Sutherland’s Sunday Summary (except on a Tuesday)

Spring in Northern California…wow. From February to the end of May is northern California’s show-off time. It’s a gorgeously long season of magnificent blooms and growth. After a few months of rain, everything catapults to life.

This was just a walk around the block…

Clearly this house has mastered the art of rose bushes. The whole front yard is lined in various roses. As delicate as a rose bouquet is, a rose bush loves the heat and drought and sandy soil of California!

Isn’t the above tree so cool? I’d love to know its story.

The tree below is a crepe myrtle. The bark is SO smooth. I love these trees even when they’re not blooming.

And hey… why not grow artichokes in your front yard! Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore.

It’s hard to give an update on our lives without (endlessly) talking about our garden. After a few seasons of trial and error, we’ve hit on some successes.

As a lifelong Midwesterner, I am used to the growing season being, basically, June to September. But here, you need to plant things MUCH earlier. We (…and by we I mean Scott…) had everything planted by March. The young plants and seeds grew for a couple of months to get good and established and now we’ve covered the raised garden beds with a breezy black shade tarp to protect them from the brutal afternoon sun.

We are at the take-the-peas-and-collard-greens-to-work stage. We’re taking stuff to neighbors because we can’t keep up.

And now our first tomato has appeared. Scott ROCKED tomato-growing last year so I’m curious to see how they do in a different spot. So far they are TALL and filling up with blooms. Salsa is just around the corner. We…again, Scott… blanched a bunch last year and froze it for sauces.

How much stir fry is too much stir fry?? We haven’t reached our limit yet. Pork one night, chicken another. So yummy! And such a sense of pride that it was grown right in our backyard.

There isn’t much healthier food than collard greens. So many nutrients! (Which are only slightly hindered by the bacon and broth mixture.) I read an important statement about cooking collard greens: ‘There is no such thing as cooking collard greens too long.’ They simmer on our stove all day and are a home-run every time.

I’ve been so happy with my lavender experiment this year. Seeing all the bees buzzing around makes me doubly delighted. Tilly tries to catch the bees while they’re working. She’s going to get a muzzle full someday.

Our independent, graying old six-year-old cat, Haddie, is a real trooper with overly playful Tilly. But sometimes, a girl just has to take a break. Her favorite spot is against this graying old fence.

Tilly firmly believes she is a toy poodle lapdog. I wonder if toy poodle lapdogs have to keep their back legs on the ground for stability??

Random things:

One of our neighbors gave out May Day baskets, which was just so cute. I haven’t met them yet but I have to wonder if they’ve seen me working in the yard and made the decision to get a large print word search. -ha! (Speaking of old and graying!)

The news about Bill and Melinda Gates was upsetting. They’ve appeared to be such a successful couple who work together and feed off each others’ ideas. I read Melinda’s memoir last year which always makes me feel invested in the author’s life. They’ve done so much good in the world, I hope that can continue.

Speaking of doing good, I am still enjoying everything put out by The Bitter Southerner. They highlight the new south. The progressive stories happening in our beautiful southern states. Better South | Better World

Scott gave me a beautiful flower arrangement and card for Mother’s Day. I particularly liked his character explanations.

A long zoom call with my daughter, Hannah…

…a long phone call with my son, Baird (we never quite get them under 3 hours) -ha! He even had the good sense to marry the world’s greatest daughter-in-law (who managed to be the first to send me a Mother’s Day text.)

They made motherhood easy for me. Their continued support and love is invaluable to me. They’re good people.

I’ve already had to start manipulating the shades… open in the morning for the plants and then closed in the afternoon to ward off the blazing sun. We are taking a trip to Kansas City in early June. It will be nice to be back in temperate heat for a little while.

I grew this ruffled philodendron selloum from a single leaf cutting a couple of years ago. We brought it to California with us and, well, she likes the weather! She’s huge!

Speaking of temperature (and then I promise I’ll close this long post), I am crocheting a Temperature Blanket. I’m not sure why I decided a king-sized pattern was the right way to go, but here we are.

