Still, plants in pots seemed to have a lifespan that was shorter than I'd like. Once you'd used enough basil from a potted plant, its leaves would grow back smaller and less flavorful. My lavender and rosemary would grow too much for their own good, and just when they looked their biggest and best, they would become root-bound before I'd realized it and die off, despite my (too late) efforts to revive them. Trips away still took their toll on the more delicate of the species (RIP Philomena). And I came to a few realizations.
1) Plants take a lot of time, and they need daily attention. You have to catch pest problems and diseases early, or the bugs will take hold and you'll never be rid of them. I've reluctantly found that once a plant has a problem, it's better to get rid of it so it doesn't spread the pest than to try to fix it, because the problem inevitably comes back. And in order to prevent the problems from occurring in the first place, plants need CONSTANT VIGILANCE.
2) Every plant has its own preferences in terms of light and water, and the labels they come with only provide so much info. You just need to see where the plant does best and how much water it wants based on its own reactions.
3) Herbs are healthiest when you use them, otherwise they grow too big for their pots and suffer. So I've started using fresh herbs from my balcony on a daily basis, because they taste delicious and the plants are happiest when kept in check.
Just the other day, I was ecstatic to see that my redwood seeds, taken from a green redwood pine cone I picked up on a visit up to NorCal, has germinated. Look! (he's in the center, green, and has yet to unfurl).
Send him good thoughts, he has a lot of growing to do. A few days later, he has unfurled and spread his little leaves. We have named him Roosevelt (after a combination of Teddy, the found of the National Park System; FDR, the progressive; and Eleanor, the iconic First Lady.) Rosie for short. If Rosie does well, he (or she) might become a lovely redwood bonsai.
Bottom line: I love tending my garden, even if it is small and in containers around my home, balcony, and roof. It genuinely improves my life, and I hope to learn more about gardening and plants.