Another Plant that Refuses to Stop Growing

Sweet potato vine makes an encore.

I wrote earlier this week about the weirdly warm winter we are having and its effect on a few perennials in my yard. But I have another plant that just won’t stop in the house.

Last summer, I planted sweet potato vines in a couple of pots with the houseplant Mother in Law’s tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata) and some petunias. It was a pretty container and, when the annuals faded in fall, I decided to bring the mother-in-law’s tongue (I think it’s also called snake plant) in for the winter. I pulled out all the annuals, cleaned the plants and pots off, and put two matching containers of mother-in-law’s tongue flanking our fireplace.

A few weeks passed, and as I was getting ready to put up the Christmas tree, I noticed something growing in one of the pots — and it’s not a pointy, desert plant. A piece of the sweet potato vine was growing! Now that the holidays are past, the plant has really taken off. I’ve watered it a bit, and it gets very little direct sunlight (sweet potato vines are said to need 6 to 8 hours of sun) but it keeps on growing.

I’ve written before about the persistence of plants. Their drive to survive, to live, to flower, to set seed, to grow, grow, grow, always amazes and humbles me. So, I won’t be pulling the sweet potato vine from its pot. Let it grow, and we’ll see how far it gets.


Lavender Blooms in December

French lavender blooming indoors in December.

I was really hoping this would happen when I brought in a French lavender (Lanvendula dentata) plant from outside in November. Because of the extended Indian summer we had — which now seems decades ago due to the relentless snow of the past week — this plant survived longer than expected. But, as happens with lavender, which is more suited to USDA Zone 9 than zone 4,  it did not bloom.

So, I brought it in, changed the pot, gave it a small dose of fish emulsion, and put it in the sunniest spot I have, on the counter behind my kitchen sink. It is no doubt getting considerably less sun than a heat lover like lavender would prefer, but I’m hoping to nurse it through the winter and then move the plant outdoors again. According to this herb site, French lavender does better indoors than other lavenders. It doesn’t like a lot of water so I will let it dry out between waterings. It also likes lime in its soil, so I may add some crushed egg shells from time to time.

I love the scent of lavender, which is said to have calming properties. Just run your hand over the foliage and sniff. Instant zen.

A Bloom from Beyond?

I spent a good part of yesterday editing copy for the November/December issue of Northern Gardener. (It’s going to be a good one!) And, one of the columnists wrote about care of common houseplants, including Hoya carnosa or wax plant. I have a wax plant that came from a cutting from a plant my grandmother kept for many years. She died in 1985, and the plant has been thriving in my mom’s house and my sisters’ houses since then. Needless to say, it is a resilient houseplant, enduring each winter on the counter near my kitchen sink, then spending the summer on the bright—and lately, rain soaked—deck.

The column mentioned in passing that Hoya carnosa will bloom once the plant is root-bound. Really? This struck me as surprising since as far as I knew none of our plants had bloomed ever. So I called my mother. “Has your Grandma plant ever bloomed,” I asked.  “No, never,” she replied, though her’s does have leaves that change color and become beautifully variegated whereas mine always has green leaves, even though they are cuttings from the same original plant.

I went back to work, and later that evening was rearranging some furniture in a spare room we have. A plant would look nice on that bookcase, I thought, and it’s about time to bring the Grandma plant in from the deck. Well, you know the end of the story.  I went out to the deck to get the plant, which I hadn’t even looked at in weeks other than to note that its pot was flooded with water, and there were two big, beautiful, waxy blooms.

Flowers look like stars made of wax.

Was it the sun, the natural rain (as opposed to our alkaline tap water), that dab of fish emulsion I poured in the pot back in May? Had it finally become root-bound enough to throw up a flower? Maybe it was just time for the plant to wake up and bloom. It certainly woke me up, and that is often the point of keeping a garden. Plants continually amaze us with their ability to endure neglect, bad weather, crowded conditions, disease, and insects, and still bloom and fruit and grow as best they can. Our tiny efforts to make things better for them—by cleaning up the garden, by digging in compost, by making sure the plant is placed where it can thrive—are almost always rewarded with excessive gratitude and abundance.

And, plants often surprise us and delight us and push us to look more closely at the natural world, at dozens of small, bright, stars made of tissue that looks like wax.

Spring Fever with Plants

Mama basil

The wonderful sunshine we’ve been having the past few days and exciting natural phenomenon like Sun-Still-Up-at-5:30 p.m, have got me itching to grow things. It’s still a little early to plant seeds here (though I’m sorely tempted), so I’ve been goofing around with my kitchen window plants.

Check out the little basil plant above. Somehow, despite meager light, I’ve managed to winter over two basil plants from last summer. I started these from seed later in the year, so they never reached maturity outdoors, and I’ve gotten an occasional leaf off of them to flavor a stew or salad. Mostly I keep them going because they remind me of summer.

Baby basil
Baby basil

A couple of weeks ago, while visiting my local big box for some lumber, I saw these gel packs in the garden section. You stick a cutting in the gel and wait for new roots to develop. I suspect this is usually used for houseplants, but what the heck. I cut a bit off one of the basils and stuck it in the gel. About a week later, these little leaves emerged, then roots! I plan to plant all three of the basils outdoors come May but for now, I’m enjoying the wonder of watching something — anything — grow!

Hey! It’s Working!

img_1325.jpgI don’t know why, but I am always surprised when some new gardening endeavor actually turns out. About a month ago, I decided to try to force some red-twig dogwood branches. I followed the instructions for making a sugar water/bleach concoction to give the branches food and, presumably, protection from bacteria. The branches went into the cool, not too light basement. A couple of weeks ago, I went down there to add some more liquid and check things out. There were definite signs of leaf buds.

img_1330.jpgToday, I checked them again and, lo and behold, the branches had tiny leaves and some little knobby growths that look like they might be blossoms. Rock-and-Roll Gardener advised me that I would probably only get leaves, but we’ll see what happens. Per the instructions, I have moved the branches up to a sunnier locale in the kitchen. With any luck, we’ll have something blooming in time for our early Easter.