While the colors aren’t usually my thing, I am enjoying the challenge of it. Each row represents the high temperature that day. These colors (starting on January 1, 2021) represent the 50s, 60s and 70s. I’m very ready to move on to the next group of colors (80s, 90s and above 100) but I’m not ready to experience them in real life. There’s nothing like a king size blanket of yarn to work on in 99-degree temperature!

My head needs to be checked…

Okay. I promise these weekly summaries won’t be this long. But it’s been a bit so I thought I’d catch up on all the (very) random things going on.

Maybe the biggest news is that the fitting rooms in area stores have opened up again. Woohoo!! It’s been a long year of buying stuff, taking it home to try on, then returning what doesn’t work. God bless the customer service industry.

Be safe! And welcome to a slightly less-restrictive summer.

I bought a thing. I did a thing.

As a plant seller on FB Marketplace, I have not been much of a buyer until recently. I have picked up a couple of cool things during Quarantine. Inexpensive items but nice additions for our home. The added bonus: thrifting is better for the environment!

I saw this cute round table for $25. Low investment = low risk. I feel freer to experiment with stuff when I haven’t invested a lot of money into them.

The original color of the table was gray, I believe. But the bottom had been painted black (which was still in pretty good shape) then the top was spray painted white.

When I picked it up she mentioned there was also a leaf to expand it so that was a nice little surprise bonus.

We have a small kitchen nook area that I enjoy reading in because the natural light is so fantastic. I’ve recently painted the room (…which I’m not sure I ever blogged the results.) I wanted a round table where I could sit and read, journal, etc. I also decided I wanted to do a ‘tone-on-tone’ by painting the top of the table the same color as the walls. Since the room is small, I didn’t want to feel like the table was cluttering the space. Painting it the same color as the walls gave it continuity for the eye.

After a few coats of paint I then topped it with a glossy polyurethane finish.

It’s the perfect size. I’m so happy with it. A cup of chai and the London Book Review magazine and I am in complete relaxation mode.

A room of blue-ish silver-ish plants, walls and now tabletop. A pretty good $25 investment.

Sidenote: the table leaf storage is kind of ingenious. Maybe you have a table like this but I’ve never seen a fold-in leaf. So I made a dorky video for you to see…

What great finds have you fallen into lately?

Hoya, Queen

Someone told me once that you can tell the difference between a Hoya Krimson Queen (left) and a Hoya Krimson Princess (right) because the Queen wears her crown on her head (white on the outside of the green) and the Princess wears a white gown (white on the inside of the leaf) down the middle.

⁣Hoyas have been fun to collect and watch. Their new leaves are pinkish, which turn to white, which then add some green and then the final leaf of green with white markings.

⁣These queens and princesses are celebrating the notorious one today. I am saddened by the news of Justice Ginsberg’s passing but I am also inspired by her life. All women should be proud and encouraged and challenged to be ever learning and evolving while holding tightly to compassion and empathy for all.

Cebu Blue

Please don’t tell the others, but this Cebu Blue ((might be my favorite houseplant.)) I try to keep it low key, but I think the others know. The leaves on a Cebu are so magically blueish silveryish. I just love it!

I bought this one from a local seller as a little rooted baby and she’s grown so much this summer.

Put it on your plant wish list: Cebu Blue Pothos. You won’t be sorry!

Happy Hydrangea

Last week I bought my first hydrangea (Nikko Blue).

This week I bought all new sheets and rearranged a bedroom just because of the amazing blooms.

I’m doomed. Let the hydrangea addiction begin!

I even hung one to experiment with drying them…

There are worse addictions, right??? (Famous last words!) 

Do you grow hydrangea? If so, what kind and what zone are you located in? I need to learn!

Patio, Pups and Projects

Our neighbor had an intrusive tree removed last year that made a lot of sense for her. Cleared up her backyard nicely. But this spring I’m noticing how MUCH more sun we are getting on our back patio (and we got a lot to begin with.) The hardest adjustment to California from the Midwest has been the unbelievable LEVEL of sun rays. It gets very hot very quickly when in the sun. 

So, we decided to rearrange a few things and get a table umbrella to shield a little bit of the intensity.

