house/plant updates

In the new house, Thursday night is plant watering night! This is also garbage/recycling night, and it might also become sweep/vacuum night. (It felt good to remove dust bunnies before they became dust monsters.)

Though I’m fully moved in, and mostly settled, there is still a lot of arranging and re-arranging happening. This week, I refreshed the guest room – moved the bed from one wall to another, shifted around furniture, swapped some old chairs for others.

My sewing room is almost ready to use – though I have to admit it still feels weird to NOT live in that room. I miss having a bed nearby for spreading out fabrics (though I’ll adapt to using the floor) and I finally realized that there are many more comfortable places in the house to watch movies on my computer. (Duh.)

Other things: have I told you about the neighborhood girl gang? They are all in 3rd or 4th grade, which means they’re all 8 or 9, and they were born in such-and-such year even though their parents THOUGHT they’d be born in such-another year. (This is the amount of information you get when you ask a grade school girl how old she is. I did not realize how important all of those details were.)

They said hi to some of my friends on one of the many moving days, asked if they were moving in, and friends said, “No, but our friend MAGGIE is.” Fast forward to every day after that, when I get out of my car and hear “HI MAGGIE!” from down the street, turn, and see a number of children waving. I finally learned all of their names, and told them about my future garden, and that’s all it took to guarantee my doorbell rings every day.

So far they’ve pestered me about the garden enough to ensure I bought dirt and put it in the bed (though they always seem to disappear on the days when I decide to do the work). They have also tried introducing me to music.ally though I HOPE they realized how pathetic I am in front of a camera. (That laughing outtake will probably be shown to their mothers, which will help increase familiarity within the neighborhood.) Also, one of them named her Fake American Girl doll after me, which might become the sweetest moment of 2017.

Okay, that’s enough of a life update. Here are some plant photos!

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These are a few pothos branches that fell off the original plant – I put them in soil to see what would happen, and they seem to be very happy. (On the left, in front of the open leaf, you can see a lighter green shoot that is unfurling a new leaf.) This teapot came from my grandparents’ basement, and I’m so happy it finally has a purpose!

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The lemon button ferns in my kitchen window are finally looking happy – I bought them a year ago, and have been pinching dry branches on a regular basis – you can see a little nub on the end of that center-of-the-photo branch which is new growth!

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This chinese evergreen is my oldest houseplant, and I recommend them to anyone who is terrified of houseplants. It’s huge and beautiful and seems to adapt to any level of light. It’s also sporting some new growth on top!

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Did I tell you I bought a palm tree at Ikea? It’s in the guest bedroom, and in the recent shuffle I have placed it on a chair so it’s even more intimidating.

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Awww! The fiddle leaf figs! You didn’t think I’d leave them out, did you? This one is in the bathroom (morning light, filtered) and I’ve been trying to train it away from that pronounced curve to the left that it developed in the past year. I’m encouraged that the top branch is growing upward AND it’s already started some new growth! One thing I discovered during research is that this tree is essentially dormant during cold weather, but that it averages a foot of growth during warm weather months when it’s healthy.

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And here’s the beautiful, perfectly straight fiddle leaf fig that’s in my sewing room. I think it’s really cute that they both have one giant leave, and I’m guessing this is the one that continues growing during their “dormant” phase.

FYI I have swapped out this rope basket with a metal planter (okay a trash bin because they are cheaper than planters) because it was starting to get dingy – in my experience, these trees hold very little water in the soil, so there’s always a LOT of run-off. That muddy run-off didn’t pair well with this white rope.

That was fun! Maybe I’ll start giving more regular updates like this!

Adventures in Humility

You guys. I start a blog series documenting my plants, share a triumphant story of keeping one alive, and then THIS happens.

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That is every leaf on the croton, withered and dried and fallen off the branch.

I’m not entirely sure how it happened. I had moved the plant away from the window for a weekend, worried that it was getting too cold/drafty. But I placed it in the middle of the office, where it may have had more direct afternoon sunlight (the same direct afternoon sunlight that forces me to close the blinds every day). So it could have been that. Or it could have been that the cold air near the window had already hit the plant before I moved it.

