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I hear a lot of garden bloggers bemoan this time of year, when their outdoor gardens are winding down for the season. I understand that – it’s sad to see your time outside come to an end.

What I don’t understand is why more outdoor gardeners don’t also share a love of indoor gardening. Fall and winter is when many of my houseplants start to shine with their blooms.

Like the Schlumbergeras, for example:

I love their bright splashes of color in my foyer.

Maybe the outdoor gardeners are intimidated by indoor houseplants. Which would make sense because at least the outdoor gardens get help occasionally from Mother Nature (rain, cloudy days), whereas the indoor plants are 100% dependent on human care. They can be a lot of work, and I do get why some people wouldn’t want to take that on.

But maybe they simply don’t know about the rewards of that work.

The Christmas Cactuses don’t require any more work than the rest of the houseplants. Give them good draining soil, a little fertilizer and a sunny spot, and they’ll bloom for you year after year.

Last year, the plant I call Crissy started blooming on October 20th. This year, Easter’s in the lead with her blooms opening on the 21st:

Crissy’s not far behind with her blooms:

(Crissy has the pink buds.)

They should bloom consistently from now until sometime in the new year. What’s not to love about that?

What about you? Do you have favorite indoor bloomers who sustain you when your outdoor garden fades to brown? Lemme know about them in the comments section, if you feel like it.

I’ll be back manana, hope to see you here.

Haha, trying saying that title 10 times fast!

I love Bougainvillea (pronounced “Boo-gun-v-ah”) plants, don’t you?

Miss Priss the Bougainvillea has had an adventurous life – she’s traveled across the country (most Bougainvilleas are grown in Florida¹), she lived for awhile at a cereal plant. Now she’s enjoying a relatively quiet life in my foyer. Here’s what she looked like when she first came home last winter:

What an unhappy Boug (and what an ugly photo and ugly blinds)! I thought she would love living at the cereal plant, but she didn’t, so I brought her home and took Miss Christi, another Bougainvillea, to the plant to live.

Here’s what she looks like now:

Muuuuuuuuch happier. So much more happy that it seems wrong to keep calling her Miss Priss. Not that that was ever a very good name for her. It was appropriate, but not particularly nice. Anyway.

As far as houseplants go, most people would tell you not to try and grow a Bougainvillea indoors. They say the plants won’t bloom inside and they won’t get enough light. I guess no one told my Mom’s Bougainvillea that, because look at her go:

She told me she kept hers outside all summer, and when she brought it in a few weeks ago, it exploded in color. I love those pink bracts and the tiny flowers within. Here’s a closer look:

If you’re interested in growing a Bougainvillea indoors, here are some guidelines:

How to Grow Bougainvillea as a Houseplant

1. Choose a container with good drainage. I prefer good old fashioned terra cotta for my Bougainvillea. Bougs hate it when their roots get too wet, so good drainage helps prevent root rot.

2. Use a semi-porous potting medium. You can use regular potting soil as long as it’s high quality and you keep an eye on moisture levels. You want a mixture that holds some water but doesn’t get soggy.

3. Keep your Bougainvillea rootbound. They really prefer to be crammed into a tiny pot for year after year. If you do decide to repot – for example, after it’s used all its soil and the roots are coming out the bottom of the container – then handle the roots very carefully, they are sensitive. Don’t trim the roots or shake them out. Instead, keep the root ball as undisturbed as you can, and repot into a container just one size bigger than the one before (so a plant in an 8″ container should go to a 10″, not a 12″ or 14″).

4. Give your Bougainvillea as much sun as possible. The hot south-facing window? Perfect for a Bougainvillea. The hotter, the better – these plants thrive in full sun, which is why they grow so well outdoors in places like Phoenix.²

5. Pinch back the ends of the stems to get the plant to bloom. Bougainvilleas bloom off new growth, so I like to prune the ends every few weeks.

6. Water regularly from spring to fall, slow down during winter months. Be sure not to let the soil get soggy or else the plant will be prone to root rot. Let the top few inches of soil become dry before you water again.

7. Fertilize regularly through the spring and summer. You can use a basic mix like Miracle Gro. I like to make sure I give Miss Priss a little fertilizer before and during her flowering periods, which are usually late fall, early winter.

Problems with Bougainvilleas:

Problem: Spindly growth. Cause: Not enough light and not enough pruning. Solution: Move to a brighter location, prune more often.

Problem: Loss of leaves. Cause: Most likely it’s a water issue, too much being more likely. But sometimes Bougs lose leaves in the winter as they go into a dormant period. They’ll be fine when spring rolls around again. Solution: Stick your finger in the dirt before you water so you can if the plant wants more water.

Problem: Spider Mites. Cause: Um, spider mites. Solution: Use a mixture of rubbing alcohol, water and a few drops of dish soap and spray the plant once a week for the next several weeks until the mites are gone. I’ve personally never had any trouble with bugs on my Bougs, which is one reason why I like them so much. But I would imagine that spider mites might be attracted to them. I haven’t ever seen a mealy bug or scale on Bougainvilleas. Thank goodness for that!

If you have a Bougainvillea at your home and you don’t like how it’s growing, shoot me an email with a photo and I’ll see what I can do to help.

I’m pretty Bougged out, aren’t you? Ok then, I’ll be back manana with a new Ask the Experts edition and a new plant puzzler. Speaking of the puzzler, you have until midnight tonight MST (that’s 2a.m. EST) to submit your best guess.


¹ I’m not positive she came from Florida or if Florida grows more Bougs than other states. I think they do. What I do know is that Florida dominates the google searches for Bougainvillea growers.

² Bougainvilleas do not grow well outdoors in Albuquerque, because it gets too cold here in the winter. I thought about putting Miss Priss outside for the summer, but I didn’t for several reasons. One, she’s in a big heavy bulky pot that would be a pain to move. Two, it’s way hotter here downtown than it is at my Mom’s in the mountains. If I had put her outside, she’d need daily watering because the sun is brutal here. Mom has much better temps for her plant than I do here, even though we’re only an hour apart. Also, I like where she is, and since I’m selfish and she can’t speak English, I won that debate pretty easily.

Hello sugar snap peas, and Happy Friday! Yay, Friday!

Welcome to the Good To Grow plant blog. Every Friday, I gather my panel of experts and ask them a plant-related question. Then I sit back and marvel at their answers. See, they’re not necessarily experts on plants. They’re more like experts in life in general.

I’m Liza, and I’m the author of this blog and the moderator for Friday’s Ask the Experts panel.

I’m also a trickster, albeit not a very good one. Each week I attempt to trick you with a Plant Puzzler. Each week you kick my ass. For some dumb reason, I keep trying.

Last week I asked what was wrong with this plant:

I admitted that I have no idea – these holes just showed up a few weeks ago. Should be interesting for me to declare a winner without knowing the answer – good times! We’ll get to that after the panel of experts.

Speaking of the experts, let’s say hi!

Hi experts!

“Hiiiii Liza!”

You guys are just downright adorable! That’s Tina, Tim, EZ, Dottie and Lewis. Thanks for being here, guys!

Let’s get right to this week’s question:

Q. How do you get rid of garden pests without chemicals? (If you use chemicals, why?)

My regular readers know that I do not use pesticides on my indoor plants – it’s not necessary. When I’m caring for plants in offices around town, I can’t be spraying toxic crap everywhere – most of those offices don’t even have windows that open! I wouldn’t do that to the employees. I use rubbing alcohol, mixed with water and a few drops of dish soap. The alcohol zaps the bugs and the soap helps keep the alcohol on the leaves and cleans them at the same time. It’s effective and inexpensive.

