Why you should visit a Botanical Garden.

Although somewhat unrelated to my subject of pets + plants, this is something that needs to be said. If you love plants – collect them, tend to them, obsessed with them, you need to visit a botanical garden. Many of the plants in your house and garden center are smaller versions of giant plants from different places all over the world, many reaching multiple feet in height.

Monstera : Leaf & Paw
I was in awe of this GIANT Godzilla size Monstera.

There are also a billion varieties of houseplants, like certain orchids, that are unfit for homes, but thrive in conservatories. The only way you would be able to experience exotic and rare plants like these is in a botanical garden.

Insanely impressive orchid.* Note: not official genus.

While in Massachusetts, I specifically sought out the Smith College Conservatory in South Hampton. The air was humid and warm, and had a calming scent of earth and dew.

Botanic Garden : Leaf & Paw
Let’s go!

In all, it contained several rooms which housed plants of specific origin and habitat. Like a goofy tourist, I wandered room to room, camera in hand, more excited than a toddler on Christmas morning.

Succulents
The Succulent House, also known as Phi Delta.

Being in New York, I don’t see many cacti, actually none, in a backyard. I have a few in my house, but our winters can be brutal. Yeah, we have lush green plants here, but I love a good rustic cactus, or better, lots of little friends.

Cacti - Leaf and Paw
Cactus Army or Cactus Party?

They were all grouped like this, like a tiny cactus army. It became more landscapey in the middle, with these larger cacti like this weird fellow. He definitely makes the artsy-plant-of-the-year list.

He’s neat.

As an individual who loves orchids, despite their hatred for me, I was in paradise. Plus, I didn’t need to take care of them, only to watch them never bloom for me again out of spite.

These tiny orchids smelled amazing!

This one even smiled at me. Or is that a wink? I don’t know.

Orchid: Leaf and Paw
I see a closed-eye smile with two big ears on either side. A happy orchid, nonetheless.

Speaking of spite, I posted on Instagram a few weeks ago about THIS:

Sigh.

I know from the many comments I received that I am not the only one who struggles with ferns. Especially maidenhair ferns, these picky little devils will succumb to the darkness no matter how much love I give. Here is one in the conservatory, on a bloody door, just growing rampant, with no care or help.

Whatever.

Can I just say that visiting this botanical garden also prompted me to save all  my chore money up and buy my own greenhouse. This year. I must, I just must. Look at those wiinnnnddoowws.

Arched windows bring me weak at the knees.

The highlight? The monstera. It’s obvious how much I love my Monstera, Monty, and I lost it when I saw this mama version. I posed, too, like a huge dork.

Monstera: Leaf and Paw.
People were staring at me like I was some kind of weirdo. Doesn’t everyone pose with giant leaves? If not, they should.

The only thing that would have made this experience better? Cats. Can someone open a cat/plant garden? Never mind, I will.

This leaf was bigger than my head.

My favorite part? Well, the monstera, yes, but it was actually the guessing game. All of my houseplant knowledge was put to the test. I learned so much more too, especially about different varieties, and how owning a green house is now a must. Did I mention I want a greenhouse?

Staghorn Fern: Leaf and Paw
Massive Staghorn Fern, mounted.

Unless you have ample funds to travel to Africa and Asia frequently, a botanical garden is really eye-opening. Considering most of the houseplants you and I own are from either of those countries, it was really cool to see them actual size. The conditions were perfect in the greenhouses, obviously, but dear lord, it was a sauna. I don’t recommend keeping a house 95 degrees and at 110% humidity to make your Monstera happy, unless you’d be happy at that ungodly temperature, too.

Botanical Garden : Leaf and Paw
Dorky photo number onebillion.

I did make some changes, though. When I got home I moved everyone around, focusing on what plants need more light, or humidity. I noticed Monty pushed out more leaves after seeing more sun, and my peperomias looked extra variegated after moving them into a shadier area. This is why I encourage every plant lover to find their nearest, or farthest, botanical garden and just spend the day. It’s amazing how much I info I absorbed and how much I actually knew about the plants I have.