I seem to prefer neutrals and nature colors on the inside, so it feels like I’ve gone off the rails on color in the backyard this year. -ha. And it all started with a rug.

I love our ‘CBS Sunday Morning’ sun we lovingly bought a few years ago in honor of Charles Osgood’s retirement. (Has it been as good since he left?) I also have enjoyed the ombre growth of this ivy up our fence (old as it is.) We tried to direct the ivy up the fence last summer and some of it has decided to cooperate. Hopefully more of the ivy on the ground will take notice and decide to do a little scaling themselves this year.

I very much like the color blue. However, I rarely use it. I’m not sure why but I’ve never gravitated toward it in my own home – while appreciating it in others’ homes. Something crazy struck me, however, and I fell instantly for this outdoor rug. Everything else grew from that.

Last year we severely trimmed back the oleander bushes. The back of our yard still has plenty (and are currently heavily sagging because the pink blooms are getting ready to break open.) The white bushes on the side of the patio have a sturdy ‘trunk’ so we trimmed them to look more like trees than bushes. And they are blooming beautifully.

Salmon, navy, teal and touches of purple are in the rug so the plants and pillows followed suit. 

(Please tell the person who jimmy-rigged this ‘hanging’ pot to cut off the janky strings and try to make it more presentable.) (aka: it was me.)

I think this sassy parrot is my favorite part of the backyard update. How can you not feel energized by her while sipping your morning chai?

By the way, reader, we are firmly ignoring the nasturiums that I repotted and now they’re acting dead. They’ll come back – they just can’t help themselves.

Is the parrot pillow my favorite thing or is this stunning variegated Japanese aralia? It’s a close call.

Two important ‘life discoveries’ I’ve made (…or recently admitted to…) this spring have been

  • I have done it, lived it, studied it, and now – I’m done with succulents. They are too temperamental. Every time you touch one to deadhead it, the other leaves get knocked off so planting them is a huge pain (think: the delicate Operation game of our youth.) Even though I still have a ton – we will eventually part ways. Melanie – I wish you were here to give them all to. They need youth and patience and I’m sorely lacking on both accounts.
  • And secondly, I am not a flower person either. I have been spoiled by houseplants. They’re strong and sturdy and I at least know how to read them better than flowers in the California sun. Many lessons learned.

It’s all about self-actualization, people. Growth and improvements, right?

Tilly and her old man eyebrows and soul patch. As long as she has a leaf or a dead plant, she’s in high heaven!

The thing about oleander flowers is that they bloom all summer long. Well into fall, actually. They last a long time when you cut them and bring them indoors and their foliage is a staple for flower arrangements. You literally have to throw them away before they die. -ha. 

I love wonky pottery. I found this one years ago at an antique mall and it called to me. This little blue vase (that needs more water, I see) houses our once and done gardenia flowers. What a powerful scent! I love them so much!!

Haddie. Always around. Always on-point and watching all the activity but wanting to play it cool like she doesn’t care. She teases Tilly and loves the attention Tilly gives her. But admitting love is just not in her character. 

If you follow me on Facebook you know we tried to create an area of the sideyard for Tilly to go to the bathroom. But after training her to go outside ANYWHERE, it’s been difficult to condense her to just one spot now. So we are going to try a fence with a gate – cordoning off the patio area as separate from her play and go area. California backyards are small and we were lucky to get a little spot of yard in the back and now we don’t want to give it all over to a new puppy. 

Concessions and compromises! 

On the other side of the fence is our cactus garden. I am AAAAMAAAAAZED at how quickly the cacti have grown over the winter. We started with nothing and they have practically taken over the back of our house. I love the desert vibe they give out and have loved watching a completely new kind of plant grow.

Scott’s BBQ grill is kept going year-round. As much as possible we cook out there!

Dad gave me some castor bean seeds last year that have grown ominously on the corner of our house. They’re about ready to take over our blue agave (Agave Maria)!

I once read that California was never meant to have inhabitants because there are so many natural elements to overcome. It’s interesting how wildlife and humans have adapted to the unique environment of the Pacific coast.

