This weekend’s been a grand adventure of bars, plants, cats, and garden nurseries. I ended up with four new plants from an event on Friday night: another baby bloodleaf plant, a maidenhair fern, bamboo, and an African violet.
According to my research all of these are, as usual, cat-safe.
These gorgeous purples belong to my new African violet. A bright-sun-loving plant that actually isn’t technically a violet, these are infamously pet friendly. In fact, they’re a plant that always comes up in my searches and yet one I hadn’t found at any of my usual haunts until this weekend.
The popping lavendar tones just begged to come home with me. You’ll also notice (and appreciate, hopefully) the soft, emerald leaves and guitar-pick petal shape.
You might remember from this post that I’ve bought bloodleaf before and didn’t know much about it at the time. I’ve learned a lot since and was excited to get another little one! It’s the same exact cultivar, from the same exact place, potted in a matching square blue pot.
As you can see from the pictures above and to the right, it’s looking a little droopy. From my limited experience with iresine, I’ve found they seem to get pot-shock: they seem to not do so well at first when changing environments or planters. The new baby got a nice misting today, along with the rattlesnake plant and the other iresine.
And about that plant nursery I mentioned earlier – I was able to repot my new plants today because I stumbled on the place! I was headed to yoga and it was right across the street – and, they had a nursery cat! It was overall an enjoyable unplanned adventure that culminated in more much-needed houseplant supplies.
You’ll see, too, that I got to use two of my new tools for the first time!
So this was not a plant I knew anything about, but I originally went to City Grows with the intention of getting a moisture-loving, low-light plant. And of course, a fern would fit the bill. I specifically chose the maidenhair fern because it’s a “true fern,” meaning it’s supposed to be safe for cats.
It’s also simply beautiful!
The leaves have a quirky shape to them, and I love the shape and delicacy of ferns; this little maidenhair caught my eye as soon as I got to the shop’s fern section!
You can easily see how these are a spectacular addition to any indoor space.
Bamboo is a common houseplant that I’ve wanted for a long time but not been able to find from a local seller. My favorite plant shop deals mostly in cactuses and succulents, and I try to avoid ordering too many plants or supplies from places like Amazon because I want to support local stores. But, City Grows had a bunch of bamboo on Friday! I got this sweet little guy in a teenie black pot that goes with the colors of my bathroom.
I wanted it to match my bathroom because bamboo likes low to medium light and tolerates water well; in fact, my best friend grows hers not in soil, but in rocks and water. And hers is probably about three feet tall at this point. (Fun fact: We asked the guy working at City Grows, and he said growing it in water is a great idea. We also asked if it mattered what kind of water, and he said probably distilled would be better in the long run but it shouldn’t matter too much.)
So, my new bamboo lives next to the maidenhair fern on my corner shelf.
I’ve just been rejected by a 7th – that’s right, seventh – therapist. No one seems to be taking on new clients now, which is really hard to navigate. I feel abandoned by a system that I’ve been using since I was a terrified little kid washing my hands raw and bloody.
I also know it can be hard to get and use resources outside of therapy, for a few reasons. (1) It can be hard to know what to look for or where to look; (2) resources often cost money – even some great apps cost a subscription fee; (3) if you’re struggling with executive function and/or motivation, not having another human being to help you navigate your own care can be difficult. I definitely can’t fix these issues, but I’d like to help by sharing – for free – a collection of exercises that I’ve used over the years.
These are from myriad sources, including books and my own mind. I want to point out that everyone’s mind is different and that not all or any of these might be useful to you. I specifically used them for health OCD/OCPD, panic attacks, and depression; sometimes I was guided by a counselor, other times not.
I also want to point out that these are NOT substitutes for professional healthcare, medicine, etcetera. These are things I’ve used to suplement my medicine and, when I had it, therapy. And, finally, I want to point out that I am not a mental health or healthcare professional – the highest certification I have in the area is a mental health first aid certification. Despite not being a pro, I’m a huge mental health and mental health care advocate.
I think those things are important to say in big, bold letters to protect both myself and yourselves. You deserve to know what you’re getting into! So with that, here are the worksheets – I hope they give you some support! Feel free to copy, share, modify, do whatever you need. Where possible or sensible, I’ve added where the inspiration for the worksheet came from.
