Tina Weikert: Indoor plants bring joy, satisfaction during winter months

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The New Year has been rung in, and you've either begun to follow through on your resolutions, or not.

I'm not much of a resolutions gal myself. Drafting a plan of attack for a life skill in which I've failed to meet standards is not conducive to my well-being. Nor is an intention to do something consistently every day of 2020.

The window of time between Christmas and when my kids go back to school in early January is only a handful of days, even when deliciously almost two weeks long, as it was this year. So with full concentration, I enjoy the peace and sheer laziness that I only ever get to engage in during that time. Whether I like the idea of a New Year's resolution is not the point here — it's admitting that I can't be troubled to come up with such a plan during my most sacred time off.

Being human, though, I have a habit that appears when we flip the calendar to January: I purge. I tidy up. I scour for any Christmas gift holdouts in my home, the tinkers and toys that have still — still! — not been put away, and I threaten a 24-hour eviction notice if they are not immediately dealt with. I dust surfaces that are not dusty, and I dust shelves that are genuinely in need of attention. Top to bottom, indoors and out, I make it my mission to establish our house so neat as a pin and shiny as a penny loafer that it can be seen from space. Ah!

And then after that, I find a few more houseplants to move in with us.

I'm ever adding to my indoor plant collection, but the desire is strongest the deeper we get into winter. It's a gardener thing for me, I'm sure. The other months that begin with "J" find me clad in gardening gloves, trowel in hand, manure on my boots and a smile on my face as I spend a warm afternoon working in the garden. Maneuvering my way around the plot, I whisper encouragement to the cucumber vines and hum a little ditty while I pick green beans for dinner. If I scrunch my eyes hard enough right now, I can even see myself enjoying the chore of weeding while the sun shines down on the lush, green lawn.

Vermont's got a short growing season as it is; then we are all tossed indoors, away from our gardens, for months on end before spring finally arrives, and we try hacking away at the permafrost with our shovels. What in the world are we to do with all that time indoors? It's no wonder I go a little stir crazy! It's no wonder I continue to build my indoor plant community and talk to them in the same way I chat with my outdoor cucumber vines.

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My family is not alone in its moderate concern about me once winter hits. My fellow gardener friends keep an eye out for me, too; after all, we are in this together. Through the years, they've shared some valuable tips on how they keep productive and happy when they're unable to be mucking it up in the garden.

All kidding aside, tending to houseplants is a lovely way to bring the joy of gardening indoors. I derive satisfaction and a sense of purpose when as the snow falls, I am in my living room flitting from plant to plant: watering them, dusting their leaves, repotting some, and yes, talking to them.

This is the time of year that you still might find a bedraggled old poinsettia hunched on a store shelf, or an amaryllis bulb resolutely sending out a shoot from its Christmas packaging. Take them home and rehab them back into their best selves. You will be exhilarated by your efforts.

This is also the time of year when a visit to a nursery or greenhouse will reward you for days. Push open the door and breathe in the floral, humid air within. It's like a dose of sunshine — even more so if you leave with a new plant or terrarium.

My gardener friends who have kids counseled me that now is the time to enlist their help in making garden marker signs. That is wise advice. I usually wait until spring, when I bribe my own kids with ice pops. It's more relaxing to sit down with my boys on a winter day and construct our signs together while I dreamily page through seed catalogs.

Now is also an excellent moment to check in on your garden tools. Inevitably, I skip over certain repairs as the gardening season ends, so in the winter, I make amends. This week, I sanded down my rake handle so I won't have to pull splinters out of my hand next time I use it. I spray painted my trowel's green handle orange to put an end to my constant misplacing of it. And I greased my beloved, but rusty loppers.

After putting my tools away in the shed, I pulled out a shovel. Hopeful, I poked at my garden's border with it. But alas, the ground was still frozen.     

Tina Weikert contributes to Southern Vermont Landscapes from Bondville.


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