Get thee to a greenhouse
It’s a sunny, breezy 24 degrees F. outside and a sunny, fragrant, toasty-feeling 62 in the greenhouse. I’d rather be in the greenhouse than out of it right now. If you’re anything like me, in the middle of deep winter on the cusp of the age of aquarius you have a serious case or at least the onset of a serious case of cabin fever. It’s raw outside and it’s funky inside. For a gardener, I think the best cure is to surround yourself with plants.
As I see it there are a couple of options. For the unwilling to venture out, you could gather all of your plant babies together (or make the rounds) and spend some quality time grooming them. Have you started fertilizing yet? If you have, you might notice bugs on the succulent new growth. There’s nothing better than a little pest-icide on a winter’s day. Do you have a favorite method of control? In the greenhouse we duke it out with aphids, whitefly, mealy bug, scale and occasionally spidermite. We recently tried a Neem spray by Organica which cost $9 for a quart. For the difference in price between that and dish soap/insecticidal soap and no discernible difference in results, I have to say I prefer using soap. With soap I can spray with abandon! Neither Gail nor I love the smell of the Neem or the insectical soap, and I’m thinking of switching to my favorite lavender scented dish soap. Doesn’t lavender oil have insecticidal properties too or am I making that up? (Not that there’s much/any real lavender oil in the soap…) When I use any kind of soap, I dilute it so that there’s just the hint of a bubble in the spray and we don’t use it on the ferns or anything else with sensitive pores. We used to use horticultural oil (again, not on ferns, etc) but probably because I do have a tendency to spray with wanton abandon, many poor plants suffered under the onslaught and their leaves burned. It is best to spray -anything- on a cloudy day. Horticultural oil will kill scale but I actually prefer picking them off by hand and washing leaves and stems to control the sooty mold that grows on their sugary poo.
If you’ve already turned your own house into a greenhouse (anytime you pay attention to the plants in your house, you’re in a virtual greenhouse) and you’re ready for an outing – think about going to an actual greenhouse to indulge in a different climate. Not all greenhouses feel tropical but they are warmer than the outdoors and more humid than indoors – a welcome sigh in the middle of dry winter! More often than not there’s a scent or 12 to sip with your breath too. This teeny weeny little cluster of blooms is part of what’s scenting our greenhouse these days. It’s a Sweet Olive – Osmanthus fragrans and it’s delish.
The trip to the Smith College Botanic Garden is still on and there’s not much time left to sign up (the deadline for registration is February 6). Don’t miss this trip – sign up now and cure that cabin fever! Check out the Smith College Botanic Garden site if you need more motivation.
(click on images for a larger view and captions)