Bringing in the Brugs

I've got a thing for Brugmansias. I had 11 going this season. Love their every detail, but most especially the fragrance. So it was a sad day indeed last week when I had to face the facts of a frost. That meant I had to bring them in for winter storage. Here's how I did it, step by painful step.

First thing I did was cut them back hard. If I can get a plant inside without pruning it, I will, but these were just too monstrous. So, I had to get in there with the pruners and whack the thing back to its main trunks. While lopping, I kept in mind that in the end, I wanted the remaining branches to create a pleasingly sculptural shape.

One of the most distressing aspects of the whole process was looking at the ever-growing pile of flowers I'd cut off. All those beauteous blooms. All that fragrance. No more evenings out sitting on the top step, watching those peachy trumpets glowing in the twilight. It's a garden tragedy to have to cut these things down in their prime!

Once I had the thing cut back to about head high, I started digging. I often grow brugs in large pots and just store them pot and all, but this one was in the ground so I had to dig it out, preserving the biggest possible rootball I'd still be able to move.
To do that meant turning a wheelbarrow on its side, rolling the rootball in and then tipping the barrow back upright. Then I wheeled it to the basement Bilco door, and turned it out onto a plank, which I used as a sliding board to get the plant down to the basement. Lastly, I tucked the stubby rootball and remaining trunk into a cool dark corner of our root cellar, where it's dark, kind of humid, and winter temps average 45-60 or so. Now I can just forget about the plant--I don't water it or anything--until spring, when back out into the light it goes.


Gail said...

It would be very hard to cut off all those fantastic blooms...I enjoy this plant at friend's house/garden. She has several really lovely plants that perfume her garden terrace.

I would love to have a a space to house tender plants during the winter. The cat eats plants so no way can I risk the kitty!


Steve Silk said...

Hi Gail--It helps if you can just put hibernating plants behind a door somewhere and forget about them for a few months. My cat Fluffy is also an occasional plant eater, but she has yet to sample the brugmansias. She likes grassy stuff and succulents, but luckily, not too much.

Anonymous said...

So glad to have found your blog! Amazing how many interesting garden folk one can meet online, and getting to pick the brain (as I'm about to do) of a Fine Gardening editor is so cool...

Do you have any tips for starting brugmansia seed? I've collected a few from other gardens, including a gorgeous purpley one, that I'd love to propagate.

Steve Silk said...

Hi by-the-numbers--Hmm. sounds as if you most likely have datura seed. A datura metel makes the cool double purple flowers I think you're talking about. Most brugs are in the white, yellow, or orange range. I've never had a brugmansia yield seeds, though of course they must do that somewhere. Anyway, taxonomists recently divided up the daturas into daturas--flowers face up or out down, and brugmansias--flowers face down.
As for seeds,the best bet is to soak them overnight, pot them up, then provide bottom warmth. They can take up to 3 months to germinate, though you should get some results in 2-4 weeks. If possible buy seed pretreated with giberellic acid-they have a much higher germination rate. You can get 'em from JL Hudson

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve: I'm so glad to have found your blog. Not least for your expert routine with putting your Brugs in the Basement for the winter. I've got a dirt-floor basement myself, and yes indeedy, Brugs like it down there. Only this year did I hear that you can—as you do—dig a Brug up, chop it back, and store it bare-balled and as-is.

The most bodacious Brugs I've seen—yours among others—seem to be the ones that are planted out, not just kept in pots for the Summer. Thank you, then: You've helped my 2009 gardens to an even higher level of Awesome.