21 November 2010

Bringing things in

When we lived in San Francisco, we never had to worry much about bringing plants indoors in the wintertime. There, the temperature never, or nearly never, went down to freezing, and even light frost was almost unheard of. This will be our 8th winter in Saint-Aignan, and I'm still getting used to the difference.

Here in Saint-Aignan, we don't have many hard freezes, but it really depends on the year. Rosemary and thyme do fine outdoors all winter. Cabbages survive the winter months in people's gardens. The lawn stays green, as does the hedge. In fact, this November has been mild so far, but pretty wet. This morning, for example, the temperature is in the high 40s F (9ºC) and it's drizzling.

But you never know. One year back in the 1980s, we're told, the big bay laurel hedge around our property froze all the way to the ground. The dead branches had to be cut off. Then the hedge slowly grew back from the roots, which had survived. It took years. I would hate to see that happen again.

Our big planter boxes of geraniums were outdoors until a couple of days ago. Last week we moved them under the roof of the balcony, out of the rain, to let them dry out some. That way, they're not so heavy. And then we moved them to our little glassed-in porch downstairs. We had the sliding glass doors installed across the front porch 5 or 6 years ago. Before that, it was completely open to the cold air.

Now we have a good place to keep potted plants that we set out in spring and bring back inside in autumn. Jade, kalenchoe, other succulents, geraniums, and so on all overwinter behind glass doors, where the temperature never falls much below 5ºC, or 40ºF.

When the plants come in, you really feel like you are pulling the covers up around your ears for the winter. The hours of daylight diminish daily, and it will be that way for another month now. I really hope the geraniums will continue to flower on the front porch. Those red blossoms are a reminder of brighter seasons.


  1. Ken,I remember you doing this last year - hope we can read bringing things in for many a long years ahead.

  2. The cactus should survive outside. The parent plant has spent thirty years if not more in a planter outside in Arlington, VA, and survived many freezing cold winters without any harm. It survives too here in SoCal, but blooms almost two months earlier than on the East Coast.

  3. The geraniums are lovely. I remember my aunt keeping hers blooming all through winter simply by putting two sheets of newspaper over them during the night.

  4. It's great that you have that space for your plants... I hadn't realized that you added the doors after you moved in. Great space.


  5. Bonjour CHM, yes, I leave the cactus and other plants outside over the winter. I put them up against the south wall of the house so that they'll be protected from the cold winds and will get as much warmth as the sun and the house can offer them.

    Leon, yes, this is an annual thing.

    Martine, I wonder if it gets colder here than where you are in Belgium.

    Judy, having those sliding glass doors installed across the front porch has been one of our greatest improvements to the house.

  6. Your winter temps sound similar to western NC. Geraniums can stay out until it's quite chilly, but don't let them freeze--all the water in the stems turns to ice and they get quite nasty. The glassed-in porch is a wonderful idea.

  7. Ken, I suppose it gets colder up here 'in the north' :). In summer there is average difference of about 3-4°C. So it must be the same in winter. Martine


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