Botanical Garden : Leaf and Paw

Personally, I can’t wait to go to another….any recommendations?

 

 

Henrietta the Hedgehog

Henrietta and Simon are my two African Pygmy hedgehog rescues, both from owners who could no longer care for them. Henrietta was previously used just for breeding, and she was adopted November 2015.

Henrietta the Hedgehog

Many people ask why I have a hedgehog, honestly wondering what do they do? Since they are nocturnal they sleep during the day, but develop the habit of their owners. Henrietta comes to greet me in the morning and continues to pop out of her igloo through the day, typically spending a few hours on my lap daily while I write blog posts. She is free to roam the house and use the refrigerator as she pleases.

Hedgehog yawn!

Henrietta is my first hedgehog and I had done A TON of research before adopting her in November 2014. Hedgies are considered exotic pets, so ultimately have needs (such as a heat requirement) to keep them comfortable, so my house is nothing short of a sauna. And both of my hedgies are, luckily, litter trained. Their favorite snacks include giant disgusting meal worms, but Henrietta had taken a liking to veggies and apples. Hedgehogs’ primary diets are actually high quality cat food – it being the most nutritious.

Henrietta the Hedgehog

I wanted to talk about Henrietta’s journey, because I began this blog post weeks ago and didn’t have the heart to finish it. She passed away last Monday and her death was one of the most heartbreaking I have experienced. In July 2015, I noticed a lump under her arm – after a few tests it was determined she had an aggressive form of breast cancer. It is unfortunately common in  hedgehogs and, considering she may have been bred to young, was inevitable. With a poor prognosis of only a few weeks to live, I don’t think she would be with me long. I had the lump removed by the vet and, contrary to science, she healed up just fine in a month.

Months passed and she lived a healthy life, running on her wheel and around the house in a Sonic-like manner. The tumor returned in September and she underwent another surgery. I knew this would be the last operation. It was incredibly stressful on me and a bit too much for her little potato body, but she recovered. Even though I knew the cancer would come back, I didn’t know how long until it would resurface. I was just amazed at how determined this little animal was.Hedgehog birthday party hat

In March Henrietta celebrated her 3rd birthday, which is incredible. She had defied all odds and our vet was in shock that she has made it so far. For six months or so she had been on a pain medication to ease any discomfort, and you wold have never guessed she was ill. Most days she would sit on my lap, sleeping while I worked at home, she enjoyed video game nights snuggling on the couch, loved running around with our cats, had a fetish for my new perfumes, and above all, made me smile everyday.

Henrietta the Hedgehog

I loved hedgehogs for years. Upon befriending a real one, I was just over the moon. Whether it was my childhood love for hedgehogs or just that I adore animals, I loved her more than anything. I’ve lost family members and I have had pets pass away, but nothing was more heart wrenching than saying goodbye to her. The cancer had been back for some months now, growing steadily. This last weekend the cancer escalated rapidly and I knew it was time. Suddenly she stopped eating and drinking and I had to have her peacefully leave, without pain.

Our vet, who had done all of her surgeries, put her down last Monday afternoon. I asked to have her brought her back in the room for me to say goodbye. Paleface, lightheaded, and through heaving sobs, I said my last goodbye to my dear little friend.  I couldn’t breathe and the pain was incredibly strong, but I felt the closure we both needed. A piece of me is missing and I know nothing but her can replace it.  I know it will take time but the grieving process has not been easy. Every morning I  still wake up and say hello to her, expecting her to wobble out of her igloo and greet me.

 

 

New Beginnings: Spring Plant Rituals

I’ve been waiting all month to do this post. Urban Jungle Bloggers’ topic for today only, April 27th, is “New Beginnings” and it couldn’t be anymore relevant to my life right now, in all forms.

I’m starting a new job, each plant is coming back to life post-winter, and I’m finally making progress on my Leaf and Paw book, which is set to come out this summer. All that aside, the most exciting part about all this, are my plants finally beginning to grow again.