Just like a kid, we do our best to wear her down every evening. She looks happy and satisfied, don’t you think??

What I would normally consider Spring in the Midwest is ending here in northern CA. We are staring summer in the face next week – many 100 degree days scheduled. But this week has been mild and enjoyable. I am learning that California doesn’t believe in easing anyone into a new situation – it just drops it hot and smoldering in your lap. 

We’ll be very happy with our new umbrella shade. 

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND!!!

Orchid Magic

When I first purchased this orchid it had two burgeoning buds on the end. When the biggest one began to unfold, it seemed to happen quickly. It’s amazing how such an intricate flower could start as such a simple bud.

So I decided to set up a timelapse with my old iphone and see what I could capture.

The below 24 second video represents 26 hours of pictures
I started recording at 5:30pm on Friday
And stopped recording at 7:30pm on Saturday

(I had to adjust the camera once because of the lighting)

And just like that, a beautiful new orchid flower in 24 seconds!

The Colors of Quarantine

One of the smaller home projects I’ve been meaning to get to (thank you, COVID-19 for forcing my hand) is to refresh my home office/library/blog-writing room.

I am firmly in the neutral camp when it comes to the rest of my home but I wanted to add in some color to a room filled with books.

This homemade table is what I use as a desk. I don’t think you could offer me a free $6,000 desk to replace it – it’s the perfect size for me and I love its sturdiness and size. However, I wanted to amp it up a bit.

These Mildliner markers are a daily supply for me. I love them! I use them on various lists, etc. They aren’t an intense marker that will soak through your page and I absolutely love their color sequence. So honestly…I think I based a lot of the room on their presence.

sidenote: I just checked on Amazon and they are about $40. There’s no way I paid $40 for them so maybe it’s just the crazy times we’re in at the moment. I’m sure they sell for less at other times and also at craft stores – so I’m not linking anything here. Just Google them for a better price.

Before I started painting, Scott offered to ‘shore up’ the warped edges, etc. “Nah…I think that’s what I like about it. It’s wonky and imperfect.

Earbuds in. Audiobook on. Paintbrush in hand. By the way…when you’re working on a project while listening to an audiobook, do you ever get back into the aura of the storyline when you see the finished project even months later? Or like…craft projects I’ve worked on while watching the World Series will always remind me of the World Series when I see it.

No? Just me? (Surely not.)

I wanted to paint the desk a combination of blues and greens to go with the plants I have in this space. In the back of our house we have some fantastic windows that get a strong, bright light. Then in this room we have this big window that gets fantastic filtered light. It’s bright – but not quite so harsh as the southern exposure of the backyard. Therefore, my plants are pretty much divided into two sections: those that like it hot and those (…like me…) that like it bright but let’s not go overboard on the sunbeams.

I really like the way it turned out…

The top row of my bookshelves are my fiction books. Those books and only those books are in rainbow order. (The rest are all in genre order…nothing cutesy.) Eventually I think I’d like that back wall to be a bright fuchsia or something. We’ll see…

Can’t stop won’t stop with the rainbows 🌈

Scott built this ‘plant altar’ (I jokingly call it) last year to hold a bunch of my plants. It’s been moved around the house numerous times – but I mostly like it right here under the window, soaking up the sun.

This airplane plant is a lot of fun – it has SOOOO many pups!

This room is impossible to take a picture of and get all its sides, but I think you get the idea. I like the burst of color the desk brings without it being TOO colorful or childlike. It’s calming and cool and it’s forever linked to Corona Quarantine Survival time.

And in the evening when the twinkle lights turn on… it’s a perfectly cozy spot.

What projects are you working on while you’re hunkered down??

orchids and epiphytes

I have resisted buying orchids for years now. It seems like they would be (another) hard-to-quit addiction.

But I gave in recently and purchased a beautiful white Phalaenopsis and after reading all the specific instructions about how to raise them and keep them blooming…whew! I think one orchid baby is enough for me to handle. I have a great deal of respect for people who collect them. They make quite an impressive display all grouped together.

