Bringing the Outside Inside

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In part two of our special interview with Rough Point’ Estate Gardener Tessa Young, we talk about off-season gardening at Rough Point, advice on how to prep your plants and gardens for the winter, and how to successfully get cozy this winter with houseplants.


How do you winterize Rough Point’s beautiful Dahlia flowers?

TY: So typically with the Dahlia tubers that we do have, two weeks after our first frost date, we dig them up out of the ground and I let them dry for maybe about a week or so in our little greenhouse. Then I put them in lawn and leaf bags with wood shavings that we get from our [preservation] crew in town who does all the work on the houses. They give us their wood shavings to use. Then we bring the Dahlia tubers into a special room in the basement that brings in cold air from outside so that they stay in a nice, sort of, regulated cold climate. They stay dormant in there until the spring, when I start to bring them out and repot them again. Every year we do order some new tubers just in case something goes wrong. A couple of years ago, it was really, really, really cold. All of the tubers for the most part didn’t come back the next year—they died because it was too cold. So I always order more tubers just in case, but it makes it fun because then every year we have a couple of new varieties in the gardens and even more flowers out there.


If people have their own Dahlias or other flowering plants, is that something they should be doing to care for them?

TY: Absolutely. If you have your own Dahlias at home and you don’t want to have to buy completely new ones every year, you should be digging them up two weeks after the first frost date. In warmer climates, this doesn’t work in our [New England] zone, but in other climates you can leave them underground—or you can try putting landscape fabric on top of some of the tubers to see if they would winter over in the ground. We tried this last year, and most of them did [winterize], but last winter was a warmer winter for our climate. So I can’t use that going into the future, per se, just depending on how the winters are. So if you have your own Dahlias, you could do either or, but if you’re in a colder climate and you try to just leave them underground with some protection, you might be at risk of losing them for the following spring.


Especially with the pandemic and a lot more people staying cozy at home, is there anything that you would recommend for people who are more interested in trying to bring a little of the outside inside?  Do you have any recommendations for people who are trying to grow their indoor gardens, or maybe start introducing new houseplants into their homes and trying to cohabitate with them?

When trying to bring greenery into the house over the wintertime, like houseplants and stuff like that, the best thing that you could do is look at what kind of windows you have in your home, and really think about light requirements for particular plants. I really recommend going to local nurseries, if you have them nearby, instead of going to the big box store places, just to help out your neighbor. But it’s great to bring plants inside. It helps improve your oxygen inside and everything like that. The one tip, I will say for sure with houseplants is also trying to not over-water them. That’s a very common thing. Typically with indoor plants, it’s kind of best to let them, unless they’re specific ones, dry out first. Otherwise you’re going to start getting soil gnats and things like that. You don’t want that in your house.