The weather's been beautiful here, and I've been penned up indoors most of the time. Yesterday afternoon, I took a break from indoors and worked on my plants a little bit.
I have probably talked about the plants before. I never kept houseplants of any kind before I moved to California, but when I first came out here, a friend who was moving away me a begonia. Or, more accurately, he cut the leafy tops off the top of his own begonia plant, stuck them in a cup of water, and handed them to me. He told me to leave them in the water until they grew roots, and then put them in some dirt. I did, and they not only lived, but they flourished. Those original begonia cuttings grew, and they sent up new canes, and after a while I took new cuttings and expanded the begonia collection. (This picture is the closest to what my begonias look like, although mine are far less scenic.) I also bought some new plants, and inherited even more plants from another friend who was moving out of town, and, well, I ended up with a lot of plants. My apartment in Oakland was perfect for them, flooded with light.
Since I moved to Berkeley, the plants haven't been as happy. It's mostly about the light--this apartment doesn't get nearly enough. The begonias grow new leaves, but they don't flower, and all of the plants are growing all crooked and leggy as they desperately stretch toward whatever sad sunlight makes it into this place. (I am not, if you haven't noticed, fond of my apartment.) The begonia matriarch, the original cluster of canes I inherited back in my old apartment, has gotten so big and so lopsided that it fell over onto my desk a couple of weeks ago. Yesterday, I cut back all the big lopsided top growths.
Here's the plant before the operation:
And here's after:
Okay, that may not look dramatic, but judging from how many clippings I have sitting in cups of water right now, I feel like I took off a third to a half of its overall mass.
... and, having written this much of what must surely be the world's most boring weblog post, I have realized why I feel the need to go through this step-by-step description of the plant care I handled yesterday afternoon. (Cutting back the matriarch was a minor procedure; more major work involved repotting a root-bound tree thingy and splitting another rootbound begonia into two pots.) Everything I know about houseplants is essentially self-taught; I've spent a lot of time googling around for information, but most of what I actually do is based on either modifying advice meant for outdoor plants or just making stuff up. But I've learned a lot about cane plants, tuber plants, and root plants. (The biggest thing I've learned there, unfortunately, is that every time I try separating out and replanting tuber plants, they die.) I learned how to stake weak stems (like so: before and after) in a way that's stable but also gives the stem room to grow, I learned how to pack the soil in the pot so that the roots won't rot, and I learned that plants can live just fine even in environments (like this apartment) where they aren't going to thrive.
I like to think that someday I'll have a garden, even though I know that a garden is a lot more work than houseplants, even a small army of houseplants like mine. Sitting out on the front steps yesterday, hands full of potting soil, surrounded by things that have grown in my care, that's not just a good feeling. That's a little window of peace in the afternoon sun.