Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010

Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010
Photo by R.E. Berg-Andersson

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Return to Life and My Stand Against the Disposable Society

Every spring, when the worst of the cold is over and the snow has finally melted, I am amazed at what survives in my garden and saddened by what does not.

Despite neglect or doing something wrong out of ignorance, the perennials come back and I am both humbled and thankful.

The same is true for house plants. When I accept a house plant as a gift from a friend or rescue a plant someone has cruelly ripped from a planter and then thrown on the sidewalk - the bulk of my house plants are one or the other - I have to think long and hard about where to put it so it can get the most (or the least) amount of light. I have to hope the plant doesn't mind being watered only once a week or that in winter there will be a lot of dry heat and not a lot of moisture.

One of those plants is an orchid I thought I had killed because I uprooted it when it didn't have to be uprooted, cut back what I later realized was a lot of its root system and then fed it at the wrong time. Somehow that plant has survived, and this year is the second straight it will flower.

Last week, I wrote about the mistreatment of my peppers and my cannas. The cannas saddened me in particular because I knew better. I knew that if you took a tropical plant and put it on a porch where it can get down to the single digits overnight, it is not going to be happy. What I didn't realize was putting a plastic sheet or two and a blanket over the pot would keep in moisture on a plant that was supposed to be allowed to dry out.

I moved the pots indoors, into a sunny part of the one room where I can place all my house plants, and hoped for the best.

Two of the five pieces of growing canna, April 2016 (Margo D. Beller)
Well, when I wrote about them last week I thought they were dead. And then one evening I looked into one of the pots and saw two signs of life! Two little bits of green poking out of the pot, which was solidly packed with roots and corms. A few days later, I pulled the pots onto a tarp on my enclosed porch and started poking around -- which meant dumping the solid clump from the pot, using a saw to cut into it and then a spade to pull the sections apart.

I found five growing pieces of canna. I had planned to divide what was in the pot this spring anyway and so filled the pot with soil and put in the five pieces so they would have plenty of room to stretch out and grow. Cannas can get pretty big and after a few years they grow into each other to create a solid mass.

I looked very carefully at what I turned out of the other pot but saw nothing growing.

Now, it is always possible there will be growth in what I'm composting. My keeping it in the deep freeze might've put the plant into a deeper hybernation than I realized. If that is the case, when I put it all in the compost pile I won't be surprised if I see a mass of large, green canna leaves growing, which I can then either pull up and plant elsewhere or leave alone, a kind of zombie canna graveyard.

Why do I mention all this?

First, because I am relieved I am not a plant killer.  Second, because once again, Nature will take care of itself if Man (or me) doesn't mess around with it.

Most times people buy plants, keep them for a while and then throw them in the trash. This is a waste of your money, the plant grower's time and the compostable material in the plant.

When I take care of my plants, when I keep them going far beyond what the label says (and that includes "annuals" I've kept going for years), I am taking my stand against being part of a disposable society that doesn't think twice about putting in the garbage furniture, bicycles, plants or other things that can be donated to others for repair and resale or gifting.

My front room is full of life, and it is another thing that gives me a reason to live.