Note: The worksheets are compiled into one workbook .pdf at the end of this post! It’s downloadable from there, if you wish.
It’s been a tough two months. I’ve been juggling overtime, doctor appointments, a painful breakup, travel planning, budget planning, friends moving away, difficulty finding a therapist, staying in touch with family in other states, a COVID resurgence, cat care, plant care, and my own daily care. Some days I wake up energized and ready to take this opportunity at change that the world has forced me into; other days, I barely get out of bed on time.
I know it’s a cliché by now, but having a comfortable home-base environment has made a huge difference as it feels like the way my life was burns up around me. It’d be hard to try and rise like a phoenix from the ashes without a safe place.
I’m a plants, candles, and Christmas lights kind of girl. I’m also a big proponent of reading and comfort sitcoms. So for fun, and because I bet there’s someone out there who could use some ideas or affirmation, here’s a list of what’s comforted me lately:
Witnessing my plants thriving
Local events & plant shops
Creating: especially using clay and Posca pens
Spending quality time with myself (reading, artist dates, trail walks)
I like to do things with my hands. I like dirt under my fingernails, and gently pruning dead leaves off plants with my fingers. But there comes a time when certain things need actual tools. And I mean, is it really any less personal? Tool use is a hallmark of primates (although, there are non-primate species that use tools as well, including some birds). And there are some things where using a specially-made tool is going to be better for the plant and require me to do less vacuuming after I spill soil all over the livingroom rug.
Now, I said this set was specifically for succulents, but I think it’ll be useful for any small plantings around the house. In particular, the two green tools (dibber and widger) will help to gently settle small plantings into soil, and of course the tweezers, pruning shears, and magnifying glass can help across the entire apartment garden.
So, what is each tool for? And how have I used them so far? Read on!
By the way, you’ll notice not a whole lot of rooting – apparently that’s normal, to see the rosette form more strongly than the root structure for a while. Once there’s more roots, I’ll be planting this little one more soundly.
I got this to (1) check up closely on any potential pests on my plants, and (2) keep a closer eye on the forming root structure on my jade propagate.
The immediate reason for these is that my catnip could use a good, healthy pruning. You’ve seen how it was doing – it’s looking much better, but there’s a section that’s beyond redemption.
So, the section beyond saving came off, as well as some deadened leaves.
Of course, pruning shears are a pretty basic gardening necessity anyway, so I was happy to buy them. I also want to cut back my orchid as its flowering season ends, so it was the perfect time to make this purchase.
The dibber is the long, green, cone-like tool. I used it earlier to aerate the soil of for the catnip (the goal was greater surface area subjected to air ➜ letting the soil dry out more efficiently) and gently press the weakened roots of the catnip back into the soil. I did this at the same time I was pruning. You can and should watch Sunshine & Succlent’s video on how to use this tool to plant baby succulents and cacti.
You can see below how post-pruning and post-dibber, the catnip looks more upright and better set in the pot.
The squeeze bottle gives me more control than a traditional watering can or spray bottle, and keeps the soil moist for longer than a spray bottle spritz. I’m using this for my tinier plantings, such as my not-doing-so-well mystery plant and my jade propagate. For the jade propagate I still lift it off the soil, then squeeze water in, then replace the plant on top.
The brush is a gentle way to get excess dirt or dust off of a plant’s leaves. Today, I’m going to use it to brush some of the dirt that’s settled into the depressions in my echeveria’s leaves.
It’s a pretty straightforward gardening tool: gently brush off what needs to be brushed off, with a small brush made for small plants.
First of all, you can’t tell me “widger” doesn’t sound like either a position on the Quidditch field or a British insult. This little guy is used to gently pluck out seedlings or succulent propagates, as well as to hold them steady while soil is added around them.
That scoopy-looking end can also, of course, be used as an even smaller scoop than the one the kit comes with.
And here’s that scoop that the kit comes with.
This can be used in tandem with the widger to easily add toil or a topper of little rocks to a small pot with a baby succulent. It’s also good just generally to add soil to a pot while indoors – much less messy than using a big red solo cup or my hands, which I’ve done in the past.