I haven’t found the exact sweet spot for my orchid yet, I just know I would like for it to hang like it does in its natural habitat, rather than be stalked upright; therefore, I need to find a shelf or high place in the sun. We’ll get there eventually.

Orchids are epiphytes meaning they derive their moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, water or from debris accumulating around them. They get nutrients from their roots as well but unlike some plants, epiphytes also get nourishment through their leaves.

I already use Orchid Plant Food Mist on some of my other epiphytes so I was ready to go on supplemental orchid nourishment.

Here are some other common houseplant epiphytes that I use orchid spray on a couple of times a week:

All of my hoyas…

My Pilea (Chinese Money Plant) … which is getting ready to undergo a major propagation surgery

Syngoniums (Arrowhead plant) are all epiphytes

Jade plants…

Philodendrons… give them a quick spray

Even Tillandsia air plants!

Other common houseplants you could use the spray on would be cactus, bromeliads, staghorn ferns, and household ferns.

This orchid spray bottle is getting a big workout! I spray the plants a couple of times a week and they seem to be perfectly happy with the extra bit of love.

Something we alllll could use lately, right??

If you’re curious about what other plants are epiphytes, try googling a list to see if any of your plant roomies are on it. I bet they’d like a fresh spray of nutrient love too!

Welcome!

Our home project this week was to tackle our home’s entryway. I struggled all last year to figure out what would work best in our ‘entry room’.

The front porch is a covered area that has been challenging to decide between plants or furniture. Plus there is a fairly wide ‘wall’ that was screaming for something, but I wasn’t sure what.

And also..the color. This wouldn’t have been my primary choice, but since we rent, painting the outside of the house pushes even me over the limit. I am an avid painter (and re-painter!) inside the house, but I have to draw the line at exterior painting. And that’s okay! The bigger the challenge – the more fun! And I don’t hate this blue-grey color. Not at all. It’s just not a color I’m used to working with.

Let me pull back and give you a wider view…

Here’s our little California 1970’s ranch. We have done VERY little to the front of the house since we do all of our outside living in the backyard. But I wanted to do something with the entry area.

I grabbed a few pots and succulents and went to work.

As an aside: If you are doing a big succulent project, opt for these ‘decorator’ pots filled with succulents that someone else has put together for a grocery store, etc. I bought these at Home Depot or Lowe’s. You don’t have to keep them as is (I didn’t), but buying individual succulents cost about $4-5 each plant. Each of these pots cost $12! Obviously, that’s a MUCH better deal! You can take them apart and arrange them to your taste.

Since these were big pots (a size needed for the entry space) and I was planting succulents with small roots, I threw some nursery pots into the larger pot to take up some space. Why waste the potting soil filling the whole thing?!

Arranging the pots was 99% of the fun. Since these weren’t going to be seen from all sides, I gave them a tall back and worked the succulents from there.

Can you see that gorgeous variegated succulent below?? I put in an agave cactus in the middle and some fun sanseviera cylindrica (variegated ‘snake plants’) in the back…

I moved some of my prayer plant varieties, peperomia and calathea from inside the house to one of the pots. These are somewhat picky plants but like a frustrated mother, I needed them to go play outside for awhile! They’ll like this area because it’s very bright and has a good view of the sky but has no direct sun. Ultimately they will like the humidity this space gets in the summer.

I was going for a big impact with the large double doors, but needed to use plants that didn’t need direct sun, like a tree or ornamental grasses would.

Stage One of this project was going well.

But the open ‘wall’ was still glaring at me.

I found a similar project on a midcentury site online and liked the idea of a) Scott building something to fit the specific dimensions and b) something we could also use for climbing plants.

Stage Two: Scott and I worked over designs and he built this awesome ‘trellis’ / ‘artwork’.

I picked some Sansevieria zeylanica (commonly called Bowstring Hemp) to plant in the white rocks. I love their blue-gray color next to the house. They are a cousin to the Snake Plant (we always called them Mother-in-Law Tongue plants.) And I added a new aloe vera plant.

While it’s definitely shaping up, there are a few other things I want to tick off including (*but not limited to) painting the front doors and frame a magnificent mustard yellow.

