Sunday, December 31, 2006

No more houseplants, please!

My Jade Plant

You can spend a lot of enjoyable time reading the wit and green thumb wisdom of the gals over at "Garden Rant." (Links below. Warning: serious procrastination destination!) They've got a year-end review up of the hottest garden rants of 2006, and the third hottest (eliciting 27 comments) was the top 10 reasons for hating houseplants.

I agree with every last one of them, especially number 6:
"Houseplants require dusting, washing off, and other maintenance that would not be necessary if they would just go outside where they belong. I can't be bothered to dust a lampshade, so why would I dust a philodendron?"

One comment nicely summed up my main reason for hating houseplants. Having an acreage means that when winter comes, I'm just plain tired and in dire need of a time-out:
"All your nurturing instincts of watering, aphid washing, feeding and such get used up outside. When you are done and it is time to go inside, you do not want a bunch of hungry, thirsty, dirty plants clamoring for your attention."

We don't allow houseplants here, I like to think, BUT there is a two-foot tall jade plant residing in the living room, the only plant I allow there, except for amaryllis bulbs when they come into bloom. The jade plant grew from a single leaf cutting I started about 10 or 11 years ago. How can I not love a big plant I started from a small leaf?

I also had a Christmas cactus for - let's do the math: I got it at age 22, when a friend moved out west and I took over her apartment, and finally let it go to compost heaven when I turned 50. Yikes, that's almost 30 years, 28 to be exact.

I guess the other plants we have indoors aren't really houseplants, but outdoor container plants that we take inside for the winter, chiefly rosemary (several in large pots), tropical succulents, and some fancy-leaved pelargoniums. They are consigned to the basement to eke out an existence under a big mercury vapor lamp. This is so I don't have to look at them. Also: who cares if water spills on the basement floor?

The basement plants

As I don't do houseplants, my coping strategy or cop out, if you will, is that my husband - a gardener in his own right (rock gardening and seed starting are his gigs) - takes care of them. Yes, indeed, and he actually volunteered for this job.

I almost forgot to mention his small collection of phalaenopsis orchids, which, oops, also graces (yup, you guessed it) the living room. He has put their watering/fertilizing schedule into his Palm Pilot, which he follows religiously.

No, he's not for hire. He's the one with the real job, the enabler of my part-time garden writing, photography, and full-time gardening - in season, of course.

So it's the New Year coming up: just three more months of non-gardening. There are plenty of images to process and writing projects to get done, so I better get going. Gotta keep those houseplants from taking over!

Read Top Ten Reasons Why I Hate Houseplants over at Garden Rant. See also HOTTEST GardenRants of 2006.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Spring hellebores in bloom at Christmas

I can't pretend this is any way a decent picture - the wind was blowing and there was a lot of glare - but I put it up as proof that our Hellebores (Helleborus × hybridus) or lenten roses are blooming now.

We have a mass planting of hellebores in our shade garden, courtesy of my husband who grew several dozen from seed a few years ago. Normally, they bloom in April, but as there are few signs of winter here in the Great White North (southern Ontario, Canada), they've been tricked into early budding and flowering.

Let's hope they reserve some flowering for spring. Also putting on a bit of bloom are a few small Euphorbia polychroma.

Where are the snows of yesteryear? Bring 'em on, please!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Who does your garden grow?

Once the Christmas rush is over, there will be lots of time to curl up with the latest gardening books.

If you've ever wondered how plants like the Russell lupines, Shasta daisies, Bishop of Llandaff dahlia, or Shirley poppies got their names, Who Does Your Garden Grow?, by English author Alex Pankhurst (Mackey Books, 2006; $16) helps to answer these questions.

Pankhurst, an avid gardener, began to explore the history of many cultivar names to find out more about the people – some famous, other obscure – commemorated by cultivar names. But when she first approached publishers, they turned her down flat: nice idea, but there's no market for it.

Not willing to take "no" for an answer, she decided to publish and market the book herself, selling more than 10,000 copies in the UK. Now thanks to gardening publisher, Betty Mackey of Mackey Books, this charming book is available in Canada and the US. For more information go to Mackey Books. To order from Canada, click here.

While you're exploring the Mackey Books site, have a look at the excellent rock gardening books Betty has also published. Betty is one of the few independent gardening publishers around, and her company is well worth supporting.

By the way, for more winter reading ideas for gardeners, check out Betty's suggestions.

Happy holidays to all!

Friday, December 01, 2006

The wettest fall in years

It seems appropriate that this morning, on Dec. 1, we are having an intense rainstorm with high winds. It's just after nine in the morning and the rain gauge already reads two inches! Par for the course: the wettest fall we've had in years isn't quite finished with us yet.

"A river runs through it" describes our acreage today. There's water from the neighbors' higher properties draining through the low lawn area that surrounds our house. Luckily our house is on a hill, but on days like this this our basement sump pump kicks in.