A Surprising Gift Plant


This collection of plants was part of a dish garden that my neighbor received a little over a year ago when her husband passed away. She has nurtured it quite beautifully, but she professed to be “no good with plants” and passed it along to me for transplanting and safekeeping.


What you might be able to tell from this photo is how pot-bound it was. Look at the tangle of roots where I have already cut out one of the plants. Despite that, the little dish garden was really thriving. I only had to remove a little bit of decay from the palm and some die back on the maranta (prayer plant–and they can be a little finicky anyway) and the rest of the plants were in really good shape.

What’s also very interesting about the collection of plants in this dish garden is that with the exception of the maranta, they are all known to be great plants for cleaning the air.

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Perhaps it’s not easy to see what’s in the dish garden from these photos. There was the little palm that I previously mentioned, and the prayer plant. There were 2 dracaenas, a variegated one and a variety called ‘Janet Craig,’ which is smaller. There was a philodendron and a peace lily (spathophilum). It’s really a nice little collection of plants.

And this is the end result once the plants were all separated and potted up. I asked my neighbor if there was at least one that she would like to keep but she said no. So my house plant collection has been significantly enriched by this!

Practicing What I Preach–Sort Of

One of the things I always talk about when I lecture is the importance of foliage in garden design. Even when I am talking about house plants, foliage is the star–I will often bring 20 or 30 plants to display–and after everyone is done “oohing and aahing,” I will remark that it’s important to notice a couple of things about my display: first, how colorful it is and second, that there are maybe only one or perhaps two at most flowering plants int he whole thing (and if there are, I guarantee you one is a phalaenopsis orchid so that I can talk about proper watering technique–not the “ice cube” method.)


For example, here’s a grouping of plants from my living room. There’s not a flowering plant among them but the grouping is vibrant and colorful. This photo is from last year so it’s changed up a little bit, but it’s still substantially similar–and still no flowers in this low-light area beneath a window.

The same results can be achieved outdoors as well. In fact, when I have the time and energy, I find that it’s almost more fun to create all foliage containers. I have not created anything at all this year–as I type, I am nursing a 3″ scar across the my arm–and I am right handed–that is preventing me from doing anything outside at all, including watering. That’s where the Spoiler comes in handy. But I knew this was coming so I didn’t make this an intensive gardening year. There’s always next year.

For inspiration, however, check out these lovely, mostly foliage containers at Avant Gardens. And then plan for your foliage containers in the future!

Succulent Corner


One of the first things that you might notice is that I have tagged this post “house plants.” That’s not because succulents aren’t hardy for me: it’s just that I have very poor clay soil. And nature has been over-performing in the moisture area in the last couple of years so succulents are not something that I try to grow in the ground very often.

In fact, about the only place that I can grow them is where the bedrock juts out of our yard. I have some success growing succulents on the rock face of that stone. This is what that looks like.

But for the most part, I keep my succulents indoors, although they do migrate out to the sun porch for a “summer” vacation.

After all, even plants should enjoy the little bit of summer that we get here in the frozen north.

Know Your Exposure


I mentioned that our trees are usually in full leaf by the first week of May. One of the things that does is change the light inside our house.

Obviously this photo was taken on one of our innumerable rainy days. But you can pretty much tell that even on a sunny day, this window is not going to get much sun. Why am I even making an issue of this?


This is what’s in that window. And from October until just about now, it’s fine. Now I am praying for some warm weather so that I can get all these (or most of them anyway) outside for the summer where they will be much happier.

So if your house plants suddenly start looking a little peaked, take a look at what’s happened to your indoor light. Perhaps, like mine, it’s gotten a little shadier than your plants care for.

Ways of Seeing


I had this photo of my clivia miniata up just a little over a week ago on a “Wordless Wednesday.”

I’m posting it again today for a different reason. As we begin to fully enter spring in the northern hemisphere, I want to remind everyone to take time to really look at flowers. (So I guess you can tell that while I am a little too young to have been a “hippie,” I definitely believe in that stopping to smell the flowers–and to look closely at them–is a good thing!)

I remember distinctly a time when I said to someone how much I loved tulips because there were so many colors held within just one flower.The person looked at me as if I had 3 heads. But I would say the same thing about this lovely clivia flower.

Of course it’s a screaming orange color at first glance. That’s what attracts our gaze. But I am willing to believe that is what attracts pollinators to this beautiful flower (in its natural habitat, of course–not in my living room!)

Once the pollinators notice, I suspect they are lured in by the other coloration. I have read that bees don’t see red very well–they see it as a muddy dark color–and that’s why hummingbirds know that red flowers will have nectar left, for example.

There are some fabulous internet videos of the way bees see color–if you’re interested, take a look!

But the yellow throat of this clivia probably shows up as screaming, shocking fuschia to a bee!

And I adore the three delicate white scallops leading to the yellow throats of each petal.

Next time you have a flowering plant in bloom, take a closer look. Who knows what you’ll see?