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?

 

 

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!

Supporter of 

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!