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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Five Pet Safe Houseplants for Spring

Pet Safe Houseplants

I just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone who has read my blog so far! I have gotten super duper feedback on how I’m helping people identify pet safe plants – that is my goal after all. This is my first comment ever and it came via Facebook, “I was just reading your blog, thank you for the info! I am that person who will stand in the store for half an hour googling plant names before I bring anything into my house! My kitties and I are grateful for this quick reference.” Thank you Cathleen from Canada, you seriously made my week!

Here is yet another installment of the plant safe houseplants. While my kitties and I are insanely excited for spring, we haven’t gone all out shopping yet for new plants. My plant family, most of who made the winter, except my Echeveria, RIP, are happy to see the sun and are just starting to come out of the dormant stage. Naturally, I’ve been whipping out my camera to give everyone their 15 minutes of fame.

Tillandsia : Pet Safe HouseplantsIt’s important to mention that not all of my plants are perfect. If you have a cat or dog, some of your plants have most likely taken a beating. Mine have fallen off shelves, been taste tested (by cats), knocked over (by sun bathing cats), and been personal scratching posts (unnecessary). I do like to keep my blog photos swanky and professional, but, I feel like post-winter and cat-cohabitation plants should be shown in their, ahem, natural state. After all, we don’t garden for the glamour.

Maranta

The Prayer Plant has been one of my favorites for some time. My cats won’t eat them and they love low light areas, I have one in almost every room of my house. And those leaves! They are just really pretty, like Emma Watsons of the plant world. Easy to take care of, Marantas just like to be kept moist and out of direct sun. And no dry heat (like radiators), which will dry them out.

 

Haworthia

Ok, so my cats likes spiny things. Cactuses, snake plants, you name it and no matter how dangerous, their face is being rubbed on it. My Haworthia, although doing well, is a bit exhausted. One of my oldest plants, Harlequinn has chewed on the tiny spines, leaving ugly dry bits and stunted leaves. If I had a nickel for every time Harvey has pushed it over onto the floor, I’d be able to buy another one. I must be doing something right, though, since there are tiny Haworthia pups growing, and she is still going strong. How? I don’t know.

Haworthia : Pet Safe Plants
My poor Haworthia. She’s still pretty, despite the teeth marks.

Spider Plant

Spider Plant : Pet Safe Plants
Harvey, snacking.

I actually just got this spider plant around Christmas. Since I love spider plants, I am determined to actually have mine grow this time. They tend to get eaten. Every single time. The plan is to move it to a hanging planter, avoiding cat mouths, and will one day look like the bottom photo. Spider plants are completely pet safe but they usually result in upset tummies later. I actually just read this article about why cats love these plants, and why they keep coming back for more. As far as care, these guys just need to be kept moist, in the sun, and away from felines.

http://www.veranda.com/outdoor-garden/g1647/benefits-of-houseplants/?slide=5
….how my spider plant should look…..

Peperomia

Peperomia : Pet Safe Houseplants
This baby’s got white, pink, and green leaves.

Because of my love for rubber trees, thus began my collection of Peperomia. 100% pet safe and almost always variegated with some kind of colors, these are one of my favorites of 2017. Unlike rubber trees which are considered mildly toxic because of the funky sap, peperomias are non toxic. Peperomia stay petite and just require low indirect light and moist bottoms. They make great quiet office mates, actually, and don’t eat smelly lunches.

Peperomia : Pet Safe Houseplants
Jelly Peperomia and Golden Gate

Air Plants

Air Plant : Pet Safe Houseplants
Air plant in its natural habitat.

In the near future, I’m planning on creating this faux moss wall that I saw in my Rooted in Design book. They mix in a bunch of air plants, so in preparation, I’ve begun to acquire them. Despite being spiny and stringy, my cats won’t eat them, but if they did they are completely pet safe. The only care they need is a good soak in a lukewarm water bath for a couple hours once a week. However, spritzing will work too. I’ve had luck purchasing Tillandsia locally, as well as this threesome through Hirts on Etsy.

Air Plants : Pet Safe Houseplants
Tillandsia can actually be hot glued to things! I don’t recommend doing that to other plants….

Birds Nest Fern

Birds Nest Fern : Pet Safe Houseplants
So green!

Ferns can be annoying to take care or, but not this one. My Bird’s Nest Fern (Asplenium antiquum) has been with me for a couple years now. It’s the curly variety, which is cooler I think, than the typical one with sword leaves. Ferny likes his plastic pot, no drafts, and damp soil to keep him happy. Both Harvey and Harlequinn like him purely for the jungle effect. Luckily, not for snacking.

Fern : Pet Safe Houseplants
Jungle cat. Well, kinda.

More installments to come as I acquire more pet-friendly plant friends. Thanks for reading!