04.20.18 Pullquote

Rachel Carson on willpower

“Have we fallen into a mesmerized state that makes us accept as inevitable that which is inferior or detrimental, as though having lost the will or the vision to demand that which is good? … Why should we tolerate a diet of weak poisons … with just enough relief to prevent insanity? Who would want to live in a world which is just not quite fatal?”

Silent Spring, 1962

04.19.18 Leaves

The slow fade

I was checking on plants last night, to see what’s popping up, and while clearing compost that had gathered around the base of a fern, I noticed this delicate dead leaf. Soft to the touch, but the tulle-like fibers didn’t crumble when I handled it. Clearly strong enough to trap that needle I wish I’d removed before I took the picture. I don’t think it’s from last fall, I’d say it’s a couple years old. I’ll put it back.

04.18.18 Lighting

Monstrous shadows

With more light hitting the house these days, I’m following the previous shadow post with another indoor plant display. This is our delicious monster (Monstera deliciosa), a common houseplant that is easy to grow if you give it a big pot and plenty of space. A quick look on Instagram or Dribbble would probably reveal that every wannabe interior designer and young illustrator has one against a white wall—and the appeal is undeniable. We’ve had ours for about a year and the largest leaves are still only about as half as their full potential. It would benefit from staking, as they climb in their native habitat, but the sprawl works against the large living room window. A minor complaint is that because it reaches for the morning light, it tends to ignore the room. You can rotate it but then they twist their necks back around, sometimes in a matter of hours. I amped up the contrast on these pictures, but the leaves’ multiplying effect, and bright colors are just as striking in person.

Buyer beware: The ID tag on this plant (from Swanson’s Nursery) said it was a Philodendron. It’s not—Monstera is a separate genus, though the two share a family, Araceae. That said, it’s commonly called a “split-leaf philodendron,” so I suspect this misidentification is irrevocable. Considering its other common names are things silly things like “swiss cheese plant,” this is a good example of why using the Latin is neither fancy nor difficult, it’s just right.

04.13.18 Lighting

Dragon shadows

The sun gets the glory, the shadows get to work. Evening light poured in the other day, as dinner was hitting the table. Our dragon tree (Dracaena marginata) is a slow-grower, but quick to put on a show.

04.03.18 Planting

Between two ferns

This is what you might expect a new plant to look like when you remove it from a thin plastic container. But look closely and you’ll see it has a few cuts on the side, from my hori-hori blade. These roots were so dense that I had to rip the container off of them, and still I couldn’t pry them loose. This deer fern was snug.

Here’s another one, which I purchased at the same time a few weeks ago. They were on sale (~$5), so I grabbed a couple to add to the area I described in this post. Both plants have been waiting in their spots for me to dig a hole, and I thought maybe they were just dry despite the recent rain. But the one on the right acted as I’d expected. After a few cuts it popped open, the soil crumbled away, and the roots were ready to go.

Usually, I loosen new plants to the extent that they’re almost bare root. If there’s any risk in doing that, I feel like it’s worth it so that I can learn about the root system and help it grow the way it should. Others might see the plant on the left as fine, roughen the sides slightly, and drop the block in.

And that’s what I ultimately had to do. After plenty of water and wiggling, the matted roots wouldn’t budge. I suspect both plants will be content in their new setting, like my other deer ferns. I’ll resist the temptation to dig them up next year and compare their legs.

Blechnum spicant under Mahonia nervosa