Notes at Night

Never before had I the opportunity to decorate a blank slate of a space. The moment before me was not even an ‘opportunity’. It was a circumstance I decided to change, to alter, to enhance. This 30-foot x 15-foot long wooden deck was very well built. Though the deck received very little use for several years, Mom continued to ensure it was maintained. It had been recently resealed and painted a beautiful modern-deck red. The Spring I found myself living with my 80-year old mother, this was the canvas.

Container Gardening magazine

Container Gardening magazine, one of dozens that appear in newsstands and garden centers all over North America each year.

We had empty pots and no dirt. No dirt, no plants. The organics were easy; much more difficult the art.
The Better Homes & Gardens New Garden Book from the 1960s was a great resource for its time. Like the Betty Crocker Cookbook, the New Garden Book introduced a generation of home gardeners to the basics. Thousands of novices grew marigolds, zinnias, daisies and Black Eye Susans.
Four decades on, those beginners were more educated. The development of home centers like Lowe’s and Home Depot brought a broader range of annuals and perennials within reach of the home gardener.
I brought home three or four Container Gardening magazines. Mom pored over them for days, making notes and folding down the corners of her favorite pages.

Each night, we would sit outside, share wine and explore ideas for plant combinations. The two little green pots sat still and empty on the rails of the deck, their magic working like a charm.

05. December 2013 by Holly Hock
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Green with Pride

What a fun evening when I revealed my gifts!

With wine in our glass and a Spring evening around us, Mom and I sat on her back deck and enjoyed it. We were comfortable and happy, in for the night.

The time was right to reveal my surprise. I popped from the chair excusing myself. I almost forgot, I gushed, wait until you see what I found today, and hustled away.

Wine glass
It was easy to transmit delight as I slid the glass doors aside and emerged with the two green pots. I placed them carefully on the wobbly table. I puffed my chest pushing self-satisfaction into the air and sat down. A sip of wine and the deed was done.
“I love them,” Mom said.
I smiled, sipped and nodded.
“Who are they for?” she asked.
My explanation was mostly all truth. The gifts were, of course, for her, but the backstory needed more sizzle.
They were having a crazy sale at Homegoods, I explained. They were 2-for-1 plus markdowns, I couldn’t walk away since I know how much you love that color. A Sale, 2-for-1 and her favorite color: I was in the sweet spot.

Mom loved the idea of plants on this deck.
We wondered which plants to choose. We planned a trip to the local nurseries, Lowe’s, Home Depot. We’d buy potting soil a new garden hose, clean the chairs up a bit.
In those first few hours, those two little pots were the catalyst I hope they would be. They started a project my mother and I could share and build.

This is the story of how I became interested in Winter Sowing. From no experience to cutting up milk jugs and watching them out the window, everyone has a story to tell. winter sow container

30. November 2013 by Holly Hock
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Dead Plant Hand

I don’t have a green thumb. I have a Dead Plant Hand.
I was in college in the 1970s, the days of Nixon, Watergate, leather belts, beaded leather jackets with fringe, Frye boots and Jefferson Starship. It was also the era of macrame plant hangers made of crappy hairy twine and woven with nut-size wooden beads from some third world country. Every college dorm room had at least one spider plant, Wandering Jew or a Jade plant. Requirement.

spider plant with babies

A prolific spider plant hanging from a triple rope plant hanger and woven basket. This parent plant has dozens of babies and some of those babies have babies. I once yearned to be this fruitful.

I went along, but my heart wasn’t in it. More envious than I cared to admit of my friend’s enormous spider plant. That plant was gorgeous. Spider plants are like fountain grass that are best hung off the ground. When healthy, they set off babies, little shoots of mini-spider plants themselves planted for more spider-glory. These babies then have babies. The result is a horticultural beauty of a chandelier.
I tried. I really tried. I had a spider plant. I didn’t like the Wandering Jew (too spindly), but I thought I could manage the slow growing Jade plant. The Jade had white furry disease, what is that called, “aphids” or some such. I spent hours with rubbing alcohol and Q-Tips taking those white fuzzballs off the stems and the underside of the leaves. Hours. Couldn’t get rid of them, yet I persevered throughout my entire college years.
I carried my plants home at the end of each semester. Stuck them in my room and did my best. Plants are a pain in the ass to move. But how can you throw out a living thing? Houseplants like these can’t be planted outside so I felt stuck with them.

After graduation I moved into my first apartment. It was on the second floor above a strip of stores that had a junky dirt backyard beneath the rear windows. The plants were dragged upstairs rested on the kitchen counter when I ran across a pack of photos from college. Happy pictures of sweet young ladies prancing around in denim overalls, peasant shirts, hoop earrings and puka beads. In the background of the photos were my plants. The very plants now before me in my new kitchen, in my new world and taking up my precious new space.
I held the photographs up to each plant. Exactly as suspected — they were all the very same size! No growth, no dramatic spider babies cascading through the air. The Jade and spider were the very same size they had been three years earlier. I had the proof.
I pushed up the window pane of the kitchen rear window and looked down. A pile of old tires and a broken down shopping cart were directly beneath. Perfect. I held out the spider plant and turned the pot over. Hey, high maintenance Jade, you too. Geronimo! Closed the window.
I didn’t touch a plant again for 35 years. 

25. November 2013 by Holly Hock
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