Big Monstera Tip/Advice

Basically, do this before it gets too late and you end up like me.

(Sounds ominous, doesn’t it??)

A quick backstory…

Our monstera deliciosa was large when we lived in Kansas City. When we moved to California, we knew it couldn’t make the trip in our car so I cut a number of stems from it and placed them in water to root. (And gave the mother plant away.)

About a month and a half later they were rooted enough to add to dirt.

It’s grown quite a bit over the past year and accumulated many aerial roots. Aerial roots are funky looking but serve an important purpose in the tropical forest where the monstera originates. Monstera plants climb up trees like a vine so they naturally seek a ‘dark structure’ to attach themselves to with their aerial roots.

In a home environment, however, the roots merely hang down, searching for something to climb.

My biggest advice to new or upcoming monstera owners, plant your monstera with a pole in the middle from the beginning. I kept ‘meaning to get around to it’ – as the plant continued growing and growing.

As a result, the plant has become very “unruly” looking with leaves falling all over the place and no structure.

Another issue with waiting too long is that the plant was now growing up from the middle, leaving no room for inserting a climbing pole.

It was time to take (belated) action before the spring and summer leaves start growing.

Scott used a cedar piece of wood and affixed chicken wire around it with a staple gun and ordered some sphagnum moss online.

The moss comes in a compact brick.

Once it’s placed in water, it begins to expand and unravel.

We inserted the wet moss into the chicken wire then wrapped the whole pole and moss with fishing wire.

The added benefit to a moss pole is that it will raise the humidity level around the plant. Spraying or watering the moss keeps a’tropical’ humidity around the plant.

Taking the monstera outside, we took the plant and root ball out of the pot and thoroughly rinsed as much dirt off as we could.

Relative to the height of the plant, the roots aren’t that deep.

We carefully removed each section of the plant and laid them out to be re-potted later.

This is NOT the easiest way to grow a monstera! I should have started with a moss pole from the very beginning. Heed my warning! Save yourselves!!!

After assembling the pole, we re-planted the pieces of monstera and carefully wrapped any long aerial roots around the moss pole for them to eventually take hold.

It will take a few weeks for it to fully straighten up. But since the growing season is coming up, it will stretch upwards instead out sprawling out. I’ll do an update to this post in a few months.

Lesson? Give your new monstera a pole to start climbing from the beginning and/or when they’re small. It will grow into a better shape and be in an atmosphere more closely related to its origins.

(And it’s a lot less back breaking!)

Crossing my fingers this will help to refresh this plant. New dirt filled with yummy nutrients and a ‘tree’ for its aerial roots to climb.

Ready for growing season!

This is 55.

Scott and I had a few days off together around my birthday. A double nickel birthday… that seems impossible. My mind completely disagrees.

I have a favorite birthday cake. My mother made it for me and after she was gone, my mother-in-law made it for me for many years. For the last two years, Scott has been making it in California. It is a delicious banana cake with a coffee icing that is to DIE for. We made the whole thing, ate a few pieces, and then froze the rest for future days when all you need is just a little bit of cake.

Thank you Thank you Thank you, Scott… for the love, the calories, and the very fond memories of Mom.

Here are a few highlights from the last few days:

For any of you who are fans of the 2014 movie, Chef, (and all of you should be because it’s such an enjoyable movie) starring Jon Favreau, there is a Netflix series out called, The Chef Show, where Jon Favreau and Chef Roy Choi explore food with renowned chefs. It’s a somewhat unique food show that’s entertaining and very informative. We are big fans here at our house. 

We were recently watching an episode in which they made corn tortillas from scratch. Scott (who has a deep and abiding love for cast iron) was intrigued. Before the show was over he’d ordered a tortilla maker and a few days later we were having one of our favorite roasted salmon fish taco recipes from Ina Garten. The meal – and the corn tortillas! – was delicious. What a fun experiment. 

This is not a good foodie photograph (it was a hurry-up-I-want-to-eat-this kind of photograph) but you get the jest of the taco. Dill, cucumber, avocado, lots of lime juice…like I said, it’s one of our go-to recipes. Fresh and scrumptious.

Scott suggested we go check out an exotic plant store I’d heard about. It’s not a very big place, tucked in behind some buildings, but we spent a solid hour there. Flori-Culture started out as an accompaniment to the orchid society. But then they started growing and swapping unique plants with area botanical gardens and zoos and people started taking notice. They are now known for their unique and rare types of plants (along with their amazing orchid collection, if you’re into that kind of thing.) 

The owner was there and was so gentle with all our questions. He wasn’t demeaning (some plant people can be), and he was thorough in his answers (not to hear himself talk but to truly help us make a decision.) It was a fantastic experience. 

The spores on this plant…amazing.

The below Trichogiottis brachiata was interesting to see how it grafted itself onto a tree. The aerial roots were amazing.

