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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

See website, design work and favorite flowering plants at

Consultation and coaching for do-it-yourselfers is provided. Occasional emailed questions are welcome and answered free of charge. Oui, je parle francais.

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Entries in greenhouses (1)


Snow Days Are Sad Days

Photo courtesy of Copywrite Free Photos. Click on image to visit their site.Over the past few weeks, I have been saddened to read a story that repeats itself in the texts of many garden blogs. In some postings, it has percolated in doses too tiny to notice. In other blogs, it is blatant and upsetting. It is about the frustrations that winter visits upon gardeners whose main passion in life has been temporarily stifled. Lamentations about not gardening, cleverly cloaked as impatience or wistfulness, start to occur just after the holiday season ends.

Dark days and damp weather begin to overshadow us in early November when many are too busy planning festivities to pay attention. It is mostly after the holiday season that winter delivers a severe blow to our spirits. This year, several factors exacerbated that situation: the unusually cold weather that crept south along the North American continent and the unexpected amount of snowfall. It is heartbreaking to read the chronicles of those that are experiencing genuine suffering and to remain unable to offer comfort.

Winter has never been kind to me, either. As soon as the days get shorter, I am compelled to unpack my full - spectrum light box and soak in its sun-mimicking rays for at least 20 minutes a day. For that brief period, I can pretend to be basking in my garden. Not being able to spend time in the garden is difficult to endure. Instead, I immerse myself in researching garden-related subjects that will make me a better gardener. Also, I devote hours to developing topics for blogs. Planning and writing a gardening blog is a pleasurable, creative experience. It is not as satisfying as gardening, but, at this time of year, it is the next best thing.

It is fortunate that I live in a city that spends over 10 million dollars annually to keep its roads snow-free so that citizens can remain mobile. It also helps that Montreal is a vibrant place. With a large cosmopolitan population, there are many distracting remedies for those experiencing winter cabin fever. I feel badly for those that live in isolated, rural areas that are desolate at this time of year, even though such locations are gardening paradises in summer.

Another antidote for the winter blues is the “greenhouse factor”. I learned about the powerful effect that a greenhouse can have on mood and behavior when I studied Introductory Botany at University. An essential segment of that course required students to visit the Faculty greenhouse frequently in order to learn how to identify plants by their Latin names. During the depths of winter, each visit there became an invigorating and energizing experience. The daylight streaming through glass walls, the tropical humidity and the intense colors of the pelargonium in bloom all combined to generate a heightened sense of happiness and well-being.

Yesterday, while visiting a big box hardware store, I suddenly remembered the greenhouse factor and spun the shopping cart in the direction of Indoor Plants. That department is located in a greenhouse setting. The floor-to-ceiling windows that bring lots of daylight combine with the humidity and aroma of plants to create an enjoyable and stimulating environment. When I got to the plant department, I saw a staff member unpacking forced spring-flowering bulbs, some on the verge of blooming, and some already opened. Tulips, Daffodils and Hyacinths were on display in abundance, as were the usual inventory of intensely colored Gerberas, Cyclamen and Kalanchoe. As I stood there absorbing the odors and colors of spring, I kept reminding myself that, in 90 days, I will be outdoors and gardening once again.