There’s no room for frivolous decorative plants. We’re in an apocalypse! Here’s what’s going on in my garden: edibles! Specifically, I’m growing seeds I foraged around the neighborhood. One, someone’s front yard Thai chili pepper plant that had a sign inviting passersby to pick, with a warning that they’re super hot. The seeds I shook out of one pepper was more than enough to yield some seedlings. And two, a traffic circle that was chock full of garlic chives, grown as a decorative grass. I harvested the dried blossom seeds. I might check that circle in the warmer months and just forage me some dinner there. Although I wonder if the constant barrage of exhaust and brake dust make for good eating. At any rate, the chive seeds are in the soil and I’m hoping to see some action in a few weeks.
Another plant I’d love to seed-forage this year is the perilla, aka shiso. They’re often grown decoratively, but I like eating them with rice.
Ever since I got it in my head that I had to bonsai my clown plumeria in order to keep it in a pot, I’ve been doing a lot of research. After finally receiving my phD in bonsai-ing from the Universities of YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram, I’m now trying to grow citrus seeds and avocado pits to see if I can bonsai them as well. I’m a bit nervous about chopping down the plumeria but I think I can propogate the top in case the root base doesn’t make it. I’d also love to have a honeysuckle bonsai if I can get my hands on a cutting of the vine and I also have a jade plant to hack. Since today marks the shortest day of the year, I plan to start my chopping in a month or two. Growing season is the ideal time to cut.
Even though it’s been fall for a month, the temperatures stayed relatively warm this year so I left the plants outside. Then this week, fall descended. I left them out for a 40s evening and quickly shuffled everybody inside after that. They’re okay though. The only buddy left is the aloe which needs pruning because it’s too massive. I was intending to take them outside during the day and move them in at night like I usually do during the transitional time because more light at fall = better odds of surviving the winter. But then I realized, all my plants have self-culled to be low light tolerant. I’m left with mostly sansevierias and pothos, three varieties of each.
The plumeria is now a clownish 3 feet tall with a lanky stem and a bush of leaves at the top. Next Spring, I’m going to try turning it into a bonsai. I have no other way of growing a tropical tree in a mid-Atlantic climate in a small space. I probably should’ve thought of that before I went and got a plumeria – a tree that belongs outside in the tropics. Blame YouTube! The horticulturists in Canada make me think I can grow anything anywhere!
It’s March! It’s freezing outside! I’m starting my beans anyway! Because I see sun! Hurray!
In case you can’t see all the text, from left to right, Nuna, Snow Cap, Hutterite Soup, Tiger Eye. I realize only planting one bean of each type is a highly risky endeavor. I may not end up with four beanstalks. I’ll take my chances, and I don’t know that there’s room for four beanstalks anyway. We’ll just see what grows. It’s mostly for fun anyway. The yield is usually just a palmful to a bowlful of beans. Not enough to set up a tent at the farmer’s market.
Fall lasted about eight hours this year. A couple weeks ago, temperatures dropped about 20 degrees overnight. Normally, any temperatures above 50s, I would just leave the kids outside. But because it went from 80s to 50s/60s overnight, I decided to bring them in for the winter season. They had no time to gradually acclimate to the cold.
I used to resist bringing plants to work. I was resisting anything that would make my work space feel homey. Don’t get too comfortable, you’re not staying long. However, I’ve collected many propagation cuttings from my coworkers and even strangers I don’t work with. Imagine a rando popping her head in, admiring your plants, then asking for a clipping. Yup, I’ve done that. Most plant folks don’t mind.
I finally brought a plant in to work last year. It was doing pathetically at home and I was pretty uncertain whether it would make it through the dark winter. At the time, I didn’t have a window at work so I put it on someone else’s window ledge. He’s a plant lover too so under his care, the plant flourished.
In fact, it bloomed. I’d never seen one of these plants bloom before so that was fun to watch. The flowers stink like feet or stinky cheese though.
After giving away cuttings to the coworkers who wanted to try growing this fuzzy plant (purple passion), I brought it home since it was finally doing well. It’s still doing great.
Recently, I got a workspace with a window and now I’m going to start bringing in some plants to work. I currently have one that belongs to someone else and another woman comes by to water it. It’s nice having it around but I think I have room for more. Lots more! Right at the top of my list are a spiderplant because my current plant finally revived this summer and gave me a couple of spiderettes, a philodendron, and a sansevieria. Perhaps a zeezee too. The spiderplant and philodendron really don’t do well in my mostly dark shoebox. Every winter, they start dying until I think they’re goners. Then spring arrives just in time for them to revive again. I’m hoping the window at work will be better homes for them. The zeezee and sanseveria are plants I’m almost always propagating. They’re such slow growers that I feel like I have to pregrow them for anyone who’s interested in taking a propagation. After one year do you see anything with the sansevieria and the zeezee takes almost two years to see something like this.
This is actually my first zeezee propagation that I’ve seen reach this level. The rest were adopted away before they reached this stage.
Growing season is afoot! Nothing gets me out of my winter ennui like seeing new sprouts popping up. Last week, I went to IKEA and got some houseplants I don’t currently have, totally ignoring the fact that I have no space to put them. I made a conscious decision to Scarlett O’Hara that issue. And the solution that I came up with the following day was to leave them all with green-thumbed Dad. I will propagate from them when they’re bigger.
Meanwhile, back at the shoebox, I stood in my living room and stared at my houseplants for a good 20 to 30 minutes just thinking about what I was going to propagate and which pot was going to hold what plant and where I was going to put everybody! I’m planning to propagate all my succulents that have grown leggy from lack of sunlight (even though they’re parked right in front of the window). One plant per container this time. I might rig up a hanging set up for the succulents so my window ledge can be filled with other plants. Everybody needs a piece of that light. You know it’s unbearably dark when even the all-tolerant spider plant starts to die unless it’s parked right in front of the window.
Besides the window being small, the duration of sunlight coming through that window is paltry. Yet the plants hang on. Or mostly. I’ve done in a few and some have come close to dying. One of the plants I got (parlor palm) at IKEA was one that I had previously killed. That’s another reason why Dad’s raising the four new pups. The other three are low-light tolerant – a couple of sansevierias and a bromeliad.
I’m now checking the daily weather for days some of them can go outside. As the days start to get warmer, I like to take some outside, at least for the day and then bring them back in at night. I do that when it starts to get colder in the fall too. Just trying to get them more light than the dim shoebox lets in. Even the low-light tolerant plants grow bigger and faster with more light. Tolerant is just that. They will survive but they won’t thrive.
Last week, I visited the Botanic Gardens.
My finger is there for scale to show the smallness of those orchid flowers.
The BG is currently featuring orchids because it’s orchid blooming season right now. I just stood in the greenhouse and pretended that’s my living room and that’s how I wake up daily, in leaf-filtered sunlight.
A girl can dream.
Along the same lines of my love for calendars, plants are like living calendars to me. In 2 years time, this grew from a cutting to a 9 ft tall plant. I got that one in 2005 when I worked with this lady who gave me a cutting. This one came from a leaf I picked up off the floor. They’re like diaries. And watching a plant grow reminds of of how slowly and quickly time passes. Like watching the clock during the last half hour at work, if you stare at a plant, time seems to stop, the plant doesn’t change. But if you look back to years past, the plant has grown to a huge weed and I realize how many years I’ve known the people at work.
I have talked myself into and out of growing plumerias many times. I don’t have ideal light or space. This isn’t even the right climate. But I was in Hawaii. And plumerias were in bloom all around me. I got these three.
I had been talking about visiting Hawaii for years! But it’s just so much easier to watch YouTube vids of other people’s trips, or drive to a local weekend destination than to plan a trip to Hawaii. As much of a homebody as I am, it took but the mere mention of a wedding and I booked the trip, packed up, and was ready to go.
If you’re looking for vegan food, stick to the Asian joints. Many traditional American/Hawaiian places also had vegan options due to Asian influences but there were times when I had to settle on a carb turducken (a breakfast of fruit and hash browns on toast). Towards the end of the trip, I was craving sweets (which I rarely do). Not sure how true it is, but I’ve heard that it’s a sign of a protein deficiency. In the end, I was feeling insatiably hungry and weak so I relented and had egg at one breakfast joint. And then I chased it down with a vegan snickerdoodle. Protein and sugar!
This was one of the best meals I had during the trip. It’s kabocha curry.
The fruit is phenomenal. On our second day there, I got myself a cheapo santoku knife so I could cut some Hawaiian pineapples in the hotel room. Their papayas and pomelos were also amazing. Too bad we can’t get them around here easily. Still, I got my fill – three pineapples in a week.
