Last updated on December 2nd, 2011
A glowing scarlet geranium, the delicate pink cluster of a begonia, purple African violets, white narcissus and the pendant sparkle of a cactus — how they lift my spirit in winter, when the days are short and the flamboyance of the summer garden is only a memory! Here are some of my favorites, in a photo gallery:
Wearing whimsical, medium-green and white polka-dot leaves, and bearing fragrant, reddish-pink flowers all winter long, the fibrous angel-wing Begonia ‘Bubbles’ thrives for me on a plant tray in the library window. The tray, filled with pebbles and water, provides the humidity that brings out Bubble’s apple-blossom scent.
Boasting the highest bud-count of all paperwhites, Narcissus ‘Nir’ perfumes the eastern window in the guestroom. The bulbs, forced in a bowl of pebbles, water, and a little gin to check growth, were planted in October for Thanksgiving bloom. Click here to see my special forcing program.
Impatiens walleriana is always dependable in winter. Mine, a lavender variety rescued from the summer garden, blooms nonstop on a plant shelf in the guestroom.
The seldom grown Sweet Olive, Osmanthus fragrans, is never out of bloom. It’s tiny clusters of creamy white emit the sweet air of apricot. Avoid too much fertilizer, or the plant’s leaf tips will turn brown.
Another little-known gem is the fragrant African Gardenia, Mitriostigma axillare. This one is far easier to grow than its “real” gardenia relatives, and it is never without flowers.
Schlumbergera truncate (or truncata), the Thanksgiving cactus, is a bracket plant par excellence. Above, the reddish-orange ‘Kris Kringle’ observes life from an old kerosene lamp bracket.
Another truncate, soft-pink ‘Sonja,’ dazzles the crowd from a lofty perch in the music room. To learn more about the Thanksgiving cactus, click here.
Opera Supreme ‘Pink Morn,’ one of several petunias I’ve rescued from the outdoor garden, is blooming again after a two-month sojourn beneath fluorescents in my study. How I enjoy the sweet, summery-scent while composing this blog! For company occasions, the plant is moved to a stand in the entrance hall. My special method for overwintering petunias and other tender plants can be found here.
‘Candy,’ a dwarf pelargonium, sends up soft-pink umbrels all winter. It has bloomed for me in both south and east windows, and also beneath fluorescent lights.
Even a citrus grove is possible in winter. Here, the dwarf ‘Key Lime,’ Citrus aurantifolia, blooms and fruits in full sun. Both flowers and fruit are exquisitely fragrant. Aurantifolia enjoys the same culture as Meyer Lemon, another great citrus for a winter window.
These wax begonias, B. semperflorens, are storm troopers; they flower nonstop even when skies are dull.
Winter is just an illusion when you have African violets. With proper care, the plants bloom continuously. Pictured above is Saintpaulia ‘Special Treat,’ with fully double, rich purple petals edged in white.
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African Violets: My Easy, Always-In-Bloom Program
Paperwhites & Other Tropical Bulbs on a Water (& Gin) Diet
The Evergreen & Everblooming Sweet Olive (Osmanthus fragrans)
The African Gardenia
November Brilliance: The Thanksgiving Cactus (Schlumbergera truncate)
Overwintering Tender Herbs & Annuals