Fighting the Winter Blues

Meet “Splash”!

It’s late January and we’ve had over a week without sunshine. The past two days we’ve had snow. Yesterday everything was shut down for a “Big Winter Storm” with 6-10″ predicted. Schools, businesses and roads were closed….. We got 1 1/2″ (not complaining about that!) The downward spiral had been creeping in; I could feel it. It always happens this time of year, when there are so few hours of sunshine. Last year I tried one of those “happy lamps” which is supposed to counteract SDD, but I ended up with red spots on my face so I haven’t even plugged it in yet this year. Instead, I grow amaryllis. Usually I start a succession of bulbs to begin when the holiday decorations come down. This year I was a bit tardy, and the first flower just opened two days ago. The one above is “Splash” which quickly became one of my favorites (even though it is red!) when it came mislabeled with two compatriots that were orange. Just looking at its magic helps lift my spirits.

This one is “Voodoo”

Yesterday “Voodoo” began to open and was a cheering sight with the background of falling snow. The flowers are much smaller than “Splash” but it’s also a double petaled bloom that is a bit more in the orange spectrum. This is my first year growing it, but I think I like it. It’s always interesting to see the succession of blooms. I start a new bulb every week or so until they are all planted so theoretically there should be one flowering all the time January through mid-May. Years ago I started with one after-Christmas discount bulb for 50 cents. Over the years, I’ve used birthday checks to purchase more, been given some as gifts, and my earliest bulbs have multiplied until now I have 28! However, I never have that many weeks of bloom because some bulbs are slow growers, and some are very quick to bloom! I suppose it depends upon their size, but also if they are native to the southern hemisphere or the northern. For example right now there are three in bloom, the two above and this one that opened this morning.

“Appleblossom” was a prize!

“Appleblossom” is definitely more pink. In fact it looks darker in the photo against the snowy background than it actually is. It’s a soft, soft pink with slightly pinker tips on the single row of petals. I won it at a Christmas party last month, so it’s a first-timer also. So the amaryllis are my first line of defense against the winter blues.

The seedling light stand is already filled!

The second thing that keeps me going in winter are my plant babies. Already in the basement are over 1,000 potted seedlings plus many, many more sprouting and growing that will be transplanted over the weeks to come. There are lisianthus, dianthus, snapdragons, yarrow, delphiniums, rudbeckias, sweet peas, mountain mint, monardas, penstemons, foxgloves, lemon catnip, agastache, feverfews, centurea, anchusa, coleus, and salpiglossis. In flats in the other room ranunculus and anemone corms are sprouting, and pots of lavandin “Abrialli” that I took as cuttings in late August are growing on. Some mornings I rush down to see if any new seeds have sprouted, still in my pajamas while the tea brews! These little green babies are so full of life and potential. They obviously believe that Spring will come! How can I doubt it?

Doesn’t look like a birthday cake, but it is!

Yes, today is my birthday…number 76 I think, although who really cares about numbers other than the license bureau. I did check mine, and it doesn’t require renewal until next year. Whew! So, I baked my self a cake, and Yes… I can have cake for breakfast if I want to, a sliver mid-morning and again for lunch! No bother with frosting or candles, but there were strawberries from the freezer that tasted almost fresh from potager to top it. There are some benefits to growing old! Few around to criticize for one, and not having to share the cake!

And how am I going to spend the rest of my day, you may ask? Well, sadly I’m traveling to a funeral, which seems to be happening a lot as I age. That also contributes to the downward spiral, but we battle on, counting our blessings, cherishing our memories of good times and good people, tending our baby plants, watching the magic as petals unfurl, and dreaming of Spring!


About carolee

A former professional herb and lavender grower, now just growing for joy in my new potager. When I'm not in the garden, I'm in the kitchen, writing, or traveling to great gardens.
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26 Responses to Fighting the Winter Blues

  1. Dawn Hubbell says:

    Happy Birthday, Carolee! Yes, turning to my plants has helped me navigate many of life’s ups and downs.


  2. Happy birthday and thanks for a lovely post. I hope Winter passes quickly for you. It’s always a struggle for me too but like you I look ahead to the growing seasons, grow Amaryllis and write a cheerful blog.