But what about garden pests? Rubbing alcohol won’t really work on a bunny, now will it?

Tina, you’re up first. What do you have to say about garden pests?

A. Beneficial insects and/or biological control………

What does this mean? Well, it is a way to let nature take its course. Hee hee and I do mean the main course. Anyways back in the day when I was a grower for Rowland Nursery Farms I learned a great deal about insects and pesticides. The EPA was starting to step it up!!!! There are some beneficial insects that would be able to hunt and eat the pest insects! So that is the way it has been done for years. Here are a few pest insects we are all familiar with: Aphids, worms & caterpillars, spider mites, thrips, greenhouse whiteflies, flies, mealybugs, sweet potato whiteflies, mosquitoes, fire ants, grasshoppers, broadmites, and many more! Now how do you know which ones are the ones to attract?? Hmmm, I will name a few. Green lace wing lave, green lace wings, lady bugs, praying mantis, fly parasites, predatory mites, nematodes. You must always incorporate a IPM (integrated pest managemet) program to keep a good eye on the pests. When I was out in the greenhouses I would scout for pests on all the crops in the 20 greenhouses I was managing. Of course, I had help with my brilliant staff of people wanting to learn about this stuff! The goal was to use the least toxic control to maintain pest insects. No pesticides! They kill beneficial insects, too! So once you identify the pest insects then you can use the beneficial insect to control the problem. The thing is to keep your plants healthy, not stressed, and keep environment free of weeds! But as you know some things can get out of control and fast with some plants that are host for certain insects!!!!! Therefore you must pull out the sprayer, gloves, plastic jumpsuit, mask and duct tape to get ready to nuke them!!!!! WOW flashback of wearing that suit and roasting my you know what off!!! Here is my favorite picture I took of a praying Mantis getting ready to eat a bee. They eat anything they can catch.

Aw, poor bee! Nice pic, though, Tina. And good information as well. Using pests to control pests – brilliant! I love it.

Thanks Tina, and good job once again this week.

Next up, Tim Thackaberry, or Thack for short. Thack, here’s the question to you.

Q. How do you get rid of garden pests without chemicals? (If you use chemicals, why?)

A. I find that some combination of a shotgun and/or explosives works miracles in terms of ridding your garden of pests. This has, of course, caused some tension with the neighbors as sometimes my neighbors’ pets accidentally wander into my yard. None of my neighbors seem to appreciate the effectiveness of my methods.

For example, one of my neighbor’s cats used to crap in a sandbox in my yard; I placed small, army-surplus land mines in the sandbox, which of course resulted in the fiery death of my neighbor’s cat. My neighbor called the police! Can you believe it? There I am, dealing with the problem in the only reasonable way a person can deal with it, and she calls the cops! What the hell is this world coming to?
It also helps if your yard already looks like it’s in the Gaza Strip, like mine does. I could see this approach having some downsides if you actually, you know, cared about the appearance of your yard. But it works for me!

That bitch! How dare she call the cops on you? Hahaha! We kid on the Good To Grow site, we KID! No cats were harmed in the making of this post. We swear!

Before PETA comes after Thack, I think we better move on, quickly!

EZ, here’s the question to you. Fingers crossed that your answer doesn’t include dead cats.

Q. How do you get rid of garden pests without chemicals? (If you use chemicals, why?)

A. I don’t remember using any chemicals in the garden of my youth. I don’t really remember any pests, either, other than an occasional rattlesnake.

Oooh, a chance for safety tips! I was watching Worst Case Scenario with Bear Grylls the other night, and he featured what to do if you get bitten by a rattlesnake. Scary! Rattlers are everywhere in the desert. Trust me, once you hear the sound of a rattle out on a hike, you never forget that sound.

So what should you do if you or someone else gets bitten? Call 9-11 first. Most bites are on hands or ankles, so you want to keep the wound low to the ground, to slow the movement of venom towards the heart. Then, keep calm, or keep the bite victim calm. Never try to suck venom out – that’s just stupid. You have to wait for help to arrive.

Ah, I love me some safety tips! Thanks, EZ!

Dottie, you’re up next. Here’s the question to you:

Q. How do you get rid of garden pests without chemicals? (If you use chemicals, why?)

A. Ah, the challenge of the week!  “How do you get rid of garden pests without chemicals?

We were off to a good start with our information garnered last week from “Cheep Thrills”  Attracting various species of birds is paramount to ridding your precious plants of varies types of insects.

When the wildlife makes your garden appear like Animal Planet and your lawn, vegetable garden and flowers look like they are under attack, it is time to take action to protect them from the creatures that visit your yard.

Voles, rabbits and squirrels may look cute as they frisk across the landscape but you have to develop a plan to thwart them to protect your flora!

The Meadow Vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus) and Prairie vole (Microtus ochrogaster) are common destructors across the Front Range.  They strip bark from roots and shrubs, killing parts or all of plants.  They also are great tunnelers through your lawn and gardens, leaving spongy messes everywhere.  One of many solutions is to remove grasses or groundcovers that come up to shrubs and trees –covering with mulch instead.  Another effective solution is to encircle the plant/shrub with1/4 inch netting.

Eastern cottontail rabbits call Colorado home.  They nestle into lush lawns, high grasses, creating holes (called a “scrape”) where they nest; depositing their charming little pellets and destructive urine throughout the yard, while munching on your precious grass and plants.  One solution is to surround your property with a 24 inch high chicken wire fence; sinking it 4 to 6 inches into the ground.  You can also use natural repellants as; castor oil, prepared predator urine and chicken eggs.

Fox squirrels, (Sciurus niger) are quite the acrobats that consider our yards their pantry.  They delight in unearthing bulbs, stealing  produce from  your veggie garden, shredded tree bark and like their distant relatives  the  raccoons, delight in digging up your grass for grubs.  One simple solution is to spice up the yard with peeled, crushed garlic – squirrels avoid garlic or any of the allium clan.

An Ohio neighbor of mine built a home bordering the Metro Park wilderness area.  Immediately upon installing a new sodded lawn, they were beset with raccoons bent on rolling up the sod each night –seeking the grubs beneath the sod.  They tried everything suggested, to try to rid their yard of these destructive little rascals.  They even resorted to using suggestions from a local Nurseryman and hooked up a loud- speaker system, surrounded the yard with bright lights  and played  “rock and roll music,”  all night long — to no avail.  The next morning, there was the sod, rolled up again,  in neat little rolls.  In desperation, they tried one more solution.  “Moth Balls”.  They spread moth balls everywhere under the sod.  That did the trick!  The raccoons left for “greener pastures and more pleasant aromas!!!

That’s hilarious! Really? The raccoons rolled up the sod? Haha, that’s just smart. And the mothballs, what a great solution.

Lots of good information there, Dottie. Thanks so much. I pity the bunny that crosses your path. Just kidding, PETA!

Lewis, here’s the question to you:

Q. How do you get rid of garden pests without chemicals? (If you use chemicals, why?)

A.  Small controlled thermonuclear blast utilized in family gardens are a very effective means to control insect that maybe living, partying and feasting on your tomatoes. High intense burst of Gamma rays directed at the bugs heads gives them terrible headaches, upset stomachs, dry skin that only can be treated by expensive skin creams and lower their interest in procreation. The headaches and the upset stomach make bug have little appetite to feast on your tomatoes, the dry skin causes anxiety about their looks, “I’m not going out in public (your garden) looking like this”. Little interest in sex “Not tonight dear/damn it I’ve got a headache” means less bugs to contend with over time.

Concerns about plutonium use are few, wear gloves, lift with your back the rods are heavy and use a good sunscreen since you are out in the sun, Don’t let the kids play with it to much it can leave a stain on clothing, and besides that the neighbors hair will grow back and you always wanted a white shiny dog anyways.

