Gardening Love and Lunacy

asparagus fern indoors

Let’s face it: gardening in a northern zone means November is about as depressing as gardening gets. I mean, I love my plants, and watching the last little flowers on my rose bushes, obedient plants and a few other late-blooming soldiers succumb to the frigid temps actually makes me sad. I know there is nothing I can do, however, so as the colors fade, I find myself walking through the yard grazing my hand across spent flowers and leaves and thanking them for their hard work.

Yup—totally crazy.

But that pales in comparison to the lunacy that happens with my patio pots, where I’ve determined there IS something that I can do. The fact is that I can’t bear to watch them die, so if I can carry it, it comes in the house. Now, this is stupid for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that I actually have other things to do besides run a full-scale nursery inside my house for the winter. Also, despite my best efforts at rinsing the plants, I’m pretty sure my house is now filled with spiders.

We aren’t talking about 10 or 12 pretty pots of flowering annuals. We are talking about upwards of 50 containers large and small holding everything from tropical hibiscus and cape jasmine to sprawling asparagus ferns and every manner of annual flower. Plant stands and wire racks in my dining room plus a reflective growing room in my basement burst with life that I just can’t say goodbye to, and while grow lights make my electricity meter spin like a propeller, I spend the winter wondering about the degree of sanity involved in such an ambitious operation.

Besides, some of these plants don’t even like to be in the house, and a significant number of them resentfully limp through the winter with their artificial light and my cheerful pep talks only to emerge in the late spring as a shadow of their former selves. Coaxing them back to glory is work, and some never make it.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. Wouldn’t it be easier for some plants to just get seeds or seedlings and start new plants up fresh in late winter? Maybe. But some of these potted plants really do come through winter like champions and it’s exciting, not to mention cost effective, to have instant patio decor with mature plants in the spring. But for those that struggle, it’s something different. These plants, they are living things, and we’ve been through some stuff together. I nurtured them in the spring and summer, and, in exchange, their flowers and foliage made my space beautiful. When the weather turns cold, to leave them to die on the patio rather than try to bring them through the winter indoors – well, it just feels wrong.

Yup. Certifiable. But I’m a happy plant hoarder so in the end it feels a bit like a labor of love. I’m a less happy spider killer, but that’s a different blog. Happy November, gardeners. I hope your winter indoor gardening is slightly saner than mine.


Cynthya Porter is the editor of Northern Gardener magazine. A professional writer, photographer and editor for 20+ years, she's freelanced for USA Today, Huff Post, AAA Living, Minnesota Monthly, Midwest Living and more.

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  1. Maurice Spangler on November 7, 2022 at 10:46 pm

    Talk about crazy. We put on a solarium 10 or so years ago and that’s where the potted plants–geraniums, hibiscus, gardenias etc.– reside in the winter plus the parsley, sage and rosemary that I dig out of the garden. (The thyme stays outside.) Attitude adjustment helps as well. I like spiders.

    • MSHS on November 8, 2022 at 3:32 pm

      Might seem crazy to some, but not to this community of northern gardeners! A packed-full solarium sounds like a dream. You have a fun winter ahead – keep us posted. Maurice!

  2. Betsy on November 8, 2022 at 3:10 pm

    I also bring some of my plants in.. I just can’t watch them freeze and die. What kind of grow lights do you use?

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