My lament about too many houseplant gifts (“From the Ground Up,” January 31, 2021) apparently struck a chord with at least several readers, who wrote to tell me of their own adventures and misadventures.
Linda emailed, “YES!!!! Thank you for ‘Too Much of a Good Thing’! I have no interest in holiday plants. My house is full of houseplants that I love, care for weekly and continue to learn about. I don't even buy a poinsettia for myself because I don't love them after the holiday and I am so satisfied to just go to the nursery and take in their beauty. Don't give me plants because I will have to make a hard choice — add them to my weekly care list or let them go. I do let go those plants that I don't love. They are plants, after all, not animals. Sometimes I plant them outside in the summer and just forget to bring them in in the fall.”
Deb shared a different experience with houseplant gifts. She wrote, “Re your built-in, tons-of-work plant gift basket, six or seven years ago a friend gave me two amaryllis plants that had been given to her. She didn't like them or didn't want the work, and I took them on. It is part of our joyful ritual every winter to get lost in their beautiful blooms, lined up along the hearth in our living room. And each year there are more, and more and more. I divided bulbs a few years ago, and now have nine pots and the bulbs keep dividing in each pot. I bet I have sixteen bloom stems coming right now between them all. But I'm running out of space — so I get your problem. I hope to pass them on at some point.”
The funniest reply came in the U.S. Mail from Nan. Nan wrote, “I chuckled to read ‘Too much of a good thing.’ My drainboard is holding twelve containers of aloe vera. A living-room side table has five larger containers with multiple plants.”
How did this come about? “Three years ago,” said Nan, “my neighbor split her aloe vera, asking if I’d like one. Never having replaced one I’d had, I missed it every time I got a paper cut. Two months later, I asked her how many babies she had. Her answer: none. After potting all my little ones, I gave them to my church garden-tour plant sale.”
The following year, Nan sold her latest crop of aloe “babies” at a local strawberry festival. At twenty-five cents each, they quickly disappeared. Then, last year, around Thanksgiving, Nan “dumped my Mother Plant onto the drainboard. [Separated the babies and] stuck them in whatever I could find. That filled my two south-facing window sills. So that I can shut the blinds on cold nights, I must move them all. But what do I do about the 25 to 30 shoots growing in the various containers? My neighbor suggested the garbage.” She continued, “I had hoped church coffee hour would have resumed and I could just sorta leave them there for the taking . . .”
Reading that, I laughed out loud! Thanks to everyone for writing; I love hearing your plant stories! In the meantime, as I continue to take care of all the new plants I mentioned in that previous column, the situation has become more tangled: a segment of the new Christmas cactus I was gifted detached, but I noticed some roots at the base. Should I try and start a new plant? Augh! The dilemma continues!
Pam Baxter is an avid organic vegetable gardener who lives in Kimberton. Direct e-mail to email@example.com, 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.