Now you are probable wondering where can I get some of this wonderful stuff to use in my garden, no problem just drive down to any nuclear power plant in the area and ask them for any spare loose plutonium rods they have lying around. They are always trying to get rid of the stuff but make sure you tell them it is for garden use only. If you can’t get to a nuclear power plant you can try digging around in the dirt near Los Alamos or Kirkland AFB they used to throw tons of it into the nearby arroyos.

So when your bald neighbors stop by to admire your beautiful giant shining tomatoes, give them a big grin, you don’t need teeth to eat tomatoes.

Happy gardening

Uh-oh, PETA is really going to hate me. And I’m pretty sure the folks over at the labs won’t take too kindly to you accusing them of dumping plutonium into arroyos. True or not, it doesn’t take much to ruffle their lab coats.

Thanks, experts, for recommending, among other things, pests to control pests, explosives, fences and plutonium. You guys are very funny.

Ok, that does it for our Ask the Experts panel. We hope you enjoyed it. The experts will be back next Friday.

Up next is the plant puzzler.

Name that Plant Problem!

Last week, I asked you to theorize on what happened to this plant:

I know it’s not bugs – none of the plants in that office are infected with bugs. I’m convinced that it’s human-caused, but what happened?

James guessed: “I’m betting those holes are definitely the result of someone punching an object through the leaf (maybe even those … chopsticks? visible in the bottom right corner). I can’t think of anything else that would cause damage to just one leaf, and then stop.”

mr_s guessed: “I haven’t seen this said anywhere particularly authoritative, but my personal suspicion is that this is caused by drought stress (or low humidity, which is almost the same thing) while a new leaf is developing. My Anthurium andreanums don’t do it so much, but my A. “hookeri” has, and my A. ‘Mehani’ does it a lot. I think it has something to do with the speed at which the new leaves grow, like if there isn’t water present at just the right time, certain parts develop slower, or not at all, which when water comes back again means those parts of the leaf are permanently stunted.

Or something like that. Like I said, I haven’t seen it explained in those terms anywhere. That’s just what I’ve observed.”

Martha guessed: “Hmmm…I’m thinking that maybe someone has been torturing the poor plant, perhaps out of boredom. I say “OFF WITH HIS HEAD” Har har har… Just kidding. But that’s the only guess I have.”

Villager guessed: “All I can think of it human damage. It almost looks like a hole puncher made the hole in the leaf. Any chance of it being rodent damage? Just an idle thought.”

There’s definitely no chance of it being a rodent. As I said before, I don’t know exactly what happened to it. Lots of times when there’s damage to a plant in the office (I visit each client once a week – a LOT can happen in between visits), it’s caused by snot-nosed kids or bored employees. I also like to blame the cleaning crew, haha!

In this case, I’d like to blame kids or employees, because that would help me avoid fessing up the fact that I haven’t been taking very good care of it. It’s an inherited plant – one of the employees got it as a gift, from a florist. The employee promptly moved it to a table in the lobby – a clear sign that she was done with it.

I started splashing it once a week. I knew I needed to take it into the kitchen sink and run water through it. Because it came from a florist, it wasn’t well planted and it had some weird mossy stuff on it. It was also in a decorative sleeve that annoyed me.

I ignored all of that. And perhaps I could’ve continued to ignore it, had it not been for mr_s’s thoughtful observations. He’s got way more experience with Anthuriums than I do. He says the plant is experiencing drought stress – it’s true. I haven’t been giving it the care that I knew it needed. I haven’t bonded with it at all – I still think of it as the employee’s plant that I’m just keeping alive.

Thank you, mr_s, for keeping me honest. Thanks everyone else for playing. Remember, there are no prizes for winning – only bragging rights, glory, and my gratitude for playing.

Now, here’s this week’s puzzler:

Name That Plant Problem!

See the damaged leaf?

What happened to it?

This is a Pothos plant in a small office in downtown Albuquerque. Think you know what happened, smarty pants? Then leave your best guess in the comments section. I’ll reveal the answer next week.

Thanks everyone for being here. Hope you have a great weekend. I’ll be back Monday, until then, happy gardening!


¹ I’m serious – this guy is really my hero. I met him when I was small and inquisitive, before I got jaded and mean spirited. Haha, just kidding – we’re Hoosiers, we’re nice. My Dad used to be a member of what is called the National Puzzlers League. He would quiz my younger sister Molly and I, we did puzzles and logistics problems all the time. I’m sure he did that with all the kids, but I only remember the learning times with my younger sis. I remember we were the only two at Will Shorz’s home in Crawfordsville, indiana – we were paraded around like little geniuses. Haha. Geniuses, whatev.

– he still to this day is one of the smartest people I’ve ever known.

Hi apricots, and happy Monday. Welcome back to the Good to Grow blog, and thanks for being here.

I had no idea what a big fan of themed weeks I was until I unveiled the first one, Succulent Week!, a few weeks ago. It was fun – succulents are great plants. They’re soft and squishy, they grow really fast and they’re gorgeous. As I said during Succulent Week!, if you can introduce your kids to succulents, you can inspire a lifetime love of nature.

It’s been a few weeks, so I thought I’d create another theme week – this one I’m calling Living Art Week! Which you probably figured out from the title. Yeah, anyway.

This week, I’ll show you how to use succulents and other plants to create living pieces of art. Step-by-step instructions so you and your kids can create pieces together, and give you plenty of ideas for personalizing your piece. I’ll show you my latest projects and show you how the earlier pieces are growing. I’ll also show you some great vertical gardens and works of art that others have done – people are being so creative, it’ll set your imagination on fire!

And if that’s not enough, I’m also going to show you what I made for Mom for her birthday, which is Friday (I’ll show it to you Thursday or Saturday, as Friday is our Ask the Experts panel). It’s my best work yet.

This is what I mean when I say living art. Granted, it looks a lot more beautiful than this photograph conveys. This is a birthday present for a friend of mine. Those are Hens and Chicks and an adorable mini Sedum I found at Corrales Road Greenhouse. They will grow in to completely cover the burlap – this is merely the beginning.

I saw a piece about making living art over at Sunset Magazine’s website – I loooooove those guys. They featured these knockout pieces that used a lot more succulents than mine. Here’s a photo from that article:

Gorgeous, right? Works of art.

But they’re instant works of art. That’s ok – they’ll still grow and evolve. But that’s not exactly my style. Or my budget. Plus, I think watching them grow is the best part. The friends that will get these as gifts are the kind of people who would think so, too. Those Hens and Chicks will spread quickly, as will the Sedum – the piece above will look completely different six months from now. And different one year after that. It’ll be fun for me, as the gift giver, to get to check on the progress when I visit.

So, how did I make that? Here’s how.

Liza’s Step by Step Guide to Creating Living Art

Step 1. Find the right container. Now, I’m definitely on a budget, so I like to go to thrift stores and find interesting looking containers. For the artwork that I want to hang on the wall, I look for containers with the following traits: They need to be able to withstand watering, they can’t be too be heavy because wet soil is only going to add to that. They also need to be relatively flat, but still deep enough to hold at least a little soil. Succulents can live in moss alone, technically they don’t need dirt, but they really, really like it when you give it to them. I keep looking at picture frames I find at the stores, but none of them are quite deep enough.

If you want to make a piece of living art, it doesn’t have to hang on the wall. For example, you could make cool towers or posts in your backyard using chicken wire filled with soil. I would encourage you to let your imagination run wild if you’re poking around a thrift store.

