A Successful First Winter – Thanks to the Pink Box!

pinkBox

Man… I can remember the apprehension I felt the first winter I put my plants outside! There were points where I thought I was nuts! For 30 years, I had grown my Sarracenia collection in a greenhouse of some shape or form.  Granted I’m not gonna lie, I did have a couple small outdoor turtle pool bogs over the years. However, my “good” plants never went out there! I planted these with “extras” in case they were killed during the winter! But moving an entire collection outdoors to be at the mercy of the elements with no “backups” in a greenhouse was downright scary!

In my situation, I have made huge outdoor bog gardens to host my collection, but what if, you don’t want giant bogs, or don’t have room, or don’t want that sort of permanency and would rather grow your collection potted… and you don’t have a greenhouse!  Can you still winter your plants successfully outdoors? The answer is resounding YES!

A long time friend and fellow Sarracenia grower Jay, has been wintering his plants in a pink box in his unheated garage for years.  I’ve been meaning to blog about it… for whatever reason.. just haven’t! Luckily, I know another grower who is new to Sarracenia and wanted to winter his collection outdoors (in pots).  So I suggested the “pink box” and Michael and he gave it a try… I’m happy to report, his collection is alive and well.

I asked him to recount his experience:

I trimmed the plants and put the plants to sleep on NOVEMBER 20th 2014. I woke them up April. 1, 2015. (the opening closing really depends on the weather!)

I made a box out of 1.5 inch pink insulation. All the pieces around the box and including the top were 1.5 inches thick, except for the bottom where I added extra piece (making it 3 inches” as the garage floor gets cold.  I used outdoor calking to seal the seams.  I put the plants (Sarracenia & Venus fly traps) that were in biggest pots around the outside of the box and the smaller ones going in towards the middle. For fungicide I sprayed (crowns) with Safer’s neem oil first  then I used sulphur powder generously all over the remainder of the leaves & soil,  I then put two layers of burlap over the plants and then covered them with 24 inches of pine needles. Then I put the lid one.

I stored the box in a detached garage with no heat, so the temps in the garage were as low as outside just without the windchill, I had a thermometer in the middle of the pine needles the temps in the box when I opened it was -5 to -8C. However, the temps were much colder than that during the coldest days of our winter.

Here is a photo of one of his VFT’s as it came out of the box.  Looks great!

vft

Here is a photo of Michael’s growing setup and what his plants looked like after coming out of the box. Again, they look great!  Congrats on your success and I hope this inspires others who want to grow potted/outdoors year round!

bogTable

CJM

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10 Responses to A Successful First Winter – Thanks to the Pink Box!

  1. Michael says:

    Let’s hope this gives people the confidence to grow in Canada outdoors, if your bogs haven’t already:) oh Ya ! Looks like 2 more nights of below -0 from my weather App.( Let’s get warm already) & thank you Jay & Carl couldn’t have done it without you both !! 🙂

  2. Brown Thumbs says:

    Yea, this will definitely get me to keep my collection outside next year. I’m in Boston and this will be perfect for next year! Thanks so much for posting this Carl, thanks for having the cojones to pull this off Michael and here’s to hoping spring is right around the corner (C’MON ALREADY!).
    This is a very valuable post! Just awesome, thanks so much for this.

    • Brown Thumbs says:

      Oh, oh, I have some questions!
      Did you keep water in the box?
      Did you check on them periodically throughout the winter?
      If so, how often?
      Any gotchas or tips learned from this?

      Thanks again,
      -BT

      • Carl Mazur says:

        Maybe Michael can chime in here with regards to the process and gotchas… but the idea here is get the plants frozen and keep them frozen with as little evaporation as possible. You don’t want them freeze drying. Cold winds and exposure allow the plants to dry out even when frozen, in the box they stay frozen and moist. So the pots go in wet and frozen, and pretty much stay that way till spring. I’m guessing if there is a really mild spell and the pots thaw you could add water them to make sure they stay wet. It is really the same principle as my bogs, my bog turn into a block of ice, and the pine needles and snow insulate to keep the moisture in and the ground frozen.

  3. Mary Jane Mazur says:

    That is simply amazing, especially for those who do not have the space. Kudos to Mike for trying. The plants looked great.

    >

  4. Michael says:

    Carl is right !! Belive it or not !! I only checked on them once to see if they were drying out ! It was a few weeks after I put them to sleep, the weather was really mild & I did splash about a cup of Distilled water on each pot then I closed up the box once again to let them rest in piece (the colder it gets the longer it takes for the pots to dry out ) that’s why they went so long without water & the trick is to not water them too much cause that’ll just encourage rot/mold and lord knows what that’ll do to your precious plants 🙂
    Belive me when I say there wasn’t a day that went by that I wasn’t thinkin about the plants if I was going to open the box & they would all be dead !! It was a real nail biter. Like Carl said to put the whole collection outside at the mercy of Mother Nature it is a big gamble ! I’m so thankful for having Carl’s wisdom. I have learned a lot & now I can relax & enjoy winter ! Well as well as anyone can enjoy our bitter winters without stressing !! I hope this helps if there’s anything else you need to know I’ll be watching

  5. Michael says:

    Oh Ya sorry ! No I did not keep water in the box 🙂

  6. sinu says:

    Do you have a photo of how the plants looked in the box? How wet the planst were when going there? So they didn’t receive any light and when you took them outside they started to wake up? Sorry for the questions but I’m just being curious about this method 🙂

  7. Michael says:

    No light & no picture but try to visualize this, on the outside perimeter of in the box I put the largest pots & then smaller pots as I go towards the middle of the box. After the weather warms up I take the plants out & yes they start to grow again.

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