There are centuries of historic reasons – most of them religious – why people drag evergreen trees into their homes at this time, but for me, it boils down to filling the house with abundant life as the outside world turns frigid and barren. And it’s much more than trees. Even plant-free households may find themselves invaded by holiday items like poinsettias, amaryllis, cyclamen and Christmas cactus during December. 

Bringing green things inside seems an affirmation of the importance of nature in the face of a season flooded with man-made stuff. Christmas trees are rude, disrupting orderly living rooms, leaving a trail of sticky needles and that all-pervasive scent. It’s too much for some, but that’s another story. 

I have many plants that live inside all year round – 70 or so – and most of the year I’m satisfied, only replacing if there is a significant death and trying not to add. I am really at capacity. But in December, all that sanity goes out the window. In come the evergreens- as many different types as I can find, the fancy poinsettias, the extra little holiday plants that will be on their last legs in January, and the unneeded amaryllis or two (those mail-ordered in September are already in their pots). 

It’s important at this time and into the depths of January that the house be as full of green life as possible. After that, the potted hyacinths and tulips come up from the basement to carry on.

But I don’t think it’s the gardener doing all this, so much. I suppose I’m trying to pretend I’m an upper middle-class householder of the Victorian era, when a conservatory was an extra room usually filled with orchids and ferns. Not to be confused with a greenhouse. 

As wonderful as household plants are, the amaryllis and poinsettias of December-January add that touch of the exotic the Victorians also craved. 

Evergreens make me feel like I’m out enjoying the winter stillness with just enough snow on the ground. 

All that’s needed is a fountain. I wonder. Would a small conservatory be so impossible? It’s a thought.