The garden inside

The plantry fall 2009No two seasons are ever the same in any garden (I should think) and evidently no two seasons are the same in the jungle either.* It’s not just the acquisitions that change (I did recently receive a Logee’s catalog – you too?) but the whole everything changes. This year I can attribute some of the changes to the foster-children Ponderosa lemon and agave going back to the greenhouse at work (now that they’re beautiful again – bow, applause). Some might say – and have said – that I still have too many plants. To which I can only reply “psshaw” or “not possible” or “bite me” if I’m feeling particularly feisty. But when so many plants come back inside for the winter that I can’t see out of my windows anymore, it might start to feel, even to me, like I might have a lot of plants. But that’s all beside the point of what I felt like mentioning today.

Z working on the plantry's backdoor. The biggest change to my jungle is that I won’t be bragging anymore about how miraculously my plants survive the plantry over the winter. In another nag-and-ye-shall-receive coup (believe me I know how lucky I am) the needs of my many plants took precedence over other (less important, obviously) house projects. Where previously there were sheet-metal “storm” doors and dog-blanket breeze-baffles there are now actual doors with latches, double-pane glass and weather-proof seals around all of the edges. It’s an amazing thing. So far the tests have been nights in an above freezing but still nose-nipping range and the plantry temperature has not dipped much below 50 as far as I can tell. (My extra-cool digital temperature and humidity thingamabob kicked it this summer and I’m back to consulting an old-school fake-mercury thermometer decorated with a drawing of a daffodil.) The walls of the plantry are uninsulated so the plants will probably still require a heater out there. And as Z found out by muscling rectangles into rhomboids, the entire porchlet may be falling off the house to end up in a heap in the driveway. I say, if that, then greenhouse!

What’s different in your jungle this year?

*I just realized that today is trench mani’s 1st blogiversary – which means I’ve thought about abandoning this blog – but haven’t (yet) for a whole year. Thanks for reading it – and keeping me blahbing. Cheers!

Taking my own advice

show off before the move insideYou know the adage “do as I say, not as I do”?  I’m the worst.  I did a little research for my post at work about citruses which pretty much confirmed what I already knew.  I am a plant slayer.  And I don’t like to take my own advice because it’s generally tedious or time consuming or otherwise inconvenient.  I have been keeping my ponderosa lemon orphan out in the plantry because it looks good out there showing its fruit off to the neighbors and because it would take up too much room inside.  I knew it was the wrong place for it.  Citruses, as I reminded myself the other day, can take temperature dips into the 40’s but prefer to winter at about 60°.  The plantry’s average nightly temperatures are in the 40’s but sometimes drops into the scary low 30’s like when I forget to turn on the heater or when it goes into the single digits outside – which has been a fairly frequent occurence this winter.  kittens help with leaf washingAnd the lemon doesn’t look so good.  Although, since I’ve moved it to the livingroom, scattering lemons, branches and leaves in my wake, I’ve decided it looked a lot better before.  Now it will be a daily reproof sitting sickly at the end of my couch, taking up half of a much darker room and plagued by horticulturally fixated kittens who don’t realize just how thorny the thing is.  But what’s a plant junkie to do?  I can’t bring it back to the greenhouse – the only reason I have it is because we don’t have room for it there.  And I can’t put it out in the very cold to die quickly.  The only thing to do is to do as I say, not as I do.

Frigid air

It’s freezer-ish out and fridge-ish in.  Especially out in the plantry.

The outside temperatures have been forecast to plunge into the singles and inconceivable negatives for windchill or “feels like” temperatures for the next and past couple of days and I’m a little worried (a lot, a little) about the poor kids out there.  Yesterday morning I got up at 4am when the howling wind woke me (an hour before the alarm) to make sure they weren’t all frozen.  — As if I, barefoot in my bathrobe, could have reversed the process at that point.  (My great-grandfather, so I’m told, was just as nutty.  Plant Anxiety is a hereditary trait.)

Orange in the east.  Lavenders and geraniums featured.There is a heater running – an electric oil filled radiator – when I remember to turn it on.  Lately I’ve been leaving it on even on sunny days just in case there’s too much crème brûlée in my evening and I might forget.  And yesterday Z stopped at Ace is the Place on the way home for some clips and hooks so that I could hang dog blankets in front of the drafty crappy doors for a little extra assurance.  blue for the west door.  Ponderosa lemon and agave featured.(I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes the latest trend in home decor and I’d leave the blankets up indefinitely but the dog might protest.  He’s been very generous though, so far.)

But that’s my only plan for this terrifying temperature dip.  I have no back up.  If the power goes out, those plants could become icepops in a matter of hours.  Hours that I’d most likely be spending down the road making sure more important plants don’t die.  It’s ok.  I’m resigned.  I love my kids but almost everyone in the plantry is an orphan from work – I’ve already given them a second chance; a third might be too much to ask.  And mostly it’s ok because it would be a lazy gardener’s nightmare chore to move them all inside – especially after my trip to Logee’s.  It was difficult enough to find flat surfaces for a few 2″ cuttings – where the fershlug would I put the enormous lemon or the agave?   It’s so much easier to cover the doors with dog blankets and hope for the best.

In honor of Garden Bloggers Bloom Day hosted by Carol of May Dreams gardens, here’s a list of what’s in bloom at Champignon (that’s our fancy name – means mushroom, yo – for the house and gardens):  Pelargonium sidoides, Pelargonium – something scented and variegated – maybe ‘Apple’?, Lavandula dentata,  a new Begonia from Logee’s – ‘Candlelight’, an old Begonia maculata var. ‘Wightii’ or “Polka dot” from Logee’s and an aphid ridden African violet.  Everybody but the begonias and African violet are in the plantry.

Pelargonium sidoides in full bloom

Stay warm this mid January and worry free (unlike me)!

Bite my shiny metal aspidistra

Bite me, says Audrey and Pigeon complies

I’m planning on doing a series of houseplant posts at work but I feel like if I don’t get Aspidistra eliator a little bit out of my system here, I might be inclined to say inappropriate things about it there – like “bite my shiny metal aspidistra”. (Are there any other Futurama fans out there?)

I have a pretty big aspidistra (yup) that I have ignored for years.  Ignorance is bliss.  This thing never even had pests before the kittens came along.  I didn’t really know about Cast Iron plants before I had to water the ones at work but it turns out that they are a Victorian cult classic and now I and the kiddens would be bereft without one in some dark corner somewhere.  My Cast Iron plant spends the summer outside in as much shade as I can find for it (see evidence of sun scorch on a few of the leaves – I haven’t groomed the plant for the sake of the kittehs.  I figure the more leaves it has, the less likely they’ll damage all of the new pretty ones.  Twisted Aspidistra Logic from a lazy indoor gardener.)  It’s made of tough enough stuff (cast iron perhaps) to live out in the frigid plantry during the winter  – it did last year – but without even knowing how entertaining it could be, this year I put it in my studio where now I watch it like TV.  — Incidentally, an aspidistra was a character named Uncle Rangdo (the ruler of Arg) played by Kenny Baker (R2-D2) on a British gameshow called The Adventure Game.  Audrey and Pigeon use my Uncle as one of their Jungle Jims and it is faring better than anyone else in the plant family that they have chosen to abuse.  More on those guys later.

I have posted an entire aspidistra vs. kitteh vs. kitteh  fight on my flickr…  Do you have a Cast Iron plant?  Do you remember to water it every once in a while?