It must have been the influence of that month in the Caribbean where they are as big as trees, because I haven’t craved a holiday poinsettia in ages. The last time I remember growing one was the year I published a piece on restoring a dormant poinsettia to its original glory. That must have been ten years ago now.
What surprised me more than my own rekindled interest was that Davin was into it, too. We chose and bought this one together, an impulse buy at the Loblaw when we went in to get some money from the machine for subway tokens. The path to the ATM takes you right through the garden section. They know how to get me.
We loved that this one seemed to be a mutt of every variety jammed into one plant. It’s got a bit of the deep mahogany type, a few white and pink blush leaves, and lots of speckles. Later, I found myself eyeing a dwarf variety for sale in a corner shop a little too closely.
Perhaps I will keep this one and bring it out of dormancy for next year. Perhaps not. When it comes to plants, I don’t know who I am or what I will do anymore. The Year of the Id is sliding into a second.
Back in the spring, when I guiltily purchased this kalanchoe tubiflora (aka Widow’s Thrill) on impulse, it was all about the tall, spotted tubular leaves and the way it looks like a bottle cleaning brush.
I didn’t look for photos online or in books to see how it would turn out down the road. I repotted it, watered it, and let it tell me what it needed. I let it be and enjoyed it as it evolved through several stages into this wonderful surprise.
I didn’t realize it would bloom through the first cold and dreary days of winter. I didn’t think about the flowers or imagine that they would be such a beautiful shade of orange, nor did I consider how much delight they would bring me as I trudge through the emotionally turbulent final days before I hand over my next book manuscript for scrutiny.
After all of these years, I think I’ve finally come to understand what a necessity it is to keep a few plants that will make pretty, colorful flowers when we need them most. They’re not decadent or self-indulgent; they’re essential.
Like caladium, anthurium are a tropical I never could get into. I have a penchant for freakish, alien plants, but there is something about their waxy, fake phalus-like appearance that bugs me. They just seem so Hollywood — the plastic surgery disasters of the plant world.
Last year’s trip to Dominica changed that. There, for the first time, I saw anthurium growing in their natural habitat. It turns out they live in the jungle, alongside streams where it is very humid and the soil is moist. In that environment they don’t look fake at all.
There, surrounded by a lush green backdrop, where everything is waxy and shiny, they blend right in and it seems perfectly normal to come upon a flower that looks like one of Madonna’s performance outfits, or that neon t-shirt I wore back in 1985.
I like the droopy, thin leaves.
Behold, the beautiful leaves of this Rex Begonia I bought last winter. It’s flowering!
The trick to growing this particular begonia is shade and humidity. My time hiking through forests in Dominica really drove that point home in a clear way. I often found begonias growing in surprisingly dim spots underneath thick tree canopy and near to a water source where the humidity was high. Rex Begonias are known for demanding more of both.
When I first bought this plant I had a difficult time finding that balance. I got the humidity part right but gave it too much light. Rexs without enough humidity end up with crispy leaf edges. And when the light is too bright, they lose their vibrant color.