Memorial Plants?

On Monday I posted about the dish garden that was given to me to commemorate–or commiserate over–a loss.

A few weeks ago I posted about my ‘Snow Fountain’ weeping cherry which we planted to honor my Dad’s passing.

So all this posting about “memorial” plants has got me thinking about plants as a way of remembering people. It’s not unusual, of course, to plant a tree to remember someone. But what really got me thinking was a comment I made in response to a comment on my “Dish Garden” post.

If you recall, the second part of that post was about a “deconstructed” dish garden that a neighbor had given me. What I really didn’t say in that post was that she received that garden when her husband passed away–so I was sort of the repository of plants given in his memory–and that was fine because I knew him well and liked him very much.

In my comment I said that eventually my neighbor would move away or pass away as well and all I would have as a memory would be those plants, making them true “memorial” plants.

I wonder how other people feel about this. Do you find it creepy or comforting? I know that out in the garden I have lots of plants from folks that are “no longer with me” in one sense or another. Many have just moved away. Others I have lost touch with, for whatever reason. But whenever I see those plants, I think of the various people with fondness.

So why should it be any different with house plants? For many years, my longest lived house plant was a begonia that was a cutting from a neighbor. That neighbor is long gone, but I still referred to the begonia as “Mr. So-and So’s” begonia.

Now my longest lived house plant is a ficus that I refer to as “Grandma’s ficus,” for obvious reasons (I hope). It was given to my Grandmother on her 90th birthday in 1988. It is now mine (Gram wasn’t really into plants. I inherited it shortly thereafter, probably no later than early 1989).

Obviously I do not find this creepy at all. Then again, I work in a job where part of it is helping people who have just lost a loved one plan their funeral. So during the pandemic, especially, I have talked about death a lot to a lot of people. It’s been gut wrenching.

Sometimes, we are blessed that we do have plants to help us return to normalcy.

Indoor Container Design

The classic “dish garden”

If one has had a loss, you can be fairly assured of at least two things: the kindness and sympathy of family and friends and their generosity. They will be generous with both food and, at least in my case, with plants. I am grateful for everything.

What strikes me, every time I look at this little dish garden, is that it’s one of the better ones that I have seen. The plants are designed to grow in the same sort of light–this is quite often not the case when these little collections are put together.

I have seen them–particularly at the holidays–mixing things like little evergreens, ivies, cyclamen and even kalanchoe all together. It was very pretty, but clearly these plants have different watering and light requirements.

What was good about the evergreen/ivy/cyclamen type arrangement is that it does follow the ” thriller, filler, spiller” combination that we follow when putting together outdoor containers. My dish garden above does the same thing.

The palm and dieffenbachia are the “thrillers,” the peace lily is the “filler,” and the philodendron is the “spiller.”

Deconstructed dish garden

You may remember these plants from 18 months or so ago. A neighbor gave me her dish garden after it had really outgrown its “dish,” so to speak. So I individually re-potted all the plants. But her garden had all the good elements of a container planting. It’s “thrillers” are the 2 dracena and palm; its ” fillers” are the maranta (prayer plant), and the peace lily, and the “spiller” is also the philodendron.

So if you are planning to construct an indoor container or dish garden, remember these two things. If you are planting the plants in the same container, make sure that they all want the same conditions (it sounds silly to say, but I see the pros mess this up all the time!) And keep those outdoor container gardening principles in mind. You can’t go wrong with those.

House Plant Care As We Approach Spring

“Approaching Spring ” certainly seems optimistic right now. As I write this, I am facing who knows what? At least 3-4 more winter storms of some sort in the next 10 days. At this point it appears that the storms will be a combination of snow, sleet, freezing rain, maybe rain….With my ski slope of a driveway, I can navigate snow fairly well. I am marooned by ice, however. So I may have lots of time to do plant care.

But the plants don’t know anything about that. As soon as March comes, they literally seem to sense a change in the sunlight. They begin to grow more quickly, which means that they need more water.

It also means it’s fine to re-pot them if they need it. And if you have been holding off on fertilizer for the winter, you can resume now that the growth is resuming.

One thing to be aware of: the plants aren’t the only things waking up. Insects are also waking up as well. I find that aphids are one of the first to show up on the plants if they have somehow over-wintered and escaped detection so far. So check your plants carefully every couple of days–you will be watering more anyway so that’s a great time to check.

Knowing what is likely to happen allows you to anticipate it and to be prepared. Both you and your plants will be grateful.

A Cherished Tree for A Cherished Reason

Weeping cherry in bloom

A couple of weeks ago I had photos of my newly pruned ornamental cherry.  That tree is one of the most special trees on our property even though it has no intrinsic wildlife value. It was given to us as a gift to commemorate the death of my Dad in 1999.

It was already quite mature in 1999 when it was gifted to us and it has only matured more beautifully in its place. It blooms quite nicely every spring (and I am looking forward to this year’s bloom now that it has been pruned!) Its beautiful weeping canopy is visible from 1/4 mile away.

We live on a curvy street–and as soon as a car turns the curve and heads in the direction of our house, if that tree is in bloom, it’s visible. It’s like a beacon. It’s just amazing.

Small trees are something of a rarity in the landscape simply by definition. A tree is a tree partly because of its height. But this tree has stayed nicely under 7 feet, although its spread is much wider.

Cherry trees have a storied past in our country, although whether our first President really did cut one down is perhaps more an urban legend–or self–promoting myth–than reality. Still, they play a role in our American history. 