The kit came with two types of tweezer: a bent tweezer, and a straight tweezer. Supposedly, bent tweezers have the weaker grip, so for jobs that need an extra-gentle hand I’d use that pair. For other jobs, I can just use the straight pair.
And by “jobs” I mean removing leaves from succulents, especially. Because of the nature of succulent leaves, it’s cleaner and easier to take off dead leaves or leaves you want to propagate with a tweezer than pruning shears.
Plus, it’s easier to reach into the bottom layers with a tweezer – think how tough it would be to try and cut off a dead leaf from the bottom layer of an echeveria plant! What a pain. With tweezers, you don’t have to reach all the way to the petiole – you can just grip the available leaf end and gently wiggle the succulent leaf until it pops off.
This is the first time I’ve gone to the dermatologist and not had to have some part of my skin cut off. It’s an experience like no other; going in covered in wet fear, sweat, waiting for scalpels and diagnoses that don’t come. It’s relief you didn’t even know you were waiting for.
Living in a neighborhood where no one looks like you is freeing. These people could be my friends. I could be their friend, too, and we could open doors for each other and embrace each other like we’ve never had. Or at least, maybe like I’ve never had.
Running into old friends after two years of ethereal silence – a silent world outside but a screaming, chaotic world on the television; a world that promised to get better as you got older and only got worse, or at least, got unexpected. The linear “you’ll-have-friends-for-life-from-college” got broken into snippets, and maybe it wasn’t a pandemic but just a world of gray that you were promised was black and white and would only get more black and white. You’d rather have been promised the grays; maybe you’d be less angry.
And, I must sneak in an update on my very resilient catnip plant: (thank you for reading my writing)
When I came back from my break, some of my houseplants were not doing well. In particular,
The catnip was browning and extremely droopy;
The celery had several yellowing and droopy stalks and very wet soil;
The catnip was almost completely crushed and browned;
the prayer plant looked weak and definitely had kitty cat tooth holes;
the mystery plant is almost completely wilted and browned.
I’m trying hard not to be annoyed and heartbroken by this and instead focusing on what I can do to help the plants. So let’s talk TLC.
The wheatgrass has been given a similar regimen – more regular than usual watering and a watchful eye. As for the celery, for now I’m just keeping a close eye on it; with soil as wet as it was, I don’t want to overwater even though celery can take and likes a lot of water.
The most important lesson here is getting to know your plants – what they like, what they dislike, and what they look like when healthy or unhealthy. My relationship with each plant I live with is what’s helping me know how to give them the specific rejuvenation each needs.
I don’t have any good pictures of how the catnip looked when I first arrived home – it was completely disheveled, drooping, and browned. It seemed only weakly situated in it’s soil, and when I first watered it most of the water filtered right on through – I doubt the roots got much at all.
On the left is how it’s looking after 6 days of extra-special care, i.e. careful and near-daily watering, organic pet-safe fertilizer, open windows for fresh air, and a close eye. You can see some leaves look full and green again, and it’s starting to show some lift!
Now, the prayer plant was actually relatively well-off. It did seem a little unhappy, but I simply refilled the powerless humidifiers next to it, which were empty, and pruned any dead leaves. It’s been moving better now (remember: prayer plants are called such because they fold up into prayer-hands position each and every night! it’s incredible to see!)
But now, the ultimate heartbreak – so sad to me that I didn’t even include a picture in the opening post collage.
The little mystery plant I’ve raised since it sprouted, which survived being pulled out from the roots by my cat, is really not doing well. It really isn’t even standing, and the watering I’ve been giving it hasn’t seemed to help. I don’t want to move it out of the bright sunlight because it’s thrived there in the past, but I may have to as it seems extremely dehydrated.
In better news, my two basil propagates are doing incredibly well, as is my jade propagate, my orchid, and all the other plants (knock wood).
(FYI, the orchid may look browning and droopy, but I’ve talked to some more experienced orchid gardeners and they said that’s normal – the flowers will drop and you can trim the spike; so long as the roots are “bright green and pliable”, as this website says and my sources concurred, you’re good!)
I’m just back from vacation, and every time I take a break from my most recent “normal flow” like this I’m amazed at how much of a difference it makes in decreasing burnout and staying my emotions.
