Thursday, December 30, 2010

Houseplant Season

Back in Vermont after a splendid Christmas with our assembled descendants, bags unpacked, dogs retrieved from their Club Med week at the Halfling B&B, I am now on the long annual slide towards spring.

Every year, as soon as Christmas is over, things take on a different look.  A spring look.  The day is a couple of minutes longer, a difference, my husband insists, that no one could possibly notice.  But I do.  I notice and take action, which means that at about this time, every year, I buy a houseplant.

This Christmas I received an amaryllis bulb, and yesterday, before even unpacking my bags, I opened the package from the nursery, read the directions, moistened the growing medium, nestled the giant bulb in it, and placed the pot by a south-facing window next to a zonal geranium that, as excited as I by the lengthening days (and by the sun reflecting on the Christmas snow) has put out a bright red bloom.

That amaryllis is getting a lot of attention.  Whenever I walk by it, I cannot help thrusting a finger into the growing medium to check for moisture, or giving the pot a quarter turn so every side gets equal exposure to light, or spritzing it with water.

This is the halcyon season for my houseplants, when, in the throes of gardening frustration, I coddle them and chat with them and give them baths in the kitchen sink.  And every year, I add to the collection.

Today in the grocery store, despite the pregnant amaryllis bulb waiting at home,  I couldn't resist a sprightly, bright-green little fern.  I also bought a miniature orchid that fits exactly on the windowsill above the sink, where it will never lack for moisture.

In March, as soon as I plant my spinach seeds in the snow, all my senses will turn towards the outdoors, and my interest in houseplants will begin to wane.  By June, when harvesting and weeding begin in earnest, I will wonder what possessed me to burden my life with houseplants that, after all, possess no edible parts.

But right now those little houseplants, as needy and useless and absurd as teacup poodles, are keeping me sane, hopeful, and focused on that long slide towards spring. 

9 comments :

  1. oh how i love seeing the word "spring." and oh how i wish i could mail you the plants that we are trying so hard not to kill. there is no good place in our house for plants; no place where they get the proper light. it took us 20 years to kill the peace lily that doug was given when his father died. now his mother has died, and we have a new peace lily that needs to be repotted and needs lots of water and ... oh it is going to be a long sad life for her.

    i have repotted the whatever it was that came in one of the arrangemnts--there is potting soil all over the bathroom--but already it looks sad. and the african violet--wel, it's a tragedy.

    i know that some people like to give living, growing plants at funerals but it only means another funeral later.

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  2. Laurie, this sounds way too depressing! Have you tried "grow lights"? They are special full-spectrum light bulbs that you can get at most hardware stores, Home Depot, etc. African violets do insist on lots of light--do you have a south-facing window? Or a window where light reflects off all that snow?
    Here's hoping that 2011 is good for you, as well as for your plants!

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  3. my dad used to use grow-lights. he'd rig them up in the basement, or sometimes he'd put them right in the fireplace (which hadn't had a fire in it, ever). but we have nowhere to do that--our house is small and cluttered and every available space is covered in books.

    we do have southfacing windows in the dining room, and a long shelf on top of the radiator, but the heat from the radiator fries plants that are placed there, and the windows don't get all that much light anyway because of the neighbors' house.

    i do have two small plants on top of the toilet tank, which is in front of a south-facing window upstairs. they look good. but they will grow. and then what?

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  4. Clearly, you need to build an attached greenhouse! BTW, grow-lights also come as regular-size bulbs. You could put one in one of those inexpensive wall fixtures that you hang on a nail.
    Peace lilies, as I recall, don't need much light.
    When plants get too big you can trim their foliage and their roots. This I learned from a wonderful old book by Thalassa Cruso, "Making Things Grow," that taught me all I know about house plants. I often come across it in used-book stores.

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  5. today's blog posting was inspired by you, and by all this. good to know about peace lilies and light. i can move it now.

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  6. I went through a few years of trying to grow bulbs in the winter. Some worked, some didn't. I was not as good a parent to them as you are.

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  7. News: a wedding will occur in July 2012. We've tried to talk about heat & humidity: one knows and one doesn't ;-) Makes me think about why my parents were so upset when we insisted on marrying on Dec. 20 -- such a bad choice in hindsight. But it is what it is.
    So: I love red amaryllis and your husband is so wrong. I notice that everyday gets lighter IMMEDIATELY & given my location, it's a joke. Preserve every plant that has family history if you can. They are precious. I have ferns from the 1940s. Kind family hands nurtured them. Tradition starts now!

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  8. You're supposed to be able to get them to flower the next winter, as well, but I've never managed that.

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  9. mrb, big congratulations on the upcoming wedding! And happy recent anniversary.
    Ferns from the 1940s? I'm impressed.

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