Hygge + Houseplants = A Happy Winter Season for Gardeners

cozy fireplace scene

Holding your coffee cup with two hands and savoring the flavor and aroma, gazing out a window on a snowy day wearing soft socks and reading a great book recommended by your friend, lighting a candle arranged beside a glass terrarium you just planted with your sister, cuddling with a pet…

By Jennifer Schamber

[This article was first published in The Gateway Gardener November/December 2018]

Holding your coffee cup with two hands and savoring the flavor and aroma, gazing out a window on a snowy day wearing soft socks and reading a great book recommended by your friend, lighting a candle arranged beside a glass terrarium you just planted with your sister, cuddling with a pet… these experiences help define the concept of “hygge”. One definition of hygge is “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture).” As gardeners, we can easily find our “happy place” during the growing season, but it can be a challenge to satisfy our craving to connect with the natural world during the long, dark months of winter. Turns out, the Danish and other Scandinavian cultures have cracked the code on the cure for the winter blues (they have had a lot of practice!), and there’s an endless list of things we can do to keep our senses fully engaged when the ground outside is frozen.

paperwhite narcissus

Paperwhite narcissus.

Choose Simple, Easy-to-Grow Houseplants

Simplicity is key for creating a hygge lifestyle and houseplants can be the key ingredient to enhancing a sensory experience indoors. Houseplants add life and an energy to a room that cannot be replicated by any innate object. One easy and fun project is growing paperwhites. Simply put some rocks in a jar or vase, fill with water and place the bulbs on top. These fast-growing bulbs will flower a month after planting. The anticipation of waiting for them to flower is just as satisfying as actually seeing them bloom. Start a new batch every couple of weeks to keep them going all winter long.

Some Houseplants Improve Air Quality

Consider adding plants to your home that can enhance the quality of the air. Knowing that the spider plant in a child’s room is purifying the air gives a feeling of satisfaction that you’ve created a healthier space at very little cost. Other easy-to-grow houseplants to add include: snake plant, ZZ plant, pothos, philodendron and schefflera. Terrariums can help fill the void that gardeners feel in the winter months, these simple “gardens in glass” can be filled with tropical foliage or succulents. (Ed. Note: see Abby Lapides article in our October 2018 issue on more “Houseplants for Health” suggestions.)

Plant Care Rituals Can Easy Winter Doldrums

Creating a ritual in your home during the winter to care for houseplants can also help fend off the winter doldrums. Sunday mornings can be a good day to water, mist the plants and check to make sure they are healthy. It’s also a good time to rotate them or shift them to sunnier spots. Consider installing LED grow lights if you don’t have enough light for plants that prefer high light. If a plant isn’t thriving, consider moving it to another spot, or sending it to the compost pile. A failing houseplant will detract from the goal of seeking out simple pleasures.    

Seed packets

Browse Seed Catalogs

Another favorite “hygge” practice in the winter is collecting seed catalogues and dreaming about the garden this coming Spring. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and Seed Savers Exchange have great catalogues that tell the stories of their seeds. Their catalogues can be read like a book and enjoyed with a cup of hot tea beside a fire on a cold day.

Learning to appreciate the “break” that winter brings might just help us take the time to re-charge our batteries and give us a chance to reflect upon what we want to focus on in the next growing season. The best things in life really are quite simple and free, and when things get complicated during this holiday season, let’s be reminded about the concept of “hygge” and let that guide us toward a happy and healthy winter season.    

Jennifer Schamber is the general manager of Greenscape Gardens in west St. Louis County, Missouri. She is a past president of the Landscape & Nursery Association of Greater St. Louis and past vice president of the Horticulture Co-op of Metro St. Louis. Greenscape Gardens is the national 2015 winner of Today’s Garden Center Magazine’s Revolutionary 100 Award.