Monthly Archives: January 2011

It’s Never Enough

bench in snow

Hmmm…that’s assuming you like snow, which I do.  Alternative post titles I considered: ” Too Much Is Not Enough” (in favor of snow), “Too Much of a Good Thing?” (neutral), “Enough, Already!” (against), and simply, as my aunt used to say, “BASTA!” (Enough! in Italian).

Although I may be running out of things to say about snow, I can never  take enough pictures of it. Try as I might, I rarely get a shot that captures the feeling I get from seeing the snowy landscape. Everything new, everything from a different perspective. It forces us to break away from the routine, even if it’s because we have to shovel. It’s a chance to delight in a snow day, play outside or cozy up inside, and think about how the forces of Nature can still exert some control over what we do.  I love that! Whether it’s a blizzard, a mighty thunderstorm, or a heatwave, I want to enjoy it,  immerse myself in it, and remember that I’m a part of something bigger.

Last spring during the floods, I sent photos to relatives out of state. One wrote me back, saying “that’s interesting, but I don’t know what it looked like before”. So here, for the sake of compare and contrast, are some pictures to put things in perspective.

bench with doves

Garden bench June 19th, with doves.

Garden bench January 27th.

Stone wall, June 8th

Stone wall, January 12th

Stone wall, January 27th

Stage, May 10th

Stage, January 27th

Peace Lily

Yes, it’s VERY COLD, but there are some gorgeous flowers blooming in the greenhouses right now.The tropical warmth of the Horridge Conservatory is hard to imagine when you’re walking across campus in 12 degree weather …..but it really is toasty in here, especially when the sun comes out.

Winter days are not only shorter, but the angle of the sun is lower. Plants which favor low-light conditions in their native habitats will often flower in the winter here. They make good houseplants, since they don’t need sun as much as they need light. One of these is the Peace Lily, Spathyphyllum species. It’s not a true lily, but rather in the Araceae family with relatives such as Philodendron, Colocasia (Elephant Ear), and Symplocarpus (Skunk Cabbage).  There are about 40 different species of these herbaceous perennials, which are native to tropical areas of the world. Peace Lilies grow best with indirect light,  humidity, and warm temperatures. Spathyphyllum wallisii is flowering in the Conservatory now.  It’s a large clump–3 feet  across–and about 36″ high with the white inflorescense held another 8 or so inches above the shiny dark green leaves.

Peace Lilies, along with other types of tropical plants,  have been shown to help clean indoor air of chemical pollutants. The research was initially done by NASA,  focused  on indoor air pollution abatement. Chemicals like formaldehyde (found in products like particle board and some cleaning products)and benzene (a solvent found in gasoline, inks, oils, paint, plastic and rubber, among other things) can be removed from indoor air by houseplants, and Peace Lily is among the most effective.

It’s not hard to keep a Spathyphyllum plant looking good  at home.  A bright north or east facing window is often enough light. 65-85 degrees is ideal and no cold drafts please ! Water when the soil begins to feel dry, but never let it dry out completely. They like plenty of water and high humidity. Misting with plain water keeps more moisture in the air around the plant , and keeping the leaves free of dust will help it stay healthy and beautiful.

Snow, snow and more snow

The old timers will tell you that snow is the poor man’s fertilizer. An estimated 2 to 12 lbs per acre of nitrogen is deposited on the soil through snow and rain. It comes primarily from  two sources: emissions from burning fossil fuels, and lightning, which fixes atmospheric nitrogen. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that’s the good thing about fossil fuels, but at least when I look out and see snow covering the garden, I know something good is coming out of it (besides me day dreaming over seed catalogs). There’s another good thing about snow in the garden — it insulates the ground and protects plant roots from weather extremes. Very cold and dry weather can cause winter damage through desiccation,and  milder wet weather can cause many otherwise cold- hardy perennials to succumb to root rot.

Truthfully, I enjoy the snow. If its going to be winter, it may as well be real winter weather. Lots of snow for sledding, skiing, snowboarding, snow-fort building, and of course epic snowball fights. And if you have a snow shovel and great determination,  the ponds are frozen too. Skating is my favorite winter weather activity, but I’m waiting for a more hearty soul to get out there with the shovel.

In the Greenhouse

Happy New Year! It may be grayish outside, but the greenhouse is full of color. Where to begin? The Horticulture Club students decorated the Conservatory for their open house just before vacation started. Little lights and big lights, glass balls, garlands, and ribbons have made it quite festive. Tropical flowers and foliage add to the show. The Conservatory is open Monday through Friday from 8-4, so come and see, relax by the water fall, and take home a houseplant for your own bit of indoor color.

There are many tropical plants that will grow well and flower as houseplants, even during the winter. Those which grow under low light conditions in their natural setting are often easy to grow at home. I’ll be highlighting some of these over the next few months.      ( For REALLY low maintenance, we have cactus and succulents. Neglect is what they want, if only because most people kill their plants with kindness —too much water).

While you’re at the Greenhouse, peek into the hallway and check out the new drawings in the Hallway Gallery. They were done by students from Drawing I .  It’s great to see  the plants through someone elses’ eyes and the work is beautiful. I hope to expand the Gallery little by little — plant art is welcome!