Walking into the basement is like taking a trip into spring


Since I’m frugal (okay, cheap), I bring a lot of annual plants inside for the winter.

They go to the basement where the old laundry room provides convenient water and floor drains.

But sometimes the plants aren’t the only things that come inside, so surprises can pop up at any point in the winter.
    Most of the nasty surprises involve insects, although once a confused squirrel had to be escorted outdoors.

I’ve had one aphid outbreak so far this year, but I spotted it early and hope I’ve nipped it in the bud with insecticidal soap.

Scales are another insect pest that love wintering indoors.

They haunt my bay laurel, and once again insecticidal soap is the cure since we use the bay leaves in the kitchen.

I’ve doused the tree with soap before it comes in and then keep giving it baths about once a month through the indoor season.

Despite past misfires, this year’s horticultural surprise is wonderful.

I decided to keep new passion flower and mandevilla vines from a trellis in front of the house.

I cut both back almost to the soil and dragged the pots inside.

With help, both made it to the basement and, while the passion flower responded to the artificial light, the mandevilla has languished.

It’s alive but unhappy.

I barely watered the basement bunch over the holidays, so it was a real surprise the other day to go down and discover the mandevilla pot awash in fragrant violet petunias.

A couple of petunia seedlings also decorate the passion flower pot.

I have no idea where the petunia seeds came from.

Both vines were well away from any of the planters filled with trailing petunias. Wherever the seeds originated, they’re hybrids.

These flowers are at least twice the size of the ones on the Waves petunias we used this summer and their color is neither the disgusting puce of this year’s “Evening Scentsation” or the vibrant hue of “Purple Waves.”

I think they may be trailing, but it’s hard to tell at this point.

Their cousins in the passion flower pot are definitely trailers.

It’s easy to spot in seedling petunias.

The plants kind of square up because they develop four initial long stems.

I missed this stage on the petunias in flower.    

Their scent is now the first thing that greets me when I open the basement plant room door.

The unexpected floral display beats aphids, scales and squirrel infestations, that’s for sure.

As an added bonus I can collect any seeds that develop on my volunteer plants.

They may not grow true to type and look like their parents, but without bees bringing pollen in from other petunias I’ve got a good chance.

I’ll just fertilize some of the flowers with an artist’s brush.

My husband hums to the nectarine tree when he uses a brush to fertilize its flowers to give it the full experience of a bee visit.

Maybe that will help with petunias.

The surprise seedlings are a bright spot this January, a bonus to enjoy when I water.

Our rosemary plants are also flowering now, and brushing their foliage releases a different wave of piney perfume.

The basement is definitely the place to be on gloomy afternoons this January.

It feels like I’m making a trip into spring.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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Port Washington, WI 53074
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