Something cool about the shop: Plants had different colored plant tag stakes stuck in them. If it was a blue tag, that meant it was a mother plant. Some had numerous red tags stuck in them. He explained to us that if you’re interested in a propagated rooting from that plant, you write your name on a tag (phone number and date of request) and stick it in the mother plant. When they can, they take a cutting from the mother plant, root it and when it begins to show growth, they start calling the people on the red tags. So cool, right?! (Okay…cool for plant nerds anyway.) The below plant was one that I stuck a red tag in. 

I have the below plant – a peperomia or Baby Rubber Plant. Mine is smallish and growing straight up in a pot. I saw this one and asked him why theirs was so different. He told me it’s really a ground cover so if I move it to a shallow dish, it will branch out like this one. (Duh! I had no idea. And immediately went home and repotted it.)

I’m not an orchid person but I can certainly appreciate them and the work it takes to get these beautiful blooms.

One of the benefits of living on the west coast and most everyone else I know lives a few hours ahead of me, is that I can wake up on my birthday to a phone filled with birthday messages. It was a nice way to start the day!

I don’t ever recall my birthday being on Ash Wednesday before. And for us, it was also Voting Day. We have been VERY diligent about looking at all the candidates. We’ve waited as long as we could to make the right decision and thoughtfully watched each debate –  and STILL, it was difficult. In fact, I’ve never been so split on who I wanted to vote for in the primaries. There is the added pressure of voting in the California primaries where there are 416 delegates so the pressure was on thick for us. We sat down with coffee and filled out our ballots and dropped them off at the early voting locations. After months of struggling, it was all over. Votes cast.

I couldn’t decide between a few candidates so I did the drop-the-pen-and-see-where-it-lands thing. It landed on Tulsi Gabbard (eyeroll) so I went back to comparing the facts and issues.

Ballots cast, time for a trip to Green Acres Nursery. Scott has been researching composting and I am always up for a plant trip. This particular Green Acres in Rocklin is the last one we haven’t visited (it’s the newest) and might be our current favorite.

I fell in LOVE with these wonky pots. I love their texture and uneven design. They look like they were just pulled off the potters wheel.

The below tree – triangularis – is on my long-term Plant Bucket List. I love the leaves so much.

The Rocklin houseplant area was really nice to walk through and dream.

We stopped by In-N-Out (because California) where this cute employee was standing outside talking to a group of twenty-something’ers. He was really cute to watch.

Then we went to get a hydro massage (some people call it ‘going to the gym’ but let’s be honest…it’s all about the hydro massage bed!) My gym clothes consist of this t-shirt… -ha!

And please don’t hate me for my fanny pack. Honestly – this is a great invention. I’m sold on it. Kangaroos have known the secret all along!

This text message was nice to see pop up on my phone – especially compared to the news alert that came at the same time.

In all honesty, it’s a little eery around here with regard to the coronavirus. Feels like a ticking time bomb, particularly as they keep flying more and more people into the states here in northern California. 

These are a few of the plants I picked up over the last few days. I think I’ve become a Hoya fan. There are so many different types – it’s fun to think about collecting each one. Some refer to those hoya collectors as Hoya Heads. 🙂 I might be heading straight toward that title soon.

At the exotic plant store I bought this Pinguicula moranensis which is a carnivorous plant. The rosettes (its winter dormancy) will flatten out like the lower leaves which have a sticky surface. My plant gnats have numbered days ahead! Once the gnat lands on the leaf, they can’t get off and die and the plant absorbs its nutrients. Do I feel badly for the gnats? Not.one.bit. They are the downfall of having a houseful of plants.

I picked up some more oxalis at Green Acres. I don’t have the green version and it seemed most appropriate for upcoming St. Patrick’s Day. 

A few additional hoyas I added to my beginner ‘collection’…

This one (not yet planted) is called a String Bean Hoya – I know…right??!

My Angel Wing Begonia has started unfolding a new leaf for my birthday 🙂 

And my Christmas/Valentine’s Day/Martin Luther King Jr/Easter cactus is also blooming again.

My cut flower garden has turned over about 3 times now. I’m cutting them as quickly as they’re producing new blooms. It’s been a thrill. I’ve started giving away bouquets to neighbors like people try to get rid of their zucchini and tomatoes! (Speaking of which, Scott also planted some tomatoes, peppers, chives and cilantro this week. Salsa is just around the corner.) 

To wrap up my birthday, we stopped by this hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant we like. Each time we get fortune cookies, we decided beforehand what their messages will apply to. Since it was my birthday, we dedicated them to Greta 2020. -ha.

I’ll gladly take these messages; I identify with them. I love unveiling the mystery…that’s where the fun is.

It was a fun and somewhat laid-back birthday. I deeply appreciated the cards and phonecalls and texts and social media messages. It’s always a great opportunity to stop and think about each person and how important they are to my life. Thank you.

Build Me a Valentine (or three!)

Last year, Scott made us a trashcan box since our kitchen trash has to sit out in the open. We have put it through the workouts since then and it’s held up fabulously. Sooooo (…of course…) I wanted more!

