Homegrown harmony

If you treat them well and give them what they need, plants will reward you with seasons of satisfaction.

Flowers 311 (photo credit: MCT)
Flowers 311
(photo credit: MCT)
One of my greatest pleasures is to sit outside on my terrace in the company of my flowering plants. Simple as that activity may sound, the scent of the flowers and the visual delight of each colorful potful of pansies, geraniums, begonias, impatiens, sweet alyssum (and other plants whose names I don’t know) fill me with joy. And every new bud and floret fills me with pride as I watch my private garden flourish in the sunshine.
I didn’t always have such a green thumb. When I was living in Montreal, I never had plants in my house because I tended to over-tend them, and they did not do well. But when I came to Israel, the verdant variety was so alluring, that I slowly began to incorporate potted plants into my life and learned how to take care of them.
What I learned is that plants are like people. If you treat them well, give them what they need, appreciate them and leave them to their own devices, they will simply thrive and reward you with a season or a lifetime of pleasure.
But if you overindulge them or, conversely, ignore them, they will shrivel up and leave you.
In more practical terms, the first thing to know about a plant is whether it needs shade, half sun or full sun, and then position it accordingly.
With regard to watering, look to see what the plant needs. If the soil is dry, give it some water. If not, let it be. But the second you see a plant drooping and the leaves looking flaccid, water it immediately. Even if it looks like a goner, the miracle of life will bring it back to fullness – if it’s not too late.
If you want to spray your plants with water to freshen up the flowers and leaves, always do it in the early morning or evening when the sun is not at its height. If you do it in the heat of the day, the sun will scorch the leaves.
A gardener once told me, “If a plant has good drainage, you cannot over-water it because the excess water will flow out the bottom of the pot. But you can water a plant too often, and that is not good.”
If a plant is in a pot with holes in the bottom and is placed within a larger pot with no holes, always check to see if any water has drained into the bottom. If so, pour it out. Never let a plant sit in water, as the roots will rot.
And speaking of roots, check the bottom of a pot from time to time to see if the roots are beginning to come out of the holes. If they are, it’s time to repot the plant to give it more space to grow. If you wait too long, the plant will become pot-bound and will not be able to adjust itself to a larger vessel. By the same token, don’t put a small plant directly into a large pot, as the roots will have too much room and will not be able to grow properly.
Plants grow well when they are placed close to each other. Therefore, position your plants in clusters so they can imbibe each other’s energy. If you are going out of town for a little while and cannot water them, place large bowls or pails of water near each cluster, and the moisture should keep the plants in good condition until you get back.
I like to buy small seedlings (shtilim) and grow my own individual plants or create colorful combinations in a larger pot. But sometimes a large flourishing plant will catch my eye, and I cannot resist buying it and taking it home to add to my growing collection.
Large or small, multicolored or monochromatic, there’s nothing like a well-tended balcony garden to add variety and vitality to your life.