Although I am very fond of winter, I confess that my indoor garden is a great source of pleasure at this time of year. There’s something undeniably delicious about waking up to the sweet scent of roses on a cold morning. Buying fresh flowers is part of my winter shopping routine, but I rarely purchase cut roses. Instead, I opt for miniature rose plants, which are usually much less expensive (less than ten dollars this week at my local florist), and when properly cared for, much longer lasting. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, they make beautiful, living gifts! In spring, after the last frost, these cold-hardy beauties can be moved outdoors, where they will thrive for many years (protect with a mulch mound at root zone, as you would other hardy roses, in winter).
Simple Tips for Success with Miniature Roses:
1) Provide bright, direct sunlight (near a south or southwest facing window).
2) Ensure even indoor temps from 55-75°F/16-24°C.
3) Water regularly, but avoid soggy soil. Allow planting mixture to dry out a bit at the surface, between waterings. I like to grow roses in double pots or in gravel-line trays to keep the root-zone properly drained.
4) Fertilize monthly with a balanced product, rich in micronutrients.
5) Deadhead spent blossoms and cut plants back after the first flush of bloom is complete (usually 1-2 months after they begin blooming)
6) Repot or move outdoors as soon as possible. When transplanting, any good, well-drained garden soil or quality potting mix will suffice. In the garden, a 2″ top dressing of well-rotted manure/compost serves as both mulch and fertilizer. During the growing season, once-per-month application of Rose Tone or similar, organic product provides a steady wave of bloom.
7) Plants can be container-grown outdoors (be sure to re-pot and separate plants if necessary), however in cold climates, it’s best to overwinter pot-grown roses in a garage or cellar to provide a period of dormancy without freezing the root-zone.
8) If insect pests or spider mites become a problem, spray leaves (including undersides), with an organic, insecticidal soap containing neem oil. Repeat at 10 day intervals until the infestation has cleared. Spider mites are a common problem with roses. Prune away damaged/infested parts of the plant when possible. Because spider mites thrive in hot, dry conditions, I like to raise humidity by misting the plants or using a warm-water room humidifier.
For more houseplant tips & ideas, visit the Indoor Eden page by clicking here!
Need help selecting a miniature rose for a special Valentine? There are hundreds and hundreds of varieties of miniature roses. Visit the American Rose Society Website, here!
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Winter is Soup Season: A Bowl of Potato-Cheddar Really Warms the Spirits
This article was originally published on January 30, 2011
“The Dead of Winter”: I spent a good part of yesterday ruminating on this phrase. Is winter really dead? I suppose it might seem that way if you spend all of your time indoors. But if you are curious, and bundle yourself up properly, it’s easy to find signs of life –even in January. A walk along the river yesterday afternoon revealed green-tinted leaf-buds, browsing rabbits and flocks of noisy ducks. Reflective waterways are always gorgeous places to enjoy the beauty of sunset. And even in the chill of winter’s twilight, I choose to linger along the shoreline, basking in the pink-tinted afterglow …
Mallard Ducks Swim Along the Pink River at Sunset
Birch Against a Winter Sky
Mallards Gathered Along the Snowy Shoreline at Sunset
Of course it helps to cozy up beside the wood stove after a romp through the snow, and nothing beats a hearty bowl of potato-cheddar soup for warming the bones and spirits. I love soups and make a big pot at least once a week during the winter months. I think the key to great soups is always in the base stock, and this old family recipe is my hands-down favorite. Use good, flavorful potatoes and the best homemade stock (chicken or long-simmered vegetable). I always add a cup of rich beer (an amber style brew or dark, sweet beer) and fresh herbs to my potato cheddar, and a very fine quality local cheese. With a pot of soup waiting back home on the stove, I never seem to mind the cold weather…
Winter Walks are Nicer with Thoughts of Warm Potato-Cheddar Soup
Favorite Potato- Cheddar Soup
Ingredients (makes 6-8 servings):
5 Cups homemade chicken or vegetable broth
1 Cup high-quality amber ale or porter beer
3 Tablespoons butter
1 Cup chopped onion
3 Cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tablespoon freshly chopped sage
1 Tablespoon freshly chopped thyme
2 Bay leaves
3 Lbs potatoes, peeled & diced (I like flavorful golds for this soup)
Kosher salt to taste (about a teaspoon)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste (at least a teaspoon or more)
2 Cups grated, sharp cheddar cheese (I use Grafton VT cheddar)
Sour cream for serving
Freshly chopped chives for garnish (or sub other herb)
Pour homemade broth and beer into a large stock pot and simmer over very low heat. Meanwhile, heat a sauté pan on medium-low and add butter. When melted raise the heat to medium and add the onions and sautee for 10 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic, sage and thyme and reduce the heat. Cook for several minutes to release flavors and then remove from heat. Add the onions and herbs to the stock pot, grind in freshly ground black pepper and add salt to taste, and toss the bay leaves on top. Cover the broth and continue simmering on low heat.
While the broth is simmering, wash, peel and dice the potatoes. Slowly add the potatoes to the broth, raise the heat slightly and cook for 20 minutes or until the potatoes can be pierced with a fork. Do not boil the soup. Remove from the heat. Fit a food processor with the metal blade and process the soup in small batches (or puree in very small batches in a blender). Be very careful when handling hot soup, and never fill the processor or blender beyond the max liquid line or you will be scalded! You can process the entire pot of soup for a very smooth texture, or leave half unprocessed for a chunkier soup.
Add all of the soup back to the pot and simmer. Now is the time to check texture and consistency. If the soup seems to thick, add a bit more broth or beer. When the soup is at the desired thickness, add the cheddar cheese and stir over medium low heat to blend and melt.
Once the cheese is melted, Remove from heat. Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream and a garnish of freshly chopped chives.
Mallards on the River at Twilight
The Shoreline’s Pink Afterglow
Time to Head Home…
And Cozy-Up Beside the Fire
Article and Photographs are ⓒ Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden
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