Winter Staples

Appreciated as much as my favorite meals this season - beef pot pie with puff pastry tops in individual ramikins, Coq au Vin, ham and lentil soup made with a ham stock base, chicken noodle soup made with a little cream and parmesan, winter minestrone with pearl barley and cannellini beans - these reliable old plant friends continue to come through for me during the coldest time of year. At minus four degrees this morning, the bulbs, begonias, and coleus warm the heart.

Budded blue and white Grape Hyacinths and blue Anemones grace the coffee table in the family room. The Anemones' fern-like foliage unfold to greet the warmth like tiny arms stretching out to catch the rays of the sun.

Whether king of the begonia world Beefsteak or the compact, bushy wax begonia, both are winners for the indoor winter gardener. My Beefsteak has been in our family for years, originally started as a cutting off my brother's plant well over ten years ago.

With rich red-brown leaves plumped by summer rains,
Three divisions wrestled from the beefsteak begonia
Make a new start.
All for the coral blossom
Suspended on slender stem in February.

This low-maintenance wax begonia ('Cocktail Gin') with bronze foliage and rose pink blossoms is a constant bloomer. Sprigs hang in a vase at the kitchen sink, their bright blooms always welcome and the quickly rooted cuttings potted up for shade beds in spring.

Coleus are mainstays, their foliage pleasing to the eye all winter long.

They root alongside the wax begonias at the kitchen sink making new container plants for around the yard.

These mix well with each other. I also like them in containers with a low-growing annual grass like Carex 'Toffee Twist'.

And last of the staples here are the seedlings. The Echinacea 'Pink Parasol' is six days old now with a high germination rate.

Indispensable as beef pot pie and Coq au Vin. Essential as winter minestrone and chicken noodle soup. Bulbs, begonias, coleus and seedlings. They're how I get through 'til spring.


  1. I am quite hungry after reading this post Anne - pies and cream are strictly off limits for me much though I love them :) A most excellent comparison though. I have enjoyed reading about the plants which are your hearty and reliable winter fare and have decided that I must try begonias. I have found myself looking at them in the past but have never bought one. Will do so soon.

  2. Ann,
    Your indoor blooms are lovely. I am preparing my bulb order for fall (a little neurotic, I know). But, my lack of indoor blooms this winter has been my inspiration. Your post has reminded me that I must add some grape hyacinths. :) I love your Stoke's Aster in your sidebar. Spring won't be long now!

  3. I agree that the food you described has made me hungry, especially since I need to make something for dinner :)
    I don't think I've thought to bring coleus indoors, it is so pretty. It is nice to have some bright color in the winter to help us get through until spring!
    Thank you for visiting my blog, I've enjoyed yours and will be back :)

  4. Dude, I just finished dinner and now I'm craving pot pie with pastry toppings - thanks a lot!!! (drools)

    Lovely photos - I just saw a begonia the other day that I almost took home - it was so very pretty, as are yours. Thanks for the winter inspiration.

  5. Great pictures!

    I got all excited the other day because one of my newly planted raspberry bushes (currently, I just call them raspberry sticks) had sprouted a tiny green leaf. ;)