The Grreat Outdoors

GreenWise Gardening 2016


Most of the yard is taken up by large hedges, paved areas, and a tiny lawn, so I get my gardening fix by cultivating ornamental and edible plants in a variety of pots. I called my low-budget, limited-space attempts at this "Ghetto Gardening" when I started writing here last spring. It has been fun to share what I discovered in the quest to grow things while improving my knowledge.

For 2016, I'll continue to write and photograph my own container garden adventures, but will focus to a greater degree on providing resources or fun projects that others might find useful. I also want to be more mindful of recycling and repurposing, and to consider local or organic solutions.

So, here's the first chapter of GreenWise Gardening!



As the cold weather continues here in Santa Cruz, California, I'm increasingly spending time indoors. Although I have many potted plants outside, nearly surrounding the house, there are only seven indoor containers (plus straggly bits of cuttings or seedlings living on the kitchen windowsill). There's plenty of other clutter, however! As I looked around, wanting to see more green growing things, and wondering where I could fit new pots, I realized that I needed to make space first. So I've been tidying up around the place, while observing where the sunlight comes in throughout the day.

Clicking on the small images below will bring up a full-size version.


Philodendron and resident wookiee.


Crowded kitchen windowsill.


Adding more tradescantia stems
to a basket planter.


After thinking about possible locations and observing lighting conditions, I figured the next step was to look at the plants I already have. The seven houseplants I've lived among for years are an elephant ear plant (alocasia), a philodendron, a wandering jew (tradescantia), a Christmas cactus (zygocactus), a fiddle leaf fig tree (ficus lyrata), an orchid, and a spider plant (chlorophytum). I can attest to the hardiness of these, especially the philodendron and elephant ear; those two were here when I moved in over a decade ago (but only now was I curious enough to look up what they're called). There are also two live plants inside Hank the chameleon's enclosure, purchased last summer: a weeping fig (ficus benjamina) and a croton (codiaeum variegatum).

Other plants have been brought home over the years but haven't survived. I love the plush purple of velvet plants (gynura) but they seem to need different conditions than I'm able to provide. Likewise, I haven't had luck with polka dot plants (hypoestes phyllostachya), chenille plants (acalypha), african violets, or begonias. Maybe I'll try again with some of these in the future once I've learned more.

Some small pots do okay on my kitchen windowsill, such as broken off stems of the tradescantia growing in water, and herb seedlings. This is the only window area that isn't frequented by cats, so I wish it was a bigger space! It's south-facing, which many houseplants are said to prefer. The Christmas cactus grows nicely (and blooms during fall/winter) in sunshine from the kitchen skylight. The orchid is sprouting new leaves but not flower stems on the bedroom window box. I think these two are my only ones that can bloom, so I would like to add more flowering varieties to the house. I'm considering using a couple of hanging planters for the ceiling in the office and bedroom, and putting another Christmas cactus in one of these locations. I've cleaned out the clutter from the north-facing bathroom window box, behind the hanging philodendron, so now this area can hold a compact but sturdy container that cats won't knock over.

So now I'm reading up on indoor plant options, to discover additional varieties that do well in low light and are fairly hardy. I especially want to find out which outdoor plants could be moved into the house. (So far, geraniums look like a smart choice, and I have plenty of those to take cuttings from.) Guide to Houseplants has some useful information, as does Better Homes & Gardens. In fact, there's such a plethora of resources online that I could spend weeks of my free time reading on this topic if I wished to do so.

And then to start carrying out my planting plans! I'm looking forward to visiting the local garden stores in coming weeks, to make a few (hopefully wise) investments in houseplants.


More recent postsEarlier posts