While we do have native cherries, most were brought here from Europe.  And the lovely small ornamental flowering cherry trees that many home gardeners now covet today are generally imported from Asia. For a great post on ornamental cherry trees, and the great selection available to home gardeners, here is this primer from

Our ornamental cherry has proven to be free from every type of disease and insect (with the exception of an occasional nibble from a passing Japanese beetle–but nothing too troublesome).  It has survived several droughts without supplemental watering and has never received fertilizer–but then again, everything in my yard gets tough love. Worst of all, it has been mangled by pruning from The Spoiler and his lawn mower.

Sometimes, just like with house plants, too much love (once a plant is established) can be a bad thing!

Something Different to Grow in the Kitchen

The nearly ready to eat mushrooms

On Monday I mentioned, in passing, my adventures with trying to grow mushrooms. From this photo, it looks fairly successful, right? Read on.

The mushroom saga, for lack of a better title, began when the Spoiler saw a log that was supposed to grow mushrooms in a gift insert in our local paper. Since I was a little light on gifts for him, I thought that the log might be fun, even though I would be doing all the actual “growing. He would enjoy the eating part.

Shitake mushroom log

So I ordered it. It was a fairly complex thing. It had to be soaked 24 hours in non-chlorinated water before anything would happen. Do you have any idea how much water it takes to cover this log? Half a utility sink, exactly.

So I did that and then set it on a plate (like the other box is sitting) and waited. Nothing. They say if nothing happens in a week, repeat the process and cover the log because perhaps it needs moisture.

Back to the half utility sink of non-chlorinated water. Fortunately I had just bought some plants so I had a large covering available.

A week later, I was growing some nice white mold, but mushrooms–no. So the log is in my potting shed. I will try to get it to produce outside this summer.

Meanwhile , the Spoiler now is looking for mushrooms. So online I go, to this organic kit “guaranteed to grow.” I soak it according to instructions (no nonsense about non-chlorinated water, but I used some anyway), and as soon as I scored the inside of the box, I could smell a nice earthy smell. I knew that this would work.

Here’s the progress:

Perhaps a week after soaking

3 days later

2 weeks after soaking

So this is an unqualified success! The Spoiler gets his mushrooms!

I Can’t Wait To Plant!

Some of my seed and plant catalogs

Well, that didn’t take long.

All you have to do is to look back at my post on January 1 of this year. What I said then was that I thought my gardening in 2021 would be fairly scaled back, as my gardening in 2020 had been.

Apparently though, I underestimated my “pent up” gardening demand.

It’s as if something happened. I am not sure if it was the couple of snows at the end of January and in early February, or what quite happened, but it was as if the “gardening” switch in my brain suddenly got turned on to hyper drive. I can’t wait to plant!

I am poring over catalogs to see what I might want to add to the garden. I am trying to decide how I might incorporate edibles with the copious critter problem that I have. I am planning different container designs (always a favorite thing to do).

I am attending Zoom lectures about different gardening techniques, growing mushrooms from a kit in my kitchen (and that is a story for another day!), and going to webinars about what the plant breeders are doing—one of my favorite topics anyway.

When I am out walking my dog, as she sniffs around my garden beds, I am eyeing them critically to see what can be added, what can be pruned and what can be changed. I’ve already had a little tree pruning done and I plan to do a little more if the weather permits.

Those of you who remember my “sustainable” articles from earlier years know that I am not one to clean up my garden beds too early because I want to ensure that the beneficial insects have plenty of time to survive—so about all I can do outside is prune on warmish days. And while I do love to prune, there’s a limit to how creative that can be.

Fortunately, I am restraining myself from buying (right now, at least) because, well, who knows? We are still in the middle of this pandemic and the last thing I want to happen is to have boxes of plants to arrive when I am unable to care for them.

But it’s such a joy to look at the new plants and to dream! Hope springs eternal!

Generational? Or Something Else?

I was checking one of my favorite sites (yes, it was the National Garden Bureau ([] again, because they had articles on seed starting) when I came upon a new app there for something. And I can’t even tell you what’s it’s for because I clicked right off the the whole site so fast that I didn’t have time to look.

Clearly, I have no trouble with web sites. I have no trouble with computers. I consume all my media electronically, I am embarrassed to admit. The Spoiler reads actual newspapers and I sit in the same room with him and read the same papers on my tablet. I much prefer reading on my Kindle to reading a paper book.

But, when it comes to gardening, I do not want to use apps, phones, meters, tablets, or anything like that. I want to go outside–or during the 6 months of the year when it’s too cold for that, to actually touch my house plants and their soil–with my hands. I don’t want a moisture meter telling me when to water, some light meter giving me foot candle readings or anything of the sort. I have eyes (albeit compromised ones) and hands and gardening is my escape from all the technology that I use in the rest of my life.

A survey conducted by Axiom Marketing in November 2020 said that gardeners 56+ (their categories were 18-28, 29-39, 40-55, and 56+) do not use gardening apps. Only 8% of the 56+ category used any apps at all. I am definitely not in that 8%.

And it’s not that I don’t think that apps aren’t useful. It’s more that I want time away from technology. For a long time, I didn’t even take my phone when I went outside. I didn’t want to hear it ring (perish the thought!) and I surely didn’t want to ever check email.

And while there might be useful functions–planners, graphs, etc.–that the phone can do–I have kept a paper garden journal for literally decades. It’s no hardship to write things down at the end of the day for me. It cements them into my brain. And the physical book is useful for storing garden receipts and notes about what I might need to buy for next year too.

So am I an old gardening lady? Maybe–and that’s fine. But for me, my garden is a place to decompress and unwind. And I am keeping it that way.