I found what are called “shadow boxes” at the craft store. I never knew they existed, but they’re great. Deep frames – perfect!

Here are the containers I ended up with (lots of May birthdays!):

Virtually anything can be a container. Even completely flat things. I found this flowery thingie for cheap, made a mound of soil held in place by mesh, and turned it into this:

Step Two: Attach a hanger. The trays I found obviously weren’t meant to hang on a wall so I had to attach hangers. Easy enough.

The shadow boxes didn’t work as exactly perfectly as I hoped. When I took the backs off, I realized I couldn’t get the glass out. I could’ve broken it out, but that seemed, well, violent. So I left the glass and made that the bottom, meaning now the hangers they already came with were on the front. I had to add new ones to the back.

Step Three: Add the potting soil. Be sure to pack it down firmly so you can squeeze as much in there as possible. And use high quality soil – not that crap they leave out in the elements at Home Depot¹ and Lowe’s. The problem with those soils is they are always infected with fungus gnats – you open the bag at home and boom, next thing you know, there are annoying bugs flying around your house. As someone who puts plants in people’s offices for a living, you can imagine how thrilled my clients are when their office gets infected. I make sure to buy good soil, like FoxFarm, from one of the local nurseries in order to avoid the problem altogether.

That’s not wet soil – that’s just two different types. I had read on someone’s blog that you should get the soil wet, so you can pack down even more. I did that in my first round of pieces, which I made outside on a beautiful sunny day. As I worked on this round over the weekend, it was snowing outside. So to minimize the mess indoors, I kept the soil dry until after I added the plants.

Also, to keep the soil from falling out of those handles, I put tape over them on the inside.

Step Four. Cover the soil with mesh. This is to hold the soil in place. For my purposes, I was making pieces that would spend the summer and fall hanging in the garden or on the patio enjoying New Mexico’s sun, but then coming inside during our harsh winters. I don’t want them to be infected with gnats or spilling dirt all over the floor. The mesh also serves to hold the plants.

The mesh I use I found at the crafts store in the floral department. They offer rolls of florists mesh and burlap. You can also use a cloth with slits cut into it for the plants. The possibilities are endless. I used a staple gun to secure the mesh, which, if you look really closely, you can see that I’m not very good at using it. So, don’t look closely, k?

Step Five: Insert the plants. This is the fun part. You can make whatever design you like, using any kind of plant. If you wanted, you could grow basil instead of using succulents.

For this project, I started with Sedum. Besides themed weeks, I’m also a big fan of diagonal things. Apparently anyway.

Then I added Hens and Chicks to add a completely different texture. I can’t wait to see how this evolves over time!

Step Six: Water. I took these to the kitchen sink and used the sprayer to saturate the soil.

Step Seven: Keep them horizontal for two weeks. You want the roots to take hold before you turn it vertical.

That’s it. It’s takes a little while to put one of these all together, but it’s worth it in the end. How many gifts can also help clean the air? Not many.

I hope you get creative with your family and make pieces of your own. For fellow gardening bloggers, I hope you post your own creations so I can see what you’re doing.

That does it for today’s Good to Grow blog. Thanks again for being here. I’ll be back tomorrow with more living art. Until then, happy gardening everyone.


¹ If you’re new to the site, you can read my rant about Home Depot’s miserable houseplant department by clicking here. I wish they would stop with the plant genocide already.

Ok, ok, this was supposed to be Albuquerque Week!, because I love this city and want very much to share that with everyone!¹ Plus I’ve been upset about the cuts in funding for social services and depressed about homeless people and people in crisis in general. But if that’s what I really want, I can start another blog dedicated to those ideas. This is a plant blog, and from now on, there shall be plant talk!²  Please, feel free to take a collective sigh of relief.

Hi, nature lovers, my name is Liza. Happy Wednesday! Thanks for being here. I mean, really, thank you. It’s been depressing around here lately in regards to humanity! It’s so therapeutic to be thinking about plants again.

Do you guys read the posts by the ladies over at Garden Rant? I really like that site – they don’t really rant so much as provide important information in an easy-to-read style. There are tons of good sites out there. (I’ve been slowly updating my “Plant and Garden Blogs” blogroll to include even more favorites – I hope you check them out, and check back as I’m adding more. People are so creative!) Many of them touch on gardening or plant themes that affect us all.

One debate I keep hearing is the question of buying plants at the big box stores versus the local nurseries. I think every single one of us wants to buy from a local nursery, but oftentimes, that’s hard. As Benjamin over at The Deep Middle said, he wanted to buy a tree from a local nursery, but they charge a gasp-inducing $75 just to deliver it. Many people have talked of this subject. I’ve discussed the topic a few times myself, featuring my favorite local nursery (High Country Gardens) and ranting against the pest-infected soil you buy at Home Depot or Lowe’s.³

I have a small plant care business here in ‘burque, so I’m constantly checking out places that sell plants – wholesale, retail, big box. I would love to have one convenient place to do all my plant shopping, but I don’t see how that’s possible. And I’m ok with that because I’m bouncing around town anyway – how hard is it for me to pop into this place or that? Albuquerque’s small, but there are plant sellers everywhere. There are a ton of Home Depots and Lowe’s, and they are certainly useful for a lot of things. I think it’s important to spread money around – buy a succulent at the local nursery, or a cactus from the guy by the side of the road, or buy soil for outdoor containers at the big box place. It’s all ok, as long as we’re not ignoring the little guys.

For the last several weeks, I’ve been on the prowl for a particular type of plant. I need something tall. Now, you would think that would be sooooo easy. Just go pick out a big ol’ Ficus (like Samantha the Ficus tree) or go buy a Corn plant at my local nursery. Here’s the deal though – it’s for one of my clients, his office has no windows. A Ficus tree would hate that!

Here’s the general rule of thumb for indoor houseplants – the darker the leaves of a plant, the less light they need. So a plant with yellow leaves, variegated leaves, light green leaves, they really relish the sunshine, a bright sunny window. But a plant with really dark green leaves will be totally happy in a dark office, or a corner of your living room that doesn’t get much light. It’s not a foolproof rule, but I’ve found it works really well. I’ve also found that you can sortof force it to work – plants are amazingly resilient, and most of them will just put up with whatever conditions you provide. That’s why my Pothos plants do so well in offices with no natural sunlight – they’re plantastic. They’ve learned to love fluorescent lighting. They still clean the air while they’re being so deprived of their natural surroundings. Isn’t that adorable?

Ok, so back to my dilemma – why is it so hard to find a tall nice plant for a dark office in Albuquerque? As Dottie would say, “Oy vey!” So many reasons! Please, bear with me! I can explain them!

My first stop is always my little mom-n-pop nursery, Corrales Road Greenhouses. They’re wholesalers. They’re the ones I want to buy the most plants from, they’re the ones I want to reward for their incredibly difficult work. Ann runs the place, she’s the sweetest lady, and Chris and everyone else work their asses off – they have five huge greenhouses, growing everything from Poinsettias (you can see pictures of Points here, if you really want to – I personally, do not) to Salvias to Petunias, well, everything. When I first started my plant business and started going there, I was absolutely enchanted that they played classical music from speakers in their greenhouses. They are the reason that I leave the radio on and tuned in to our community radio station even when I’m not home.¹ So, you get that I love these guys, right?

Well, back in 2003, 2004, these guys were doing pretty well. They had more employees, and were growing more plants than they are today. Then there was a hurricane in Florida, where most tropical plants are grown (I apologize, I don’t remember which hurricane, the date, or the specific sequence of events, nor do I have the time or desire to research that knowledge, but this is how I remember Ann explaining things to me), and that hurricane wiped out a big swath of nurseries. Not long after, fuel prices began to soar.  It seemed like alluvasudden, there were fewer plants on the market, and Ann couldn’t afford to pay someone to drive from Florida to New Mexico anyway. For awhile, they would just gather customers’ orders, and when they had enough to fill a truck, they’d place the order.

