First Big Snow

So most people have heard about the big snow storm that hit the northeast. As snow goes, it was actually fairly average for Connecticut–in my town we had just about a foot–but of course it’s been a few years since we have had this much snow. And none of us is getting any younger.

Front steps snowed in

This doesn’t look like much–there’s no perspective. Consider that 3 steps are buried under there.

Steps–one half dug

This is better. The steps on the left have been dug out. The ones on the right–obviously not. Again, I am not getting any younger. But the real reason is that I prefer deliveries to go to the door on the left. This is a surefire way to direct them there.

Basement walkout

If anyone can answer how this stairwell always drifts completely in–full of snow–with every storm. It’s on the south side of our house and the storms come from the northeast. Clearly the winds eddy around and the snow drifts in. But this is the shoveling job that kills me every time!

Nature in Winter

It’s been a lovely, mild early winter so far. There have been cold days, but for the most part, like most months, the temperature has been above average and the precipitation that has fallen has all been rain. This is great because our severe drought of the summer is just about erased. It will really help the plants once the cold weather does settle in.

One of the advantages of the mild days is that I can actually enjoy walking–and observing–nature. I have several field guides to nature in winter and I even have one specifically for birds nests–because once the deciduous trees shed their leaves, lots of birds nests become visible.

I am quite sure that this nest never would have been visible, no matter how closely I looked, when everything had leaves.

This nest is in a gingko tree, which has much lacier leaves. It’s possible that it might have been seen with some sharp eyes. I can’t say that I ever noticed it, however, until the tree lost its leaves.

And while I was out nest spotting, I saw this.

Maple tree

While this looks really cool, this is not a good sign. This is a sign of trouble for this tree. You can already see that it has lost two major limbs–perhaps three. The lost limbs have been cut and now the mushrooms are sprouting from the trunk in those places.

Those shelf mushrooms are a sign of interior decay within that lovely maple. It needs to come down–before a storm brings it down on the house or the neighbor’s house.

We are expecting a lot of snow this week. Let’s hope that this tree holds up.

The Perfect Apartment Christmas Tree?

Norfolk Island Pine

This time of year you will see a lot of small evergreens being sold as small indoor Christmas trees. With limited exceptions, however, live evergreens are not really suitable for indoor growing.

If you have ever tried to grow one of those juniper bonsai that seem to be very popular this time of year, you know the problem. They will grow fine for awhile in our heated, dry homes, but eventually they succumb to something-usually it’s mites, although they are often too small to see. The plant just looks like it dried out and died.

Other small evergreens, often sold with lights and ornaments already attached, are Alberta spruce. They make adorable little live trees–but they are then very difficult to transition back outdoors into a cold climate and plant in the spring.

Then there are the non-hardy cypress and pines that we get up here in the frozen north. They are lovely and beautiful but what, exactly are we supposed to do with them? They can’t be grown in containers forever?

So if you would like to have a small, live evergreen indoors, the Norfolk Island Pine is probably your best choice. It’s easy to care for, it doesn’t mind being grown as a tropical indoor plant, and it supports ornaments.

A caution or two: it will put on a new layer of branches every year. So eventually, they get large.

Also as you can see, they are often sold with multiple trees per pot. For best growth habit, separate them out now. I may have waited a little too long already. I think I actually have 3 in that pot!

And while I have read that they can be susceptible to mites, I have never really had any trouble with any that I have grown. I grow them in an east or west window–wherever there’s room.

These little trees are generally readily available this time of year. If you want a small, live tabletop tree, this is definitely the one to choose.

Less Traditional Holiday Plants


This is a terrific plant. As you can see by the larger of the two in this photo, I have had it for quite some time, since it has made its way into such a large pot. The smaller one has only been with me a season or two.

Suddenly, however, I am seeing it being touted as a December holiday plant. Now, I am all for non-traditional plants, but this really doesn’t work with my decorating style in December.

Yes, there’s a good bit of reddish color in here, but there’s too much orange and yellow. It just screams “autumn,” the season I just left. It’s perfect for any of the autumnal holidays–but not for my December holiday.

Then again, as I always say, if we all liked the same things, what a boring world this would be!

My Philodendron ‘Pink Princess’ Story

Monstera adansonsii

No, your eyes don’t deceive you–that photo is not a philodendron; it’s a monstera.

So why have I titled this post “my philodendron ‘pink princess’ story?” Well, take note of that monstera’s habit. It is going well–too well in my opinion. I specifically chose this variety because it was supposed to stay smaller, lower, and not be so vining.

But a plant will do what a plant wants to do–and that’s my caution to all of you who are lusting after ‘Pink Princess.’ This vining habit is what ‘Pink Princess’ will do. And that’s why I no longer have one. I couldn’t stand it. And so, it became compost.

So that’s my story about one of the world’s trendiest, expensive plants: I composted it because I couldn’t stand its habit.

Obviously this was before it became so trendy, or I probably could have sold it to buy a small car or something. But that’s not me.

I’m more like a “love it or compost it” kind of person.

A Boxed Amaryllis

Okay, I did it. I really wanted to make sure that I got a white amaryllis this year. So when I saw this at my grocery store, I fell for it.

No variety specified, but okay.

This is what I found when I opened the box. Pretty impressive if I were giving this as a gift.

This is what I found when I took off that nice aerated cover. Ugh. The bulb is entirely buried–at least one third should be left exposed. And the mix is this impossible to re-wet peat.

I ran water through the potting mix several times. Of course it ran straight out the bottom. Then I thought that I would try to scrape some of the mix off the top of the bulb. That’s when I realized that despite my best attempt to moisten this container wasn’t going to happen.

So I re-potted it into a clay pot. You can’t quite tell that I have left some of the bulb above the potting mix because so much of that peat still clings to it. It will eventually wash off, but I am not a fan of over-saturating bulbs.

I am sure this will turn out fine–it has the tips of two flower stalks already showing.

And as a boxed amaryllis goes, this is definitely better than most. Now, if it just turns out to be white, it will be a home run!

The Anti-Poinsettia

Aglaeonema ‘Siam Aurora ‘

Like last Friday, I thought I would focus on a plant that you might be happy to have in your home long past the holidays, and yet has enough red and green coloring to do double duty as a Christmas plant.

I write about these plants a lot. This is an aglaeonema, or Chinese Evergreen. As a general rule, I avoid common names and try yo use the botanical ones, particularly when they refer to a place so as not to avoid offending anyone. But correct botanical names also assures you that you are going to get the correct plant when you go to the garden center–or are searching out a particularly unusual plant online.

I have several of these plants and honestly, this is the least colorful of them, if you can believe that! Or perhaps I should say that this is the one with the most muted colors. The others are far more colorful–but not in a holiday way.

This one–it’s probably ‘Silver Queen’ but since I got it at a box store, it came with no cultivar designation–another reason to shop at garden centers. You know what you’re buying! Anyway, this plant would also make a lovely, understated holiday statement.

My red variety is ‘Siam Aurora,’ and it too is one of the more muted reds out there. Breeders have developed splashier, more vibrant coloring for these–but this is fine for me.

These are easy care plants. I have had the red plant at least 5 years, only re-potted it twice and it has never had any issues with insects or disease. None of my aglaeonema have had any issues, in fact.

I keep them in west or shaded east windows. They like bright, indirect light.

So if you are looking for a plant that you can enjoy either with–or instead or–poinsettias–give aglaeonema a try. You won’t be sorry.