Bloomin’ Update 58: My Garden Doesn’t Need Me

My garden doesn’t need me.

Oh, it uses me — for watering and weeding and such — but it really doesn’t need me.

I came to this conclusion after having two days off in a row. I haven’t had that in some time. This is the busy season in South Florida garden centers, and when I’m not there, I’m writing blog posts for about 30 companies via an Internet marketing agency.

As a result, things have been neglected.

This blog. My garden. And when one’s blog is a gardening blog, it’s an issue.

So when two free consecutive days happened, I focused all of my attention on gardening tasks. I mowed and edged. I weeded and divided. I rooted and planted.

As I crawled through the beds and examined the pots, I marveled at what I found. While the plants can always benefit from a human hand, there’s something satisfying in knowing they are perfectly capable of doing what they do and letting me experience the wonder of it all.


Last summer, friends gave us an orchid as a house-warming gift. When I asked her what do I do with it, she advised that I should just ignore it.

After the blooms faded, I brought the plant outside to a shaded area near my potting bench, where I did as I was told. I did, though, mist it with water when I thought of it. Now, two flower spike are clearly visible.


There is a small terra-cotta dish of succulents on a table on the patio. I never know which succulents will flower, so I’m always surprised when they do.

Hawaiian Ti

I love Hawaiian ti for its bright colors. I hate Hawaiian ti because as it grows, it gets a long woody stem and the bright leaves are clustered at the top.

A gardener told me all I had to do was cut them and new growth would appear — and the cut pieces could be stuck in the ground to make more plants.

A few weeks ago, I went on a cutting rampage — and on my recent walk, I spotted new growth emerging.


Tillandsia, which sounds like an exotic island, is a whole new world of plants for me — air plants, to be specific.  A member of the bromeliad family, nutrients and water are gathered through its leaves while the roots keep it anchored to a host plant. Somehow, this one arrived in a podocarpus shrub in the front of the house. I’m not sure if it will flower, but I’m keeping my eyes on it.


About a year ago, I planted a clerodendrum, a colorful shrub with green and purple leaves, and blooms that look more like fireworks than flowers. It never occurred to me that the shrub would self-sow — until I spotted this and two others growing in the area around what is now the mother plant.

In time, these will be the flowers.


A funny thing happened to my frangipani tree, the one I posted about after winning it during a raffle at the local garden club meeting. The crown of the tree split into three — and as I followed the taller piece upward, it was capped with what I will describe as a candelabra of blossoms.

Just before putting this post together, I walked past the tree again to check on its first flowers.

At the end of my two garden-filled days, I was exhausted in a good way — much different than the exhaustion from working in the garden center and writing for others.

Yes, I miss being in the garden. I miss being in my garden — and while my garden may not need me, one thing is certain: I need my garden.

I Won A Tree


At each monthly meeting of the local garden club, a raffle is held. For one dollar, members can win something — usually a plant — donated by another club member.

In the past, I’ve won a sturdy plastic hand rake, a sprouting Everglades tomato plant, and an orchid — small items that don’t take up a lot of space in the shed or garden.

Mostly, though, purchasing a raffle at the meeting is a chance to support the club.

Club raffles are an interesting beast — or rather, the club members themselves are. Some members like to stack the basket and so they purchase five to ten dollars worth of tickets. Others, like me, are more conservative — just a dollar and a dream.

The thing is, I’ve never dreamed of winning a tree — especially this tree — and yet, here I am with the winning ticket and my new tree.

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Aloe, ‘ow Are You?


I always wanted to be a deejay. When I was younger, I had two turntables, a mixer, and crates and crates of vinyl records.

There was one small problem, though.  I never wanted to get fingerprints or scratches on any of the records — which was why my vinyl collection remained in pristine condition, and the only deejaying was in my own mind.

Still, when it comes to thinking up headlines for posts, I often turn to music for inspiration — and this post about my aloe was no different. I began with “Aloe, I Love You,” courtesy of The Doors — because, I do love this plant.

Mine was a gift from Joe’s sister, Donna. She gave it to me years and years ago — and for those years and years, it was a typical northern houseplant, a solitary presence in a clay pot, brought outside in summer and over-wintered indoors.

I was thrilled to have an aloe — practical and beautiful, medicinal and magical. Each day seems to bring about new wondrous uses for the gel inside each of its pointy, succulent leaves.

The problem is that snapping off an aloe leaf to soothe a burn or an abrasion was never my first thought. No, I’d rather run for a bandage or even a store-bought “aloe” lotion than risk damaging the plant.

It was my deejaying debacle all over again — although this time I knew my being a gardener wasn’t an imaginary mind game. I just didn’t want to take advantage of a plant. I wanted it to be pristine.

But something exciting happened after bringing the aloe to Florida, where this houseplant could stay out all year long. Of course, there was the initial shock, but in time, the green became more vibrant and smaller aloes began to pop up all around the mother plant.


My clay pot for one had become my clay pot for many, and I wondered: Is this what aloe is supposed to do?  It actually makes more plants on its own?

Then, Adele arrived with this lyric, “Hello, from the other side” — and I began to contemplate what was happening beneath the soil of said clay pot. In other words: Aloe, from the underside.


Just like removing a vinyl disc from its sleeve, I gently tapped the aloe from the only home it has ever known. And just like holding a record by its edges and turning it over to examine it for any imperfections, I observed and marveled at what was hidden by the clay pot.

The houseplant I had always counted on to be a solo artist was more like a member of a band.   Once unpotted, the lead singer — for want of a better term — had developed a lengthy root system, each one traveling in a circle to match the shape of the clay pot.


It’s at this point that all record and deejaying analogies come to an end. While I may be a deejay in my mind, in reality, I’m a gardener —- and unlike my treatment of vinyl, I wanted to scratch at the soil, to separate the roots and smaller plants a bit, to clip and cut and leave my mark.

As I began, I first noticed that the thicker roots were actually runners, some of them ending with a small aloe plant — and each of these had its own set of roots and runners.



The larger of the small aloes were easily separated from the main plant, but the smaller ones needed some clipping.




I lined up pots of all sizes, as well as some hollowed out coconuts, for planting — so that each of the aloes could be a star in their own right — and, in time, fill out and make more plants.



The aloe that started it all was returned to its clay pot, now a bit roomier, so that it too could once again produce more plants.


At the end of the day, when it came time to reflect on what I had learned about aloe propagation and a headline, it seemed to make sense to name this post: “Aloe, ‘ow are you?” It’s really the question I asked myself — with a cockney accent, because a name like aloe kind of begs for that — whenever I looked at the clay pot filled with plants.

That being said, it’s time to bring my tale of aloe to a close — and in the sort-of words written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney: “You say goodbye, and I say aloe.”

A Streetcar Named Dracaena

Dracaena fragrans

“Oh, look,” whispered the sweetest of voices on the slightest of breezes each night when I stepped outside. “We have created enchantment here.”

I thought I was alone, but the powdery scent of perfume had me thinking otherwise. The voice was quite feminine, I imagined, and absolutely southern — dripping with refined charm and long, slow vowels.

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Bloomin’ Update 55: Flapjacks For A Sunday Morning

Kalanchoe Flapjacks

There’s something special about Sunday mornings. It’s a time that’s built for reading each section of the newspaper, undertaking the crossword puzzle, and lingering over a breakfast that’s a bit more intricate than an eat-and-run weekday meal.  It’s a moment to pause and breathe.

For today’s Sunday breakfast, I’m serving up some flapjacks.

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