Thursday, October 29, 2015

An Invasion of Plants by Gloria Alden

Plants in my bedroom including resting orchids
Every spring when all chance of a late frost has passed us by, I take almost all my house plants outside for the summer. Only my orchids remain inside and a few other plants I keep inside so it won’t look too bare. Orchids that are still blooming remain downstairs, and orchids no longer blooming go to their rest home upstairs in my bedroom by the east windows until they are ready to bloom again the following winter.
The front window in my library with my new orchid in front
A few weeks ago I started bringing in my house plants. I had a lot of house plants to bring in and find places for around the house. In didn’t help that my daughter-in-law was going to pitch four huge beautiful hanging ferns because she thinks they’re too messy so I adopted those abandoned ferns. But where to put them was a problem. I already had two healthy although smaller ferns, and one that looks rather pathetic. Just like I can’t kill anything other than mosquitoes, flies, slugs, or Japanese beetles, I have a hard time murdering house plants, too. Some of the plants in pots are getting quite large, heavy, and awkward to carry. Well, I got them all in including two hanging baskets of fuscias which I put on top of the large bird cage. Then I decided that one of the matching pots on pedestals next to the bench beside the sidewalk was too beautiful to leave out for the frost to kill the impatiens, lobelia and a vine that had filled in. So I hauled it into the house to place in front of the laundry room window near the bird cages. I considered myself finished now, until I looked at various geraniums blooming. Such cheerful colors and they’ve been known to bloom almost all winter in pots so I put some in long planters that would fit in several spaces if I jammed other plants together. Now I was done and could relax and enjoy my indoor tropical garden. I wouldn’t be tempted by any other plants, I told myself. I’d even skip any poinsettias this December.
The front window in my living room.

Yeah right! This past Saturday my sister Elaine’s good friend, Joan, took us along with their friend Sue, to visit Grace Meadows, a lovely 90 year old woman in Lewisville.  Grace has lived almost her whole life in what was once a brick schoolhouse. All around her home are lovely gardens she manages herself with only the help of a son, who comes to mow the extensive grounds. True, most of the plants are done blooming after the frost, but some were still blooming and the bones of the garden as well as little clever additions allowed us to see how beautiful the garden would be when everything was blooming.

Fuchsias on top of doves' cage next to Pavarotti's cage. 
What really impressed us were the two greenhouses attached to the side of her house with tables and shelves full of clivias and exotic orchids called Cymbidium orchids much more expensive than the cheap ones I buy at Aldi’s or Home Depot. She also had huge pots of geraniums blooming as well as a lemon tree with three green lemons on it and many other plants, too. But most of the greenhouses were devoted to the orchids and clivias. She was willing to sell some of her plants to us because she has so many of them. I bought a clivia and one of the orchids called Sunset. She also gave me a small clivia that won’t bloom for three or four years, but the older one and the orchid should bloom for me in March or maybe earlier.
Plants in window in upstairs hall

Grace invited us in, and served us coffee or tea and fresh baked apple dumplings with vanilla ice cream. We asked her lots of questions about plants and her life which she shared with us. When someone mentioned I’m a writer, ( I mentioned I’d love to use her name for a character in a future book.) she got very interested and brought out two thick three-ring binders with long lists on each of the pages with the titles of books, the authors, and a brief synopsis of each book. Although she’s an eclectic reader, she loves mysteries and had the whole series of specific writers she’s read and enjoyed like Dick Francis and others. Although her eyesight is too poor to drive anymore, she can still read and every week her son stops at the library and brings at least three new books home for her to read.

We left with promises to be back in the spring to visit with her and see her gardens, and I promised a signed copy of my first book which pleased her very much. My only regret is that I forgot to bring my camera with me that day.
A fern & a night blooming cerise that hasn't bloomed in 45 years
So now I had three more plants to fit in. Okay, I guess I’m a hoarder not only of books but plants. I just can’t seem to resist either one. So rationalizing my addictions, as I do, I remembered having house plants actually makes a house healthier. So to prove it to others that I’m filling my house with plants for a healthier life; I went online to get the facts to post. There were so many links to the health effects of house plants and lots of them were repeating the same facts so I’m going to just post “15 Fabulous Health Benefits of House Plants” by Leslie (no last name given) at:

1.     One.    Plants can help fight colds: Indoor plants have been shown to reduce cold-related illnesses by more than 30%. This is due to their effects of increasing humidity levels and decreasing dust.

      Two Plants can remove airborne contaminants: We breathe the same air again and again, potentially inhaling harmful substances that are trapped inside. Indoor plants can help to remove pollutants including VOCs that cause headaches, nausea, and more.

