Shiver Me Timbers, You Are NOT a Houseplant, What’s UP?


Mint, oregano, basil, and chives.

OK, you two Cyclamen above are in this climate, but I bet most of my houseplants are mighty happy to be inside this week. I have a lot of plants I use as houseplants that are really outside plants. Many go back into the garden for nature’s fight for life against wind, rain and blistering sun come Spring and Summer. Right now is -4°F so I have happy, happy houseplants.

I missed my orchids in bloom to post, but I think the herbs and shrubs need a spin in a post.


The images with the stone background were photographed in the basement. There is a large work bench with a grow light above. It is humid down here as well thanks to the basement work shower and washer’s utility sink. Very warm too as it has heat ducts.

I thought the rustic look would be interesting. I use the space for repotting and getting plants back in peak shape. Normally, my houseplants and herbs live in the kitchen where I have quite a bit of light and humidity. Others, taking more shade, make the two bathrooms their homes. Still others, aloe and orchids are in my well lit office like the European Cypress above, and some like the ponytail palm are in the living room and hall. I have lots of houseplants, many of which have been shown before.


I force bulbs each year to keep flowers in the house throughout the winter, but I also do a lot with herbs. Keeping herbs growing well means using them in cooking often. I spice up meals everyday by clipping them. If you don’t, they get rangy. Above is rosemary, thyme and sage – behind the cyclamen. The sage was cut all the way back to grow in again and is just small now.


Let’s be honest here, if you grow all your culinary herbs outside somewhere in the back garden, you’re never going to use them as readily. I grow them outdoors, take cuttings to propagate, then keep young, small (emphasis SMALL), fresh, live herbs on hand for cooking.

The ones I leave in the garden, I grow for the bees and insects – and the tiny flowers too. These herbs, come Spring head back to the great outdoors to flourish all summer and provide the … I actually lost count,  generations of replacement plants. They are always a bit straggly but I clip, trim and hack away at them until they are shapely by summer. I think they prefer their hiatus in summer – don’t we all.


When I force bulbs, I really cram them in. After they flower and die back, into the garden they go. The ones above came from the garden, were dried, chilled, then planted. The tulips above live in the bathroom, you can see below. I just liked a little drama for their cameo shot.

My foyer has a Palladian window of Kalanchoe and African Violets. Yep they are boring and ordinary, but they do add color. They have been featured before too.


The chrysanthemums also live in the garden during the year. I divide them, cut them WAY back, pot them up, then let them regrow. I have two pots like above. They will head back to the garden in Spring. I also have Kermit, a lime green variety, but they already bloomed last month. The ones in the garden did not open as the weather browned them out. Some years I find they flower really late in the season though, sometimes too late, like this year. Nipped in the bud, not just a cliché.


Not much light in the bathroom, but it is westerly light. Plants get a little lengthy, but I don’t care as long as they don’t fall out of their pots.


These little numbers below, Nandina and Mahonia weren’t really being offered as a houseplant. But, knowing planting them outside means kaput in our soil conditions, I thought to give them a spin indoors? They have been going strong for two winters now.


My philosophy is if I enjoy it outdoors, why not bring it inside when it makes me smile. Not everything will make the transition, but some plants take the indoors without even a whimper knowing they will see outdoors again in early Spring. Especially those that can take some cold like Hydrangea, Mahonia and the Nandina.

You too just might find yourself outdoors with a spade in your hand pilfering the garden of plants to bring inside. Not all plants need to spend the winter outdoors under a blanket of snow. Some like Ponytail Palm would pack its bags and head south if it could. A very weird and wonderful plant. It gives being fat some class.

Try grasses. I have had a few indoors through winter and they do fine. Just make sure to use the more shade tolerant varieties like Festuca ‘Elijah Blue’ or Ophiopogon ‘Black Mondo’. Carex is good too, though not a grass, but a sedge.


Another thing I do is throw in some flowering greenhouse beauties to liven up the herb planters or more common true houseplants which will summer just beyond the kitchen door come Spring.

Yes, I can hear it now, “But they are shrubs?” Yes folks they are, but for some chafing for a smidgen of growth in the garden, what better plants to make your dreams of Spring seem all that much closer.


Sick and tired of the same old houseplants? Go dig up one of your favorites to bring inside. I have access to greenhouses I can use, but I found some plants make it through winter just fine. Had my hydrangea not lost all the leaves from drying out when outdoors, you would see it all leafy and green. Some years you have setbacks, but it’s on its way back.

Up next… Are YOU a Weather Weenie? I got asked how I can photograph outdoors in this frigid weather and not be cold. They asked what I was wearing, so I will show you how I bundle up and still can click the shutter.


