The diary of a former plant killer. I used to be terrible with house plants and so banned myself from buying them for years. In December 2019 a friend gave me a Christmas cactus as a thank you gift and after a little bit of reading up on plant care online I somehow managed to keep it alive and flowering for six months. As a way to pass time and distract myself during the pandemic I have been teaching myself the basics of plant care and rebuilding my confidence with plants. It turns out there’s hope for me yet!
It’s been about three months since my last house plant journal update, so I thought I’d share some recent photos. I briefly started a separate Instagram account for all things house plant related, but to be honest I am feeling a little bit overwhelmed by Instagram and I’m not sure keeping two accounts is something I want to do at the moment as I end up spending too much time in app which leaves me feeling distracted and irritable. It’s such a busy, noisy app, and really commercial what with the new shopping tab taking prime position in the user interface.
The Instagram plant community is really friendly and positive, but as with all hobbies these days there are also lots of influencers who make their money through product placement and advertising, and I am trying to limit my exposure to these things as I personally feel happiest that way. Despite my best intentions and awareness of behavioural psychology and the power of advertising, I’m human. It’s all too easy to see a beautiful plant I’ve never heard of and then think I need it when the reality is I don’t, and nor do I have the space or conditions to look after it properly. So, for the time being I will just share house plant things here on my blog. My collection is small, made up of common plants, and I have set a limit on how many plants I can keep at any one time to keep things from getting out of hand. The plants I have make me happy, and that is enough.
New leaves on my Pilea Peperomioides after I gave it a few drops of fertiliser. It’s really quite dark inside now that we’re through to November, and some of the lower leaves were starting to turn yellow and drop off. I knew it wasn’t from overwatering as I’ve really got a handle on that now, but thought a little bit of food might help make it happier as I grow my plants in a soil free mix – coir, perlite and bark – and thought it might be short on nutrients as I hadn’t fed it since early September.
My fascination with house plants continues. I love epiphytic cacti and so I am currently rooting some cuttings I bought on eBay for the equivalent of a pot of tea and a piece of cake in a café – some rhipsalis paradoxa and lepismium bolivianum. They are hanging out growing roots in a jam jar alongside a young (already rooted) selenicereus chrysocardium I am hoping will grow big and strong come spring. I just love these plants, they have such strange shaped foliage and really beautiful flowers if you’re lucky enough to get them to bloom, and they do well in bright, indirect light – which is just as well as that’s about all I can offer them in winter!
I’m writing this to pledge to myself that there will be no more plants – or cuttings – until at least the spring though. The light is fading fast now that October is here, and I don’t want to overstretch myself given that space is limited and I’m still very much a beginner when it comes to plants. I am really enjoying growing things from cuttings and small starter plants, it’s a cheap way to get in to house plants and it’s really rewarding to watch roots grow and new leaves emerge over time. Just this week my sansevieria masoniana has put out a new pup which is unfurling daily, much to my delight. It’s like watching paint dry in terms of action, but I find it strangely mesmerising.
2020 has seen many of the things that I enjoy get cancelled. The spring shutdown meant that I couldn’t get out to the hills, couldn’t go hiking in Wales, and couldn’t work – weddings were banned and physical distancing meant that I couldn’t work on portraits or my documentaries either. The continuation of restrictions – and uncertainty – throughout the summer meant that we didn’t go camping like we usually would, and now that we’re heading into autumn, I can feel the walls closing in again as the second spike / peak / wave / call it what you will of the pandemic begins. I have no idea when I will next go to a punk show, go camping, or work – either a wedding or on my documentaries which require me to be in close proximity to people in their homes. It’s shit. There’s no two ways about it.
I have to laugh at myself for fitting the stereotype of my generation. In my defence, my collection of succulents is quite small and only takes up a tiny corner of one room of my home. I can also put them out on the balcony when it’s warm. I never thought I’d be interested in houseplants – chuckling at the couple who live opposite and have blocked their entire window and all natural light in their flat with a collection of huge plants – but I found myself craving something green while both botanical gardens were shut during the first wave of the pandemic, and so here we are.