Sunday, February 13, 2011

LONGWOOD GARDENS, Part 3: Houseplants?

I suppose that after a time (perhaps even a relatively short period of time) of living shut up inside of dwellings separated from the world around them the human race discovered it missed living among, well…other living things. It would be interesting to research how far back the evidence for "houseplants" goes. Long before the easy-care orchid varieties began hitting the general market with serious intent, tropicals cultivated for their foliage alone have long been a favorite choice to bring indoors and are widely available practically everywhere these days. But just as my heart aches to see video of parrots in the wild, a smaller but equivalent pang hit me when I recognized in the Longwood conservatories many plants I have tried with more or less success to keep alive in my own home. To see them in conditions more suitable to their actual needs was eye-opening.

Bears Foot Fern. Yeah, "rabbits foot" just doesn't cover this six (seven? more?) foot tall behemoth… Eek.

My gorgeous little eight-inch birds nest ferns didn't survive the transition from fresh, humid summer air and consistent watering outside to the dry, less-than-pure indoor air and sporadic fall watering. *sniff* This was a typical birds nest specimen for the gardens; note the basic bricks for scale. (*waaahhhhh*)

Occasionally you find dessert-plate size staghorn ferns for sale in the garden section of big department stores. As incredible as they are, I resist the temptation to bring them home, knowing that I haven't a snowball's chance of truly "rescuing" them. There is no possible way on earth I'd be able to get one to stay alive long enough to grow, let alone grow to this size. (Even looking so frost-bitten it was impressive. And it wasn't the only plant in the conservatories looking worse for wear after the rough winter we've had. I can't imagine the effort and what it costs to heat literally acres of glass buildings.)

Your basic and fancy philodendrons at maturity under proper conditions--yes, no matter how long the vines of your philo or pothos, they will forever remain "youngsters" for all of us folk who lack greenhouses…

One of the starts-out-large philodendrons showing its true splendor. If you have one of these giant climbing philo or monstera species, please do not trim those aerial roots it sends out! Stick them back into the plant's pot. (A local nursery even gave their specimen's aerial roots their own water saucer. Very clever that, I thought.)

Getting a bird of paradise to bloom in a typical household setting is one thing.

Getting one to this height is something else entirely… One could be forgiven for thinking the commonly cultivated variety (that I managed to get to multiple leaves and about five feet in height before killing) is a miniature. But I doubt it. These were well above my head; the zoom lens fails to give the true perspective here.

Although not a typical houseplant--it's more geared to the yard--elephant ears is one of the few super-sized plants that can achieve full growth for any attentive gardener.