(This article was originally published on February 17, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to respond to your questions and comments.)

On a cold but sunny Sunday afternoon, inspiration struck! A trip to my favorite local nursery would lift me right out of my winter doldrums. Even the florist's section of my local supermarket can lift my spirits on a dreary day. The vast selection of indoor tropicals at Dutch Plant Farms can make me forget all about ice and slush and winter exhaustion.

The moment I walked in the door, that warm "green" feel enveloped me. I saw bougainvillea arching over huge peace lilies, and I breathed in the delicious scent of jasmine in bloom. Paradise!

arching branches of bougainvillea dripping with pink blooms

Bank of Peace Lilies in bloom

Visiting a good nursery is like touring a conservatory, except that if you come across something truly irresistible, you can take it home with you! I decided my goal for this visit was not only to enjoy a good browse among my favorite plants, but also to try something new.

Learning about a plant you've never grown before is a way for any gardener to break free of the winter blues.

potted succulentsspiny round little pincushion of a cactussucculent with fat waxy leaves shaped like a lotus bloomI couldn't resist brushing my hand over the herbs as I passed, but then I went to the display of succulents in little pots. I seldom give them a second look as I head toward the big plants at the back of the store, but today I realized what a remarkable variety they stocked. There were "living stones" in tiny pots, fat pincushions with a zillion perfect spines, and plants that seemed like flowers carved from wax.

Venus fly traps with On a shelf over a group of African violets, I found a collection of Tillandsia or "air plants," fastened to driftwood. Across the aisle was a fascinating display of Venus fly traps, pitcher plants, and sundews. I was disappointed not to find a little bug or two, so I could see them in action.

assortment of large potted tropicals

sale table filled with colorful bromiliads

Braided ficus trees, colorful crotons, and gaudy bromeliads brought a lush tropical feel to another part of the store. A woman holding a hot pink bromeliad gave me a hot tip: Put the plant in a plastic bag with a ripe banana, and the ethylene gas will make it rebloom. I'll have to try that!

closeup of blooming tips of Goldfish Plant Colorful patterned leaves of Rex Begonias Ring of little mounded Coral Bead or

I didn't find a new African violet for my shelf, but I was tempted by the colorful array of Goldfish Plants (Nemanthoides) and Rex Begonias and by an unusual Coral Bead Plant (Nertera).

There were too many options; I wanted to bring them all home!

Sitting area near wooden bridge with garden statue, side table with plant, wicker chair
Red parrot peering through bars of cageDutch Plant Farms has a permanent planting in the center of their indoor area, like a miniature conservatory. I've come here on other winter afternoons, to curl up with a book or garden catalog and to enjoy the company of the curious parrots.

shelf with ceramic plant pots in different styles and colorsCollection of fanciful statuary including sleeping gardener gnome, soulful gargoyle, and tiered 3-basin fountainSilly silly planter consisting of a big grinning head standing on gnarly bare feet, planted with trailing golden pothosWhile there, I had to look over their selection of colorful ceramic pots and consider whimsical statuary options for my garden.
array of sale plants and

My new find! a basket of variegated red and burgundy leaves that will turn out to be Aeschynanthus longicaulis

At the end of the month, the truck will come up from Florida loaded with fabulous new plants. To make room, there's the winter Polka Dot Sale! The remaining plants had been fairly well picked over. I was about to return to the Rex Begonias when I spotted a basket hanging off the end of a shelf. It may have lost its tag, but it's sporting a polka dot ribbon!

Woohoo! I'd found my new-to-me plant!

I'm sure one of my DG buddies will be able to ID it for me and tell me how to make it happy in my home.

huge Bird-of-Paradise plant showing several blooms in the heart of the plant

On the way out, I stopped to talk to the parrot and admired the enormous bird-of-paradise plant in full bloom.

Don't let the winter blahs get you down. Seek out a nursery haven near you, a place to meander among lush plants and dream of summer delights. Take time to learn and explore. Bring home a plant that you previously knew nothing about. There's no better way to lift your spirits on a cold winter day!

Photo credits: Jill Nicolaus

Special thanks to Dutch Plant Farm, on Baughman's Lane in Frederick, MD.