Cabin fever fuels debate over gardeners' winter storage space

Reality check for that no-car garage, bursting basement, cluttered counter

January is a good time to examine our stash of garden stuff. Voluntary cutbacks can earn big points with others in a pot-bound household. You may even avoid the fracas that can develop when garden abundance presses in on those suffering cabin fever.

If any of the following true scenarios strike home, it's time to spend a weekend consolidating, trimming, and sacrificing. You can do it. Remember, you started with just one each of that canna, and a 4-inch potted bay tree…

  • C.M. fills not only the entire garage but an attached shed with big pots, some stacked two and three high. In them? Cut-back roses not hardy enough to survive the zone-colder exposure in a pot above ground.
Gardeners' plants and tools can crowd into human personal space during winter. If you store garden paraphernalia over winter, it's time now to step back and look with fresh eyes at its impact on people. For example: Is it only in the imagination of the winter-weary, cabin-fevered person, that these plants seem pressed back into their alcove, waiting to jump forward and startle the person coming up the stairs? (Photo ©2013 Eric Hofley)

Gardeners' plants and tools can crowd into human personal space during winter. If you store garden paraphernalia over winter, it's time now to step back and look with fresh eyes at its impact on people. For example: Is it only in the imagination of the winter-weary, cabin-fevered person, that these plants seem pressed back into their alcove, waiting to jump forward and startle the person coming up the stairs? (Photo ©2013 Eric Hofley)

  • J.C. once contented himself with gathering tender perennials into one room in the basement, where fluorescent shop lights kept them growing all winter and plastic curtains helped concentrate moisture. He gradually appropriated space outside that room for more tables and lights. Now much of the basement is green and humid.
  • In the beginning, P.G. had room in the garage for garden tools as well as citrus trees, rosemary plants, potted bananas and so forth, plus the cars. Now, says the spouse, "We have a four car garage but we have to scrape ice off the cars all winter because they have to stay outside."
  • B.C. each fall becomes a persistent voice in the ear of all his gardening acquaintances, as he tries to find homes for all the caladium, elephant ear and dahlia tubers that won't fit in one basement.
  • E.H. is well known to everyone in an office building for transforming its glassed-in lobby into a conservatory every fall. Those other tenants wish they had the kind of energy and dedication it must take to transport and tend so many big plants, while E.H. simply wishes the lobby was larger.
  • Every November, W.S. surveys with satisfaction a tucked-in stash of nearly 100 pots plus numberless roots and dormant plants, claiming, "We don't really use the basement for anything, anyway." Yet some time in February each year W.S.' housemate convenes a meeting to discuss, "Cutting back next year, somehow."
  • C put a strict limit on spouse S's garden plant acquisitions, explaining, "I remember a winter growing up when we had to sit cross legged on the living room floor for meals because all the tables in the whole house were full of plants."
  •  J.M. had so many plants on the enclosed back porch each winter that it only made sense to enlarge and fortify the room as a 3-season area so the family could sit and enjoy the jungle atmosphere. Trouble is, the plant collection multiplied to fill the space even as it expanded. Even the human seating filled with plants.

Below: No, this isn't C's childhood home with dining room only on the floor. Nor is it J.M.'s porch. These are pictures of normal winter operations at the enchanting nursery called Glasshouse Works in Stewart, southeastern Ohio. Retail sales on site and on-line.) It's just consolation for gardeners guilty of putting the squeeze on humans' winter space -- the pros are as guilty as hobbyists in this practice.

Want to discuss options, defend yourself, buy space by placing plants in needy homes, or sound off about a household member unable to let go? You can continue on this topic at our Forum.