Friday, May 8, 2009

Ways to get plants

Since becoming a "gardener" I have learned there are many ways to get plants. They are as follows:

1. Seeds.
Cheap, unpredictable, confusing, tempting, time consuming. They are like an annoying boyfriend (not like Matt!) that you keep going back to. Every now and again they surprise you, but most of the time you're fooling yourself if you think they will make you happy.

2. Cuttings.
The plants you wish for most will inevitably wither and die no matter how carefully you pot them or how often you mist them, pamper them, sing to them and pet their weak leaves. The rest will root prolifically, lying bare on roasting hot concrete, just to spite you.

3. Buying potted plants.
Bought plants always look superb on day 1, and on that day make a critical decision whether to continue to look splendid, or to gradually (or dramatically) fade into a sad, brown, crispy, twig. There is no way to predict what choice the plant will make in advance, though it has been noted that the more you pay for them the less likely they are to thrive...

If you actually paid good money for Crocosmias or Agapanthus, like I did, the eventual result will be a good deal of gritted teeth and muttering as the ones you paid for look sickly and weak, and the ones you got for free go on an absolutely mental growing spree.

4. Free plants.
The price is right, so if they fail you can be blasé about it. They tend to look a tad ragged at first, and/or require hours of back-breaking digging to extract them from their former homes. Some of them need to be potted up in the house and add to the general air of disorder there, but the satisfaction of getting plants for nothing is immense.

5. Volunteers/Orphans/Weeds/Natives, or "wait - that wasn't there before!"
Plants that show up unannounced, subcategorized depending on how they got there, and how they behave. These can either be random sprouts of cool things that you can allow to grow in situ, or move somewhere better ("volunteers,") or they can be mysterious plants that people leave in your garden, looking for love ("orphans.") If they are unattractive, they are known as "weeds." (If unattractive and noninvasive, they are called "compost") Similarly, anything that grows in the wild nearby (a native species) can also be called a weed. But not always.

Interestingly some plants can fall into more than one category, or change categories. An orphan can become a weed if it takes over. Similarly, a volunteer that keeps volunteering inappropriately, necessitating a horticultural smackdown, has become a weed. A weed that has pretty flowers and nice leaves can be elevated to volunteer status, although of course this is a painfully rare occurrence. We have a few natives/weeds we like to encourage: California Poppy, Blue-Eyed Grass, Douglas Iris, Ceanothus, Mimulus, and Phormium (oops, no, that's just so ubiquitous is seems like a native...)

6. Plants you already own.
Houseplants kicked out of the home and left to "figure it out on their own" at the back of the plot like recalcitrant teenagers. Sometimes they will make you proud by continuing to live or even flourish, but 199 times out of 200 they will start doing drugs, hanging out with crab grass and shame you thoroughly when someone asks you what that "dormant" plant in the corner is, and you have to tell them it's a dead rubber plant...

Another category of "plants you already own" is trees etc planted on the lot before you started gardening it. Someone is sure to admire them sooner or later. My advice: smile and take the praise while you can. Any minute now they're going to notice the rubber plant...

In other news, last night I planted a few things from Lloyd:

- 6 Aloes
- 2 Agaves
- Several Cereus cactus branches planted flat on the ground with sprouts going up
- Clump of bushy succulent with oval leaves and yellow flowers whose name I don't know
- Dug a hole for his big Jade plant (Crassula)

The top succulent bed is quite full, aside from needing small things for the front edges. I did some weeding, tidied some pots up and called it a night.

This morning, I watered the sunflowers with the 8 gallon bucket. They look perky! Got to get a sign on them this weekend asking people not to crush them, and finish mulching them.

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