I wanted something similar to the trashcan for our laundry hamper. (By the way, I don’t know why I hate the word ‘hamper’ so much, but I really really do. -ha! No getting around it, though, it’s the best way to describe it for this post. Just know I would never use it in real life.)

We recently rearranged a big closet in our spare bedroom so I wanted to locate the hamper somewhere else. We have a hall area in between our bedrooms but I didn’t want an open hamper out there. Oh what to do, what to do?! (#firstworldproblems) So a trashcan revision was made into a hamper box. (For the record – both the trashcan and the hamper have open backs for plenty of ventilation.)

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You know how you get something in your head and it quickly becomes a random obsession? (Oh come on – that can’t just be me…) I now want to fill this glass canister jar with beautifully wrapped soaps. (World Market – I’m looking at you! They have the BEST soaps that are gorgeously wrapped.)

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Okay…back to the hamper sitch.

The trashcan box opens at an angle. The actual trashcan inside the box sits on a hinged platform that opens outward. It’s easier to dump trash and makes for an easy emptying of the trashcan too.

But the hamper has a simple door that opens with plenty of headroom for tossing clothes inside. It closes with a magnetic attachment at the door and inside face of the hamper.

I am so happy with it! As with most households, it’s also a nice landing spot for the things that need to be taken to other parts of the house. (Temporary landing spot. – wink, wink)

Hamper box: SUCCESS!

During Scott’s week off last week he finished up the hamper project than started working on a raised garden for my cut flowers.

Last spring he made some raised garden boxes that I used for a pretty display of flowers – similar to a window box. We eventually moved it to the side of the house and this past fall grew vegetables in it. This year, however, I wanted to grow cut flowers as if growing vegetables. In rows – nothing fancy – only used for cutting and bringing inside (or gifting to neighbors!) So I wanted it pretty simple, rustic even. The main thing is that it’s at my height which makes pruning and cutting so much easier. (I’m game for that!)

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Using cedar fencing posts he constructed a box, lined it with weed barrier liner, then ran a sprinkler system to it.

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This particular spot at the back of the house is BRUTAL in the summertime. It gets some pretty harsh southern exposure. But if last year is any guide, the flowers did well in it until the end of May. (We started in February last year too.) My plan is to make this a year-round raised garden, replacing the spring flowers with summertime plants and eventually a fall harvest.

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Time for one more project: a potting bench!

We mulled this one over numerous times. It took on various different forms until we finally combined two plans into one.

For the past 3 years we have slowly added to our outdoor furniture from IKEA. It’s all from the same line: APPLARO. (IKEA and their Swedish-named products -ha!)

The below picture shows two ‘wall units’ that you can add shelves to or a fold-out table, etc. It’s a very useful, modular patio system.

We decided to use two of the panels as a backdrop to a potting bench. I use whatever surface I can get to when I repot plants, propagate plants for sale, and general yard gardening. So I was VERY excited about this project! (Not that I wasn’t excited about the others too!)

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Scott found some workbench plans online that he liked as a guide but then he tweaked them to fit our specific wants.

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(Don’t judge the messy garage. Or please…DO shame us into getting this ‘secret’ part of our house FINALLY organized and cleared out!! A definite spring project!) Meanwhile, the potting bench project was coming along nicely.

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The next decision was staining. (WHYYYYYYY do I make things SO complicated by over-thinking such small decisions.) Basically, I want it to look like I found an old, abandoned warehouse where this decades old potting bench was covered with a huge dust cloth and VOILA’!, I find a perfectly useable, vintage potting bench.

But alas…… instead, I have to let nature do its dirty work on freshly made furniture. (Impatience is a noose around my neck! -ha!)

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After a few trial spots with different stains: gray, light brown, should-I-just-paint-it-white, etc., we decided to go with a dark stain to seal in the wood from the elements but that would (hopefully) get a little beat up over time until it’s the perfect “old” looking potting bench I envision.

Meanwhile – look how fantastically it turned out! I’m so happy with it!! Scott did an excellent job.

Let me assure you, however…

…even though I zhuzhed it up…

…that’s only for the picture. I plan on using this thing AS a potting bench – not a photoshoot opportunity!

But for now…I mean…I had to do a little bit of prop useage.

WHAT A WEEK!! Lots of projects envisioned, executed and finished! Scott has a lot of fun with the building part of the creative process (and he gets VERY creative with it. He usually takes plans several steps further to make sure things are SUPER safe and will withstand heavy usage. And many times he makes up the plans himself.) And I certainly love the dreaming up part of the process. But I think the BEST fun of all is sitting down together beforehand and hashing out all the details. There is a lot of “…like this?” and “no…that won’t work” and the occasional “just MAKE it work!“comments. Of course all of these items can be purchased somewhere. But making it fit exactly what we want is so much more fun for us at this point in our lives. There is plenty of frustration to be sure, but the fun of it is beyond measure. Each project is a true joint effort. And that, I believe, is what Scott and I do best.