With an Eye On the Weather

C. Sasanqua, "Jingle Bells" unfolding its first blossom this year.

C. Sasanqua, “Jingle Bells” unfolding its first blossom this year.

We checked the weather forecast repeatedly today.

On days like this, we just wish all of the local media weather people would get together on a conference call and work it out among themselves.

Instead, we are hearing a different story on most every channel.  And none of them see it the way the Weather Channel staff is calling it for the next week.

Time to finally bring this cane Begonia in for the winter.

Time to finally bring this angel wing cane Begonia “Sophia” in for the winter.

The day started with a weather report from my partner, and then a dash to the car to see whether the dashboard thermometers agreed with the TV’s “Locals on the 8s.”  They didn’t.

Why such concern?  Most of our potted things were still outside soaking up the sunshine and gentle autumn rain.  Please notice the past tense of that statement.

A late rose

A late rose

We were hearing more than a 10 degree spread on the forecast for low temperatures tonight, depending on who we listened to.  Not an issue for the Camellias, but definitely an issue for the Begonias.  You see, we may have our first dip below 32F tonight, with wind from the northwest.  That is a recipe for disaster for any annual or tender perennial abandoned to the elements over night.

In fact, the weather maps on the 10 day forecast are filled with this huge blue field of cold high pressure air swooping down from Canada.  Not only are we hearing, in minute detail, about the wintery temperatures on the way, we even heard them discuss the “S” word for next week.  REALLY?  We need to think about snow before Thanksgiving in coastal Virginia?

Snaps will bloom happily outside all winter.

Snaps will bloom happily outside all winter, and the lamb’s ears will green up in early spring with lush growth.

So far, we’ve had roller coaster temps and Indian summer.  It was 70F here yesterday.  I’ve let the daytime sunshine balance out the early morning dips into the 40s or even high 30s, providing a little shelter for the tender potted things and hoping they could withstand the cool.

So, with one eye on the monster typhoon crossing the Philippines, headed directly into Vietnam, where a dear friend is on a cruise with her extended family; the other eye was fixed on tonight’s forecast and the projected lows for the next several nights.  And on the threat of snow.

This cane Begonia "Cracklin Rosie" has grown huge outside.  It was quite a challenge to get it inside with minimal damage.

This cane Begonia, “Cracklin Rosie,” has grown huge outside. It was quite a challenge to get it inside with minimal damage.

By noon the decision was made.

Today was the day to bring in any potted plant we’re not willing to see freeze.  I was handed Latex gloves, and I accepted one for the “infected thumb hand.”  Then I was handed gardening gloves.

I could see this was going to be a big deal, but that I would have help.

Ivy geraniums love the cool, but will freeze in the cold.  This one came inside today.

Ivy geraniums love the cool, but will freeze in the cold. This one came inside today.

My allotted space in the garage, between the hot water heater, the washer, and the steps had already been outlined with dots of “Duck Yellow” paint.  I had partially covered the area with a white plastic tablecloth, to better protect the floor this winter, days ago when the first of the Begonias came inside.  Now it was finally time to match the right plastic saucer to the right plant in the right spot.

Oh how I hate bringing the plants in.  Not only do I hate bringing them in out of the sunshine they need; but I hate mucking with the muddy summer saucers, the fallen leaves stuck deep in the branches, and the occasional slug or snail clinging to pot or leaf.

The baskets and pots are heavy and awkward.  Worse, I hate seeing bits broken off as we move them from deck or patio to narrow doorway to their allotted winter spot.

It is a very messy operation.  But I would hate watching them die in the cold so very much more.

The Bougainvillea is still outside tonight.  We'll need to bring it in before it snows.

The Bougainvillea is still outside tonight. We’ll need to bring it in before it snows.

We carefully calculate the timing for each plant.  How much cold can it stand?  What if we shelter it close to the house under the eaves?  How likely is it to warm up again?  How well will it fare inside for five months, and what will it look like by spring?

October 25 flowers and berries 006

Dragon wing Begonias will wither when they freeze. They root easily from cuttings, so one saved plant can yield many for spring.

There isn’t enough room for all of them, but we get very creative to save as many as we can.

Hanging baskets stand in empty five gallon buckets.  Others sit in combinations of plastic trays to both support them and catch the inevitable drips from watering.

Some we keep mainly for late winter cuttings, others we know will soon go dormant and won’t need much light.  The choicest come inside to the living room, the rangy stay in the garage.

It amazes me to see how huge some of the Begonias have grown this summer.  Two of the canes stand taller than either of us, and we aren’t small people.  They look so much bigger now that they are inside.  They fill the allotted space with a dense forest of leaf, bloom, and branch.

A friend recently asked whether I’d considered getting a greenhouse.  The answer is a resounding, “Yes!” but so far that hasn’t been an option.  There is no good place to site it here where falling trees or limbs wouldn’t be a constant worry.

The cane Begonias look so much larger inside.

The cane Begonias look so much larger inside.

So we appreciate our bright garage with windows to let in the winter sunlight.  We appreciate our bright living room with space to line up the pots like obedient elephants in a circus.  We appreciate the windowsills wide enough for little pots of orchids and cyclamen, and the good light we receive on bright days.

Our entire home becomes a greenhouse from November through April.

Oct. 6 pots 002

Cyclamen love the cool autumn, but must come in before a freeze.

Late this afternoon, when most of the moving was finished and I was soaking the thumb before fixing us some lunch, I found a missed call from a cherished friend.

I returned her call and learned she had “a few things” she wanted to drop off for us.  She had some candles, some magazines, a lent plate to return….  We told her to come on by.

Along with the cardboard carton came a shopping bag- holding a gorgeous asparagus fern.  She didn’t have enough light to keep it through the winter, and she knew we’d find a bright spot for it.

It is lovely, and I have an empty pot in mind….

Our asparagus fern in its new pot.

Our asparagus fern in its new pot.

All photos by Woodland Gnome 2013

November 7 2013 031

A week into November, and winter is closing in.

About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

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