For those already counting the months until they can garden and sit outdoors again, the good news is that, in the meantime, a garden room, greenhouse or conservatory can provide almost similar pleasures.
To achieve success, novices should know that indoor gardening is not quite as simple as massing some plants by a south-facing window, watering, feeding and pruning them, and grouping some casual seating nearby. It can take years to learn what’s needed to keep plants healthy indoors. It’s certainly not as easy as it looks.
My journey into indoor gardening began almost 5 years ago when I enclosed the patio of my suburban home, creating a large 700-square-foot garden room that spans their living and dining rooms. In spite of the periodic upkeep required to keep my plants healthy, the room has paid me back immeasurably in pleasure and become a magnet for my family and friends.
Painted a soft earthy taupe, the room is filled with 20 different plants, casual patio furniture and the contemporary sculpture and crafts that I love. Even on the most overcast winter days, the room is a light-filled cheerful spot.
The floor of the room incorporates the original tan patio blocks, which absorb moisture well. The south-facing room is glazed on three sides in double-pane, clear, insulated glass, providing views of their landscaped, sculpture-filled back yard, which includes a small pond. The room’s south-facing wall has contemporary stained-glass designs that function as curtains to screen views of outdoor power lines.
Overhead, a slanting glass roof reaches 14 feet high to allow for trees to grow upward. Movable louvers along the roof can be manually or automatically adjusted to control sunlight.
For ease of use, I designed a series of wide 20-inch-high plywood planters that rim the room. They are bordered, in turn, by cushions that permit me to sit, lean over and plant or pull off leaves. I also installed an in-ground drip system and hose connection when the room was under construction and spaced lights for nighttime viewing. A small recirculating fountain adds pleasant gurgling water sounds.
Two ceiling fans and a separate furnace help keep the room’s temperature to a proper 55 degrees at night so that the plants don’t freeze. In daytime, they depend on solar heating that is transferred to other rooms in winter. Because the room is deliberately not air-conditioned, I adjust the louvers to prevent direct sunlight from entering but maximize daylight. An attic fan exhausts heat in the evening and draws in cooler night air.
The plants themselves – a mixture of eucalyptus, ivy, spider plants, begonias, philodendron – were selected for their varied textures, colors and shapes and planted in specially mixed soil that allows good drainage.
Experience has taught me that most flowers wouldn’t bloom. In winter they’d need stronger light than what streams through the windows and in summer they’d be burnt.
I learned that plants, too, will burn in summer if they’re not protected from the strong light entering overhead.
So, if you are planning on creating your own indoor Eden, by all means do it. With some supplies from your local Lowe’s, a little time, and some love, your own indoor garden might bloom soon.