Archive for the 'Plants' Category

A different kind of weeding

While Lauren and I were locked deep in conversation with a Victory Garden visitor (Well, let me be honest about this…said visitor was expounding on the lack of grocery stores in the Tenderloin and the state of Grocery Nation in San Francisco, and Lauren and I were more trapped than locked deep…), I noticed a man down at the far end of the garden. He seemed to be running up to the statue that sits between City Hall and the garden, smacking the statue and then running away. Then repeating this. Again and again.

I dismissed this behavior as a figment of my imagination, and turned my attention back to the lecture at hand.

A few minutes later, a man in a black leather jacket strode forcefully past the garden, heading toward UN Plaza.

“Want me to come plant some weed?” he yelled.

None of us were quite clear about what he said at first, so I yelled back, “What did you say?” I can hear the collective groan of anyone and everyone who has told me not to engage crazy people in the street. But I cannot help it. I simply have to be polite.

“Some weed!” he yelled back, never breaking stride. “I’ll come in there and plant some weed. It’s a community garden, right?”

“I guess that’s why they have 24-hour guards,” Lauren said.

“Oh my gosh,” I said. “I never thought of THAT kind of vandalism. That’s kind of subversive and brilliant.”

“I think that guy’s having his own kind of day,” said the man who we’d been talking to. Lauren and I turned, and I realized that the prospective weed planter was the same guy who had been slapping the statue down at the other end of the garden. There he was, his arms wrapped around the narrower sibling to the first statue, lifting his body up so his legs stuck out horizontal to the ground. Then he dismounted the second statue and strode toward the street.

“I think,” said the grocery store lecturer, “that’s what happens when you start your day with a breakfast of vodka.”

“Or weed,” I said.

Death to the dead plant

It’s one thing not to clean up your garden for the winter, but leaving the hanging basket up on your front porch with a dead plant for several months in a row? That’s crazy talk. Or crazy doing.

Whatever it is called, I did it. There was a point in the winter when I just decided that the dead plants looked like some kind of cool, structural, khaki plant sculpture. Plus, there was that whole issue of if I spent any time outside trying to take down the basket, my fingers would freeze off, which would make it very difficult to type this blog. And then you would have nothing to read.

Do you see how I do what I do for the people? I thought so.

But now it is spring, even though it snowed yesterday in Cedar Rapids, which made my right eye twitch uncontrollably for half an hour and made me huddle in the corner muttering, “Mommy. Mommy. Mommy.” Then that all stopped and I went about my afternoon.

Before all that, though, and over the weekend, I realized it was beyond time to actually take down the basket and replace the dead plant with something more, you know, springy. And alive.

The cherry blossoms tell you when to plant

Although I have professed my love for the flowering trees of D.C. (and, oh yes, that does include the cherry blossoms), I’ve got to admit – I never spent much time when I lived there thinking about their symbolism.

I mean, the cherry trees? To me, they symbolized the hurray of Spring, and they symbolized that the traffic around the Tidal Basin was about to grind to a halt, and they usually symbolized we were about to get a raw, wet, nasty day, generally timed to directly coincide with the National Cherry Blossom Festival’s long-planned parade, that would knock all the delicate blossoms to the ground as if they were snowflakes.

So I perked up, last May during my visit to the San Francisco Botanical Garden, when Gordon Wilson, the docent leading my walking tour, started explaining what the cherry blossoms meant to the Japanese.

Cherry Blossoms, San Francisco Botanical Garden

“They used them to indicate when to start the rice seed,” he said. “When the trees bloomed, it meant a period of warm weather was coming.”

According to Gordon, the next step in the process came after a specific iris (and although I was taking notes, I didn’t get the name of this one) bloomed as well. That indicated a period of wet weather would be coming soon, so that’s when the rice farmers would plant their crop.

See, this is the kind of gardening marker I can get behind. When this very visible thing happens, start the seed. When this very visible thing happens, plant the seedling. This doesn’t require hoping that the almanac is going to hit the last frost date accurately this year, or require searching old blog posts and weather.com for indicators of when the weather might turn.

Just blossom: start. Blossom: plant. Very simple, and beautiful, to boot.

They could have saved the aloe

I’m going to admit a weakness for Twitter, an online microblogging service I once discounted as totally stupid and now? Now? I’m completely hooked.

It was through Twitter’s blog that I learned about a service that just might have solved my aloe problem: Botanicalls. This company has set up plants that actually send you a message via Twitter when they need to be watered. Not too soon, not too late. Just right.

Check this out: here’s a plant that you can actually follow. Of course, because none of us know where it is (besides New York City), we can’t answer the call for help when it comes. But to watch the drama play out on my very own cellphone? I can barely resist.

Resolving the aloe problem

So here’s what I did to resolve my aloe problem: I attempted benign neglect as a resuscitation solution. This, my good readers, is the botanical equivalent of scrunching my eyes shut and wishing everything would go away. That being said, it had been recommended by commenters as an approach, so I assumed it would actually work.

Now, what Heather recommended was actually applying a bleach and water solution, and I admit I was too lazy to actually do that. But I did at least let the plant dry out, and then…

Aloe plant, dyingOK, that’s where I became exceptionally lazy. Although I kept reminding myself to go get some cactus mix potting soil, I also kept forgetting, and there was all that never-ending snow. And after awhile, I just shoved the plant back in the dirt it came with.

The other day, while washing dishes, I bumped the plant with my arm. It flipped right out of the pot, clearly unrooted, and when I picked it up to put it back in, I realized it was, most definitely, a very sick plant. The two final tentacles are mushy and a little bit gray, which is never a good idea for, you know, a plant that’s supposed to be green.

I’d hoped to at least give it a proper burial in the compost bin, but a this point, I worry about spreading its rot any further. Any advice (which, clearly, I may or may not follow) on that issue?


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All words and images (unless otherwise credited) on The Inadvertent Gardener are © 2006-2008 Eugenia E. Gratto. All rights reserved.

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