Gloxinia glory, from a single packet of seeds, sown in May.

       When The Garden Comes Indoors

Early December

Many gardeners have hung up their boots and retreated indoors to look out upon a rather dismal garden scene closed down for the winter. Except for the really hardy ones, the roaming photographers have turned to indoor subjects. Other people are concentrating on shopping and food for Christmas and thinking about next year’s summer holidays! …What good can come out of the garden this month?

Even though we garden on the south coast in Sussex, the first frosts have already arrived and most of the tender flowers have finished.  My small  8 x 10  unheated, but frost free garden room and the garage, are filling up with tender plants in pots to last through the winter.

Outside, however, some of the stalwart winter beauties are beginning to show their blooms in the garden outside—and I shall look at them in another post, hopefully.

The  Show Keeps Going indoors

As gardeners, we have  to move indoors now but to encourage us, even further joys await us there as the winter flowering pots plants start coming into flower. These lovely Gloxinias, sown in May from a single packet of ‘Empress Mixed’ seed have been a delight recently. In the cool garden room are other star performers waiting in the wings for their turn on show indoors, such as the indispensable later flowering Christmas Cactus and the Lachenalias , which are usually out before Christmas. These come back from bulbs each year, very obligingly, like old friends renewing their acquaintance with us.


Lachenalia bulbiferum ‘George’, one of the most vigorous varieties

Primula malacoides, (in flower from January onwards) with delightful choice scent are some of my favourites, too delicate to be available from garden centres, so have to be grown by seed at home.dscn6174

Other scented delights will be the Paper White Narcissus filling the room with scent at Christmas time, followed a few weeks later by Narcissus Soleil d’or and the early forced Hyacinths. Then it will be the turn of  Veltheimias growing again from last year’s bulbs. This year’s flower spikes are just about to open along with sweetly scented Cyclamen persicum (the scented wild form). Sadly, the plant breeders of Cyclamen, seem to have bred out any real scent in the large modern varieties.

These are all seed raised plants (not counting the bulbs). I am always after scented indoor plants as they give twice the pleasure, for the nose as well as the eyes and enriching the rooms of the house with delightful fragrance, and you don’t to have to pay the earth for them. Winter flowering Beauty of Nice Stocks  will soon be ready to pack a punch of scent for us. Come early spring and it will be the turn of the overwintered Cinerarias in their bright colours and the Schizanthus (poor man’s orchid), and  the other autumn sown winter annuals.

I’m sorry, but when it comes to the indoor winter garden I couldn’t disagree more than with Shakespeare here!

‘Why should proud summer boast
Before the birds have any cause to sing?
Why should I joy in an abortive birth?
At Christmas I no more desire a rose
Than wish a snow in May’s new-fangled mirth;
But like of each thing that in season grows.’

(‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’)

The Cool Greenhouse

For the first time this year I am also trying out other autumn sown annuals like  Clarkia and Antirrhinums. Autumn sown annuals can give fine displays throughout winter. The book ‘The Cool Greenhouse’  by Noel Sutton, a relative of mine, explained how to use a cool greenhouse, from which frost is excluded, to give a show of colour all year round. Sadly this book is long out of print, but there are a few copies second hand to be found online. A packet of annual seeds is very cheep, but with a bit of care and attention you will be rewarded by a wealth of colour and scent. But your window-sills may get a little crowded. How I wish I had a conservatory!

So, whatever the weather outside, bring on the show!

What an attractive colour green can be – especially when mixed with white. This show lasts all the year (except for the orchids).


‘Who loves a garden loves a greenhouse too.
Unconscious of a less propitious clime,
There blooms exotic beauty, warm and snug,
While the winds whistle and the snows descend…

….All plants, of every leaf that can endure
The winter’s frown, if screen’d from his shrewd bite,
Live there, and prosper.’

( William Cowper – from ‘The Task’ )


Someone else who wants to move inside in winter.! Sadly we see very few of these Small Tortoiseshells these days, as with so many other butterflies. I do wish our gardens could be  adorned with these beauties as in past days.





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