The below Kangaroo Paw Fern has been a dreamboat of a plant. I highly recommend them. And ever-so-slowly, the Japanese Aralia – is starting to expand.

I love a fun, unusual, exotic plant. But you really can’t beat a reliable ol’ airplane plant, can you? As soon as it produces a baby, I put them directly back in the pot to fill out the top and keep it full.

Two super awkward situations about this entry way. Imagine, if you will, standing at your kitchen sink, making coffee, staring blankly out the window when suddenly (…I should write that SUDDENLY!…because that’s how quickly it happens…) the postal worker (…ours is a man, so can I say ‘mailman’??…) comes around the corner to drop the mail in the box. An awkward grin is the least of my worries as I pray he didn’t see anything untoward as we stood facing each other through the glass pane. -ha!

Secondly – is that a laundry vent behind your azaleas, Greta?, you ask. Why yes, yes it is. Welcome to our home. We smell like fresh laundry. Meh. There could be worse things, right??

I think my Swiss Cheese Plant (Monstera obliqua) will enjoy dancing up this trellis.

Besides the succulents, all of the plants on the porch love humidity. Watering the white rocks adds humidity to the air. The fact that this is a somewhat enclosed area, the humidity in the air and the heat of California hovers in this small place – making these tropical plants extremely happy. And they get to enjoy it all without the harsh sun rays beating down on them all summer long.

I think we might have a winning combination.

Thank you, again, Scott. Although this project looks relatively easy, there was math involved which is where I get off the boat and leave Scott to figure out the angles on his own.

Another week, another fun project checked off our list!

No greater love than to lay down one’s leaf for another…

I bought this Angel Wing Begonia online last year. It was a plant cutting (non-rooted) and has struggled to ‘take hold’. But it held in there and we have formed a nice plant/caretaker relationship.

March 4 – progress on a new leaf

The original two leaves that I received in July of last year have now given all they could to the re-establishment and have now fallen away. It’s strange how attached to these original leaves I am. I let them stay on as long as they could, giving the last of their nutrients to the new leaves. I woke up one morning this week and noticed this one had finally laid down on the shelf below, unable to give any more.

The growth of the newest leaf has been surprising. I first noticed a new leaf coming in on February 21…

By February 25th, it had begun to unfurl…

The stronger and bigger the new leaf grew, the weaker the old leaf looked. At my age, I was impressed with the lengths we go to give all we have to the next generation. Too schmaltzy? Yeah. But I connected strongly with this leaf. We’ve been working together for the past 8 months to root in water and then to establish a new home in dirt. Finding the right light source has been tricky. Too hot at first and then not enough light. We found our sweet spot about 6 months ago yet all along, she’s been working underground to create these beautiful new leaves.

By March 2 (10 days after I first noticed the new leaf nub), the new leaf was really coming alive.

I’m not sure how long this Angel Wing will be able to live in its current situation alongside a Christmas cactus and an African Milk Tree (whew…who has its own story of woe!)

The balancing act game one must play with begonias is all about the spots. The more light they receive, the more silver spots appear and the underneath red of the leaf becomes more vivid. However, I had it in too hot of a spot at first and the leaves began to fade. I quickly moved it but the leaves were struggling to grow without enough light. We finally found the perfect spot with a lot of bright light and a good view of the sky, but not too much overwhelmingly direct sunlight. It did manage to bloom once last year so I’m excited to see what kind of flowers develop this year.

This was actually sold to me as a Dragon Wing Begonia and for the longest time I was confused about the descriptions of each variety. The Dragon Wing stems arch out and make a beautiful hanging plant. The Angel Wing is more of a cane-like structure with stems growing straight up. I had to double-check with a local nursery owner who confirmed mine was an Angel Wing.

Begonias like moisture and humidity but they do not like soggy feet. They need to be planted in a well-draining soil. Begonias originated in the tropics and grew on the ground in their natural state. They have been referred to as semi-succulents since they hold water in their thick stems.

