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A Winter Survival Guide

By Mariko Kawaguchi

I know it’s off season on Martha’s Vineyard when I see the last Japanese maple leaf spiral it’s last twirl to the ground. That is the wake-up call to transfer my houseplants off the deck, an annual ritual akin to playing Russian roulette with the thermometer. Brisk autumn days suddenly put all the houseplants in jeopardy, resulting in plant clutter inside ones home, as plants vie for sunlight and space on the windowsills.

After the hoopla of winter solstice, Evening Of Enchantment, Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Years, comes an odd period of time for year round Island residents. Cabin fever, Vineyard doldrums, short daylight hours, and deserted streets cause many of us to go stir crazy.

This article is dedicated to some suggestions of on-Island retreats, as well as small day trips off-Island . Trips to give hope and comfort, as we await longer days, gardens returning to fruition, and the warmth and rebirth of the promise of spring, just around the bend.

DONAROMA’S - Nursery and Landscape Services
At Donaroma’s we close up certain sections of the greenhouse, but always keep the South end open for our tropical plants, forced bulbs, and our cooler filled with bright colorful cut flowers to brighten anyone’s day. People often come in just to see living plants, catch a burst of color, take a deep breath of oxygen, listen to the concert of the canaries singing, see a friendly face or perhaps seeking some gardening or plant advice. Donaroma’s is open year-round focusing on your plant and garden needs for all four seasons.


At the Polly Hill Arboretum in winter, free guided tours are offered on the second Saturday of each month. One can inhale the scent of witch hazel, look for the birds enjoying the ilex verticillata, study the majestic evergreens, or hunt for the beautiful leaves of the hearty cyclamen, often found hiding beneath the dry foliage in Polly’s Playpen. Bundle up for a hearty walk and feel protected by the evergreens towering overhead, that also protect the tender plants found in the playpen. Polly Hill was an extraordinary horticulturalist in so many ways, and her creation of natural barriers to protect the plants and shrubs is a testament to her vision. Polly Hill Arboretum is located at 809 State Road in West Tisbury, for more info call 508-693-9426,
or on-line at:

January is the beginning of catalog season, and the barrage of colorful, exciting images of new and improved varieties of everything imaginable in the plant world–the biggest tomato, the tallest sunflower to enter into the Ag fair, and the newest color zinnia–will soon fulfill our ambitions with what we hope to seed for the gardens in only a manner of months. This is the time to break-out your Sharpie markers for an array of plant labels written with seeding dates and varietal names; seed propagation, fluorescent lights and heating mats for indoor growing; recycled containers and peat pots, all of which become part of the Copernican center of our winter plant universe.

COMSOG - Community Greenhouse of Martha’s Vineyard
Cultivating vegetables, flowers, and community since 1983.
For experienced & novice green thumbs, epicureans , or curious Islanders check out COMSOG in Oak Bluffs, with its expansive greenhouse, raised beds and welcoming feel. Growing tasty and healthy local vegetables, it is an inviting haven in the dead of winter, as well as a place for education and plant advice. On Wednesday mornings members gather to discuss plant issues and solutions, as well as to pick and enjoy the bountiful vegetables found in the greenhouse or perhaps be treated to a lesson on pest control or organic fertilizing techniques. One can become a member and help play a role in sustaining this magnificent garden greenhouse throughout the year. COMSOG is a non-profit organization with a long history of plant propagation and sustainability on the Vineyard. “Community sharing with learning along the way” is how one member describes it. The Greenhouse of Martha’s Vineyard is located at114 New York Avenue in Oak Bluffs. For more info call: 508-693-2019, or on line at: Seed Saving in West Tisbury

The ancient art of seed saving has enjoyed a resurgence of interest in recent years, and the Vineyard now has its own seed library, a collection of open pollinated and gathered seeds from within the Island community, which is housed at the West Tisbury Public Library. The Martha’s Vineyard Community Seed Library is a collaborative project of , Island Grown Schools, the FARM Institute and the West Tisbury Library. It’s mission statement is to “bring the knowledge of how to save seeds back to the Island comm-unity,” while creat-ing a central space where seeds can be freely shared, and over time, to create a locally adapted collection of seeds, and a community of growers engaged in this ancient practice of saving. By preserving and sharing seeds, we can increase local food security, strengthen our sense of self reliance and safeguard genetic diversity, while honoring the age old tradition of passing down seeds from generation to generation.

A Winter Wonderland of Orchids - The Cape and Islands Orchid Show
The Cape and Islands Orchid Show is an exotic tropical getaway during the coldest time of the year. It is a short drive to Hyannis from the Steamship Authority in Woods Hole, and being off season, the price for this trip is well worth the effort. One can experience hundreds of different types of orchid species, and general plant enthusiasts as well as orchid connoisseurs will find much to discover at the show, from unique orchid accessories to colorful plant displays of this elusive plant family. A diverse group of national and regional orchid growers are on hand selling everything from miniature species the size of a thimble, to the large cattleyas of orchid corsages reminiscent of vintage Hollywood. It is a warm and friendly group that congregate at this event, and even the most timid plant person will find nurturing and helpful advice from the orchid growers here. Educational lectures and films are featured at the show in addition to the many items for sale. CAIOS (Cape and Islands Orchid Society) is a down to earth group of very committed individuals ,who create a cheerful botanical display in the middle of a chilly winter weekend in New England. The group’s upbeat credo is “Orchids grow wild where CAIOS reigns.” Need I say more about how fun this group is?

A Winter Wonderland of Orchids - Cape and Islands Orchid Show and Sale is held Saturday, January 23 & Sunday, January 24, 2016, 9am - 5pm at The Resort & Conference Center of Hyannis, 35 Scudder Ave. (Off the West End Rotary) Admission is $10.

Logee’s Greenhouse
Logee’s Greenhouse–just over the Rhode Island border in Danielson Connecticut–is another warm treasure in the horticultural must see destinations. A full day trip from Woods Hole, Logee’s is a historic family greenhouse and a Mecca for plant junkies and seekers of unique plants not easily found commercially. Their historic greenhouse is filled with surprises, such as brightly colored bougainvilleas, Parma violets, Buddha’s hand, Ponderosa lemons, and other exceptional citrus plants. Its warm & balmy temperatures and exotic tropical plants are a perfect respite to offset a blustery and bleak winter day. Plant collectors and amateurs alike will find many treasures here, and also in their extensive mail order catalog. The Louvre in Paris is to art what Logee’s is to plant collectors and hobbyists, and the trip is well worth a full day’s adventure.

Logee’s Greenhouses, 141 North St, Danielson, CT. (69.5 mi. from Wood’s Hole).
Call toll free: (860) 774-8038
For directions go on-line:, and to check out holiday closings &specific hours each month. Browse their on-line catalog at:

Historic Lyman Estate
Between February 16th and March 13th , flower admirers should consider making the trek to the historic Lyman Estate Greenhouses in Waltham, MA. During these months, the celebrated Camellias at the estate burst into bloom, and visitors can savor this unique botanical experience, while escaping the frigid temperatures outside. Many of these trees are over a hundred years old, and continue to inspire plant lovers with their promise of warmer days ahead. Orchids, citrus and sweet olives are also available to be enjoyed here during this time.

Lyman Estate Greenhouse, 185 Lyman St, Waltham, MA
Phone: (781) 891-1985). For more information, directions and hours check out their web site at: