Tuesday, January 12, 2016

An Insider's Garden

Winter has gone and done it. We're rising above zero for the lengthening daylight hours, but descending to negative teens deep into the long night. The sun is low, brilliant reflected off the snow, and surprisingly warm at your back.  

Brought on by a concern for agave and prickly pear cactus we were given while visiting New Mexico last April, I've chosen to be a better house plant care giver. As a gardener, most people are surprised to hear I don't care much for houseplants. I prefer plants that take care of themselves and felt fairly confident that the desert succulents would survive outside as long as they were protected from moisture and cool temperatures, in essence -the damp. With all that has been going on, our gardens were not quite ready for such attention to detail, so we brought the potted agave and opuntia in, situating them under the south-facing windows, where only the tree trunks get in the way of their much needed light.

With our extended summer and then autumn, I was able to pot up parsley and cilantro well after a hard freeze. These herbs are tough, out of doors, but inside they have become languid. There isn't a window in the house that could give them all they want.

Betsy had potted Lantana out in the yard, and brought it in. I balked as it dried to a crisp, and then, in utter darkness, new leaves sprouted. Me and my balking. Afterward I recollected all the weedy Lantana growing street side and hill side in Florida during the dry winter.

Rosemary came in, growing as it's snipped, and preferring more sun. The Norfolk pine, Araucaria, somehow, can hardly believe it, survived a move from a sunny-ish window in humid Brooklyn to a dry, very dry west-facing window in our house with only some crispy golden needles as casualty. The purple Oxalis, reaching for the window, has been with me for nearly 20 years. It's been dead several times, or so I thought -a little water brings it back to life. Asparagus fern is in there too, came in from the cold, and is as carefree as the one I had in a pot on a landing in New Mexico. Finally, I should recuse myself from speaking about the Cyclamen because a) this is not my favorite kind (I prefer the gloriously scented variety) and b) I bought it at the Home Depot (never buy plants at the box store). Almost immediately its leaves began yellowing, although flower production kept up. Undoubtedly due to atmospheric conditions in the dry home but maybe light and let's just call it seasonal affective disorder. I think it is unsure what season it is, or not, however we can agree that the Cyclamen is pretty but moody.

We cure ourselves of that kind of difficult with this kind of easy -a hanging planter filled with spider and pothos, Epipremnum aureum. The pothos was ripped from the painted wall of our apartment in Brooklyn, wrapped in damp paper towel. stuffed into a small water bottle, and forgotten in the cab of a truck somewhere in Illinois, overnight, nearly snuffed out from freezing temperatures, then left in a bottle of water for 9 months, until planting it in this hanging basket. The pothos is one tough plant.

All that is required now is to build a proper shelf to support our collection of tough and finicky. Like many things these days, I will think it, and several months later it will happen.


  1. Next time you visit New Mexico I hope you'll let me know. We never met in NY...maybe we can meet in NM.

    1. Thank you Ellen. That sounds lovely. I'd like to go back. We considered a camping excursion but have not committed. I will let you know if and when.


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