Whenever I talk with my friend Matias, we almost always start out with a gardening update. Matias is perhaps more passionate about growing plants than anyone else I know, and it’s fun to hear what new things he’s got going on in the botanical world. He’s constantly adding new plants to his collection and figuring out how to provide the microclimate they need. He also enjoys experimenting with growing things from seeds.
Lots of people fill their houses with plants, so this may sound completely ordinary. But Matias is thirteen years old and just finishing up his seventh-grade year. The other unusual thing is that I’ve never actually met him in person. Matias, who lives in West Chester, is one of my cello students. He started online lessons with me last summer, during the pandemic shut-down.
I don’t recall exactly how plants originally popped up in conversation, but it quickly became a major theme. Now I know to allow an extra five minutes or so to lesson time, so that Matias can show me what’s happening in his indoor plant world. I’ve been amazed by his curiosity, his inventiveness, and his interest and willingness to learn by experimenting.
Since I didn’t want to take up lesson time with an interview for this column, I sent Matias some questions via email.
Q. When did you first become interested in plants?
A. I got really hooked over quarantine after trying every year just planting perennial plants. But when I had to get rid of a piece of furniture, I decided to remodel it and fill it with plants (and a light source). This was around January 2021. I got a spike of inspiration to get plants, so I looked up houseplants and made a big list of them! I then got them, and started my indoor garden with plants.
Q. What is the first plant or plants that you first started with?
A. My first indoor plant was a Sansevieria. I got it after reading your article about how they can grow flowers!
Q. What plants are you currently growing?
- African and Asian violets
- 2 jade plants
- Chinese money plant
- 4 Marimo moss balls
- Neon pothos
- Neon philodendron
- Zebra haworthia
- Cucumber plant
- Lucky bamboo
- Air plant
- Multiple red Japanese maples
- Apple tree
Q.When did you start experimenting with growing apple trees from seed?
A.Technically, my first actual indoor plant was an apple tree. I decided to start by putting each of the apple seeds that I had collected in a different spot in an egg carton around March/April 2020, but they never germinated. I retried by putting several apple seeds between two damp napkins and putting them in the fridge. Most of them germinated, so I planted them in hopes of them growing past seedling stage. They all died but one. It is now a pretty leafy sapling!
Q. Any future goals or wishes? For instance, you’ve talked about doing bonsai.
A. Someday, I want my apple tree to produce fruit! And, I would like to try making my Japanese red maples into bonsais! I also wish to be an expert, not only with growing fruits and veggies, but with growing houseplants. I also wish to have a super nice plant-filled room and to become a horticulturalist!
As you can imagine, Matias is a kid after my own heart. It’s so much fun to be with him on this part of his journey, as he explores the plant world. And I learn from him!
I applaud Matias’ parents for supporting their son in his horticultural interests. I can’t wait to see what he does going forward. I also can’t wait to actually meet him!
Pam Baxter is an avid organic vegetable gardener who lives in Kimberton. Direct e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or send mail to P.O. Box 80, Kimberton, PA 19442. Share your gardening stories on Facebook at “Chester County Roots.” Pam’s book for children and families, Big Life Lessons from Nature’s Little Secrets, is available on Amazon, along with her companion field journal, Explore Outdoors, at Amazon.com/author/pamelabaxter.