May 9, 2011

Divide Your Plants—And Share the Goodies



    It was a bright and sunny morning.

    Yes, I know this cliche is a takeoff on the start of Sir Edward George Earle Bulwer-Lytton’s 1830 novel Paul Clifford: It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents – except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.

      But it fits. It was a bright and sunny morning…the kind of weather that always embraces after a long, cold, winter.

    I sat on my front porch, gathering Vitamin D while basking in the sun, slurping on my daily cup of Joe, reading the newspaper and taking my required heart medications.

     The thermometer read seventy-eight degrees at noon—another in a series of late March and early April 2010 spring weather when the temperatures have frequently reached eighty degrees. In fact, it’s been so nice that part of our garden is planted, paths are laid with woodchips, and my grandson, Marcus, pulled my husband’s new yellow yard wagon while we filled it with yard debris that fell from the trees (they visited for Easter during this nice weather).

     The nice weather called me out for two activities: hanging laundry (yes, this activity is a regular for me—in the winter I’m set up to hang inside) and separating houseplants.

     Once the first of three loads was hung, I attended to the second task, a task that should have been done for two plants at least three years ago. In the process I realized I had a lot of starts. What to do with them?

     There were three prolific plants—a rabbit’s foot fern, a yucca plant and a spider plant. Each has a special story.

     I decided to fill two pots each on my plant wheel with the rabbit’s foot fern and yucca plants. Next I would prepare pots of rabbit’s foot fern for a neighbor.

     I had read that it was suggested that tonight’s Ligonier’s Mello Mike night might include a plant exchange, and one person had a surplus of herbs. That is a good idea—I’d like some herb plants, and the rabbit’s foot fern is such a unique plant that it might make a good exchange.

     There was still more plant starts. I decided to prepare some of each plant to give to members of the Beanery Writers Group, to commemorate its fourth anniversary celebration on Friday. Finally, I had spoken to the owner of a local plant store, and she was interested in the rabbit’s foot fern.

     It took me over two hours to finally complete the task.  Towards the end of the morning I saw my first butterfly, a yellow and black beauty, probable a Tiger swallowtail.

     I was sore from carting heavy planters around (I knew I shouldn’t do it, because my back was still sore from pulling a muscle while digging in wood chip piles yesterday). Thus, it was a relief to sit down in front of the computer, even though it meant being inside away from the warm sunrays.

     As I said above, each of my plants has a story. I’ve written about the spider plant, a pretty common house plant, that I received when my friend, Charlotte Pearce, moved from Slippery Rock, in 1979 or 1980  (visit My Spider Plant Lives: A Devotion ).

     The rabbit’s foot fern is rather unusual, and I’ve found no one in the Southwestern Pennsylvania area familiar with it. If I shared its cuttings, I needed to include information on the plant. Thus, I went into research mode on my computer. For now, the basics: it is a fern that will survive neglect and temperature differentiations. Mine didn’t need to be transplanted, I discovered. Perhaps I should have looked the information up prior to dismantling two plants. However, what I did won’t harm the plant, either. Thus, in the end, I did all right and have some samples to share. And from all I read in my research, no one is disappointed in the plant. Watch for a future post on this plant.

     This plant is special to me because it was given to me by my good friend Virginia Depew while we lived in our second Slippery Rock (PA) home, in the country. We have special memories of good times with her, her husband Elmer, and June and Fred Schwartz (from West Sunbury, PA). We all attended St. John’s United Methodist Church on Hallston Road. They were guests at our family celebrations and supported my work in family child day care. The funniest recollection I have of Virginia was when her brother died. She was in a nursing home at the time, and he lived in Connellsville, PA. She couldn’t get to the funeral home, and asked me to attend the visitation to represent her. I walked in, and was asked the usual questions: was I a relative (no) or a friend (no). “In fact, I don’t even know the deceased or his local family,” I responded. The funeral director, of course, looked at me like I was a “crasher,” which, in essence, I guess I was. He understood after I explained.

     The yucca plant is special because a new friend of mine gave it to me for Christmas in 2009. Melanie thought it was an insignificant gift, this large plant. “No,” I told her. “I don’t like not having this plant in my house, in the event of someone being burned. And I have never had a yucca plant this large. It really is a great gift.” And today, it has enough “babies” that I can share it with others.

     I am delighted to be able to share my plants and my memories with others.

UPDATE: The spring of 2011 was not, in any way, as delightful as the spring of 2010. Except for a few delightful days, it’s been cold, rainy, and I suffered the aftermath of the flu all month. Today, May 6, is cool and holds a damp chill. It was interesting finding this post that wasn’t from last year. It is a reminder of how fickle Mother Nature can be.



January Catalogues Lead to June Gardens

Spring…the joy and pathos of the…DANDELION

Laurel Mountain Borough, Pennsylvania: Quaint

Mosquito Nets Fight Malaria in Africa

River Song: Part 1

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