Indoor botanical cheer to mark the winter solstice, with kathy tracey


WHEN SHORTER, colder days have us indoors more, a bit of botanical company can make it all a lot brighter. This edition of the podcast has suggestions for some winter solstice decorating, for bringing a bit of nature indoors for the offseason to reconnect us with the garden and provide some cheer. And not just the obvious holiday centerpiece or wreath, but the right succulents for winter bloom and easy care, and some unexpected found goodies from outdoors to call into action, too, and how to make them last.

My guest is Kathy Tracey, co-owner with her husband, Chris, of Avant Gardens Nursery in Dartmouth, Mass., a source for exceptional plants in person and by mail. They’re also known for their design services and popular how-to classes, including lots of botanical crafty ones.

Get her year-round tips for growing amaryllis and reblooming them; for making cut branches last indoors; and even some of her recommended houseplants that don’t sulk in winter heating season.

Read along as you listen to the Dec. 19, 2022 edition of my public-radio show and podcast using the player below. You can subscribe to all future editions on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) or Spotify or Stitcher (and browse my archive of podcasts here).

botanical winter decor, with kathy tracey

Margaret Roach: Hi Kathy, are you feeling crafty? [Laughter.] Long time no see or whatever. Yeah, so I’ve been kind of indoors more, although it’s been unseasonably warm so far, but still, I’ve been indoors more and I’m like, “O.K., how can I brighten it up in here?” I think most of the birds took all my winterberry hollies, from outside. But you are someone that I really turn to for inspiration on the aesthetic part. You have such a strong aesthetic, and like I teased you, you’re crafty as well.

So at your house, I don’t figure it’s a traditional full-on holiday decor, knowing your other work and so forth and your style, I assume it’s a little more naturalistic and more subtle. So what are some of the things that you’re doing this holiday season indoors, or not even holiday, just winter?

Katherine Tracey: With the winter solstice are the shorter days, and nature is becoming, outdoors is becoming, more brown all the time. But we do have evergreen branches that we can cut. Over the years we have planted lots of wonderful conifers on our property, and it’s a nice time to do a little pruning, bringing in those branches to put on windowsills with strings of white lights. It brightens up the home a little bit and we’re not going to all the trouble of putting up a Christmas tree and that sort of thing.

Margaret: Have you ever used… You said white lights. I saw—I think it was on your blog, on the GardenForeplay blog, where you post all kinds of interesting things—I think I saw you used the white lights, even with your amaryllis and so forth, you really took it to the next step. It was just like, “Here are some amaryllis, which we all know and is ubiquitous,” but you made it even better. Tell us about that.

Kathy: Yeah, I just took strings of white lights and laid them around the base of the pots and in the evening the lights illuminated the amaryllis and pots of begonias and so it was very festive. In the daytime it looks wonderful, but at night there’s a little less light. So using your little sparkling string of holiday lights brightens up.

Margaret: Did you ever try those ones that are, are they LED battery-operated or whatever? Do you know what I mean? The ones that don’t even need to be plugged in?

Kathy: Yeah, the fairy lights, I think they’re called. There’s a little less glow, but you don’t need to have an outlet nearby. You can tuck the battery charger under a branch of evergreens, and it gets disguised that way, and that’s quite nice, too. So yes, that was really nice to bring in flower color as well as making it festive indoors.

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