Do you find yourself eyeing strong waterproof boots, of late? Are you feeling up jumpers and dreaming about their inherent tog value? Does your mind wander, leading you to contemplate, Heaven forfend, vests? Think about how your houseplants feel, looking forward to winter full of occasional central heating, dry air, howling gales, coughs, colds and in England, rare sunshine. If you show them some love now, they may live to see springtime.
Don’t wait until the last vestige of autumn has gone, leaving harsh winds and sporadic freezing to spice the sky. Pick a warm, still day, take them outside and bathe their leaves. This task may be performed in the kitchen sink if the specimen is small and your family can be prevented from emptying boiling kettles over them. It’s too late in the season to re-pot, so don’t mess with the soil. Just rinse the foliage clean of dust, grit, pet fluff and in more adventurous households, food residue. Evict bugs with extreme prejudice and re-home them outdoors if you are a sensitive soul or squash them if you are a brute like me. Hairy leaves benefit from a gentle going over with a dry paintbrush. Channel tickling Johnny Depp in a sensual manner, rather than taking a yard broom to Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Cyclamen hederifolium (ivy leaved cyclamen)
Cut off any dead bits but resist chopping into green stems. Pruning makes things grow and you should be preparing them for a pleasant, stress free nap. For the same reason, do not add fertiliser to the compost since this will stimulate new leaves which will struggle to thrive. Start reducing watering, since soggy roots in cold conditions may prove to be the final blow which makes your treasure give up the ghost. Furtle the earth with your fingers, to judge whether irrigation is necessary. If the top two inches are dry, then you need to remember where you stashed the watering can. Soak the pot thoroughly, then let it drain completely. Don’t leave a plant standing in a drip tray full of liquid, since that will cause resentment. Cacti should be left arid until March and can cope with considerable cold but succulents are from more moist climates, must be kept warmer and need an intermittent trickle of water to prevent total desiccation.
Phytolacca americana (pokeweed)
Find a back end bivouac away from frigid draughts and hot radiators but with as much natural light as possible. Leaves should not be left pressed against a window, for fear of chilling the poor buggers unto death. If you find an ideal spot, collect all of your tender babies together. This maintains humidity and helps to ensure that nothing gets left to die horribly in a forgotten corner, while your attention is taken up with carving pumpkins, wrapping Xmas presents and choosing seeds for next year’s bonanza of bloom. You may have your work cut out, stemming the tide of snot from virus infested housemates. Harden your heart and remonstrate, should they garnish your indoor garden with bodily fluids, fag ends and unwanted supper ingredients. Until the first frosts make the path slippery, the chainsaw is easily accessible, with which to make your point.