Although February is almost over, it doesn’t look like winter is departing any time soon. We got 6 inches/15 cm of snow last weekend and more is expected tonight. My garden is hardly visible under the layers of snow and ice. It will probably be at least mid-April before I see any sign of green.
However, in the interim, I have my own little flowering oasis in a corner of my bedroom. Thanks to my crazy azalea, I get to enjoy a beautiful flowers plant to enjoy throughout the winter. This year, I have had the added bonus of an orchid in bloom.
While I consider myself to be a competent and knowledgable gardener, my azalea blooms every winter, with little or no encouragement from me. I put it outside on the back porch as soon as I can in the spring – once the risk of frost has passed. It stays out there until there is a threat of frost and then I bring it back inside. During the winter, it lives in a west-facing window in our bedroom. And every year, it starts to bud in early December. Usually by Christmas, it’s in bloom and stays that way until mid-March.
The only attention I ever give the azalea is to cut back some of the branches. A master gardener once told me that a mature plant could be cut back by up to a third every year. So I usually try to shape it a little bit every spring. Every 2-3 years, I change the soil. Of course, I water it regularly in the winter. In exchange for my benign neglect, my azalea goes into a blooming frenzy during the winter months. What’s not to like about this arrangement?
I am not much more attentive to my orchids. I water them no more than once a month – when the bark in the pot feels completely dry. Since orchids apparently prefer to be watered from the bottom up, I put 2 pop bottles worth of warm (not hot) water in a sink and let the plants sit in it for a couple of hours. The trick to getting orchids to bloom is to fertilize them regularly, so I throw some orchid food in the water with the plants. Since I started feeding my orchids, they bloom at least twice a year, often at the same time. Like azaleas, orchids bloom for several weeks, even months.
As much as I like winter, thanks to my orchid and my azalea, I have lovely flowers to look at every morning. Even better, I hardly have to do anything to get them to bloom. This trick doesn’t seem to work as well on my garden, but by the time I can get outside, the weather will be warm and the tulips will be coming up. More flowers in my future.