Friday, August 18, 2006

A Proud Parent

This is what I look like in awe.
Those of you that have seen my living quarters over the last year have probably noticed my recently acquired obsession with plants. Though I'm sure "The Little Shop of Horrors"* is partly to blame, I credit my grandmother with getting me hooked. She gave me a pothos plant during my sophomore year of college and a jade plant the year following. I mothered both obsessively despite them not needing much attention, and the dropped leaves of that jade plant have since, with a little coaxing, spawned plants for pretty much anyone around me who wanted one. I was content with those until this past spring break when Rolli, Lauren, and I visited Hawaii.

The wet parts of Hawaii are naturally hospitable places for plants. If it's not a cactus, it will probably grow there. Every nook and cranny is covered with vegetation, so you can imagine the results when someone actively tries to grow things. The botanical garden north of Hilo, Hawaii is an amazing place, and it inspired me to buy ~$30 worth of bulbs and seeds in the gift shop. As a result, I now have ~20 young guava trees growing on my deck, and that's just the beginning. (If you want one you can probably have one once they are more established. I've got no shortage.) I've gotten to the point that I no longer throw away fruit pits. I start thinking about how the plant that just fed me poured huge amounts of energy into producing this little seed, and that the least I can do is plant it. Even if the fruit goes bad, I've been known to brave the mold and mushy fermenting fruit flesh and plant the pit anyways.

Baby Pictures.
Bringing my plants out to California was difficult as you can probably imagine. To start with, California is picky about what you bring in because of the significance of their fruit and nut industry. One diseased strawberry could financially ruin a whole lot of people. Thankfully, the Ohio department of agriculture has a guy that for $20 will come inspect your plants to certify that they are free of pests and disease. My plants are now papered and have all of the rights and obligations belonging thereto.

Secondly, there's the whole problem of transport. My car (see a few posts back) was pretty well equipped for this, but it was still complicated to keep terra cotta pots from breaking while keeping them accessible enough to water and move around when necessary. I shuttled them between the back seat and my tent whenever we went for an excursion during the day and were taking one car, and set them out in the sunlight whenever I could.

Unfortunately, upon successfully moving into my apartment in Mountain View, I became stupid. I thought, "Hey, my plants have had very little sunlight for the last ten days, I should put them all out on the porch 'cause they could probably use a lot of it." We left for 3 hours to go run some errands. They were all dead when we returned, or at least that's what it looked like. My peperomias were covered in dead leaves and burned at their base, my kahili ginger's leaves were scorched, the stems of my pothos plants were blackened, my other gingers were burned at the base and there were dead leaves all over everything else. This was pretty devastating as you can probably imagine. These plants were the result of months of love and attention, practically pets, and they were all half dead from one bit of stupidity. It had been an exceptionally hot day for Mountain View. The black soil in their pots heated up as it soaked up the sun and killed all of the tissue just above the surface of it. They were effectively nipped off.

I've been coaxing them back to life for the last few weeks, and been pretty successful. My kahili ginger is sprouting new stalks, as are my avocados. My guavas perked right back up, and I'm restarting my peperomias from the branches that I cut from the scorched bases. I'm trying to restart my smaller gingers from their root balls, but I'm not sure if I'll be successful. The worst hit plant was probably my variegated pothos which looked after three hours in the sun like it had spent 3 months in the compost. Every last little bit of stem was black. I cut a few living bits and tried to plant them, but they didn't last long. About a week ago, however, I noticed a tiny little bit of green poking up from a part of my pothos planter. It's currently struggling back from the roots after losing the entire body of the plant. New gardeners? try a pothos. You can kill every bit of living tissue above ground, and it still just might survive.

The most recent addition to my happy plant family are six seedlings of giant sequoias that poked up in the last few days. They started from seeds about the size of the bits of paper that a hole punch produces. The largest, about a centimeter tall, has its first soft pale needles unfolding with its tiny stem. Its a pretty amazing feeling to watch the birth of something that might live longer than Christianity. Some of the trees in Sequoia National Park have been around for 3,000 years.

Speaking of which, Lauren's camera survived the sand and was available to take pictures of the sequoias. She (like all the cool people are doing) has also put her pictures up on PicassaWeb. Check it out.

Here's the list of Common and species names that I prepared for the official from the Ohio Department of Agriculture:

Common NameScientific Name
Pink GingerAlpinia purpurata
Kahili Ginger Hedychium gardnerianum
Red Ginger Alpinia purpurata
Yellow Plumeria Plumeria rubra
GuavaPsidium guajava
Macadamia Macadamia integrifolia
Ti Plant Cordyline terminalis
Christmas Cactus Schlumbergera ...
Peperomia Peperomia ...
Pothos Epipremnum pinnatum
Jade plant Crassula ovata
African violet Saintpaulia ...
Avocado Persea americana
Nightblooming Cereus Epiphyllum oxypetalum

* "The Little Shop of Horrors" is a musical by Howard Ashman and Alan Menkin, whom you may know as the writers of the music and lyrics for "The Little Mermaid," "Aladdin," and "The Beauty and the Beast." The story follows a poor worker at a plant shop who finds an alien Faustian plant in a local market. The plant offers him fame and fortune in exchange for a steady supply of blood to drink, which he eventually must kill people to obtain. I listened to our vinyl of it on a weekly basis as a toddler, and according to the opening narration, the plant was found in the market on my birthday, "THE TWENTY THIRD DAY OF THE MONTH OF SEPTEMBER, IN AN ERA VERY SIMILAR TO OUR OWN."

1 comment:

Lauren said...

You are so cute!! I can't wait to see pictures of them when you get your camera, and see them in the flesh!