This is about my reentry after about four decades into indoor gardening – particularly growing African Violets and their relatives under artificial lights.

I used to be fairly serious about this – and write about it for magazines such as Horticulture and Organic Gardening – but then I got distracted by computers and earning alving and . . . well, now I see it as a way out of the winter blahs because winter suches does get more blah as you grow older.

So I got it inmy head it would be nice to have a free standing greenhouse – and it would – except getting utilities to it – heat, power, and water really ut that project out of budget. Then I remembered that when I had a solar heated greenhouse many years ago the problem wasn’t heat – the problem was light. Things don’t grow much in Massachusetts in the winter because there’s not enough light – the days are too short. And this combination of utility issues and the lack of natural light led me int he direction of taking the large room in our walk-in basement and turning it into an artificial greenhouse – or as I like to call it, a “bright room.”

And “bright” is the operative word. You need light -lots of it – not only to grow plants, but to improve your mood. I think a big part of the winter blahs is brought about by darkness – in fact I am sure there have been some studies done on this.  So my first thought was that a room with lots of light may not feel quite the same as sunny greenhouse at noon on a winter’s day, I would control the light and length of day and would not have to worry about clouds. Every day is a sunny dya in my “bright” room!

So what should I grow? African Violets are artificial light pioneers and do very well under simple flourescent tubes. There are also plenty of variations, plenty of relatives AND plenty of terrarium type plants that enjoy similar conditions. Which led me tomy next major decision – to attempt to create  minature landscapes.

I’m not trying to copy nature exactly, but I want to creat the feel of a natural landscape and in each such landscape make an African Violet the featured plant. This livens up the landscape, but for me it just seems like a better way to display the violets. Simply having them in pots feels a bit sterile.


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