Thursday, May 21, 2020

Spa Day

It's not bragging to say I was born with a green thumb.

The undeniable fact of the matter is that plant-tending is in my blood. Both sides of my family tree are jam-packed with successful farmers and gardeners galore.

My great-grandfather, Jacob Belz, worked his farm to great financial success. Not only did he put food on the table and shoes on the feet of his ten children, he also provided them with pianos, harps, violins, and all the lessons needed for his fleet of little maestros. 

My paternal grandmother, Cecelia, was the kind of lady who tossed her carrot trimmings out into the corner of her city backyard and came back a month later to harvest a fresh crop. Every inch of her tiny plot was crammed full of enthusiastic growth. I particularly remember her impressive stretch of hens and chicks along the front sidewalk.

And Clara, my mother's mother, worked not only a twenty by fifty foot plot of vegetables but endless borders of perennials: black-eyed Susans, chrysanthemums, and peonies. My mother told me about the delphinium and rose spectacles that my grandmother had produced in her younger days - towering spectacles of blue and bowers of pink and white, all blooming against the odds of the scorching Michigan summer heat. 

So it is that I come to my passion for houseplants with all the genetic odds stacked in my favor, but here's the thing:

No one - not even the Instagram fashionistas with the jungly living rooms and gorgeous green specimens from here to next week - has perfect houseplants. 

No one.
Here is some happy news - over the winter, my Chinese money plants gave birth to a handful of pips  - babies that grow from mom's roots and can be clipped to become independent plants. This one is still a bit young to leave its mother but three others graduated to their own pots.

Oh sure, every plant looks real nice when you bring it home from the nursery, after living its young life in ideal growing conditions and pampered by professionals for profit. But once that pretty bit of flora comes home and settles in for a while, things can and do go wrong. In fact, I've observed that for the first six to nine months at home, my plants all go through a phase of adapting to their new micro-climate - a very few thrive from the get-go, most experience a considerable hiccup and sorting out period, and there's always a handful that just struggle and die. 

Even the most experienced and intuitive gardener must accept these imperfections as rules of the game, and do whatever they can to help their houseplants fight for survival. 

And so it was that yesterday, my two younger daughters - whose thumbs are every bit as naturally green as mine - and I decided it was time to treat our plants to a spa day.
This is a prime pip, He makes me smile. 

After the long and ridiculously dark Seattle winter, many of our plants had suffered some setbacks but we had just the remedies they needed. 

A quick session with the pruning shears took care of browned leaves and dried out stems. 

Cinnamon sprinkled on the soil cuts back on mold issues and also those pesky little flies that live on perpetually damp soil.

Fertilizer does much to lift the spring spirits of the houseplant so we offered ours an appropriate dose.
Now living independently in a bright blue pot, my biggest pip was kind of like your thirty-something son who still lives in the basement - it was high time for him to move out and get his own place. In the pot below him, a struggling sprig of prayer plant is getting one more chance to shape up and thrive. 

In order to suit the plants' space needs and our aesthetic whims, we enjoyed a session of moving this plant into that pot, playing a bit of round robin using up all our extra potting soil and our inventory of extra pots. 

We inspected the vulnerable ivies and jade trees for aphids. Ugh. Found another plant infested with those little white monsters and as much as we hate to do it, dumped that poor victim right into the compost. From some maladies there are no happy endings. 

And horror of horrors, my third-born's anthurium was infested with worms. Worms! Tiny little deep red things, that not only crawled through the soil but wrapped themselves around the roots with more tenacity than my garden hose could overcome.

But not to worry, we rinsed all the soil off the roots, jammed the whole plant into a big cup of water and drowned the little suckers. Problem solved.
This is the plant with worms. I have no words. 

By the end of their spa afternoon, our newly restored plants were singing in the sunshine, and we humans were well chuffed with our satisfied customers. 

All of our plants are now in prime condition. 

The minute the stay-at-home orders lift, we'll be ready and raring to welcome some new plants into our tender, loving care. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please comment...I'd love to hear from you!