A sad mess of dessicated branches soon to meet the compost bin is all that remains of my beloved ‘Chinese Ornamental’ hot pepper plant. I had grown fond of this little hot pepper plant and was sad to let it go.
I started the plant from seed two years and lovingly nurtured it through the dry, dark days of winter to bring it outdoors in the spring. The plant began as an experiment in how productive this variety could be in cramped quarters, but it’s resiliency and determination won my heart. My little plant turned out quite a harvest in its first year, despite life in a 5″ pot. Following its first winter indoors, the plant produced new growth, bloomed, and eventually turned out a fine second crop of teeny little hot peppers. Those hot peppers have since been harvested, dried, and divided up into little envelopes as gifts for gardening friends. The cycle is complete.
However, I didn’t intend to write a eulogy about my dead ‘Chinese Ornamental’ hot pepper. My real intention for this post is to talk about letting go of plants.
At the end of any gardening season, I dutifully bring all of my houseplants indoors for the winter, adding in a couple of tender herbs or hot peppers that I’d like to try my hand at keeping inside. Over the last decade I’ve gleaned a lot about strategies for keeping certain plants alive in a dry, sunless apartment and which varieties can tough it out better than others through these seasonal experiments. It’s also good fun and makes the long winter without a functioning outdoor growing space tolerable.
I’m going on a month-long trip very shortly and can’t expect the friends who will be taking care of my plants to put the same effort into dutifully watering and tending to the sixty odd plants that currently live here. Keeping track of the widely varying moisture needs of each plant will be torture for them, let alone the fear of killing any of my most beloved and needy babies. I can’t expect that a certain percentage of my plants will make it through this period alive. Short, week-long trips have always resulted in some inevitable loss. I’m afraid to imagine what kind of deaths an entire month away will bring.
One of my early strategies for dealing with this period away was to repeat the mantra, “No new houseplants!” throughout the growing season, the idea being that I would not bring any new plants into the fold and potentially reduce the number my friends would be left to care for during the month we’ll be away.
How successful do you think that strategy was?
At last count the total number of new houseplants brought home between the months of May and October 2009 total just under 20. In my defense, there seemed to be a lot of temptations out there this year and a particularly high number of friends getting rid of this and that. I wasn’t about to turn away gems like this and this. And this plus, you know, 16 others.
Before bringing the outdoor plants in, I always do a big shift around and cleanup of my indoor growing spaces to make room for the plants that are migrating back inside. Not surprisingly, this year’s clean up took nine hours from start to finish. Nine hours! I will admit that I put a bit more effort into carefully nurturing each plant this year as a strategy for counteracting the difficulty they will soon face. And it was quite therapeutic.
When it came time to decide which plants were going to make it back into the warm cocoon indoors, I had to be brutal and make up for the 20 new plants that had stealthily crept into my life. And so the little ‘Chinese Ornamental’ plant that could had to go as well as many other hot pepper plants and herbs. In a feat that goes completely against my nature to keep on trying with even the most hopeless plants, I managed to toss out a few succulents that had been clinging to life for far too long. It was easier than I imagined and I’ve already forgot which plants they were. Yet for some reason I can’t forget the spider plant I cruelly discarded ten year ago.
A pachypodium that I’ve been itching to see the back of for the last five years is on my currently hit list, if only I can absolve the feelings of ruthless abandonment in time for my impending departure. After all, one less plant for my friends to care for could result in one more, much-loved plant surviving my time away. You think?
Which plants did you let go of this year?