           Three: Plants can stop your headaches: Filling your home with plants can decrease or eliminate headaches. With plants, you’re much less likely to be breathing the kind of stuffy, stale air that contributes to headaches.
      Four:  Plants can make you happy: House plants can contribute to a feeling of well-being, making you calmer and more optimistic. Studies have shown that patients who face a garden view in their hospital rooms often recover more quickly than those facing a wall.
      Five: Plants can improve your mental health: Caring for a living thing can help when you’re depressed or lonely, giving you a purpose in life.
      Six: Plants can decrease your blood pressure: People with plants in their homes have less stress, and plants have been known to contribute to lower blood pressure.
         sEVEN:  Plants can reduce carbon dioxide: During photosynthesis, plants draw carbon dioxide from the air. Removing this substance can help prevent drowsiness from elevated levels.
       Eight: Plants can offer treatment: Some indoor plants, like aloe, can be applied to skin and offer pain relief.
      NinePlants can prevent allergies: Exposing children to allergens such as plants early in life can help them build a tolerance and immunity to the allergen. It works like a custom allergy shot, naturally.
         Ten: Plants can negate cigarette smoke: If you are a smoker or live with one, a plant may help you remove the airborne chemicals from cigarettes. In particular, the Peace Lily is a good choice for this health benefit.

1    Eleven:  Plants can make your brain work better: Potted plants and flowers can improve your idea generation, mood, and more.
      Twelve:.  Plants provide clean air: In addition to filtering chemicals, plants also put out clean air, improving the air quality around them.
      Thirteen: Plants can clear congestion: Eucalyptus in particular can help clear phlegm and congestion from you system. In fact, eucalyptus is often found in congestion remedies.

1    Fourteen  Plants are natural humidifiers: Instead of buying a humidifier machine to soften the air, just bring in a plant or two.

      Fifteen:   Plants can improve your sleep: Gerbera daisies give off oxygen at night. Filling a vase in your bedroom with these flowers can improve your night’s rest.
A few plants beside my bed.

Other articles listed certain house plants that were especially good; some I have, some I don’t. I do have aloe, but I’ve never used it for pain relief. I almost never get a cold or get sick at all. I can’t remember the last time I had one. Even when teaching third graders, I seldom got one. Now I’m crediting that to the house plants I always have in my house. My blood pressure is fine. I rarely get headaches, either. I love the idea house plants make your brain work better. I need all the help I can get with that.  And yes plants make me happy, especially during the gloomy, dark days of winter. As for having something to take care of helping you fight off loneliness and depression, pets do the same thing, but even without plants and pets, I’m rarely lonely or depressed. In fact, I tend towards being optimistic by nature. But then, maybe it’s because of a super abundance of house plants.  Who knows?
An orchid on my kitchen windowsill & a dahlia in a jar

Do you have house plants?


Jim Jackson said...

House plants are one of the victims of having seasonal residences. Before going the summer/winter migration route, I used to have lots of house plants, including an African violet that had started in a two-inch-diameter pot and when given away needed to be repotted again from a 14- or 16-inch diameter pot.

For several years we carried a Christmas cactus back with us in our travels north and south, but it outgrew its container and now since we are without animals we migrate in one car instead of two, so we gave it away as well.

I don't look forward to the day when we can only have one place because it means one of us is no longer healthy enough to enjoy our northwoods, but one advantage is we will be able to welcome houseplants back into our lives.

~ Jim

Kara Cerise said...

Love this blog, Gloria. I wish plants grew inside my house, but we don't get much light. Currently I have two rather sickly looking ivy plants with yellow/brown leaves. It's so sad. My last house had cathedral ceilings with lots of big windows so the plants went wild. It was like living in a hot house. I miss that.

Gloria Alden said...

Jim, even though you don't have house plants, you do have the benefit of being where things are growing and green outside winter and summer. I've heard of some people taking their plants to a greenhouse where the owners take care of them while the owner is gone. I used to have African violets and then they became infected with white flies or something like that from a new one I brought in. It's been years ago now so maybe I can try again to have them.

Kara, my house is surrounded by trees, but at least I get the morning sun, a little in the afternoon and almost nothing in the evening. If you can't get ivy to survive, you do have a problem. A rubber plant needs very little light. You might try that.

Paula Gail Benson said...

Gloria, this is a great message. But, I fear that I may give stress to Houseplants. I seem to struggle to keep them alive!

Warren Bull said...

I am not a good plant caretaker. I tend to forget to water them, but I did have a ficus that I kept in my office. It was a good listener. It heard many sad stories but continued to grow nevertheless.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Kara, a plant called mother-in-law's tongue thrives in low light.

I just bought a bag of paperwhite narcissus bulbs for continuous bloom next to the kitchen sink. And a big fat amaryllis bulb which had better bloom, given the price tag.

Gloria, I tried wintering over my Boston ferns but they turned brown and dropped their leaves.

Unknown said...

My house plants struggle for life. I can only have the kind that will bounce back and scream for water. So I have a lot of phycus.

Gloria Alden said...

Paula, I sometimes forget to water my plants, too, however, what is worse for most house plants is too much water.

Warren, maybe it was the people around it that kept it healthy. After all, we give off carbon dioxide which is what they need while they give off the oxygen we need.

