The winter spa treatment

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I live in an apartment. It has a garden, but it’s still an apartment. Come winter most of the permanent and hardy plants can slumber outside, either in their large pots or in the ground. Some inhabitants, such as the potted fuchsias and others, have to come inside to make it through the freezing cold. But there’s no greenhouse. No shed. No garage. No cellar even. So every fall I’m left to face the cold, hard reality of winter, and an apartment that’s suddenly way too small for all the plants that somehow snuck in over the summer, forced to divide what fits from what doesn’t. I start with the special friends I’ve had for years and work my way back from there. I’ll shed a tear or three or even a river of them but eventually everyone is settled in nicely for the season. Dormant fuchsias like to be cool and kept on the dry side. The dry side I can deliver but the cool isn’t always possible in an apartment. But most do survive, with just the right balance of watering, until the weather stops freezing sometime in the middle of March and they’re free to fully go about their business outside again.

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On warmer days, and nights that don't go below breezing, I sometimes set some of the plants back out to take in the cool, refreshing air. Right now, for example, the extended forecast says not colder than thirty-six degrees over any night at least until the end of the week. It’s been this way since the second day of January. That's not so bad. Usually it’s quite a bit colder. It’s been unusually mild these past couple of winters so the plants have appreciated the treat of being outside again in the winter months more than usual. But I do have to watch the weather forecasts. Around here a "Canadian Express" can quickly drop the lows in January and February well down into the twenties, or even the teens, so I have to be careful that I don't accidentally forget the vacationers.

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