It didn’t take long before truck deliveries became a rare occurrence. Months would pass. I know Ann would order anything I needed for me in a heartbeat, but who knows when I would get it?

[I don’t want to get off the track of my quest for the perfect tall office plant, but I do want to quickly say that I’m hoping to interview Ann and get more specifics from her, and I’ll post that here. I went there last week, and almost cried. Their biggest greenhouse, well, the roof was just gone from the spring winds. Blown right off. I wanted to buy succulents, which they have recently started selling, and they were covered with spider webs. They’ve lost so much revenue in the last few years, they are just clinging to hope at this point, and clinging to holidays, like Christmas and Easter. Oh wait, those have already passed. What’s the next big seller? Oh, it’s Poinsettias at Christmas. Yeah, you see the face of this? It’s so sad, but I think it’s important to discuss.]

For now, back to my quest. If the wholesalers in town aren’t bringing in the tall plants, who is? Certainly not my favorite locals, who all rely (I think) on big trucks carting in plants to the desert from Florida and California. So High Country Gardens is out, Jericho is out, Osuna has some stuff but they’re so pricey it bugs me. I’ve been checking out other nurseries but most concentrate on outdoor plants. I’ve been looking and looking, but none of them had the plant for which I’m searching. That leaves Home Depot and Lowe’s. They have the resources to bring tropical plants to the desert.

Sadly for me, I need a decent plant that can handle an office with no windows. Most of those are tropicalish – Palms, Corn plants, Sansevieria (I say tropicalish as opposed to desert-loving plants, like cactus and succulents). Many Corn plants have variegated leaves, meaning they would like some sunlight, but I am looking for one with dark leaves for the dark office.

There’s one Home Depot near my house, and I know that their plant delivery days are Thursdays and Saturdays. Yesterday, though, Tuesday, I finished with a client in Rio Rancho and decided to check out the plants at the Home Depot by Cottonwood Mall. I don’t know their delivery schedule. What I saw was almost worse than the feeling I get when I think about Steve the homeless guy. I didn’t have my fancy camera, but my little Coolpix worked ok. (The pictures were largely disappointing, as I was in a hurry not to get shots without being noticed.)

Before I show you the horrifying photos, here’s what I would like to say to the CEO (or anyone) of Home Depot²:

Dear sir, ma’am, anyone, anyone at all at Home Depot,

I hope today finds you well. I am writing to tell you of a way that you can save your organization millions of dollars each year.  I know an organization as huge as Home Depot has many leaders, many departments, many “chefs” as it were. When I refer to “you,”  I mean the organization. No offense, but I didn’t even research a specific person to address. This is not a personal attack on any one person – my goal here is to point out a solution to some organizational problems.

Hi! My name is Liza and I’m trying to help local Albuquerque companies thrive, mine included. I have a small plant care business in the Duke City. I frequently look at the plants at Home Depot in hopes of finding ones worthy of purchasing. I can’t remember the last time I found one that wasn’t infected with bugs, or half dead. To me, that’s like plant murder. Your employees have no idea what they are doing. I have never said – or would say –  anything antagonistic to anyone working for Home Depot, because I think they are trying, but they are not properly trained. (Not that many people strive to do a crappy job.) I actually make lots of purchases at your stores. But not plants. And definitely not potting soil. You guys (Again, I mean, your employees – as CEO, I’m sure you don’t drive the forklift to put the potting soil three stories up), leave those thin plastic bags, which always get holes, out in the elements, which invites *&^%# fungus gnats, which is my worst nightmare, as a person who puts potting soil in people’s offices. “I had clients in today, and we all kept swatting at gnats.” Super.

So what can I tell Home Depot that will save you millions? It’s this: Stop. Just stop. Cut out your houseplant department if you’re only going to do it half-assed. I sorta kinda like the attention you pay to your outdoor plant selections – you do offer some things that grow well in this climate, but you’re not great at it. Your indoor houseplant department is a mess. Wouldn’t it be lovely if you used your giant resources and big trucks to send those tall houseplants that need special attention to our dying mom-n-pops, who can generate the resources to employ people to care for those fragile plants (can you imagine, from a plant’s perspective, how terrifying a drive would be from Florida to New Mexico? “Aaaaahhhhhh,” they would scream if they could talk!) and offer people like me affordable plants?

What, you ask? Who are you to tell me how to run my company? I apologize, I’m not here to upset anyone. I only want to do good and stop the murder of living, breathing plants. I’m no one special, just a small business owner, a plant lover and a self-appointed Ambassador to Nature. That’s why it makes me so sad to post this proof that you’re squandering money.

Sincerely, and most respectfully, Liza

p.s. If you make changes and would like to thank me, I’ll take my thanks as a percentage of your profits – thanks!

Ah, if only I had their ear! And now, the parade of almost dead plants. This is my evidence that big box stores need to engage the local community. And hire professionals.

Here’s a Corn plant that suffers greatly – the brown crunchy lower leaves indicate underwatering (it’s natural on my plants for the lower leaves to become crunchy and fall off, but it’s also a sign that the plant is thirsty), and the brown tips on the other leaves indicated too much water. Whoever has been “caring” for these plants since they arrived at Home Depot is doing a crappy job.

I was so astonished – there wasn’t one single plant that I would’ve bought from this store. They were ALL in the throes of death. Plant murder, grrrr!

What a waste of money! And who would buy this? I was very proud of myself – there were several other shoppers who were checking out plants. I successfully avoided shouting things like, “Run now,” or “Don’t buy any of these plants!”

Even the new stuff on the carts are dying. Wasteful, shameful!

See all the brown crunchy leaves that have fallen off? These Crotons were starved for water. I can tell just by a glance. You would think the employees in charge of these precious fellows would’ve been able to tell as well.

I have more, mostly blurry, photos of all the dead plants, but I think we’ve all had enough. And hopefully someone from Home Depot has everything they need to make changes in his company. I think it’s probably pretty damn idealistic for me to think that someone might listen to me, but I have to hope, right? RIGHT? Seriously, it’s all we have as humans.

Ok, dandelions, that does it for this Wednesday edition of the Good to Grow blog. Thank you again for being here. I apologize if you’re now depressed over the plant genocide. I’ll be back tomorrow with something more cheerful. Until then, happy gardening everyone!


¹ This is my blog – I can write about anything I damn well please. While I like showing you my Duke city, I don’t need to be wailing about the sadness of it all. If I want to show you a cool plant nursery in Albuquerque, or interview Albuquerque farmers, so be it. But you’ll be spared from the social services part of my personality from now on. Mostly anyway. Some of it just oozes out of my pores, so you’ll just have to deal.

² Thanks Justin, for the reminder and the focus!

³ I’m not referring to Target stores when I reference big box stores. I love Target, for many reasons. I know they sell plants in some stores, but not the ones in Albuquerque – the garden centers here are pretty much a few pretty pots and some herbs you can start in a container. Great, but not what I mean when I’m comparing stores for buying plants specifically.

4 Huh, this is supposed to be my fourth footnote, but it looks to me like WordPress only allows you three. So I started over again at 1. I feel like there should be at least a small “a” or “b” option like in an outline. But that’s just me. Oh gosh, I almost forgot what the footnote was for – I just want to clarify, there are two community stations in ‘burque – and I like to leave one or the other on for the plants to listen to.

