The annual dragging in of the plants

By N.A. Booko

Pittsboro, NC – It happens every year . . and every year I hate the thoughts of it and hate even worse, the actual physical part of doing it. No, I don’t mean my annual bath. At the first frost warning, I know I must gather up my beloved potted plants that have been outside on vacation since early May; enjoying the great outdoors and bringing brightness and cheer to my garden.

potted plants near window in rural house
Photo by Vlada Karpovich

I have been dragging in and out certain plants for decades. Every year, it gets more difficult. Not just the fact that i am getting older and don’t bend as easily as I did years ago, but the plants too, are getting bigger, stragglier and wanting more room inside.

I use the bathroom of my old antiques shop. I have simple shelves, and simple everyday fluorescent lights. It works for me. I usually turn on the lights about ten in the morning and off about six at night. Sometimes I forget; leave them on, or leave them off. The plants are forgiving. I keep the temperature about fifty five degrees.

One plant, I have had for more than thirty five years. I am especially careful with. It is native to Jamaica. Called ‘Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.” I once had a seven inch potted plant of Sweet Bay; that grew into a six foot plant/tree. I took it in and out for years. Never used a leaf of it for cooking. Then one fall, I started taking my plants in before the first freeze, and low and behold, there sat my wonderful bay tree, dead! I had forgotten to take it out in the spring and never rechecked to see if all plants were out! Lack of water. I really felt bad about it.

I have cut down considerably in the number of plants I take inside now for the winter. I just can’t handle it as I once could. I do take pains to save my colorful coleus. Can’t always find great ones at the stores in the spring. That way I don’t have to search for my favorite colors. They winter over very well.

In the late 1940s, coleus wasn’t easy to come by like now. They were hand-me-downs. But one neighborhood lady that everybody hated had the most beautiful coleus in town! And she wouldn’t share them. But other neighbors did share. They rooted easily and we kept them inside in a canning jar of water in the wintertime. Some folks kept them going for decades. Even handed down to children and grandchildren.

Happy winter gardening!

BTW, I did the earth.