Greengirls Helen Yarmoska, Nicole Hvidsten, Martha Buns, Connie Nelson, Kim Palmer and Mary Jane Smetanka are dishin' the dirt from the back-yard garden and beyond. Whether you're a greenthumb or greenhorn, they're eager to learn from your mishaps, mistakes - and most importantly, your sweet successes - all growing season long.

Epic fail

Posted by: Kim Palmer under Annuals, Flowers, Perennials, Transplanting + dividing, Weather, Weekend chores Updated: April 27, 2011 - 11:03 AM

How lame a gardener am I? I haven't even done anything yet and I've already screwed up.

I'm talking about the tropical plants I attempted to "overwinter." 

 

I love big, dramatic tropicals, and I always put a few in my patio pots. I usually treat them like annuals, enjoying them for the season, then saying goodbye in the fall.

 

But last year, I splurged on some exceptional beauties: three black canna, with murky eggplant foliage and brilliant orange-red blooms, and three tibouchina (princess flower bush). Those plants never did produce the bright-purple blossoms that looked so stunning on the tag. But the leaves were huge and furry, and looked cool in my pots. I was determined to give them another chance to strut their stuff.

So I read up on overwintering tropicals, and spent an October afternoon trimming and cleaning the bulbs and blanketing them in peat moss, in individual pots. 

The experts said the plants should spend the winter in a cool, dark place. Unfortunately, I don't really have one. My house has a walkout basement, with sliding-glass doors to a very sunny back yard. Every inch of the basement is finished, except for the furnace room, which is far from cool. 

So to buy time, I tucked the pots in the darkest corner of the garage, behind my daughter's cast-off futon and my son's hockey net. My mother's basement has a dark, cool storage room that would be perfect for wintering plants. I figured I'd bring them there before the first frost.  

 

Out of sight, out of mind. Hockey season started, we got super busy, and I completely forgot about my plants. They spent the entire winter in that corner of the garage.

 

I saw those poor, forgotten pots when I was looking for the tool box last week.  Oops! I thought back to winter -- with several sub-zero days in a row, I know the garage temperature had to have dropped far below the 40 to 50 degrees suggested by the plant pros. Not exactly "cool." I didn't even get the "dark" part right. The garage light was accidentally left on overnight several times, and I seem to remember the garage door being left open more than once.

So much for my attempt to get more than one season out of my tropicals. These pictures show plants that WON'T be making a second appearance at my home.

What about you? I'm sure you were a better plant steward than I was. What have you saved for another season?  

 

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