5 I didn’t research who runs Home Depot. I lost interest after I didn’t get to see Tony Stewart as much. But I am hoping to catch the eye of some member of the marketing department, and will definitely research that sometime when I’m not, well, you know, working.

Hello, quince blossoms, and happy Monday to you. Welcome to the Good to Grow blog, thanks for being here! I hope you all had a relaxing weekend with friends and family.

Over the weekend, Albuquerque celebrated its 304th birthday. Not as old as Santa Fe, but still. A few weeks ago, I featured a new theme, Albuquerque Week!, and posted about some of the reasons I love this city. I decided I still had lots more to say about it, so I’m starting another Albuquerque Week! today.

The city celebrated Founder’s Day on Saturday April 24th. The Fiesta was held in Old Town Albuquerque.

I live just a few blocks away, so I grabbed my camera and walked over to the plaza. The usual jewelry vendors were there.

There was tons of entertainment – dancers, live music, mariachi bands, activities for the kids.

It was a very sweet Fiesta. Lots of people, lots of food.

These kids jumped rope for hours. Very cute.

I tend to be a little shy about asking people to pose for me. I was just about to ask these Native American girls to stop and pose, but I chickened out and just took this photo. The girl in blue looks pissed, doesn’t she?

I wondered why. She’s a little young…I know some older Natives dispute that Albuquerque is 304 years old. According to them, people have been here much, much longer.

On one of the local community radio stations, KUNM, there’s a show called Native America Calling. A couple months ago, they had a whole hour dedicated to how they felt about birthday celebrations. In particular, they were talking about Santa Fe, which is celebrating 400 years this year. Some Native Americans, whose ancestors lived here more than 400 years ago, approached the party planners up in Santa Fe and asked to be included in the festivities. They were told no, and were upset about it. I don’t blame them, from what I gathered from listening to the show, they were rudely dismissed, as if their ancestry wasn’t important.

Of course their ancestry matters, as does mine, as does yours. We humans are here today because of those humans who were here before us.

I have a theory about humanity…

Tell me what you think: I believe that every single human being is born onto this planet wanting to help other people. That’s why so many kids want to grow up to be firemen and doctors – they want to help people.

They also want attention. We all do – we crave it, in fact. It’s a fact that should unite us. We can evidence it by facebook, and our collective blogs. We’re all saying in our own way, “Hey, look at me, like me, let me help you in some way.”

We want to be known. We want to know that we matter. That’s humans 101.

In Albuquerque, there are so many different types of people – there are lots of Native Americans, Hispanics, white folks, and so on. They don’t always jive well but we’re always evolving and growing.

The city’s website says this about the Founder’s Day Fiesta:

“Come dressed in a costume that represents one of the five eras:

Native American Era, Spanish Era, Mexican Era, Territorial Era, or Statehood Era.

Costume judging will begin at 2:00 pm, and prizes will be awarded.

Highlights include the 3rd Annual Outdoor Market, Founders Day Parade, Live music and dance performances, and an assortment of activities for the kids.”

I like that as part of the Fiesta, people were encouraged to dress in the era of their choice. It seemed to me like the city’s way of saying that we’re all in this together, we’ve all been here a long time.

There’s a lot of fear in the world these days, particularly here in the United States. I know I don’t feel like we’re very united.

I think that I feel united when I peruse other garden blogs, or learn about other plant lovers. I felt united in the Old Town plaza with other locals enjoying the festivities. But when I think of the country as a whole, I’m sad. There are still so many racists in this country.

Why do people fear a black president? I don’t understand this – he’s human first.

The vast, vast majority of humans – whether they be black, white, brown, purple, whatever – are nice. Look at this couple – can’t you just see that by looking at them? So I don’t understand why, as a country, we are gripped by fear of other humans. What’s to fear? Skin color? That’s just dumb. Sexual orientation? Why would anyone care what someone else does in the bedroom? It’s crazy!

I got better as the day progressed about asking people if I could photograph them. To this lady, I said, “Would you strike a pose for me?” Her (lack of) pose totally cracked me up. There’s something about her I just automatically liked.

Of course there are some dangerous people in the world. Sure, there are always going to be those people who don’t grow up to be decent, kind humans. I believe they are in the minority.

I believe the people who scream and jump and get mad at what other people are doing, are the ones who are the most fearful. They’re paralyzed by fear and so they set about trying to control others, or manipulate others to their advantage.

It doesn’t work, that whole attempt at controlling others. God bless free will. I really wish, as a species, we would collectively let go of our fears of “bad humans” and just work on loving ourselves. I matter. You matter. We can disagree, but our opinions, our ideals, they matter.

I also believe that each human being is born onto this planet with some personal gift to offer the rest of humanity. Giving, healing, caring – these are all gifts. Whether or not we grow up to use those gifts is an entirely personal matter.

Passing on knowledge, this too is a gift of humanity. Those ancestors of ours had it tough – they didn’t have the medicines or the technology that we have today.

Every time I do laundry, I think to myself, this is the best thing ever. My ancestors had to take their clothes down to the creek and pound them with rocks. Which, I should admit, has always confused me – were they pounding out the dirt? Because it seems like there were better ways. Anyway, my point is, we’ve got it easy in this day and age.

So why are we still so fearful? Because the world is a dangerous place. This planet can erupt, it can boil, it can toss you aside like a piece of trash. But people? They’re not so scary once you realize they just want a little attention.

Thanks again for being here. I’ll be back tomorrow with another edition of the Good to Grow blog. Until then, happy gardening, everyone!

Hello ruby red raspberries, and Happy Friday! Welcome to Good to Grow’s special Earth Day edition of Ask the Experts, and thanks for being here.

Sorry, the high-end graphics make me giggle every time.

Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the very first Earth Day. That little holiday has come a long way in 40 short years. People celebrate across the globe, friends and family unite. And the next day we go back to being littering, polluting assholes.

I’m kidding, I’m kidding. I’m sure none of my adorable handful of readers litters or pollutes.

Hi! My name is Liza, and hopefully I haven’t offended any first-time readers already (it usually takes longer). This is my blog, and I’m also the moderator of the Friday Ask the Experts panel. What’s that, you ask? Well, every Friday I gather my panel of “experts” and ask them a plant-related question. Thing is, they’re not necessarily experts on plants. That’s what makes the panel such quality entertainment! I never know what they’re going to say!

Also on Fridays, I offer up a plant puzzler for all to enjoy. Last week, I asked what was wrong with this Norfolk Island Pine:

One of the stems turned mostly brown – why? I’ll reveal the answer (and the winner) after we play Ask the Experts.

Let’s say hi to the experts, shall we? Hiiiiiii, experts!

“Hiiiiiiii Liza!”

So cute! There’s Expert Tina, she has a small plant care business here in Albuquerque like mine. Expert Tim is an IT guy. Expert EZ Ed Johnson works in the sports department of the local paper. Expert Dottie should be declared a National Treasure. Expert Lewis is Director of Safety for the New Mexico Dept. of Health. If you would like to know more about our Experts, please click here.

I love them all! Thanks Experts for being here again!

So, as I mentioned, yesterday was the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. I want to know what our panelists have planned to celebrate (or have already celebrated). But before we get to that, I want to tell you a story.

Many years ago, I struck up a conversation with a lovely young man, college-age, he was. I asked him his areas of interest, and he said he was about to embark on an endeavor he believed to be of great importance. “What is it?” I asked in earnest. His answer I could scarcely believe. He said his older brother had been playing around with lasers – this was several years ago, he asked, “You know how they’re using lasers to correct people’s vision?” I nodded – and he went on to tell me that his brother was interested in that same laser technology, but instead of fixing eyes, he wanted to destroy Superfund sites around the country. He’d been experimenting, and had been able to zap toxic waste down to dust, which he then could simply vacuum up. His brother had moved to Austin at the behest of a venture capital firm and the lad was to follow.

