LIKE CAMP FOR CHILDREN AND SEA BREEZES FOR ADULTS, houseplants, too, benefit from a summer vacation out of doors. Here, under nature’s ideal growing conditions, most of them are able to recover from the frustrations of house life, and to store up a reserve of health for the next winter ahead. Here are some tips for getting these plants off to a good summer-start, along with some display ideas:
Before they go on vacation, take an unsentimental inventory of your plants, and decide which ones to keep. I’m parting with the Coffea arabica plant that’s pictured above. Although it promised flowers and brew-able beans, in three years’ time it is has produced neither for me. Other plants I’ll toss or bestow are those which have outgrown their allotted space in the window garden.
This acclimation period will give you a chance to examine pots. If a plant has pushed its roots through the drainage hole, repotting is in order. “Repotting” doesn’t always mean shifting a plant to a larger container. Often you can simply knock a plant from its pot, trim off 1/3 of its roots and 1/3 of its foliage, and then return the plant to the same pot, filling in with fresh mixture. You’ve seen me perform this procedure on my Pelargonium peltatum.
Now comes the creative part: finding suitable summer quarters for the plants. Years ago, I used to hang spider plants, marantha, and ferns from tree branches in the shady Woodland Garden, sink potted geraniums into a sunny bed in the Kitchen Garden, and set my sweet olive, African gardenia, thunbergera grandiflora and other flowering specimens upon wrought-iron stands on the semi-shady patio. Scattered this way, the plants were a nuisance to manage.
This summer, I decided to travel the easy road, and keep the plants together in one place: the semi-shaded corner of my Herb Garden. Here, the plants can’t possibly be ignored, for I enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner in this garden. How beautiful they look in their summertime digs, the small flowering subjects on Victorian stands, the trailing vines on old wrought-iron kerosene lamp brackets (these borrowed from my window garden), and the large foliage plants on a shelf I attached to a clapboard wall.
To sweeten the scene, I suspended above the plant shelf a cheap, plastic wall-mounted fountain. This I framed with long strands of grape ivy. The ivy makes the fountain look more important, I think, and not so cheap. The houseplants seem to enjoy the gurgling water-music as much as I do.
Wherever your houseplants go outdoors, keep in mind that they need regular attention. I feed and water mine daily — and twice daily during periods of high heat. A weekly blast of cold water from the hose refreshes their foliage and keeps insects at bay.
Permitted this period in the fresh, humid air, the plants in September return to the window garden in mint condition, the ferns and tolmeia filled with new, lush green growth, the philodendron and grape ivy so exuberantly-long you can use them to frame a window, the Sweet Olive, Meyer Lemon, impatiens, begonias, and geraniums eager to bloom. And they continue this beauty pageant long after the snow begins to fall.
Are your houseplants presently enjoying a summer vacation, too? Where did you place them?
Don’t miss anything at A Garden for the House…sign up for Kevin’s weekly newsletter.