Here on the East Coast, our recent March storm, Stella, worked her magic. Bringing sleet, freezing rain, snow and then ice, she turned our yard into a set from the movie “Frozen.”
Iced and crystalized, many branches could not bear this additional weight and bowed, some to the point of breaking. In the bitter wind, snaps and pops abounded as trees gave up their limbs which fell hither and yon.
Our neighborhood went dark as a large oak limb caught the live power line. An explosion and sparks signaled the short that eliminated our electricity for two days. We could do nothing but wait as the electric company was overwhelmed by over 30,000 area homes needing restored service.
With temperatures only in the mid-teens, how to keep warm was the pressing question. And, how to keep all the plants in my greenhouse alive?
We are fortunate to have a gas fireplace in the living room. While really meant only for providing a little extra warmth and cheery ambiance, it became our primary heat source. In two days, the temperature dropped to 53 degrees in the house. We two humans and our five pets all gathered round the fire to keep warm.
But the greenhouse and garden room had no alternative heat source. Made from old single-paned windows, the greenhouse was losing heat rapidly. My husband and I carried the most delicate plants into the kitchen and foyer. But almost half the flowers remained. What to do?
I recalled seeing smudge pots as a child in a Florida orange grove. It sparked an idea. Gathering all our scented jar candles, I made a tripod of small clay flower pots around each one, then inverted a larger terracotta pot over the jar candle. The terracotta pot cleared the glass jar of the candle on all sides and rested on the smaller pots. Once the candles were lit, the small flame heated the large pot so it radiated warmth into the greenhouse.
Ten of these contraptions I dubbed “Stella Smudge Pots” were set up. Two were placed in the insulated garden room and eight in the greenhouse. Night time temperatures went to 14 F and the wind blew and howled. To my relief, the greenhouse stayed at 40 F all day, overnight and through the next day until our power was restored. Most of the jar candles were almost expended when the power came back on, so I was glad we didn’t have to go another night. I was out of candles!
Now, I wouldn’t recommend this as a way to heat your house, but, in a pinch, it saved most all of my plants. Grateful as I am that my greenhouse plantings are intact, I won’t be burning scented candles for a while. All those different scents burning at once was a pretty overpowering olfactory experience.