Flowers in the Depths of Winter

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Flowers in the Depths of Winter

Orchids are tougher than I am! The snow is still deep and it is bitterly cold outside. It is cold in the house, too, dropping to 55 Fahrenheit at night, and perhaps even lower near the windows. But two of the orchid plants have new shoots with flower buds. Incredible!!! What are they thinking? This is the first time I’ve had a chance at rebloom with an orchid, and I’m so nervous I go to look at them several times a day.

Signs of new life are welcome now. I fill my house with flowers and sprouting bulbs, and go out into the snow to cut branches of forsythia and Japanese maple to “force.” On my desk is a wide terra cotta pot filled with fragrant white hyacinths, the favorite flower of environmentalist Rachel Carson. I also plant hyacinth bulbs in special vases, and you can see how wonderful they look, the vase full of pale glimmering roots, the green leaves and flower stalks pushing upwards.

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I learned that paperwhites, a type of fragrant narcissus and a member of the same family as daffodils, can be grown in water, on a little gravel, which is much easier and neater than using pots of soil. This year my paperwhites (???) bloomed at the beginning of the Lunar New Year, which is considered good luck.


I love all kinds of “something from nothing” gardening. In The Armchair Environmentalist, I suggest beginner gardeners try “garbage gardening” with carrot tops. I haven’t done this for years, but it’s fun, and now that I think about it, I’ve grown plants from the top of a pineapple as well.

When I was a kid in California we routinely grew avocado trees from avocado pits by pushing three toothpicks into the side of the clean and shiny avocado pit, and placing it, half-submerged, in a jam jar. The pit would split, and a sturdy green sprout would emerge. We also grew lemon and orange trees, and in a sunny window we were able to grow huge vines from a single sweet potato from the supermarket.

Now that I live in a cold climate where there’s nothing green outside during the winter except tall fir and spruce trees, I’ve discovered there are many ways to grow flowers indoors even in a cold house. These photos show just some of them.


I always replant my hyacinth bulbs outside in a particular part of the garden. They become smaller each year, but remain beautiful and fragrant, and I use them as cutting flowers, filling small vases with them in the spring. It will be many weeks before we have any flowers outside except the life-savingly early golden blossoms of winter aconite. But I have plenty indoors to sustain me, and will be cutting another round of forsythia soon, as well as crab apple branches, which I time so that they will bloom near Easter. They are my favorite “Easter tree.” I’ll write more about the subject of springtime decorating in another post.


What are your favorite winter flowers? Do you manage to keep poinsettia plants alive and the blooming? That’s one of my ambitions.

My bulbs this year came from Van Engelen Inc.

For more details about indoor forcing:

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