Winter storage

What have you done with all of the tender perennials you bought this summer?  Are they in the compost heap?  Have you left them where they were planted in hopes of a mild winter come-back?  Did you take cuttings?  Have you filled your garage/basement/livingroom with plants in pots and roots in bags?

We can answer “Yup!” to all of the above but obviously we have the big advantage of a working greenhouse that we can fill with stock plants, cuttings and more phormiums (a.k.a. New Zealand flax) than any garden could ever need.  When Margaret Roach came through the greenhouse, she noticed the phormiums (that Gail so cleverly tried to hide behind other plants so it wouldn’t look like we’re hoarding them) and mentioned that she winters hers over in the basement.  She also winters her cordylines (Cabbage palm/Cordyline australis) in the basement and I’ll bet you a dollar that her plants look a lot healthier than ours.  I have always suggested a cool but bright winter spot for things like phormiums. – Not that I don’t believe Margaret, but has anyone else kept them in the dark?

Geraniums (Pelargonium) are another plant that can go “down cellar” (as we Rhode Islanders say it).  You can leave them in their pot, cut them back a bit and allow them to mostly? dry out.  Or you can un-pot them and hang them upside down by their naked roots – but that sounds a little like hortitorture to me.  I have a vague repressed memory of losing geraniums that I kept (forgot) in the basement and wonder if anyone else has tried either of these methods successfully?  We take cuttings earlier in the fall and keep a few stock plants in the greenhouse where they inevitably get leggy or weird from growing when they’d much rather slow down.  [Here's a tip you probably already know:  When you take geranium cuttings, let them callous overnight in an open plastic bag before sticking them in the rooting medium.]

Gail loves tender salvias more than anyone else I know so we winter over as many as we can make room for – mostly by taking cuttings.  She’s had some luck with salvias like S. guaranitica and S. uliginosa wintering over in her own garden so we’ll leave a couple in the Display Garden this year too.  You never know – every once in a while even a forgotten dahlia comes back after a mild winter.  We will leave the Savias standing for now with all their own woody protection and we’ll mulch them with shredded leaves.  Fingers crossed.

The potting shed cellar is fairly warm (around 60°F) because of the furnaces but we do keep 4 o’clock (Mirabilis) tubers, gladiolus bulbs, dormant lemon verbena plants and dahlia tubers (in paper bags this year – fingers crossed) down there.

So, what have you done with your tender perennials?

4 thoughts on “Winter storage

  1. I generally avoid the tender perennials because we absolutely must bring them in for winter, or buy a new one every spring. How do people avoid bringing in the bugs with them and ending up with little flies throughout the house? I have wonderful memories of when my father grew dahlias. I would consider trying those someday. We have to dig them up and store them indoors each fall.

    Amy, Your season is short enough that I see why you might hesitate to buy the tender perennials. But I think you can mostly avoid a bug problem – things that die back like the salvias and “hardy” (zone 8 hardy!) fuchsias could be cut way back and put down cellar. And dahlias certainly would be easy-peasy. The only extra step for you would be to give everything an earlier start upstairs and then maybe you’d have to be on the bug lookout for a month or so. -kris

  2. Kris, my attitude in Maine is if the perennial isn’t going to make it through the long winter then it’s an annual. You must really enjoy your greenhouse in the winter. What tropical paradise!

    Sarah, I do love the greenhouse – but “tropical” it’s not! — Although it’s true that on days like today, 50 will probably feel downright balmy (it’s only 46 and 48 in there right now though!) -kris

  3. Hi Kris,

    No indoor plants….the cat is the problem but if I could I would have a greenhouse…there are a few plants that I would love to over winter..tender perennials and annuls. I do love to visit the greenhouses at public gardens on cold winter days….the sun, humidity, flowers and warmth make me want to curl up like a cat in the sunniest spot. Keep warm! Gail

    Gail, Our greenhouse is always open to folks like you who need a dose of (relative) warmth and green growing things throughout the winter. — Your cat doesn’t like houseplants? Mine love them! A little too much maybe… -kris

  4. Kris: Plants everywhere! It would help if I had a cool, sunny location instead of the warmth of the house but one has to make due with what one has! I do have a greenhouse attachment but is has more office items in it than anything else! 20F here this morning….brrrrrr!

    Layanee, If I worked in your office/greenhouse I think pretty soon I wouldn’t be able to find the computer under all of my begonias! And I think you might have been a degree or 10 below us this morning – surprise surprise! brrrr is right. -kris

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