This boy was a complete stranger, I have no idea who he was or is, but I’ve never forgotten that conversation. What a bounty of creative energy his brother must have! At the time, the Bush administration was saying something like, “Yehaw, let’s build more roads in the forests,” and I’d seen evidence of this myself in hiking in northern New Mexico – big heavy machinery in the woods! I wanted to cry! So what this boy told me struck me as genius. That’s what America is about – finding creative ways to solve problems despite what the despicable jerks in office are doing.

Every time I get bummed about the direction this country is heading (endless wars, endless pollution), I think about that young man and his brother, and I feel better. We’ve made a mess of this planet in the last 100 years, but there are bright minds out there, and they’re engaged. It’s wonderful. It’s not going to stop us from fighting like 12-year-olds, but it’s something.

I’ll take what I can get.

Ok, let’s move on to the panelists. Oh, that reminds me, I’ve been meaning to ask you. Hey guys, since this is a plant blog, do you think I should call you plantelists from now on?

“Uh, no.” “Awkward!” “Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it?” “That would be ridiculous.” “Play it safe.”

Oooh, shot down. Alright, alright, the tribe has spoken. You’ll remain panelists. Calling you experts is easy debatable though. Ouch! I know, it stings. Haha!

Ok, so the question to the panelists is not really plant-related this week, so the odds are up that the “experts” can actually answer it correctly. Again with the zing to the panel. Sorry guys, I must’ve added smartass to my breakfast cereal this morning. This week’s question is simple. It is:

Q. How are you celebrating Earth Day?

Tina, the question goes to you first. Have any special plans?

A. Well I think we should celebrate every day. I am going to plant my vegetables. The way things are with the economy I am going to be growing my own vegetables. There is nothing better than making fresh salsa straight from your own back yard.

Ok, now I know where I’m going to be spending most of the summer – eating dinner at Tina’s. I can’t wait to hear what you’re going to plant!

I like your idea of celebrating the Earth every day. If I could, I would appoint myself “Ambassador to Nature.” I think that would look snappy on a business card.

Thanks, Tina. Ok, Thack, here’s the question to you.

Q. How are you celebrating Earth Day?

A. I have no plans whatsoever, as I’m totally against the Earth. We’ve been here thousands of years, isn’t it time to move on and destroy another planet? I mean, do we REALLY think we can fix this one? It’s like buying a 40 year old house and telling yourself you’ll fix it up: it sounds great, and you have the best of intentions, but you never get around to actually doing the home improvements. Then you sit there, watching it fall down around your ears, and wish that you had done more.

It’s just too late for this planet. Let’s go find a new one and start all over again!

Yeah, screw this planet! I’m with you! Hahaha!

Nicely played, Thack, nicely played.

Alright, EZ Ed Johnson, here’s the question to you.

Q. How are you celebrating Earth Day?

A. Being the typical American environmentalist, I’m going to be watching the NFL draft.

That’s just being a good American, period. Haha – I love football, but I found myself unable to actually watch the draft. Boring tv. Now if I were at work watching like EZ, that would be another matter.

I hope all the teams are happy with their new boys. I like my Colts’ pick of Jerry Hughes, he seems like a good kid. Welcome to Indy, kiddo! It’s a great city, I hope you will be happy there.

Back to the panelists. Lovely, lovely, Dottie, here’s the question to you.

Q. How are you celebrating Earth Day?

A. There has been so much “HOOPLA” in all the Media about Earth Day, that I don’t find much more to say.  So BRAVO! MY LITTLE EARTHLINGS — GO GREEN.  I have moved on— or am in the process of moving on.  I just purchased my flight ticket from Branson for his first FLIGHT-VENTURE to the Moon, where I plan to stake my claim for an acre or two of that “Blue Cheese”property.


That’s funny you would quote a John Denver song, because that gives me the perfect opportunity to offer up a long overdue apology. You see, I went through this phase, let’s say it was between 1992 and 1996, where I would belt out that song, at the top of my lungs, for no apparent reason. Just alluva sudden, I’d start shouting singing, “I’M LEAVING ON A JET PLANE, DON’T KNOW WHEN I’LL BE BACK AGAIN.”  I’d like to formally apologize to anyone who knew me then and had to endure those embarrassing moments.

Ok, back to the panel. Expert Lewis, you’re up next.

Q. How are you celebrating Earth Day?

A. I got up early 4:00am to watch the Lyrid Meteor shower but it had been raining and was still cloudy. But sadden I was not, for the fresh, clean, moisture laden air filled my body and charged my spirit. This is the promise that the Earth gives us if only we  open our lives and spirit to receive it. The briskness of the air, the enchantment after a New Mexico rain shower is a gift and a blessing. No meteors to see is a small price to pay when the gods give us water from the sky. The Earth here is always in need of a drink and plants and other living creature hold rain as the ultimate celebration. Hell I forgot it was “Earth Day” but I did rejoice in the union between the earth and the sky on this earth day.

Amen, brotha! Rain in the desert is great. We’ve been blessed the last few days with gentle spring rains, it’s been a great way to celebrate the Earth. It also makes pulling weeds a lot easier, and everyone knows I’m a big fan of that.

Ok, so great job everyone, and thanks again for your time and energy. That does it for this week’s Ask the Experts post, we’ll be back next Friday with another one.

Now it’s time for the plant puzzler!

Name that Plant Problem!

Last week, I asked you what was wrong with this Norfolk?

How did you answer?

Martha at Water Roots answered, “I do know that these plants can dry out completely if not properly cared for. Is it too hot where the plant is? It does like it cooler. Or might the plant be receiving too much direct sun? Or maybe it’s an older branch that is dying out?”

Well, those aren’t really answers as much as they are questions now are they, Martha? I believe your undefeated streak is coming to an end. Or is it?

Villager answered, “As for the Norfolk pine, I think the brown leaf is either just old and getting ready to fall off, or perhaps the soil has been allowed to dry out. We have one that is several years old, and in general it seems to be a pretty easy plant to grow – or should I say “good to grow”?”

I like how you worked the title of my blog into your answer, so no matter what, you are getting lots of extra credit!

I’m not going to reprint (Mom’s) answer because she was not in what you would call a good mood last week when she submitted it. Suffice to say she guessed that it was an old branch and should be thrown out, because that’s what we do with our old people. Or something equally disagreeable.

So what’s wrong with the Norfolk, and who’s right? Actually, everyone, even Mom. It was an old stem – it’s natural for Norfolk Island Pines to lose needles over the years. They dry up and fall off.

So Martha, you do remain undefeated. Villager and, you were correct as well, thanks for playing.

As always, there are no prizes for winning. But you do gain bragging rights and there’s always my gratitude for playing. Ok, let’s get to the new puzzler!

Name that Plant Problem!

What’s wrong with this Pothos plant?

Think you know the answer genius? Just remember, I am not above tricking you. Hahahahaha!

Leave your best guess in the comments section. I’ll reveal the answer and the winner (if there is one) next Friday. Again, no prizes, but there’s glory.

I’ll be back on Monday. Until then, happy gardening everyone!

Hello, lemon slices, and happy Wednesday! Thanks for checking in with the Good to Grow plant blog.

As most of you know, I have a small plant care business (called Good to Grow) here in Albuquerque. I love it – I get to take care of plants at offices and homes around town, and my clients are great.

Another aspect I love about it is that it’s an interesting job. I never know how a plant may surprise me (like by hitting the ceiling, for example), or what a client may request.

