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Bringing a little life to a dull and dreary time

I have written often in this space about my love of gardening.

I shared first impressions as I started the first vegetable garden I had ever grown on my own. I wrote about struggles with weeds, seeds that failed to sprout and invasive critters, such as rabbits and deer.

I’m sure I have bored some more readers who are more experienced gardeners with my glee over the first red, ripe tomato of the season or my initial harvest of summer squash.

There is currently no activity in my backyard plot for me to write about. My husband, Mike, and I have pulled the last of the onions, tomatoes and peppers and eaten them. We have removed our bright orange fence and put our tomato cages away. We’ve even cut and trimmed the lawn around the garden, which can be difficult to do with fencing in place.

I am not done, however, cultivating plants for the year. I have simply refocused my attention on the plants inside my home.

I will admit that I have a rather large collection of indoor greenery. My grandmother and then my mother were both lovers of plants, so I guess it is a hobby that comes naturally to me. And in fact, some of their plants were handed down through the generations to me, adding to my own collection.

Unfortunately, I allowed distractions to get in the way of providing my houseplants with proper care this fall, so some of them were in fairly sorry condition when I took notice last week. The spider plants that had thrived on the front porch during the summer months were dry, with many brown leaves and shriveled-up offshoots. That made me sad, since they are a reminder of a man I knew and admired when I was the Marshall County bureau chief for the Wheeling Newspapers. They came to me from the late Judge John Madden, who gifted me a few different plants when he was still on the bench.

Judge Madden not only spent time teaching me about some of the more confusing aspects of criminal law, but he also performed the ceremony that united Mike and myself in marriage.

So, feeling rather guilty about my neglect, I set out a few days ago to save those plants. Placing the plants on a table, I trimmed, picked and pulled dead vegetation from them. I used a sharp garden implement to loosen up the soil around their roots, and I filled in some bare spots in those pots with baby spider plants that were draped over their sides.

I added ample water and access to some morning sunshine and, voila, they look healthy and happy again after just a few days.

Also in poor condition was one of my arrowhead plants. These vining wonders with pointed leaves are nearly impossible to kill, but I had set this one by itself in a room that is seldom used and forgotten that I had put it there. When I noticed, it had far more crumbling brown leaves than fresh green ones.

Never fear, though. With much of the same treatment that the spider plants had received, this little pot full of greenery was quickly revived as well. It received one additional bit of help — an ornamental glass water globe that dispenses water over the course of several days.

From that point on, I decided it was time to give all of my houseplants a little TLC. Next came the pair of hibiscus trees that my mother had owned for years. These are double red hibiscus, meaning that they have very full flowers that look more like carnations than like dinner plates, as the flowers of these plants are often described.

Those trees were not in bad shape, but the leaves were a bit wilted, and there were many spent blossoms on the branches that needed to be removed.

It was very important to me to keep these plants healthy, since they actually originated with my grandmother who died while I was still in high school. She didn’t travel a lot in her lifetime, spending the vast majority of her 86 years in Jackson and Gallia counties in southern Ohio. During a rare trip to Florida, however, she snipped a branch from a pretty plant and managed to carry it safely home with her.

I couldn’t tell you how many hibiscus plants have been started for friends and family member using pieces generated by that original branch.

My many jade plants were in even better shape, since they sort of enjoy being neglected. A friend got me started growing jades several years ago, and between us we probably have a couple dozen pots of them today. Jades like nice, tight growing quarters, so they don’t need to be transplanted frequently. They also are succulents, which means that they thrive with very little water.

Another plant that requires little attention is the pothos ivy. I also have several pots of these, all started from a massive one that another friend gave me many years ago. Those long vines covered with green and yellow variegated leaves had barely noticed that I hadn’t been paying them much attention.

Winter is nearly here, and it can be a dark and dreary time even in the best of years. 2020 is not one of the best, so I expect winter to be even harder on many people this year.

If you already have a hobby, this might be a good time to nurture it. If you don’t it might be a good time to cultivate a new one.

In any event, this is definitely the season to bring a little sunshine and life to your surroundings.

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