Or it could be that it decided to drop these old leaves so it could focus all of its energy on the new growth? Those baby leaves still look like they’re alive. Of course now the plant has the pitiful look that I was trying to avoid, so I’ve grouped it with a few others – away from the drafty window, away from that afternoon sun – and I’m going to wait and see what happens.

Adventures in Croton

(Edited to add an intro, because this post started somewhat abruptly.)

Hello! I’m collecting information on this blog about all of my houseplants, mostly for my own reference/memory. But I also hope this will be helpful for others, since I’ve discovered that keeping plants alive – like sewing – is simply about accumulating and applying knowledge.

December 14, 2015
When you speak up in defense of white chocolate....

I posted this on instagram with a joke about that chocolate, and a friend complimented my croton. Until that point, I do not believe I knew what any of my plants were called, but this piece of information was galvanizing! “This is a croton.”

At some point in the spring I started an epic email chain with myself, attempting to identify my office plants by their REAL NAMES, and collecting information about their watering and sunlight preferences. This was referred to as the “stripey colorful one” since croton wasn’t yet a word that would stick in my mind.

August 5, 2016
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At this point I’d done some more research and observation about this plant. I’d noticed that it would DRAMATICALLY let me know when it needed watering – at least weekly, or the branches and leaves would all droop significantly – but it would always recover within a few hours.

My favorite houseplant resource told me that it didn’t like too much direct sunlight, so I kept it away from the window. I was proud of the fact that it had grown taller, though I wished I could do something to make it more dense.

October 17, 2016
Someone missed me. #dramaqueen

I’d been sick and missed my regular watering day. I think this was taken 3 days after the usual watering day. This is the most extreme example of the drooping leaves I’d seen so far, and even when it was watered again, the plant had a wan appearance.

Instead of giving up completely and tossing the sad sad plant (which, I forgot to mention, I bought at Trader Joe’s and had assumed wouldn’t last past the 2015 holiday season) I decided to do something bold.

October 18, 2016
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LOOK AT THAT PITIFUL PLANT!

Okay, actually, this isn’t the plant. It’s a number of branches that I cut off the original, and somewhere I read that trimming back the leaves might help these cuttings to root. (It did not work. These sat in some soil in the window for a week or two, and nothing happened.)

But the pruning of the original plant turned out to be EXACTLY what it needed! The little note in my houseplant resource about pruning (“Trim the stems of your Croton to encourage new growth to keep the plant bushy and full.”) was the secret to success!

Of course, I didn’t know that immediately.

November 2, 2016
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For many weeks I kept a close eye on this guy. I moved him next to the window (because I realized that the leggy branches AND the faded leaves probably meant it was sun-deprived), I stabilized the stems so they didn’t flop over, and I watered more frequently so that the droopy leaves never had to beg for it.

[My favorite way to check if this plant needs watering – pick it up. If it feels light, barely the weight of an empty planter, I water it.]

AND THEN…

December 1, 2016
Look at those baby branches! 😍

…THIS HAPPENED!

Do you see those bright green nubs at all of the branching places? THAT IS NEW GROWTH!

But wait, it gets better, because I’ve been studying them every day, wondering what was hidden within each of those nubs…

December 9, 2016
Leaves! #watchingplantsgrow

…and each one is more than I had even hoped! LOOK AT THOSE LEAVES! I think there are four leaves growing out of that one section alone!

So, I pruned 3 stems of this plant down to the lowest level of leaves (or the second lowest, because I couldn’t stand to have a pot with just three leaves sitting on my desk), and each of those cuts led to new growth in 2-3 more places. Once all of these leaves and branches develop, this plant is going to be SO DENSE!

That’s all for now, but I’m obviously excited to see how these leaves grow out, and I’m curious to discover how quickly it happens.

Houseplant Adventures

Some of you may have noticed an increase in houseplant photos on my instagram feed. Those who know me in real life might have been able to encounter them, either at home or at my office. But the reality of things emerged when I was discussing plants with a friend who I considered to be A Plant Person, and we both realized that I might own more houseplants than he does! (His credentials are still stronger, though, since he also has a beautiful outdoor garden.)

In light of this, I thought it was time to show my whole plant-loving self to the world. (Also, I have been collecting reference sources, and have been taking photographs to track and learn about my plants, so it’s only right that I compile those here, on this blog that is nothing if not a searchable extension of my brain.)

Is that enough of an introduction?