So I wasn’t surprised a few weeks ago when an employee at the cereal plant asked me about removing the plants from the south-facing atrium.

He said they’re converting that area into office space.

I love before and after photos! So how did I get from there to here? With my great friend Tina’s help, of course.

I’d already arranged with Tina to help me prune this Yucca, because it was hitting the ceiling. Unlike the cactus at the television station, which piqued my curiosity (what would it do when it hit the ceiling, I wondered) I didn’t want this plant to hit the ceiling. I knew what would happen to it – its leaves would bend and it would be very unhappy. Right after I asked for Tina’s help, I learned about the project to remove the whole atrium.

This Ponytail Palm is huge, and heavy! Its bulbous base is 24 inches across! We removed it and put it in its own container.

The atrium also had lots of Euphorbia, which I repotted into their own container as well.

A few years ago, a very funny and sweet employee began leaving plastic dinosaurs in the atriums around the cereal plant. She did it to crack me up. It worked, too – they made me giggle (yes, I’m always this easily amused). Now they’re cracking Tina up.

There’s another atrium over by their cafeteria, so lots of the plants were relocated there. The rest got their own containers.

Here’s Tina doing all the work. I’m kidding, I’m kidding – I worked, really!

The plants will be distributed around the plant.

The Yucca needed a few days to let the “wound” scar over before it could be planted, so I stuck it out of the way and went back for it three days later. The wound was scarred, so I planted it straight into the potting soil (it didn’t need to root or anything).

I love plants that are this low-maintenance. I used stakes to help it stand up straight until it does grow roots of its own, but that was it – it was such an easy plant to transplant.

I’ll be tracking the progress of these plants as they adjust to their new containers. Some will no doubt handle the trauma better than others. But I predict they will all learn to thrive in the coming weeks.

I hope you enjoyed this “behind-the-scenes” peek at my work. Thanks again to Tina for her help, as well. I’ll be back tomorrow, until then, happy gardening everyone!

Not To Be Confused with Miss Christi the Beautiful and Flowering Bougainvillea. Who, incidentally, is not currently flowering but who is still beautiful.

Hello, lambchops, and happy Tuesday! Welcome back to the Good to Grow plant blog, and thanks for being here!

Ah, spring. Everything is bursting from the seams.

Miss Priss the not-currently-flowering Bougainvillea.

Do you remember when I swapped Miss Christi for Miss Priss a few months ago? Miss Priss used to live in my kitchen, then I took her to the cereal plant and she didn’t like it at all. I was bummed – I really thought she’d love it there. It’s my favorite client, everyone’s so nice, plus she had a cush spot, in a south-facing atrium. She should’ve been tickled, but she wasn’t. So I pulled her out of there. Oh, and I didn’t have a name for her until I brought her home, I named her Miss Priss because she looked like this:

So many things wrong with her, so many things wrong with the photo. For starters, I do not have a yellow foyer. Also, I’m a renter and those blinds came with the place. They are gross. But very low on my list of priorities. I don’t know why, but I felt like it was important for you to know that I wince a little every time I see them in a photo.

Miss Priss dropped lots of leaves in her time at the cereal plant. One week, I’d go to water her and she’d still be wet, so I either wouldn’t give her any more water, or I’d just splash her. The next week, she’d be dying of thirst. She was a pain in the ass. I had to replace her with Miss Christi, who’s just cool.

Miss Christi the beautiful and flowering Bougainvillea lived in my foyer for years. She likes the cereal factory – she started blooming just a few weeks after I brought her there, and continued to bloom until just a week or so ago. She is such a chill plant – she didn’t even seem to mind the drive over, which, from a plant’s perspective, must’ve been terrifying.

I used to live in a small mountain village in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico. I worked at a restaurant up there, and back in the kitchen, there was a sink by the back door that was almost always broken. So we’d put a bucket in the sink and dump everything liquid into that – coffee, iced tea, water, sodas. At the end of a shift, I’d take the bucket outside to the patio, and pour it into this beautiful Bougainvillea that sat in the corner all summer long. It was in a huge terra cotta container – Bougainvilleas don’t winter well here in the high desert – facing south against an adobe wall. It had a saucer that was always full of water – it loved to sit in water. More specifically, our skanky, dirty, caffeinated water. It bloomed constantly.

I’ve been hoping to recreate that level of happiness with Miss Priss here at home, minus the disgusting broken sink water. She’s been in rehab for awhile now, and she’s becoming happier by the day.

Plants are amazingly resilient. That crazy Bougainvillea up in Jemez learned to adapt to our skank water – it wouldn’t have been his first choice, but seeing as how it’s all we fed him, he learned to thrive. Plantastic!

Plants have the ability to adapt to the conditions you have, to a degree. For example, a lot of plants that I have in my clients’ offices around Albuquerque never see actual sunlight – they live completely on fluorescent lighting and do just fine. Isn’t that crazy? Yeah, it is.

So tell me, I have to come up with a new name for Miss Priss. I can’t keep calling her that because she’s all cheerful and happy now. Do you have any suggestions? Lucy? Queen Eleanor from Susslesprat Heights? Summer Meadow? Agnes in the Sky?

Oh dear, you can see I really, really need your help with a name!

Hello cherry tomatoes, and happy Monday!

I really enjoy seeing other people’s plants and gardens. You can tell a lot about a person by looking at their plants. Whether they are indoor houseplants or vegetables in the garden, plants require care, attention and love. So generally speaking, healthy beautiful plants tend to have owners who are detail-oriented, attentive, compassionate and skilled.

Sounds like Mom to me.

A few months ago, I showed you the plants at Mom’s house. Today seems like a good day to revisit them.

Her Norfolk Island Pine is sooooo happy!

Mom lives in a little town called Cochiti Lake, New Mexico. The town sits at the base of the Jemez Mountains, about 30 miles south of Santa Fe, and about 40 miles northwest of Albuquerque.

I love the red leaves on this Euphorbia.

She claims her Crown of Thorns plants have been blooming continuously for about 15 years! She might be pulling my leg.

I don’t know what this plant is called, but I love it!

Her giant-leafed Pothos. Seriously giant leaves.

Oh wait, how did that get in here? That’s not a plant, that’s a dog with an Easter egg hidden in her collar. Oops!

Mom’s had a green thumb as long as I can remember. I always thought I inherited my green thumb from Dad, but I must’ve gotten some of it from Mom as well.

I love this. On her kitchen windowsill, Mom constructed this stand for her Christmas Cactus. It’s a little saucer with an upside-down jar. She did that so the plant wouldn’t touch the sill. Pretty cute.

That would be three new stems of buds on her Orchid. Three! Unreal! To say that’s a happy Orchid is quite the understatement.

If this Orchid could talk, it would probably gush “Thank you Mrs. Wheeler, for taking such good care of me!” It even looks like it’s smiling!

So tell me, what would your houseplants say if they could talk?

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About Me

Hi! My name is Liza. Welcome to my blog and thanks for visiting! I'm a Midwestern gal now living in Arizona, after many years of living in and owning a plant care business in New Mexico.

Plants are living, breathing creatures, and if they're indoor plants, they are 100% dependent on human care. They cannot water themselves.

I can beautify your home, office, or patio with plants and flowers. I have 13 years of experience growing plants, and friendships.

Please let me know if you have questions or if you would like help with your plants or garden. You can reach me at lizatheplantlady (at) gmail (dot) com or follow me on Twitter, Lizawheeler7.

All photos are mine unless otherwise noted. All content is also entirely my hard work. If you'd like to use any content or photos, all you have to do is ask. If you take without asking, you are a thief. And thieves suck. So don't suck. We have a deal? Good.