Sights and Activities:
Hike to Green Sands Beach – Not an easy hike but the beach at the end of it was such a sweet relief.
Kona coffee tour – This is like Napa Valley for coffee. But rather than getting sloshed, you get buzzed. Captain Cook’s is such a beautiful area so I still felt relaxed in a chatty way.
Place of Refuge (Pu’uhunoa O Honaunau) National Park – A beautiful and historic park where they share the history of native Hawaiians. There’s a wonderful trail here too.
Volcanoes National Park – When people say the Earth is alive, this is what they mean. Kilauea is pouring out lava. During the day, it looks like smoke and steam. At night, it’s bright orange red and spurting out.
MaunaKea summit tour – Even just on the side of a highway at night, I saw more stars than I ever have. On MaunaKea I saw the Milky Way galaxy for the first time. It’s a breathtaking evening.
Check out the waterfalls. There are many and none of them are as impressive as say, Niagara or Iguacu, but we went to a few of them and they were pretty.
Hike the Kalalau Trail on the Na’Pali Coast – If I did nothing else on this island, this was the one thing I wanted to see – the Na’Pali coastline. It’s breathtaking. The first section of the hike starts at Ke’e Beach and ends at Hanakapi Beach. We heard later from friends that this was not a very safe trail. I guess ignorance is bliss? To be honest, I was ready to turn around at the 0.25 mile marker. Then I was ready to turn back at the 0.50 mile marker. Somehow, we got to Hanakapi and the way back was easier. In the earlier part of the day, parts of the trail were wet, muddy, and slippery. By the afternoon, much of it had dried.
Waimea Canyon – This was the most beautiful hike. It was relatively easy and relaxing under the cool canopy of a forest. Even though I’d say this was the easiest hike we did, I slipped twice.
Allerton Botanical Gardens – With a return flight not until 10 PM, this was a nice little something to do. They guide you around the gardens and describe the plants and trees.
Learn from my Fail:
Hawaii and Kauai’s airports are small. Eat beforehand or bring food. There’s nothing good at the airports. Even the water from the fountains taste funky.
Bring your own knife or better yet, just get pre-cut fruit from the grocery store. It didn’t occur to me to do that until after I’d purchased the knife. I now have a crappy santoku knife.
Stay on the Hilo side of the island at least for a night or two. Driving to see volcanoes from Kona is a bit of a trek.
Restaurants close early (generally 9 PM). Plan accordingly. We missed dinner a couple of nights because we stayed out to see volcanoes and the stars at MaunaKea. Both worthwhile and I had pineapples on hand, but still, dinner would have been nice.
Speaking of MaunaKea, the drive up there is all up hill. There are no gas stations. Fill up your tank before you ascend. We cut it a bit too close. Luckily, on the way down, you barely use any gas. We cruised on neutral for some portions of it.
Packing: You don’t need fancy clothes in Hawaii. This isn’t a fancypants posh kind of trip. Plan to get dirty.
It’s a jungle in here already! But whenever I see plants that I don’t have, I want a cutting to propagate! Lately I’ve gathered a lot of cuttings. I don’t know where to put them all yet but I’m so excited. I now have plants to fill my empty pots. (I always have extra pots for just in case.)
Here’s the rundown of my new Pokemon:
Begonia of some sort
It’s different from the current begonia I have. The new one has thicker, fuzzy, almost succulent-like leaves with no variagation. It grows short and squatty. The one I have grows long and tall, has thin, smooth polka-dot patterned leaves. The leaves are smaller too on this new one. Maybe 5-6″ instead of 11″ or so on my old one. Maybe after if blooms I’ll be able to better identify this variety.
Beautiful variegation on the leaves.
Almost a purply dark green color with some velvety fuzz. I now have 4 varieties of philodendrons. The other two are Philodendron Scandens (Heartleaf) and Philodendron grazielae (brighter green leaves that are almost succulent-like with thicker firmer stems).
At least I think it’s an English Ivy.
I’ve killed one of these before. I left it in water to just grow in a vase. It needs to be potted eventually.
Aglaonema (Chinese Evergreen) Silver Bay –
Again, I’m relying on Google pictures to help me identify this thing. I’m not totally sure it’s a Silver Bay but I’m quite sure it’s an aglaonema. And this is my third variety of Chinese Evergreen. I love the different leaf variegation on each one. They are beautiful plants and so easy to care for and propagate.