    • carolee says:

      Thank you, and yes, you do write a cheerful blog. I think it must be easier for you because your time without flowers outdoors is so very short! Primulas, hellebores and lots of bulbs already pushing through!!! I’m certainly ready for that!!


      • Thank you Carolee. I would find your winters very hard. Here in the UK there is always something growing and even in Winter there are odd days when it’s mild and a little robin joins me while I tidy the garden. Helps tremendously.


      • carolee says:

        My daughter once lived in Norwich, so I’ve been to England often. And yes, you Brits seem to be able to grow about anything and always have something in bloom. I DO enjoy a bit of winter and “down time” but sometimes it is a little tooooooo long!!!


  3. bcparkison says:

    Happy birthday…January is a good month for a birthday. Mine was yesterday (25) and I’m a couple of years older then you. Where 78 years have gone is a wonder but I wouldn’t trade any of them …I don’t think. Spring is just around the corner and you look to be getting ready. Don’t forget the video for GK Sat. I’m still trying to “get my act together”and be more a part of their wonderful doings.


  4. Happy Birthday!
    I would love to hear how you do your amaryllis. I don’t know anything about planting bulbs inside, I only know to plant them outdoors in the fall. Do you store the bulbs somewhere and then plant them each week? Or are they planted, put in a cold place, and then each week you bring a new one to the warmth and water it? Again, I know nothing about it but am very interested. I think new flowers blooming throughout the short winter days is a wonderful idea!


    • carolee says:

      When you purchase the bulbs, suspend the roots (and roots only!) in water overnight. Then plant in moist potting soil in a heavy pot (the plants can get top heavy with those large blooms and tip over otherwise) burying only the roots and bottom 1″ of the bulb. Place in a warm, sunny place. In a few days the bloom stalk will begin to grow. Water only when soil feels dry 1″ deep and don’t water the bulb itself. The bulb may produce one or sometimes two bloom stalks. As the flowers fade, pinch them off. When all the flowers on a stalk are finished, cut the stalk off near the bulb. Keep in a warm, sunny spot as the leaves grow. At that point I fertilize weekly with a diluted fertilizer when watering. When the weather is warm and settled and nights are in the 40’s or more, you can move them outdoors to a lightly shaded spot. If it doesn’t rain, I water with weak fertilizer once a week. Otherwise ignore them. When first frost comes, cut off the frosted leaves and move the plants indoors to a dark spot. Don’t water for at least two months and just let them rest. When you are ready to begin bringing them back to growth, gently remove the papery outer layers that are loose and repot the bulb, removing any babies that may have formed over the summer and putting them in nursery pots. I put a bit of time-release fertilizer in the potting soil. Move to warmth and sun. Repeat year after year! Enjoy!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. margieclyde says:

    Happy Birthday! I also love growing Amaryllis during the winter. They are so cheery on these dismal days.


  6. peggywright says:

    Happy Birthday! We too, are visiting a number of funeral homes. Joy and sorrow travel together.


  7. Lauren says:

    Happy birthday- this is my first year without having an amaryllis in January and I miss them terribly- yours are beautiful. Happy birthday to you!


  8. jorjagrael says:

    Happy birthday! This is the first year I’ve grown amaryllis, and I sent them to my mother-in-law. She’s almost 92, and can no longer get out to care for her flowers. The amaryllis have made her happy. I also forced some hyacinth bulbs for the first time.


  9. Lovely post! I read your advice on looking after bulbs after flowering with interest as mine never seem to reflower and they are so lovely!


    • carolee says:

      My first one didn’t reflower but I kept it inside all year. Once I began moving them outdoors for the summer, they flourished. Just don’t forget to bring them back in and let the bulb freeze!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Going Batty in Wales says:

    A belated Happy Birthday Carolee. Sorry to hear that the short days are getting to you – hopefully they are drawing out a bit now and you will soon feel better. Your Amarylis are lovely and very cheerful. You have started your seeds very early – mine are still in their packets but without heat and light there is no point sowing them yet. Soon though, soon.


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