Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Porch deck, that is. Spent the entire day yesterday puttering around my little front deck. It is on the smallish side, relatively speaking, and having it packed with both outdoor flowers and indoor plants out for the summer means it's now even smaller. I'd like to extend it, and I have the room to do so, but… Well, a wild grape appeared in the "garden" just off the front of the deck some years ago; "Yes!" I thought, and took the opportunity to train the vine all along the front rail. And then it went up into the mulberry tree. And then all along the step railing… Which means by now it is quite well established—and smack in the middle of what could have been the deck expansion. Oh. Oops.

At least that's one way to rein in my natural tendency to fill in blank spaces. When it comes to the deck, this means potted plants. Lots of potted plants. Have to use pots and the deck, given that the yard hasn't been mowed in about five years and the deer would eat anything I put out there anyway. (As it is, I'm convinced that one day some enterprising, or very hungry, deer will eventually figure out the steps.) Not increasing the space at least means I won't have to water more than I already am. (And for any of you who container-garden, you know how frequently that can be. Naturally, after watering two days in a row, we finally managed to get a bit of rain last night.)

Even though I have yet to catch a deer on the deck, there is a lot of fauna that does drop in for a visit, such as this red admiral, just waking up first thing in the morning. (It didn't like me sticking a camera in its face and it left, perhaps sooner than it wanted to. Oops.)

I went to water a pot for the second time later in the afternoon, and noticed an unexpected pattern in the soil.

Hello, Mr. Toad!

Er, Mrs. Toad? I've seen dozens of Bufos (Fowler's; I don't have the species name to hand) in the dozen years I've been here—some even a bright brick red all over, very cool; this one had red spots—but this specimen has to be the biggest one ever.

Speaking of specimens… I didn't need a(nother) specimen plant. I mean, I love them, but my house really isn't as humid in the winter as it should be to keep most of the normal-sized plants happy three or four months out of the year, never mind the giant ones. (It is quite humid this summer, however; my hoya is growing again and is putting out aerial roots now as well as new leaves.) I can usually keep my large ficus under control with a good pruning, and the once-full-sized schefflera has become rather stunted (the dry conditions and a really, really bad case of scale), but I did know full well what I would be getting myself in for with this one...

There's a reason this plant's genus name is Monstera; the black bench whose end you can just see to the left, peeking out from under the foliage, is about five or six feet long. Eep. Evidence indeed of my extreme lack of will power; I found a nice-sized, still-in-decent-shape plant at Wallyworld late last summer and telling myself I'd already killed one or two baby monsteras over the years didn't stop me from buying it. Much to my surprise, however, it not only survived the dry winter in a sunny window in the cat room, as soon as I started upping its water it responded by popping out a half a dozen new leaves. At least one new shoot is even peeking up from the root crown. Yikes. I'm going to need a hand cart to get the sucker back inside this fall. (And its new support stake is likely going to have to be anchored to a wall stud.) I may be able/tempted to take some cuttings if it gets too broad to wrangle up the stairs. (And then I can have a house full of monster plants. What on earth was I thinking??? [Um, well, that it wouldn't survive…])

Also known as split-leaved philodendron for obvious reasons, although I prefer it's scientific name Monstera deliciosa. Delicious indeed! This is pretty much what broke my will; I love the leaves of these plants. The one baby I have managed to keep alive over the years hasn't been happy enough to produce the split leaves yet. (It's a matter of plant age and growing conditions.) I'm hoping that new soil and a summer on the deck helps. I suppose it's ridiculous to hope that it will have small split leaves instead of platter-sized leaves?

White coral bells, upon a slender stalk… (Bet you get stuck singing that song off on and for the rest of the day if you know it.) Also in a pot on the deck and happier than ever this year. The hostas (started with just one plant rescued from the "garden" where the grape came up) are going gang-busters in their new huge pot as well. Maybe I'll post photos when the buds open...