Margaret, I was given several amaryllis bulbs for Christmas over the years - mostly from my students. Some came up, but most didn't. Those that bloomed didn't seem to do it the following year. Maybe, I should try one again. One of my sisters has the most amazing luck with plants both indoors and outside. As for Boston Ferns, they don't need a lot of light, but do need a fair amount of water. Since mine are in hanging pots, I water them well in my bathtub once a week, and yes some of the fronds die so I cut them off, when I get around to it.

Cori, I don't have any phycus, but I may have had some at one time. I can't think what they look like. If they like the environment in your home, they have to be good for you, too.

E. B. Davis said...

I had an apartment once that got such light I could grow anything. But I got rid of all my houseplants when my children were young not only because I was afraid they'd eat something poisonous, but they loved digging in my mother-in-laws houseplants getting dirt on themselves and rugs. Someone gave me a huge cactus. They aren't my favorite, but I didn't want to kill it. I put it outside on my deck for a few summers, bringing it in the house in the fall. Last year, ground mites emerged from the cactus's soil during the winter, they flew around my house, and drove me crazy. Does anyone want a used five-foot tall cactus?

Edith Maxwell said...

Yes! Have had for um ... over forty years. Must have at least one in each room. Some I've owned for decades. Couldn't live without them!

Kaye George said...

I have the kind that can live with me. If they die, I don't get that kind again. I'm stunned at how well my orchids are doing in Tennessee. They love the humidity outside in the summer, on the screen porch. All three are sending up shoots and I hope they bloom for Christmas, but it might be for Thanksgiving. I can't have any in the bedroom because I'm too allergic to the mold in the soil, but our sunroom is full of the ones that live outside in the summer. The ficus is almost too big for us to lift now. I'm not sure what's going to happen to him! I have one plant that's nearly 40 years old, a hostatum (which I've never seen before or since Hubby bought it for me), but the rest are newer.

Denise Rodgers said...

How appropriate that this article is posted on "Writers Who Kill." I like the idea of plants, but have a hard time taking care of them. I've raised two sons, and have had dogs in the house since 1985, so I know I'm not completely an irresponsible twit, but... I can't seem to keep plants alive, other than the flowering variety we keep on the front porch in warm weather months. Our impatiens are still blooming! I used to admonish my sons when they were left to watch the dog while we were out of town, "Don't treat the dog like he's a piece of furniture!" Apparently, that's what I do with the plants, however. They languish and die. I don't notice them till they're practically on life support. Kudos to you for maintaining such a beautiful garden -- indoor and out!

Grace Topping said...

I shower my plants with kindness. When I prune them, I thank them for giving me such pleasure and tell them that they are going to feel so much better with a pruning.I feel dreadfully guilty when I have to get rid of one. I know it is silly, but we don't know what plants can sense. For all of you who have had plants die or killed them, perhaps you should have talked to them a little. You never know what benefit you can reap with a few kind words--to humans and plants.

Gloria Alden said...

E.B. I didn't have many houseplants when my kids were very small, either, but I've always had some. And no I don't want your cactus. I have a tall cathedral plant, maybe, that gets taller every year and has thorns. A real thorny problem when I'm carrying it outside in the summer and back in when it's fall.

Edith, my night-blooming cerise was started from the plant of my aunt's 45 years ago and has yet to bloom even though my sister and a friend's starts from the same plant bloomed. I have several more starts and I'm hoping eventually at least one of them will bloom.

Kaye, it sounds like you have a home filled with lovely plants, too. It must have been hard moving all they when you relocated. The orchid I just bought is more expensive that the cheaper ones I usually buy. However, almost all the cheaper ones eventually rebloom. When they're blooming the blooms last for months.

Funny, Denise. I've had plants die on me, too. Some just don't make it so I don't get that kind again. Some of what I bring in are impatiens, begonias and geraniums rather than let them die outside when the frost hits. It adds a little more inside color to my plants. I'm fortunate that my dog doesn't bother the plants, and when I had a kitten once who wanted to use some of the large pots of plants as a litter box, I put stones around the plants to discourage him.

Kara Cerise said...

Gloria and Margaret, thank you for suggesting plants that grow in low light. I may have to replace my poor ivy.

Kait said...

Oh, they look lovely. It would be wonderful to have plants in the house, but alas, my thumb is black, and not with potting soil. I think I could kill an artificial plant. I do love to see them though. I also have a herd of cats. Two of them think anything green is for chewing, and with a cat, that may not be a good thing, so many lovely plants are harmful to them. Oddly enough when I've grown catnip and cat greens, they ignore them.

Gloria Alden said...

Kara, the snake plant, while not terribly beautiful, seems to do well in low light, too.

Kait, my California daughter loves house plants, but now she has one cat that seems to want to eat everything he finds on the floor including any leaves that fall from her plants so she's limiting her house plants now. Fortunately, my two cats don't bother my plants at all.

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