Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Dealing with the cold

 A pina colada is garnished with fresh pineapple and maraschino cherries. If that doesn't jingle your bells, what will?

It's times like this -- when we're knee-deep in a cold spell -- that friends in warmer climes ask, "How do you stand it?" Here's one approach that seems to help:

First, get out the blender and make a batch of pina coladas. The flavors of pineapple and coconut immediately transport one to a place where it's summer all day every day. We follow the method outlined in "The Craft of the Cocktail" by Dale Degroff. Degroff says the trick to making a great pina colada is to use both light rum and dark rum, a dash of bitters and heavy cream. We agree.

With summer on my mind, it's a good time to check on some favorite tender plants wintering in the cool, dark closets under the stairs. My record on overwintering tuberous plants such as dahlias, begonias and chocolate cosmos is mixed, but I've done pretty well with waterlilies and brugmansias.

This is my first stab at saving Begonia boliviensis 'Bonfire'. The plant was too lovely to pass up last spring. I'm following Margaret Roach's advice at A Way to Garden -- I cut it back to nothing, left it in its pot and am leaving it dry until it start to shows some bit of growth (hopefully!) in the spring.

It's also my first try with these 'Black Beauty' dahlias. We grew them from seed last year and I'm experimenting with saving the tubers to see if I get flowers earlier.

Chocolate cosmos (Cosmos astrosanguineus) is a favorite and somewhat pricey plant. In the fall, I pulled the plants, cut off the foliage, shook off excess soil and am storing the tubers in a paper bag. So far, so good. I didn't notice any rotting flesh when I checked the bags.

Two closets and two brugmansias. I let the pots dry out and the foliage drop before cutting the plants back by a third to a half and plopping the pots into the dark. I hope they stay dormant until March/April before moving them back into the sun. I do check the soil occasionally throughout the winter and if it seems too dry, throw down a little water. But no soaking -- I don't want the roots to rot.

Waterlilies have become routine. They're hardy waterlilies, but I grow them in containers so they come in for the winter. I cut back all the foliage, double-bag the pots in plastic garbage bags and put them in the cool, dark closet. I give them a little water once or twice a winter. Peeking into the bags the other day, I could see they were already sprouting new growth, but that's OK. They'll be fine until spring.


  1. The chocolate cosmos is one of my favorites. Hope you are successful with them and post more pictures.

  2. You don't always find them in nurseries in this area and they can be expensive if you go the mail order route. I was lucky last spring to find them reasonably priced at Missinnne's near Superior, Wis. Then I spotted 4-inch pots for $1 each when Cub Foods was closing out its garden inventory midsummer. They were leggy and sad-looking but I had to have them knowing it might be possible to overwinter them. Crazy! Who woulda thought you'd find chocolate cosmos at Cub. Guess it always pays to look.

  3. Chocolate cosmos is stunning! Especially after enlarging it; I was mesmerized by its delicately intricate center design. I will be keeping my eyes open for this beauty as I make my nursery rounds.

  4. If I had lots of money, I'd buy chocolate cosmos by the bucket-load. It's nice planted in the ground or in pots.