January 30, 2008
Lover, Imagine If You Woke Up in Chicago!
people shop with their eyes. They see something they like and they
purchase it. Plant lovers are no different. I submit that they should
are living breathing entities. They are not unlike pets in this regard.
Plants are totally dependent on you, the purchaser, for their
well-being. Brought home from a store, nursery or greenhouse, the plant
is now at your mercy, so to speak. Imagine waking up tomorrow morning
in Chicago or other strange and unfamiliar environment. Disorienting?
Traumatic? Imagine what it’s like for your new
plant may have gone through several incarnations. Its ancestors might
have begun life in a frigid plain far from civilization. Your new
acquisition might have been transported from a steamy greenhouse
somewhere far from the nursery where you saw it and fell in love at
you plan to keep a newly purchased plant for longer than a season, then
we are not talking about an annual bedding plant. We are instead
discussing either a houseplant or a perennial, be it a bulb, ground
cover, landscape ornamental, shrub or even a tree.
purchase, it is always best to find out as much as you possibly can
about the desired plant. Ask many questions of the grower or nursery
staff. You owe it to the plant and yourself if you are embarking on a
successful long-term relationship. Take it seriously, and you will
probably be rewarded more than you imagine.
people buy a plant, scoop a bit of dirt out of the earth and throw in
the plant. “Grow or go!” is a common attitude. This also happens all
too often with houseplants. The individual rationalizes that a new
plant is there for him or her, and its job is to perform and please.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
job is to fulfill its birthright: To grow to the fullest of its
potential, to flower and fruit, thus completing its role in life by
you might believe there is a shared responsibility. Even if this were
true, most of it depends on the sentimental being that made the choice
to purchase the plant. He bears the full responsibility of providing a
sound, safe and hospitable environment for the
plant is special. Your best effort will come from your trying to
understand your plant. After some investigation you should be able to
empathize with it and imagine the ecological niche it occupies in its
native habitat. A bit of research and soul searching will inform you of
many of the plant’s wants and needs, and how you can provide everything
possible to replicate its native environment.
should live in
harmony with its surroundings. Yes, at some point in the future a shift
begins to take place when the plant begins to become increasingly
dependent on the soil web and its microorganisms. As long as you’ve
provided the right environment the plant can form and develop the new
relationships needed for a successful future. Your plant will share its
energy with its surroundings.
I’ll select an
example: Suppose you see a Chrysanthemum that you really like and want
to grow at home. This is a genus of at least twenty species. The annual
species originate from the Mediterranean region where they grow in dry
fields and wasteland. These are typically the florist mums, beautiful,
grown for indoor use and enjoyment, and not suitable for planting
perennial species come to us from the Arctic, parts of Northern and
Central Russia, China and Japan. Chrysanthemums are important
horticulturally for their showy flowerheads. They have been in
cultivation for over three thousand years.
at least a dozen flowerhead forms, some grown solely for exhibitions.
I’ll restrict myself to the typical garden mum (chrysanthemum). Even
here, there are hundreds of cultivated varieties to consider in colors
like bronze, coral, lavender, orange, red, white, and yellow. And
consider, too, a multiplicity of flowerhead forms from the typical
pom-pom to the daisy.
garden mums sold today are either greenhouse grown or, more frequently,
field grown. Many require a great deal of light, preferring between
4000 and 8000 ft. candles (full sun), but some will tolerate as little
as 500 to 2000 ft. candles. You need to find out. All prefer a
clay-loam or a good garden soil to which you have added humus, peat
moss and/or fiber for drainage. Many a field grown mum is grown in a
silty-clay and would benefit when transplanted into an improved soil
mix. Its chances of flourishing will greatly be
demonstrate you really care, find out how appetizing it is to rabbits,
deer, voles and other pests. This latter includes leaf or flower eating
insects, as well as diseases and fungus infections. Whenever possible
purchase a plant that has insect, disease and drought resistance or
tolerance. If not, protect your plant to the best of your ability.
right soil pH, good drainage, protection from temperature extremes,
appropriate nutrients, all of these elements are essential if your
plant is to enjoy its location and please you by living in harmony with
its surroundings and performing by fulfilling its destiny. Finding a
spot that your plant will like takes a bit of study. You will have to
know its preferences for how much sun or shade, moisture, humidity. Get
it right and it will contribute to your landscape and your dreams.
Finally, proper care and culture will insure that you and ‘Flora’ have
a long and fruitful relationship.
For a second example
I’ll suggest conditions suitable to different indoor candidates. We’ll
look at a few possibilities. If your home is bright, sunny, typically
dry in winter with moderate to warm in temperature, a lot of tropical
and desert plants would be at home here. You might choose from a
variety of cacti and succulents for the bright sunny spots to a wide
array of foliage plants for the less sunny but still light and airy
areas. Most will tolerate lower humidity as long as you pay close
attention to their watering needs.
You might even be
fortunate enough to have a bright bathroom or kitchen with a skylight
or other windows. Here some of the humidity loving plants might be
right at home. Ferns, orchids and other epiphytes would relish such a
room. With houseplants you must still identify all their needs and
potting material requirements, but often this is taken care of by the
grower. Ask. Frequently, these plants come out of steamy greenhouses
mimicking the habitat of their native land.
Whenever you’re in
the market or mood for a new plant, maybe while you are perusing the
catalogs that are filling your mailbox at this time of year, or when
you and a friend or two decide to visit the local greenhouse to “see”
what’s new or enticing, remember to do some homework before making the
pampering is not only allowed but recommended, at least, until your new
Flora is established. Finally, never buy a plant you don’t like a lot.
It will only languish and die, because it can’t fulfill its destiny.
"We can complain because rose
bushes have thorns,
or rejoice because thorn bushes have
The Garden of Ed. Submitted for publication in The Towne Crier on
January 30, 2008
2008 Ed Mues. All Rights Reserved.