By Phyllis Galowitz

gardenphyllisophyIt’s been a busy week. Hanukkah is coming this weekend and with it our family. There are gifts to wrap, cards to send, menus to plan, sleeping arrangements to make, and finally, housecleaning and cooking. When they all go home, the house will seem empty and silent with only the sounds of the washing machine and dryer working non-stop for the day, as we look back on our happy celebration.

The weather has been unusually warm for this time of the year. By this time we should have had at least one major snowstorm to provide hours of entertainment for our grandchildren.

I was hoping the amaryllis would be in bloom for the holidays but that’s not going to happen. The sword-like leaves are just beginning to emerge and I don’t think last year’s bulb will flower this year, but a new one is just starting up and is fascinating to watch.

picture1My indoor garden is mostly green; all shades of green. From the palest, feathery leaves of the Italian parsley, to the deep, glossy green of the coffee plant, and the thick, rubbery leaves of the jade plant, its branches spreading in all directions. The oxalis triangularis, part of the shamrock family, is the exception, with its velvety, plum-red leaf and its dainty, orchid flower. Christmas cactus, little lace-edged ovals hanging one on the other, and aloes, with their thick, sword-like fingers reaching out, are a completely different texture and add interest as well as the aloe’s medicinal properties. The herbs not only serve me well in the kitchen but also help to keep pests from their neighbor plants.

Since I never did install plant lights, and I don’t have enough sunny windows, I depend on the plants that will survive under less than ideal conditions. There are many. The dracaena that started as a tiny, florist’s garden plant, is now as tall as I am and the Janet Craig, in the palm family, originally a tabletop plant, twenty-five years ago, now has a grandson at least four feet tall. Each plant has a history and therefore is loved. Some were gifts. Some were cuttings from a good friend and are constant reminders of them. Some came in get-well planters and have been separated and are now growing on their own.

Plant care is minimal. Too much love, like over-watering or over-fertilizing, will kill the plant. If the leaves are yellow, it usually means the roots are getting too wet. If the leaves are dry and brown, they need more water. Pay attention to what they are saying. Washing the leaves, now and then, with a solution of one tablespoon of dishwasher detergent to a spray bottle of water will keep aphids from invading and misting them will give them the moisture that they lack in our dry, winter-heated homes. A tray filled with pebbles and filled with water, placed under your plants, will also add humidity. Think of how itchy your skin gets in winter from dryness!

The indoor garden keeps the atmosphere in your home healthy and clean and gives so much pleasure with so little care. ~