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Reaching for the light

A few weeks ago a friend from work and I were chatting about the “injury at track level” announcements that are sometimes heard on the train. She had heard a few on her morning commute into work over the years and said they tended to increase this time of year. I didn’t realize it was a coded way of saying someone had jumped in front of the train to their death.

She mentioned that she knew someone who was actually on a train that was involved in such an incident. It made us feel sad, imaging the pain that would drive someone to do something so counter-intuitive to their (and all humanity’s) basic drive drive for survival. And then we felt such gratitude for our own lives — the condition of it and the people in it that kept us going.

I was admiring my string of pearls (senecio rowleyanus) today, watching how its tendrils continuously reach for the light. It made me think of how we humans do the same: we face dark times, but we grow by reaching for the light. And we blossom and grow some more. We grow. Isn’t that what truly living is all about?

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I thought my string of pearls would be dormant over the winter. I’m learning that some plants keep growing.

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New pearls!


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Christmas miracle?

Since when do plant cuttings flower?!

I grabbed some cuttings of a wandering jew from a restaurant near my workplace a few weeks ago. I saw it while walking back from a holiday market with a colleague. I went back the next day with my trusty shears and just asked if I could take some cuttings (I may have said “a cutting”). I don’t think the hostess knew what to say; she’d probably never been faced with such a question. I took about 10 cuttings. The plant was pretty scraggly, actually; I did them a favour by cleaning it up a bit.

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I like this purple variegated variety

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I expect cuttings to put all their energy into making roots to secure and feed themselves, but to flower?! A definite surprise.

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A tiny blue flower forming on the right

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I’ll have to read up on care.

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Either I’m a glutton for punishment or I’m just stubborn. I don’t want to give up on things I really like.

I bought myself two Thanksgiving cactus a few weeks ago at Tiny Flower, one with red blooms and one with pink.

The red blooms dropped in transit but there are still plenty of pink ones

I’ve owned and killed two (or was it three?) full plants over the past two years and I haven’t been able to start new plants from leaf cuttings. When I bought these, I regaled the lady behind the counter with stories of  my failure with this plant and asked for tips of how to keep it alive. She said not to water too much; that’s usually what kills them. Once every 3 weeks is good enough. So that’s the plan. Fingers crossed that these two will make it.

To my horror, my prized pilea dropped all its leaves after I moved it away from the window when the temperatures started dropping.

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Growth picked up in September. At it’s healthiest, it had 10 to 12 leaves

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It looks done for, doesn’t it?

I was upset but couldn’t bring myself to toss it, especially after building up the courage to ask for it.

I convinced myself that perhaps this was normal. I noticed earlier this year that my rubber plant was dropping leaves. Eventually it stabilized after forming a trunk. I thought perhaps the pilea was doing the same thing.

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You can see where the leaves used to be. Many dropped but there were new leaves at the top of the plant

So I brought it to work to get more light and low and behold, new leaves are forming!

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Patience is a virtue!

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I have my first hoya!

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One of my Facebook gardening groups identified this as a hoya. A Google image search helped me narrow it down to a Hoya Carnosa.

I got the cuttings from a beautiful, climbing mother plant at the place where I get acupuncture. I was so attracted to the striking dark green waxy leaves with their interesting white markings that I inquired about taking a cutting.

I’ve had it in water for about 5 days. I’m not sure how long it will take to make roots. I was initially worried that it was hibernating, but this post from a Master Gardener says that they don’t hibernate in winter; great news! I just need to be patient…

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The post says the carnosa is the most commonly cultivated species but this is the first time I’ve ever seen this type.




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Happy birthday to me!

Happy birthday month!

I decided that I would celebrate my birthday all month, instead of just the actual day. It was an opportunity to meet up with friends and enjoy their company and to treat myself all month long. Not only with “things”, like $7 bars of handmade soap, but also with some of the true self-care stuff described in this article. After all, months like November and the rest of winter are all about self-reflection and introspection.

On the treat side, I bought myself a red amaryllis last week. I consider it a treat because $10 is a bit expensive (for some reason I thought I could have gotten it cheaper elsewhere), but I wanted it. I was given what I later discovered was a white amaryllis last year, but I didn’t have a red one. It was the only one that had two flower heads, another selling point.

The fact that the entire bulb was buried in the soil was concerning. I was worried about rot. 

I’m really glad I decided to repot it. When I took it out of its growing medium, most of the roots were soft and rotted; they came off easily.

The bulb seemed in pretty good shape. Firm and dry.

Thankfully, one good root remained (right). I’m hoping the other 3 are still OK. They don’t look as healthy.

Many rotted roots. Such a shame.

Repotted with a third of the bulb above fresh soil.

I’m hoping it will bloom soon.  I’ve been thinking about the pink one I saw at the same store. It only had one flower head, but pink!. It’s still a few more days before my birthday month is over…

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Circle of life

As predicted, my recently bloomed air plant is starting to make a pup!!!

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When old enough, the pup will bloom, produce pups of its own, and die. Circle of life.

I excited showed my discovery to my mom and sister, telling them that the mother plant would die after making pups. My sister said, “that’s so sad”; I said, bluntly, “that’s life.” And we were silent for a moment, as if sharing in some profound realization.

Maybe people are drawn to plants because they mirror our experience of life and death. Hopefully in life, much like these plants that bring us such joy, we blossom and bloom before our time is up.

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Growing date palms from seed

One of my colleagues, a beloved employee for near 30 years at our organization, retired last month. On his last day, he brought some dates to share.

We usually buy the pitted honey-coated dates at home. I find them too sweet to eat on their own, but I do enjoy them in healthy date balls. The dates my colleague brought had pits and no honey but they were quite tasty. And the bonus was I could plant the seeds!

I’ve been following this guide to start the seeds. I soaked 5 seeds for a week and now have them in a damp piece of paper towel in a zip-locked plastic bag on top of the fridge. It took about 3 to 4 weeks for the first seed to sprout a root.

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I love how chubby the roots are! I don’t think I’ve seen roots this thick coming out of a seed.

It is true that you should check them regularly for mold.

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Yuck! But don’t despair…

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I just rinse the remaining seeds and put them in a new damp piece of paper towel.

I plan to start them in one pot until they’re large enough to want their own space.

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