An important note about all houseplants and one that I will probably refer to often because it made a huge difference in the way I began caring for my plants:

For the sake of ease and general care, growers stick the plant instructions into a plant before you buy it in the store. And perhaps, like me, you google further care instructions for the plant. But as a transplant from the Midwest to California, I am well aware that instructions like ‘full sun’ mean two VERY different things depending on where you live. Full sun in California is deadly for most plants. (Ask me how I know! Yikes.) So the BEST way to find out how to care for a plant is to google the plant’s origin. If the plant is originally found in the rainforests of Brazil, that will tell you something about their water needs, etc. A simple wikipedia search will tell you a lot. But to read a blog (yes, like mine even) that talks about specific plant care needs will only work identically if you live in the same area as the blogger. I try to tell you what works for me as a guide as to how to care for your plant. And of course the best advice of all is to talk to your neighbors or a local nursery. They can give you care instructions based on what has worked for them in their similar growing conditions as you.

Back to my Angel Wing. Along with feeling a bond to ‘the old leaf‘, the analogy of fallen wings does not escape me. Sometimes my wings are polished and new and strong and sometimes, they’re broken and wonky. Once again, plants teaching about life. It’s one of the greatest things I enjoy about working with living, breathing, drinking plant life.

Do you have a begonia you’re growing? What have been your successes or oops’es? I’d love to know about your experiences as well.

Begonias will always have the undercurrent of my growing up years (certainly pre-Me Too Movement) when ‘Hey – nice begonias!’ meant something entirely different…

Big Monstera Tip/Advice

Basically, do this before it gets too late and you end up like me.

(Sounds ominous, doesn’t it??)

A quick backstory…

Our monstera deliciosa was large when we lived in Kansas City. When we moved to California, we knew it couldn’t make the trip in our car so I cut a number of stems from it and placed them in water to root. (And gave the mother plant away.)

About a month and a half later they were rooted enough to add to dirt.

It’s grown quite a bit over the past year and accumulated many aerial roots. Aerial roots are funky looking but serve an important purpose in the tropical forest where the monstera originates. Monstera plants climb up trees like a vine so they naturally seek a ‘dark structure’ to attach themselves to with their aerial roots.

In a home environment, however, the roots merely hang down, searching for something to climb.

My biggest advice to new or upcoming monstera owners, plant your monstera with a pole in the middle from the beginning. I kept ‘meaning to get around to it’ – as the plant continued growing and growing.

As a result, the plant has become very “unruly” looking with leaves falling all over the place and no structure.

Another issue with waiting too long is that the plant was now growing up from the middle, leaving no room for inserting a climbing pole.

It was time to take (belated) action before the spring and summer leaves start growing.

Scott used a cedar piece of wood and affixed chicken wire around it with a staple gun and ordered some sphagnum moss online.

The moss comes in a compact brick.

Once it’s placed in water, it begins to expand and unravel.

We inserted the wet moss into the chicken wire then wrapped the whole pole and moss with fishing wire.

The added benefit to a moss pole is that it will raise the humidity level around the plant. Spraying or watering the moss keeps a’tropical’ humidity around the plant.

Taking the monstera outside, we took the plant and root ball out of the pot and thoroughly rinsed as much dirt off as we could.

Relative to the height of the plant, the roots aren’t that deep.

We carefully removed each section of the plant and laid them out to be re-potted later.

This is NOT the easiest way to grow a monstera! I should have started with a moss pole from the very beginning. Heed my warning! Save yourselves!!!

After assembling the pole, we re-planted the pieces of monstera and carefully wrapped any long aerial roots around the moss pole for them to eventually take hold.

It will take a few weeks for it to fully straighten up. But since the growing season is coming up, it will stretch upwards instead out sprawling out. I’ll do an update to this post in a few months.

Lesson? Give your new monstera a pole to start climbing from the beginning and/or when they’re small. It will grow into a better shape and be in an atmosphere more closely related to its origins.

(And it’s a lot less back breaking!)

Crossing my fingers this will help to refresh this plant. New dirt filled with yummy nutrients and a ‘tree’ for its aerial roots to climb.

Ready for growing season!