Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year 2017!

Cats always know the best places for naps. Tigger and I have spent a lot of time snoozing together here in the sun during the past month.

Happy New Year! We're now in 2017, and I hope we all enjoy a happy and prosperous year, filled with gardening and other life success.

My gardens have been pretty quiet for the past month or so since I last posted -- we enjoyed a warm November, but the temperatures dropped to below-zero in Mid-December, with the lowest being about -15°F (-26°C). While nothing much grows outside in such temperatures, my new sunroom has been lovely and filled with foliage and flowers.

The low temps gave me a chance to see how well the insulation and heating units work in the room, and I've been pleasantly surprised. I set the thermostat to 60°F, and have left the door to our living room open, and the electric baseboard heaters have only come on a handful of times for brief periods overnight, as the more efficient central heater from our house has been nearly sufficient to keep the room warm enough for tropical plants. The temps in the far corners of the room never drop below the upper 50s, even on the coldest nights.

And on sunny days (probably half the days in wintertime are at least partly sunny in Iowa), the room can get quite warm. One morning at 9am, it was still -10°F outside, but because the sun was shining, it was already nearly 80° in the sunroom -- and my 18-year-old cat Tigger was already in his customary spot, warming his ancient bones.

It has been so lovely to spend time reading, napping, conversing with others, and puttering among the plants in my new room, which is now my favorite room in my house. Here are a few scenes from my new Winter Garden:

I bought this Bouganvilla in summer, but it didn't do very well outside and looked mostly
dead and leafless when I  brought it inside this fall and repotted it.
Obviously, it prefers this environment.

My tower of African violets has enjoyed the east exposure in the sunroom. Outside it was
snowy, but inside there were lovely flowers.

Some pansies and a snapdragon that self-seeded themselves in a pot outside in fall -- they seem happy enough indoors.

The last flower on my Mandevilla. In order to flower, it definitely requires more hours of sun than we have at
the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere.

The Arabian jasmine (Jasmine sambac) flowers smell so wonderful. One of my very favorite plants!

Some Christmas plants: a red begonia, Poinsettia and variegated holly. The berries on the holly are not real, but came wired on the plants for holiday effect. However, I bought a couple plain green holly plants a year ago and they have not only survived indoors in my east kitchen window (they're not hardy here in Iowa), but have also flowered and set berries, although the berries are still green.

I started some sweet peas from leftover seeds in mid-December as
an experiment... 

...and potted them up with a trellis a week ago. They've already doubled in height...

...and I've able to observe the twining effect up close, which is really pretty interesting. I don't know if there will be enough light indoors for the sweet peas to flower later in winter -- but even if they don't, they'll have a big head start on ones I plant from seed outdoors. We'll see what the experiment yields. 

Lots of snow outside, but warmth enough in here even on cloudy days. The tall plant at left is an orange tree that I got for free from someone who offered it on Facebook because she was downsizing. It hasn't flowered yet, as it hadn't been fertilized for a long time, but I repotted and fertilized it and hope for fragrant flowers at some point. I hung icicle holiday lights across the front windows, which can be seen outside to cozy effect (I like them so much I think I'll leave them up for the rest of the winter).
In the dark of midwinter, the icicle lights make the house look cozy from the outside, and also light up the inside of the sunroom in a pleasant glow, which makes the room more enjoyable to be in at night.

A lush and verdant view from the couch.

Back to my favorite spot for a good read (and perhaps a little nap too).

All my gardening is indoors these days, and I hardly miss the warmer seasons this winter, in contrast to the feelings of desperation that I usually experience even by the beginning of January. We'll see if I'm able to continue to fool myself that it's not really winter as it drags on through January, February and most of March, but I feel hopeful.

Hope you enjoyed the holidays, and best wishes for the New Year! Thanks for reading, -Beth