Sunday, February 18, 2018

Tending my little garden

So I am following through, in my own way, on my decision to blog more, but on whatever I felt like.  Lately I've been really into plants and gardening.  I've always loved plants and trees, and when I first moved to LA, I started growing the little dollar bin flower pot Valentines from Target.   They had mini roses that I grew from seed, and they were my pride and joy.  I was thrilled by how they sprang from the ground as their own unique selves, absolutely unequivocally ROSES, complete with teeny tiny thorns and sweet little leaves.  They had adorable little blossoms, and I faithfully tended to them for several years, giving their care to helpful friends when I went out of town.  Here is a picture one such friend took to tease me:

Since then, I've been through several more dollar bin Valentine adventures.  I even grew a tomato plant from one that actually produced tomatoes–I was so excited to eat them!  Once a bassoonist friend introduced me to the idea of aqua globes, my world opened up.  I could have lots of plants, and travel (as I did frequently for work), and still have plants!  I started growing the little herbs from Trader Joe's (mostly basil but sometimes oregano, thyme, or sage).  I also finally went and got some plants at a proper nursery. We grew more tomatoes, and chili peppers too!  (They were tiny, adorable, and packed quite a punch).  Lavender and rosemary thrived, smelled wonderful, and their blossoms drew hummingbirds.  Geraniums added bursts of sunny color. I started expanding, adding more craigslist-acquired shelves to both my balcony and roof.  We added indoor plants (my maidenhair fern, Philomena, was my pride and joy.  She cheered me up every time I saw her).

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. 

4) I swear, they like it when you talk to them and tell them how beautiful they are.  I think plants are more social than we give them credit for.  Just read Hope Jahren's book, Lab Girl, and you'll see what I mean.  The New York Times also backs me up here:  So I try to talk to my plants daily.  I just redid my garden after some time away from home, and so far it is thriving.  That's because I've made a point to spend some time with my plants every day, both for their health and mine.  I find being around them makes me happy and relaxed. And it seems I am not alone.  Apparently, companies have started on a greening trend: . They call it "biophilia," and think it helps their employers to stay happy and productive. 

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.  

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