Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Apartment Gardening

Upon moving into my NYC apartment, I developed a yearning for fragrant, colorful, and vibrant house plants.  Mostly, I wanted flowering plants so that their scents could battle the occasional unpleasant odors that wafted in through our opened windows. 

I like having opened windows.  In Florida, we had the air conditioning on so much that it wasn’t reasonable to have the windows open very much.  Here, on the upper floor of our walk-up, we can get a good breeze going, and one that isn’t usually tainted by foul odors.  But, sometimes, these icky smells occur.  There are a few downs to go with all the ups of achieving this lifelong dream of residing in NYC.  In our humble opinion, the positives still far overbalance the negatives.  ~_~ooo

My first plant arrived via UPS from my mother (who still resides in Florida).  After mentioning that we probably weren’t going to have a Christmas tree this year, she sent us a small potted Cypress that came with tiny, cheap (but cute, amusing and memorable) ornaments.  I kept it going well, and after a few months, I repotted it in something more permanent and esthetically pleasing.

But first, I bought a miniature rose plant at Wholefoods (that place always makes me want to cook magnificent meals and cultivate a veritable jungle inside the apartment).  So, I actually repotted both the miniature rose plant and the tiny cypress at the same time.

 A few more months and I became emboldened.  In previous visits, I had come to adore the brilliantly colored and fragrant hyacinth that frequented the parks and planters around Manhattan.  I wanted one for our apartment.   With two plants flourishing, I decided it was time.

As you can see in the picture to the right, it was beautifully bloomed--bright purple with lush green stems.  It smelled divine and it perfumed the apartment perfectly!

A couple more weeks and I endeavored further.  I planted some seeds (marigolds and sunflowers) that I had received relatively randomly in the mail as a form of promotion for Earth Day.  I don’t remember what business sent them, but I sure did plant some of them.  I also purchased a gardenia plant.  I repotted the hyacinth and the gardenia into more permanent and esthetically pleasing pots.  Along with them and the newly planted seeds, I crowded the windows throughout the apartment. 

The seeds sprouted better than I ever expected.  Five out of seven marigold seeds took and four out of seven sunflowers muscled through.  The other plants were still green and pretty as well.  Although, the hyacinth were starting to wilt.  I noted that the ones planted around the city were wilting as well, so I figured it was part of their annual routine.  These plants were my first foray into any form of gardening of my own, and with their success so far, I secretly (well, not so secretly anymore ~_~ooo) decided that I had a green-ish thumb.  It was too early in the game to claim having a green thumb, and even then, I’m too bashful to really likely ever to declare something that bold of myself.

Then a turn for the worse.

Webs on the miniature rose and gardenia.  These plants shared space with the hyacinth at the window nearest my desk.  I’d trimmed the hyacinth like the florist suggested, but the stems were looking sickly.  And, a strange growth (webbing?  white moss?  a fungus?) covered the topsoil of the hyacinth plant.

I did research and to the best of my knowledge and ability thus far, I diagnosed the plants as having a spider mite infestation.  I followed the most prominent and prevalent home remedy of alcohol/water mixture and applied it liberally with a spray bottle every day.

I lost the hyacinth.  The soil and pits to the roots were completely inundated with the strange growth.  I dug that part out, repeated treatment, and it returned within a couple days.  Though I was loathe to do so, I completely trashed the soil and the remaining root system.  I scoured the pot.  It now waits patiently in the lower cabinet by the kitchen sink for a new inhabitant.  Perhaps, one of the sunflowers or marigolds?  Eventually, but not yet.  I missed the hyacinth too much and didn't trust I could keep anything going.  It would have to be patient before it hosted another plant.

As a precaution, I separated the other plants that had shared window space with the hyacinth and while the gardenia gave me a little scare with its browning leaves falling off in greater abundance than I preferred, it seems to be thriving again now.  Still no blooms though.  Maybe eventually.

The miniature rose got trimmed to within an inch of its life, since many of the websites I discovered blamed it as a magnet for the pesky creatures (spider mites).  All scraggly, plain stalks and one beginning bloom that I couldn’t bring myself to chop off, my poor first flowering plant hung on like a trooper.

The seed sprouts are doing pretty darn good still as well.  So yaay!  :D

Then came the trip to Ohio to visit some of my husband’s family.  I didn’t trust the miniature rose to behave while we were gone.  A couple days before we left I noticed a few tiny flies or gnat like creatures in the apartment.  I scoured the plants and found some itty bitty winged things (smaller than the flying pests that started the search) in the top soil of the miniature rose.  I flicked the soil a little with a stick and found a worm.  O_o  That surprised me.  Though, it probably shouldn’t, I suppose.  I repotted with bagged repotting soil and it is possible that it contained critters natural to the source of the soil.  Still... I didn’t want to come home to an apartment that was going to be sealed up for a week to find it full of flying bugs.  Ick!

Out on the fire escape it went.  I tucked it in the corner out of the way, just in case the escape would be needed while we were gone.

After a lovely trip, we got home, and celebrated.  Nothing had been stolen.  There were no bugs.  And, the miniature rose had bloomed prettily but had also grown many, many new green leaves.   Yaay!  I rewarded its good behavior with time indoors at the window nearest my desk.

I’m starting to think that this area by my desk is not good for the plants, though.  The miniature rose is spotted with what I think are the spider mites again.  However, there are no webs or web-like growths.  The bloom is almost ready to fall off (which, fairly, is probably as part of the natural process despite my paranoia about it) and the leaves are browning and drying out.   I’ve put it back out on the fire escape.  I hope it survives.  I’d like it to last at least a year.  The miniature rose's first anniversary would be around mid-January to early-February of 2012.

If anyone has any recommendations for me to save these and future hyacinth (I know I’ll cave and try again with those), please share them in reply to this post or via email.


Thank you for indulging...

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