Bear Berries

Bear chewed bioball

If it’s been a tough year for people and plants, it has been equally tough for wildlife. Berries and acorns are smaller or nonexistent and everything is competing for these scarce resources.

Several times this year a bear–I am presuming it is the same one because wildlife tends to repeat behavior–has come to my pond for a drink. I have never seen it but my neighbors have and have told me about it.

Frog in the newly cleaned pond

Within a week or so of this photo which was taken in mid-August, I came home from work to find that the bear had decided to do much more than drink!

It was clear that an afternoon swim was on the agenda for the bear that day. Further, once it was in the pond, it ate all the pond plants, ripped my filter box open, chewed those plastic bioballs that I showed above (which I will henceforth always think of as “bear berries “), chewed up my plastic filters and sent my fish into hiding for over a week.

But it could have been worse! At least the fish survived! I haven’t seen the frog since the bear took its dip, however. I guess that was too much for him–he was clearly no longer king of the pond!

Vine Madness

Happy, healthy vines

Despite the drought summer, my vining plants were very happy.

What you are looking at–from left to right–is the heart leafed philodendron (philodendron hederaceum), the neon philodendron (philodendron cordatum ‘neon’) and the silver satin pothos (scindapsus pictus), also known as silver vine.

Interestingly enough, supposedly the silver vine will grow up to 10 feet in the wild, so to speak. It’s been a fairly slow grower for me–I am not sure that I would know what to do with a plant that would climb up to 10 feet. I don’t have one of those houses that I see all over social media where the plants are climbing on everything–nor do I really want to.

I am kind of freaking out about the growth of my monsteras, even though I knew what they might do. I guess I really didn’t think they’d grow like that for me! But winter’s coming. They will slow down. Everything does (including me).

Don’t mistake the matter–I do put all these plants outside exactly so they will grow. But a good portion of that is to offset the 8 months of the year when they really don’t grow. (Remember my They’re NOT Growing post from last winter?) My plants not only don’t grow inside, some actually lose more leaves than they had when they came in.

So all this summer growth is crucial to surviving winter. It’s like bears fattening up for hibernation–at least in my cold house in my dark, cold climate.

But it’s too early to worry about winter. We have the beauty of autumn to enjoy yet.

Eww! Aren’t I Going to Bring in Bugs?

Medinilla myriantha

I lecture a lot about houseplants. I travel with my houseplants for “show and tell” because I think that there’s no better way to demonstrate that houseplants can be lovely and colorful 365 days a year than when I have a table full of 20 or so plants full of gorgeous colors and maybe only 1 plant–if that–is a plant with flowers or a plant in bloom.

Nevertheless, the #1 question at all my houseplant lectures, when I talk about putting plants outside for the summer and how beneficial that is is “eww! Aren’t you afraid that you’re going to bring in bugs?”

First of all, no, I am not. I have accidentally brought in a bird. I did manage to get it back outside without disaster, but, after that, bugs are nothing.

And what bugs do you mean? You can easily pick up house plant insects from other plants you aquire. Fungus gnats are notorious for lurking in potting soil. So where are these bugs coming from? You may be bringing them in from commercial sources (but let’s hope not!)

Do you mean spiders? Crickets? Ants? If these insects are near your home, they don’t need your houseplants as a way in. And if it is these insects, just shake the plant before you bring it in. That should knock most things off.

So what insects are we worried about and why?

I honestly confess that I don’t understand this question.

Shoehorning My Plants Back Inside

Quiet window for the moment

It’s been a challenging summer. Like most of the rest of the country, we here in the Northeast have been dealing with persistent drought.

And while I am very selective about what I water during a drought, even going so far to hand water so as not to waste water, I have decided that it’s just best to start bringing in the houseplants. They will need far less water that way, and I will perhaps have slightly more time to myself–once that transition is made, of course.

Succulents from their indoor home

These succulents won’t have to be moved too far–just up a flight of steps. Anything that was supposed to be transplanted (like that wickedly spiny milk tree) has already been taken care of. I just need to carry it–carefully–upstairs.

Succulents in need of work

These succulents not only need to be moved indoors and upstairs by 6 of them need repotting. So I have a good morning’s work ahead of me here.

The succulents in their “winter” home

And this is how it all turns out.

This year’s plant moving will have to be more gradual–say, one room at a time, or perhaps even fewer than that. You might have noticed that I am posting fewer posts as well. Without getting into a whole complicated explanation, I am doing physical therapy for my neck, which never quite recovered from the face down positioning of my eye surgery. It’s been a summer, we’ll just say.

But it’s all good. I just need to be slow, careful and deliberate, something I am not known for. But it’s sort of like gardening. You can’t force a plant to grow or a seed to sprout. Everything in its time.

A Closer Look

Poinsettia plants

I was taking some of the dead leaves off this larger poinsettia. The strange black object in the lower left of the photo is my printer–these two plants are in my office–and if I don’t carefully deadhead, leaves fall into my printer and jam it up. This is the problem of salvaging plants at work.

The larger poinsettia is almost 5 years old and it blooms every year. Not for Christmas, as you can see–this year it bloomed in May. I don’t particularly care. It’s lovely when it does bloom. It’s finishing up now and could really use a trim.

New growth inside the plant

You can see the new shoots here–and the thickness of some of the stems. That’s what got me taking a closer look at this plant.

Red leaf stems

The other thing that just astonished me is that the stem of every leaf is red. This is so pretty. It’s just a gorgeous contrast, especially with the dark green leaves.

I should really clean this plant up and re-pot it–but it’s growing so well in its plain old nursery pot (scary). Sometimes I just hate to change what’s working, especially in the late summer. Perhaps next spring I will give this plant the TLC it deserves.

When We Say Houseplants Are Tropical Plants, We Mean It

Colors like you might see in the Caribbean

Most of the United States is sweltering under various heat domes this summer. All sorts of records are being broken for high temperatures, including here in the frozen north (and yet, I would take this lovely steamy weather over our ice and snow anytime. I really do live in the wrong place).

Every year when I transition my ” houseplants ” outside, I talk about how beneficial this is for them, even for the brief term that they get to be outside in my climate–usually early May to early September.

Calathea rattlesnake

When this Rattlesnake Calathea came outside after a difficult winter, it had 4 leaves. After 3 months in a shady location, here is its recovered look.

Calathea orbifolia

This plant had a more dramatic recovery. It had 3 leaves, 2 of which were half dead, and it was spider mite infested. It’s better now, although I will obviously have to watch for mites once it’s back inside.

Alocasia Black Velvet

And this might have been one of the plants that I featured in my “It’s Not Growing ” post this winter. I can’t recall if it had 2 or 3 leaves but it just looked sad. It is much happier now. The old leaves are gone.

I could show you a dozen more examples but these are some of my most challenging plants. If they can do well, most anything can.

Obviously, in Northern climates it is a little late to think about transitioning plants outside now if you haven’t already done so. But definitely consider it for next year. The plants will thank you!