Hatton: Winter gardening fix

At this time of year I have to constantly make corrections to satisfy my cravings for plants and gardens. Unfortunately, a dose cannot be bought legally or illegally so that I could “shoot” my dose. It has to be different.

Quick, if temporary, solutions can be found by visiting the Amarillo Botanical Gardens Conservatory, which puts one in a tropical setting. Nurseries and garden centers will soon start stocking plants for the spring garden, with some already having plants that they started selling in a few months. And you can always visit other public gardens in warmer climes.

None of this can quench my addiction more than temporarily. I support my habit by having a large conservatory and greenhouse. This allows me to grow many different types of plants as if it were a warm season. Even on the shortest days of the year, the winter garden gets at least five hours of sunshine and the greenhouse at least seven. This means I can always let some plants bloom.

Plants bloom from year to year, but geraniums (pelargoniums) always bloom. In fact, I have a container of it in the conservatory all year round. They are a good plant for low light conditions and are also up to the task of enjoying full sun all day in summer. As with most plants, some species do better than others, but most of the dozen I’ve had over the years have worked pretty well.

To my annoyance, these are generally listed as yearbooks. What people mean and should say is that they are not hardy here. If they were annual plants, they couldn’t be kept in constant bloom year after year because an annual plant would complete its life cycle in a year.

Some annuals, as well as other non-hardy perennials, can be worn for several months to add color. I’ve been lucky with impatiens, begonias, salvias, marigolds, and others that I can’t remember. Some last a long time, some don’t. The fact that they are dug out of the garden, potted, brought inside to lower light levels and a drier environment and often closed outside due to the weather also contribute to the different successes. But it’s worth a try. It just takes some time and potting soil.

Since I carry a lot of non-hardy plants with me, I can also have flowers of yellow bells, lantana and cape plumbago by mid to late winter. Most of them will have recovered from excavation and have new growth, including flowers.

Since most people aren’t lucky enough to have as much sunlight as I am, this is a tougher problem. But there are many plants, even some that will bloom, that do well in the dim light that prevails in most homes in winter. Well worth looking for some of these to help you weather the winter doldrums.

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