Jade Plant : Leaf and Paw

Here in NY, as I’ve mentioned before, we have weird winters. Sometimes harsh, sometimes mild, either way it’s always a roller coaster and we still get one last hurrah snowstorm in April. For my plants that make it, which almost all do, it is always this last week of April I see their transformation. The tulips outside come up and my indoor plants sprout leaves in a day. Just this week my Jade (who snapped a few weeks ago) pushed out a tiny bitty leaf that was just too cute. My ferns are always fussy, but my little maidenhair fern (below) really suffered this winter. After I cut her back a couple weeks ago she’s releasing little branches one by one.

Given the topic of new beginnings, I wanted to share the indoor plant rituals I do to acclimate my plants into spring. I think it’s important for everyone to have a set of tasks for their plants to keep them happiest. And, because I’ve also began to propagate like a boss, I was urged to share my experience with dividing my monstrous Monstera, Monty.

The full Monty, in his glory.

My Rituals.

Preparation: As plants’ new beginnings take place, every spring I assemble my  basket that I keep my basic tools in. It includes one or more trimmers, isopropyl alcohol for bug removal, my spray bottle, and leaf shine. This is my go-to basket that houses everything I need to keep my plants healthy. Also on hand is my gallon jug of fertilizer (the jug is unsightly and unphotogenic) and favorite IKEA watering can.

Everyday: Once a day I greet my plant friends, open the curtains for light or place a select few outside on my enclosed porch. Spring weather can be unpredictable, so I only place them outside if it’s warm for most of the day.  I discovered Rudy, my rubber tree, loves Vivaldi and grew a great deal the first time he heard him. So, in the morning, I usually play Vivaldi while making breakfast. Rudy prefers the Four Season, and I do too. Plants also fancy jazz, especially Miles Davis. I can no longer play AC/DC in the morning, for reasons I will share another time.

Once a Week: Weekly, I check for bugs, more on that here, and give everyone a water. In my house everyone gets a similar amount of sun, so watering typically amounts to once a week. My Fitttonia and other thirsty plants may get an extra drink during the week if there’s wilting going on. It’s also important to aerate the soil so drainage can be better achieved. I was introduced to this idea from Houseplantjournal, who is an mild Instagram Celebrity and Plant Caretaker in neighboring Canada.

New leaf of my Staghorn Fern!

Once a month: Since I have a lot of large plants, their leaves inevitably get dusty. I used water for a few years but actually prefer a designated “leaf shine” formula since it works better with a cotton cloth. My rubber tree collection get especially dusty in winter and monthly cleaning helps prevent cat sneezes.         Every month in spring, I also check pots. Because there is new growth happening, pots that may have fit last spring can be a tight fit. The best ways to know if a pot is too small: aerials roots break from the bottom of the pot, there is constant stunted growth, or the plant is just blatantly breaking it’s planter.  Every 6 months to a year, I typically replant.

Even smaller plant need their leaves cleaned so they can better absorb sun to make new leaves!

Spring Propagation

As I mentioned above, I am super excited to be propagating! I briefly talked about it in this post, and after a few tries I’m getting the hang of it. Monty was my first challenge. Since I love monsteras and was terrified of killing him I read as much as I could about division.

A few people have asked my method of propagating a monstera, so this is what I did. He had some insane growth, resulting in Monty being completely round therefor impossible to position in my house. With my eyes closed (not really) I completely cut a chunk off so he can be against a wall. The trick is to cut a stem only with an aerial root protruding, like this:

I usually like to have the stem harden over a bit, so I left the cutting for a day and then placed it in water. Ta da!

Monstera, propagated.

I’ve been using a similar method propagating my Wandering Jew cuttings. I now have a variegated green, solid green, and purple. Below is my family in water, growing roots, almost ready to be planted.

 

And this is my Monty cutting, just planted today. Wish me luck and hooray for spring and new beginnings!

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