season. I always buy marked down seeds too.....it's too early here to start them but it won't be long!

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    1. Yes, the houseplants do help the mood a bit, don't they? :) Wow, you have quite a few overwintering plants. That's great! I'm thinking of starting some flats of other seeds, too. We'll see ...

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    2. When you visited my blog, you mentioned you are in zone 5 and our weather seems similar. My area is listed as zone 6b but any plants I try to grow that are hardy to my zone don't make it. Now, I make sure whatever I grow is hardy to zone 5 and I have no problems......

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  11. I have a "conservatory" - sunroom too, it's such a blessing this time of year!

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    1. Yes, it's great, isn't it? Actually, it was warmer out in the sunroom today than it was in the house! On this sunny, mild day, the house was about 68F, while the sunroom reached about 75F.

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  12. What a nice spot! I like that purple oxalis with the ivy, too. I have a couple plants overwintering in the basement (just hoping for survival), and then I will be starting my seed starting soon. Gets a nice early start for spring!

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    1. Hi Indie: I put some potted spring-flowering bulbs in pots out on the screen porch next to the house. It's a little warmer there than outside. I'm planning to bring them in soon, hoping they'll bloom in time for Easter. :)

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  13. That's quite the indoor garden you have. Nice!

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    1. Thanks--I've added/rescued/overwintered more plants this year than ever before. I don't have a lot of patience for houseplants, but they seem to like the cool, sunny environment of the sunroom. No harmful plant bugs to deal with. Yay.

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  14. I do overwinter but with limited success as I do not have a room like this...my best windows face north so lots of indirect light. The conservatory is a fabulous room and you use it perfectly!

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    1. Thanks, Donna. Yes, it's my favorite room in the house. I don't spend much time out there much in the winter because it's cool, but now with warmer days it's rather pleasant. Indirect light is great for plants like Fuchsias and Cyclamen.

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  15. Such beautiful photos! Thanks so much for brightening up my day :)

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    1. Thanks, Tim. You are welcome. I'm glad it cheered you. Any time plants are involved is a good time, right? :)

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  16. Love your conservatory,Beth, full of happy, happy plants. Mine are pathetic in comparison, but they have to endure fluctuations of heat and cold in a small window. I have sun-room envy. P. x

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    1. Hi Pam: It's funny, I spend most of my time out there in the spring, summer, and fall. In fact, it's my default office. But in the winter it's pretty cool and uncomfortable for more than just watering/tending the plants. But it's nice to have for overwintering and starting plants.

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  17. Not quite the right conditions to do what you do. But I am managing to keep some orchids going.

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    1. Your orchids are beautiful, Linda! I've been meaning to get one again. I actually think the sunroom would be too cool for an orchid, so I'd have to keep it elsewhere -- and away from the cats! Spring is close now. :)

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  18. Attractive little rock garden. Best of luck with your seeds. I don't give them enough attention indoors. I have good intentions but no follow-through.

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    1. Thanks! The rock garden is actually three clay pots that I move outside in warmer weather. I'm hoping I'll have some success with the seeds, but nothing showing yet. Crossing my fingers. ;-)

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  19. Lovely post, nice to see some plants and I am liking your little rock garden. I put some seeds in a few trays today, and poped them on the windowsill, most enjoyable. Might have to buy some more, have missed the garden over winter..
    Amanda xx

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    1. Thank you, Amanda. I've missed the garden, too. I've been trying to get out and walk about as much as possible, but not much growth to see yet. We don't have frigid weather in the forecast, though, so it can't be long now! Good luck with your seeds!

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  20. The plants are starting to grow and to dry out a bit faster in response to that stronger sunshine. I do winter over some very big cordylines in the barn along with abutilon and geraniums. I am not sure if it is worth it as the electric bill shows a big jump. Spring is close!

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    1. Good for you with the overwintering in the barn--you have a heated barn? Nice! Yes, spring is definitely showing its face a bit. Not in full swing for a while, but on its way soon!

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  21. The days are getting longer. All our snow is gone, do you still have snow on the ground?

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    1. Hi Jason: Yes, longer days are fabulous! Most of the Madison metro area is free of snow, but our shady backyard is always slow to lose all its snow. So, we have some big patches yet. On Saturday, it was so warm that we had pools of water on the lawn from melting ice and snow. It hasn't been a tough winter, but I'm happy spring is almost here. :)

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  22. Hi Beth, it must be such a joy to have a conservatory living in an area with so long and harsh winters like you do!
    Like you I also like the combination of the ivy and the purple oxalis very much.
    Hope your seeds will germinate for you. I haven't grown anything from seeds for a long time, which is kind of sad. But if I would do it in our mild winters I could probably start most of the seeds outdoors. No need to overwinter plants indoors here as well. We rarely get frost and if we do I only have to place a light cover of my orchids. That's life of a gardener here in San Diego ;-)! It would be perfect, if it wouldn't get so hot in the summer and if we wouldn't be in a drought for four years. I guess there is always something...
    Wishing you a wonderful week!
    Christina

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  23. What a lovely place to nurture your tender plants, I imagine your seeds will do really well too.

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  24. Houseplants really do help get gardeners through winter. I have cut down on them with all my travel, but the succulents went crazy with growth while I was away. Love orchids too. Easy care.

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  25. So nice to see the contrasts of outdoors/indoors cultivation, it really is great to have those south facing windows to grow cactus and grasses. Nice your mini conservatory!

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