July 5, 2010

The perils of travel, Plant Loss and Recovery

I lost many plants to bad plant care, while in Switzerland for two weeks. But the container garden has been reset, and any losses are now hidden by new containers. Here, some strawberry jars are planted with drought resistant succulents, which will always survive.

When gardeners travel, finding someone  capable to care for plants, as well as pets, if often a primary concern. I 'hired' my older sister ( with the promise of a new laptop, which equaled the price of boarding the dogs) to care for both all the plants, the greenhouse and the dogs, as well as feeding the ducks, pigeons and pheasants. Apparently, the tasks were to much for her, since the dogs got loose in the neighborhood for two days, ( but home safely now), the ducks 'escaped' and some are missing, and many, many, far too many container plants are dead as a bone. 
 Even dry californian plants are dead, as is this silver foliage west coast shrub, crispy and dry.

I can only blame myself, and not her as much, since the knowledge many of us plant people hold in our heads, is often innate, or it is built from  years of experience, experience like: Take note plant caretakers - Just because it is 90 degrees outside, the 'promise of thundershowers in the evening does not mean that the plant get watered.  In the summer, even a rainy day does not mean that the potted plants are watered enough. Yes, I know, if you live in California, you know all this, and often plant things that can withstand a drought, but here in New England, we certainly are not experiencing a water shortage. We all learn from such experiences, and surely, sis has had a big lesson over the past week. But then again, so have I.

 Moving forward, most of the plants that died were container plants, and as it usually goes, it's the rarest, or most expensive, or the most difficult to replace. What we gardeners value is different than what regular people value, so a dead pot of Osmanthus or  Westringia may only illicit a "oh, poor dried up shrubby thingy, time to toss and get a new one", but to us, it may mean,"Poor dried up Topiaried myrtle that I trained for 5 years, and bought a nice Guy Wolf pot for", or "Farewell little Westringia rosmarifolia that I bought at the National NARGS Winter Study Weekend in Portland, OR, then snuck back in my suitcase wrapped in a blanket". Still, this does mean one thing, not unlike a winter freeze in the greenhouse, this does open up some room for new plants. I don't know about you, but a large empty container rarely remains empty this time of year. All I can say is "Thank God for Succulents". I mean, even a large Agapanthus is dried up, how can that happen?

 This variegated Osmanthus shrub, has many dead spots on it, but I am hopeful that it might recover.
Oops, not dead, but it looks like it! This grass, a Carex flagellifera "Toffee Twist", a Proven Winners variety, did survive, it just doesn't look like it's alive, but we crazy plant people sometimes are attracted to that! But I still had to touch it, to make sure.
A dead Myrtus communus, topiary. This, will never come back, but the pot has a future with something sweet. So the list is far too long for what I have lost, but on the list are all of the Pelargoniums I listed in an earlier post, some potted tomatoes, all seedling in the greenhouse, some Japanese Azaleas in pots, a couple of Bonsai, and half of the new Bonsai Grove our friend Glen planted for us ( he promises that he can fix it in the spring). Other than that,  many plants that looked dead, came back after watering. The lemons all lost their leaves, but the young sprouts recovered, and anything that was succulent or cacti related, survived the disaster which makes the idea that growing cacti and succulents might be a better alternative for us if we plan to travel more.

Now, the container garden has been reset, with plants from other places around the yard, and most people will never notice the missing plants. And over time, we too will forget.


  1. Matt, it was painful to read about your plant loss! You are so right about the difference between gardeners and non-gardeners. We assume that they know what we know... I always remember how I hired a teenager to water my plants. She tried her best and was watering my houseplants, set out for the summer, as much as other plants. How could I blame her for the loss of some plants if I didn't explain the basics to her. I thought everyone knew the basics. Anyway, your succulents look great! The first picture shows a very attractive arrangement!

  2. Matt, so sorry about your losses...it's happened to all of us-I hate to say it, but family seems the worst when it comes to vacation plant care! NO computer for her!!!(just kidding, not!) It does seem like it's the treasures that bite it first, even with careful instruction.All I can say is, I'm glad I wasn't her when you got home! Brian

  3. I empathise. It is very difficult to grow rare treasures and be able to travel. I too have had plants killed by friends when I have been away - irreplaceable things. Good on ya for taking a positive attitude!


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