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Gardening & More: Want a hot cup of comfort this winter? Grow your own tea plant

TAKE A SIP — You can actually grow a tea plant in your house, during the winter. While Sochi tea plants are fairly easy to grow and can reach approximately 6 feet tall. Photo copyright 2013 One Green World.
HAMBURG — The autumn weather is slipping into winter and, as we stay inside more frequently, we turn our attention to indoor plants. You probably have got a spider plant. Then there’s the aloe. And that one your cousin gave you that you don’t know the name of.

The similarities of your indoor plants probably are that they stay small, they are common and you can’t eat them.

Try something new this year: Grow your own tea.

Lockwood’s Greenhouses in Hamburg has Sochi tea plants, which can grow up to 6 feet tall. “They’re fairly easy to grow,” said Fred Safford, who is in charge of trees and shrubs at Lockwood’s.

This plant’s Latin name is Camellia sinensis; in the fall, the tea plant gets fragrant, five-petaled white flowers that resemble camellia blooms.

If you want green tea, pick the fresh leaves. For white tea, pick the buds. For black tea, dry or ferment the leaves.

The plants originated in the Sochi area of Russia and are the tea plants that can be grown the farthest north; they are still not hardy enough for our winters. They can be kept outside through United States Department of Agriculture Zone 7, but Hamburg is Zone 6A.

You can grow the plant inside, during the winter, in this area. Put it near a sunny window; it won’t tolerate shade. You might be able to keep it in an unheated garage, according to Safford, but where’s the fun in that?

In the spring, you can take it outside, once the danger of frost has passed. Safford suggested keeping it in a pot. Some people grow the plants in wooden planters or whiskey barrels and attach wheels or castors to the planters, to make them easier to move.

Let the plant gradually get used to the more intense outdoor sun. Unlike most other houseplants, the Sochi tea plant can take full summer sun.

Upcoming events

To get you into the holiday spirit, Lockwood’s Greenhouses will hold a Christmas open house from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 16 at the garden center, located at 4484 Clark St. in Hamburg. A free gift will be given to the first 100 guests who make a purchase. The event will also feature door prizes and drawings.

Lockwood’s has also scheduled a series of hands-on workshops. For more information, visit www.weknowplants.com or call 649-4684.

Workshops

– Bird-friendly seasonal wreath at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 23.

– Thanksgiving centerpiece workshop at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 2.4

– Basic evergreen wreath workshop at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 3.

– Winterberry wreath workshop at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 7.

– Decorated boxwood tree workshop at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 8.

– Basket of beauty at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 10.

– Williamsburg-style wreath workshop at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 11.

– British-style kissing ball workshop at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14.

– Floral vase arrangement at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 15.

– Christmas centerpiece workshop at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 18.

Prepare for winter with an open house, hands-on workshops and your own tea plant.

Connie Oswald Stofko the is publisher of Buffalo-NiagaraGardening.com, the online gardening magazine for Western New York. Email Connie@BuffaloNiagaraGardening.com.
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