About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
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25 Responses to Shiver Me Timbers, You Are NOT a Houseplant, What’s UP?

  1. Merilee says:

    Ok, you’ve inspired me. I live in L.A., so (especially this winter as it’s 80 degrees outside) I don’t have to worry about snow. But I love the idea of growing Nandina and Mondo, etc., inside! I get tired of the same old houseplants. I’m going to try it!

  2. Your houseplants are so beautiful! and I love how you photographed them against the cement wall in your basement. It certainly does add drama just as you said.

  3. acuriousgal says:

    Love your planters too, Donna! I should really take my Mums in…..I’m bad. I don’t even plant them in the garden, buy new ones each year for my planters…I know, terrible. Great post!!

  4. Like you I bring in all I can and as soon as frost has surly stopped out they go again 🙂

  5. Having something fresh and green and unusual inside is fun and looks beautiful too. 12″ here last night and now very cold.

  6. You’ve given me much to consider – your cyclamen are gorgeous! I bet mine would do so much better indoors – will have to try if the ground ever thaws!

  7. Pat says:

    It’s hard to believe that the first photo was taken in your basement and not in some sunny Mediterranean location. The light is perfect.

  8. bittster says:

    Your plants look great, you must have a really comfortable living space with all that natural greenery around. I’ve been too cautious in bringing things in, the windowsills just aren’t right for plants and I didn’t want to have the larger ones sitting around….. but you have me rethinking that now! thanks 🙂

  9. Annette says:

    very pretty…makes me want to go out and get some!

  10. You are so fortunate to have so many beautiful houseplants! Mine must go where the cats don’t have access (closed-off sunroom, terrariums, on top of the fireplace mantle, behind a cage). Unfortunately, one cat eats plants and the other cat digs in them. I tried a lot of techniques, but now I’ve made my peace that I simply have to limit their access, which means limiting the number of houseplants. My favorites of the ones you’ve shown here are Ponytail Palm and the Nandina/Mahonia combo. Lovely pots, too!

  11. Patty says:

    I am a houseplant killer, but I admire people who keep theirs alive and healthy from year to year. You have some interesting choices, I like the pony tail palm -very choice.

  12. Roger Brook says:

    As ever I love your pictures Donna but I am a bit confused with your cyclamen. Over here the varieties you show are regarded as house plants. More adventurous souls now use these same varieties outside in a ten week window of opportunity September to November but when it gets to about 5 degrees centigrade of frost we lose them. True hardy Cyclamen hederifolium are much loved over here but they have finished flowering by early October.
    I have confessed on my latest post that I am going to try native seed of Cyclamen persicum(ancestor of the florist cyclamen) in my unheated green house next year.

    • Hi Roger.
      I must have been too cryptic with my title and first sentence. Another reader thought the same thing. I meant that the cyclamen are true houseplants here, and are different than a few of the shrubs in the post that rarely see the inside of a house. Sorry for the confusion.

  13. I never would have guessed that was your basement. It looks like the photos were taken at an ancient wall in Europe.

  14. Karen says:

    Hi Donna, Your houseplants are fantastic. I wish my basement looked that lovely. I should be banned from growing houseplants; mine are straggly and anemic-looking, though the poinsettia given to me before Christmas is still going strong. Surely enjoyed seeing your happy, thriving indoor garden.

  15. erupprecht says:

    Perfect timing for this post! I live in central NJ where we just got socked with a foot of snow, so seeing your beautiful photos just put a smile on my face. Not just the beauty of the plants & flowers, but the arrangements and the settings were perfect. Thx from bringing some warmth to an otherwise chilly day.

  16. Phil Lanoue says:

    Wow! Amazing plants, quite artfully done.

  17. Really lovely photographs! Thank you for sharing.

  18. I’m not sure we have enough indoor light to what you do, although I think we could force a lot more bulbs. Indoor herbs, though, have not been successful for us. Something to plan on for next year, in any case.

  19. Love the ponytail! I have several too. I usually don’t go for the typical houseplants so most of mine can and do go outdoors as soon as the danger of frost has past. They usually like being outdoors better. I never thought of bringing in a shrub but it is a great idea! I’ll have to try that!

  20. Spring is just around the corner 🙂

  21. I also love to bring in herbs and plants for the winter…but I hope to do a bit more with forcing bulbs next year. Great displays Donna

  22. Your basement wall makes a most amazing backdrop Donna. Just gorgeous! Margie

  23. Your basement garden is such an oasis (and looks like something out of a gardening magazine). You healthy palms caused a wave of guilt. My palm that ended up in your post is truly a “Charly Brown” palm now–down to 2 fronds and a new one emerging–but I fear a tropical retribution if I give up on it!

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