Like I mentioned before, I’ve grown plants in some very odd circumstances. Windowless warehouses, eastside caliche, rehearsal studios… but by far the strangest was the time I adopted a giant pothos in Death Valley, California.
I arrived in Hell (as I affectionately remember it) the day after my 18 birthday. Having checked out the resort during El Nino (1998 being one of the wettest winters on record for Death Valley) there were flowers blooming and lovely 70-somthing degree weather. I dare say there was even a little bit of spring humidity in the air.
When I returned 2 days before May 1998 it was already 110+ and I thought I was going to die. Surely this was karma for every bad thing I had ever done and believe me, even at 18 years old… that list was long.
But being an optimist, I settled in to my job at the Borax museum and even started learning some interesting facts about Death Valley. I figured it would make my one sided conversations with the European tourists (the only ones Ambitious/Crazy enough to visit in the summer) a little more fun. Yes, there was a language barrier. But somehow it helped keep my days short, so my nights could stay long.
I spent most evenings drinking beers stolen by the wait staff of various on property restaurants with the rest of the lifers at Furnace Creek Inn & Ranch Resort and causing all sorts of harmless trouble. Most people that worked in Death Valley ended up staying a while… and it wasn’t for the great wages or wonderful working conditions.
But every once in awhile some kid from Southern California or Pharump would get a taste of those big city lights calling from Las Vegas and move on. That was when things got fun… Most residents had no tranpartation (part of the limitations that would keep a poor soul working in such a hopeless enviroment) so when they got the urge to move, most of their belongings would go to the highest bidder.
Not lacking money or negotiation skills I quickly moved up from employee housing to a ramshackle 5th wheel trailer (virtually unheard of for anyone outside of management and under forty.) Upper Echelon all the way! I was hob nobbin with the Snow Birds that moved resort to resort enjoying their retirement and the occasional glass from their stash of boxed wine.
One day tromping back through employee housing on my way to the museum I came across a boy I barely knew who was giving away the last of his worldly belongings. “Got a job lined up in Vegas” he said. Which translated to: I found an exoctic dancer willing to support me while I begin my life of crime – All the same to me, “How much do you want for that Plant?” I asked him, pointing. “$20 Bucks! Its 12 years old. Its the only thing my mother gave me when I moved out of her trailer in Pharump” he said. Sure thing. I had $14 dollars in ones and change in my pocket. “I’ll give you $5 bucks, you can buy a quart of beer for the drive. And I promise I wont kill it.” Deal!
I lugged the plant back to my sweet sweet trailer… literally. The plant itself was in an 18″ pot, but the 15 – 20 vines drug behind me a good 4 ft as I walked on the scortching hot asphalt. This thing was in bad shape. Some of the vines only had 1 or 2 leaves left. It felt lighter than it should have been because it was so dried out and the roots had gotten so big they cracked one side of the plastic pot. The leaves were all a sad shade of yellowish green.
It slowly came back from the edge of death.
I promptly left Death Valley. Turns out those big city lights called to me too. When I got to town and moved into my first apartment I immedialty repotted the poor thing. After it recovered a little I started propagating it with little cuttings all over that apartment and every house, building and business I’ve lived in for the last 12 years. Most of my friends and relatives ended up with a version of that plant.
When I was preganant I gave the original plant a good pruning, halving the orginal size and put it in the nursery. I am pleased to report that the plant grew as fast as my precious little Gadzuki! And as we speak I have a glass of its cuttings in my kitchen window.
Here’s how to grow & propagate one for yourself:
Step #1: Pick a strong Bright/Dark Green plant. I like them best with few long vines and lots of thick stems and short distances between leaves. Or even better! Find a friend with one and cut a few stems for yourself (more on that later…)
Step #2: If you buy it at a nursery or grocery store it will almost always need to be repotted. Choose a pot a few inches larger, with good drainage or if there is no drainage fill the bottom few inches with rocks.
Step #3: I roll mine on the ground a few times in the original pot to loosen the soil before I transfer it to its new home. Fill with dirt and water.
Step #4: Pothos aren’t very needy. They almost like abuse. They need very little light to live (but will do much better in a bright spot out of direct sunlight , I’ve heard North West light is the best direction). So find a spot and keep a spray bottle near by. Your plant will thrive if you give it the gift of a little humidity every few days.
Step #5: Find a vase or glass and fill it with water.
Step #6: Cut off a few 6-8 inch sections of stems. Remove the lower leaves so they don’t muck up the water and submerge them as quickly as possible.
Step #7: Put the vase anywhere really. I have mine in windowsills, bathrooms… you name it. And when the roots on your new cuttings reach 3-4 inches long replant them in moist soil and start all over again : )
Next: We get up to our elbows in some FANTASTIC compost!!
Or How to propagate Ivy.
This project was one I started for Hank and Tony at the Poplar Center for Cultural Excellence. They want to spruce that bitchin’ bachelor pad up… and green things are always a good way to go.
Step 1. Choose a healthy plant. Survival of the fittest people… we only want to clone the plants that are the strongest, prettiest and most likely to succeed. (not to get all Hitler on you…) and Cut sections that are 6-8 inches long.
Step 2. Some people swear by commercial rooting hormone powders. I’ve tried them before, back in my teens when I spent a lot of time in a Hydroponic shop on Western & Oakey. No longer my thing. If its yours, dip the tip of your cutting as quickly as possible. These days I throw caution to the wind and do it Old School – snip off any of the leaves in the area you’re going to submerge (or they will get squishy and rot) then put them in water right away.
Step 3. How much water? Well currently I’m using a couple gallon Milk jugs cut in half, filled up about 5 or 6 inches with water.
Step 4. Wait and wait and then add more water. Oh, and they like a sunny spot. Indirect sunlight if you can. This time I’ve placed mine in the garage under My Sweet Husbands florescent light and they LOVE it!
Step 6. Depending on whether you’ll be keeping them indoors or out, choose your location or pot. Fill your container or amend the soil with 1 part soil, 1 part moss, one part sand and PLANT!!
Step 7. To help your new plant grow nice and full, pinch off the ends of each new vine. Also, spray often with a fine mist if indoors… they’ll thank you for it!
Other Interesting Ivy facts (A.K.A. if you’re planting outside… you’ve been warned):
– in the NASA clean air study, they showed that Ivy removed formaldehyde, benzene, and carbon monoxide from the air.
– “First year it sleeps, seconds year it creeps, third year it leaps” was a cute quote I found regarding Ivy.
– From the National Park Service: “English ivy is a vigorous growing vine that impacts all levels of disturbed and undisturbed forested areas, growing both as a ground cover and a climbing vine. As the ivy climbs in search of increased light, it engulfs and kills branches by blocking light from reaching the host tree’s leaves. Branch dieback proceeds from the lower to upper branches, often leaving the tree with just a small green “broccoli head.” The host tree eventually succumbs entirely from this insidious and steady weakening. In addition, the added weight of the vines makes infested trees much more susceptible to blow-over during high rain and wind events and heavy snowfalls. Trees heavily draped with ivy can be hazardous if near roads, walkways, homes and other peopled areas. On the ground, English ivy forms dense and extensive monocultures that exclude native plants. English ivy also serves as a reservoir for Bacterial Leaf Scorch (Xylella fastidiosa), a plant pathogen that is harmful to elms, oaks, maples and other native plants.”
Next: we’re going to take a journey through my yard… checking in on all of the gardens.