Paradise and Growth

I broke down last week and bought a ‘California requirement’. Or at least it seems to be a requirement when living in California. But first a quick backstory.

When we lived in Kansas City I bought a Giant Bird of Paradise at our local Walmart. While ‘giant’ is in the name, this houseplant was not overly large. [As a sidenote: I try to go to places like Walmart or hardware stores very early in the Spring to buy houseplants or flowers. They’ve been recently delivered from the nurseries are in good shape and much less expensive than independent nurseries. However, once the plants have been there for more than a month, you’re inviting problems by shopping at ‘non-nursery’ stores for your plants. Garden centers are aware of each plant’s specific watering and light requirements as opposed to a Walmart employee standing with a watering hose, drowning every plant. Or setting a sensitive plant out in the sun to shrivel and die. The worst, is that these two specific conditions (incorrect watering and sun-exposure) open up the plant to disease and bugs. No disrespect to Walmart – they have sensibly-priced toilet paper and dishwashing pods. But Walmart employees are not well-versed in plant care. That’s a money-making side hustle for Walmart – not their primary purpose.] All of that sidenote said, I bought a beautiful houseplant for $25.

When we lived in our sun-drenched, tall-ceiling’ed loft downtown, my Bird of Paradise flourished. Oh man – I loved that plant!

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But we knew when we moved to California that we couldn’t take it with us so I gave her to my sister and it’s SO happy and content at her house. It’s tropical vibe is perfect.

My thought was that I would simply buy a new Paradise plant when we moved to our new home across country. What I didn’t know was that a $25 Giant Bird of Paradise doesn’t exist in California! Oh there are plenty around but the starting price is usually $100. So I’ve put off getting a new one, waiting for the perfect sale or situation.

Meantime…there are a plethora of the smaller versions of the Bird of Paradise plant. The smaller versions bloom and are most well-known to people. They’re exotic and tropical and…I’ve never really loved their blooms. [insert shock and awe] Florists love to use the blooms in arrangements and weddings have been saturated with Bird of Paradise blooms for years. To me, however, they look like inverted shrimp. You know when you bend your cooked shrimp backwards and all the legs pop up (…stomach turn…), that’s what these blooms have always looked like to me.

Here are some pictures from online:

bird of paradise

I know it’s a rather twisted way of looking at something others see as so delicately beautiful, but you know how it is when something gets stuck in your head.

Then I recently heard that the ‘bird’ aspect of the bloom is not what I expected either. I’ve always loosely seen the flower as a bird’s head with a plume of feathers on top and a big beak from the flowering shell. (You see that, right? I’m not crazy?) But in actuality, the shell part of the bloom has nothing to do with the ‘bird’ aspect. What I saw as the plume of feathers is actually the birds taking off for flight.

I can see that, too. And it made the bloom a lot prettier to me. A beautiful flock of birds getting ready to take flight in delicate ascension. Like a group of butterfly wings. (I feel like it’s similar to one of those trick posters at the mall: What do YOU see in this group of dots? Jesus? Or a pineapple?)

You get my point. I am seeing the bloom a little differently now.

white bird of paradise

So there we were in Home Depot last week. I was overlooking the blooming Bird of Paradise and concentrating on shrubs when Scott brought one over to me. “Hey!, this looks like our Bird of Paradise we had in KC. I’m buying it!!”

“Whoa, whoa, buddy. Wait a sec. That’s one of those shrimp-inverted Bird of Paradise.”

“I don’t care. It’s mine. I’m buying it.” (He gets that way sometimes.)

Furthermore, he put the one he was holding back down and picked up 2 or 3 other ones, inspecting them carefully. I mean…you gotta love a man that is that picky about plants, right?? Sure enough – he selected one with a newly unfolding leaf. AND, it’s a white flower, not the rather sharp orange color.

$19 for a new beginning. A flowering plant that is so prevalent it seems like a California requirement to own one. And so now we do. It may never bloom inside our home (and yes, I’m secretly okay with that) but the leaves are beauty enough. And if it does bloom, I will see it as a group of exquisitely gentle birds, breaking forth and taking flight.

Much like we did when we made this cross-country big move.

And that makes me love them all the more.

If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen this pothos I started training to climb the side of this pantry. The below picture was taken right after I started it in August 2019. I used clear Command Strip hooks, mounted to the wall, then tucked the branch into the hook. I’ve tried to ‘tuck’ near a leaf so the the leaf kind of covers the plastic hook.

And then October 2019 is below. The branches are starting to reach the bell. The biggest thing for me is that the plant is still thriving at the base (keeping very full) and the leaves are still growing upward. You can see in the original picture that I have some ‘bald spots’ on a couple of the branches to the left which is why I decided to try it as a climber. When they’re climbing upward, all the branches are being exposed to more light as opposed to laying on top of each other, draping over the edge of a pot. So those bare spots will remain. No matter how you display your pothos (hanging or climbing) you need to watch for spaces between each leaf. If there is a large area of branch with no leaves on it, that means it’s not getting enough sunlight. If that happens, it’s a great place to cut it and propagate it (which I usually propagate them back into the original plant to make it fuller.)

That said, besides the original bald places, the branches have been growing with plenty of leaf growth in small sections indicating the plant is happy with the light it’s receiving.

Then I took another picture last week. First of all, I’m out of Command Strip hooks and need more because the branches are falling over themselves with nothing to hold onto the wall with. And secondly – can you believe it’s grown this much in about 5 months?! This has been a very fun project to experiment with. Pothos are forever patient with you so they were a good plant to play with for this project.

I’m starting to see many new leaves on a number of my plants around the house. It makes me anxious for Spring since they must sense it’s right around the corner! Every summer I wonder which plants are going to be the rockstars that year. Who will grow the tallest? Most times I turn around and suddenly realize they’ve outgrown their pots in what seems overnight. (Not too unlike a growing kid and their shoes! -ha!)

What big plans do you have for your garden this year? Flower beds? New houseplants? What’s on your Green Agenda??

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