My week was spent mostly down the beach, celebrating friends’ birthdays, a wedding, and meeting my sort-of nieces. That’s the “quality time” piece from the title: spending time with the people I love, at a place I love, makes a bigger difference to me than I can describe. I know it’s cliché but the beach is a paradise.
The biggest, most important thing that I’ve started doing for myself is not trying to over-structure quality time. I like to plan things, outings, adventures, but some of the best things happen unplanned.
For instance, that rainbow you see above? My best friend and I got stuck on the beach in the pouring rain. It wasn’t a “perfect beach day” but it’ll go down as one of my best summertime memories. And, yeah, it’s a double rainbow!
I would be remiss if I didn’t consider some by-the-shore biology. This little evergreen is lovingly named Fred; I got him from our local conservation efforts a few years ago. They were giving away saplings for free for locals to plant in their yards; scrub pines, like what we think Fred is, are locals of our beachy neighborhood. I’m so appreciative of the conservatory for helping promote planting these guys!
Now, my dad things Fred might not be a scrub pine because of his shape – I’m still awaiting a verdict! Either way, he’s a shore native.
Now you might be thinking, hey, you mentioned invasive species? Let’s talk spotted lanternflies. These guys are very pretty, and very invasive. But I’m not here to discuss their merits or their beauty; I want to talk about the facts of invasive species themselves.
What are “invasive species”?
An invasive species is one that is not native to an area it is found in. Think murder hornets*, rockfish, and of course, the spotted lanternfly. These species are native to somewhere, just not the area they’ve proliferated in.
The lanternfly, for example, is native to Asia but has been spotted in Pennsylvania in the United States. And, in fact, I saw at least one dead on a beach in New Jersey. (Only one was intact enough for me to be sure of what it was.)
*personally, I think it might be a bit early to refer to murder hornets as invasive to the US. But that’s a conversation for another place and time.
Where do invasive species come from?
A species outside of its “natural” range can be an invasive species – or, it can not be. Consider that as time progresses on a geological scale, species shift may shift their niches and physical locations. Think: evolution.
Change in location alone does not an invasive species make. According to National Geographic,
“To be invasive, a species must adapt to the new area easily. It must reproduce quickly. It must harm property, the economy, or the native plants and animals of the region. Many invasive species are introduced into a new region accidentally.”
That last part – “Many invasive species are introduced into a new region accidentally” – is incredibly important to the definition of invasive species, I think. Would we call a species that shifts locations over geological time periods and outcompetes species already in its new location “invasive”? Probably not. We’d call that evolution, adaptation. Invasive species are introduced on a quicker time scale and affect a location on a quicker time scale. In fact, they’re introduced by human activity.
What’s the matter with invasive species?
Like many biological concerns, the issue with invasive species has to do with timescale and human action. Notice the words in the definition Nat Geo gives: easily, quickly; property, economy. And as mentioned, invasive species are transported to new areas by people, whether on purpose or by mistake.
Invasive species pose a threat to the environments they invade. If an organism isn’t native to an area, it likely won’t have any predators in that area allowing it a route to easily outcompete local native species. Sometimes an invasive species can pick up a niche in an environment that is currently unoccupied. Invasive species don’t always have to decimate local populations.
To be invasive, a species must adapt to the new area easily. It must reproduce quickly. It must harm property, the economy, or the native plants and animals of the region. Many invasive species are introduced into a new region accidentally.
The specific issue with the spotted lanternfly is that it threatens crops and other plants in the United States. There’s nothing naturally here to fight them off. Citizens of Pennsylvania who see their eggs are encouraged to “help by 1) scraping the eggs off the tree or smooth surface, 2) placing the sample in alcohol or hand sanitizer in a leak-proof container, and 3) submitting the sample to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Entomology lab for verification” (Entomology Today).
Of course, over long epochs new species that spread can also decimate original populations without human assistance. Imagine if a wolf adapted more quickly to hunt humans in a small rural village than the humans could adapt to outrun or outfight the wolf; that would destroy the village population. But evolution takes time, and I mean time.
What can/should we do about invasive species?
I find this an interesting question. It’s pretty much always encouraged to destroy invasive populations. For example, where rockfish have invaded seafood-loving locals are encouraged to order rockfish off the menu. Pennsylvanians are encouraged to kill lanternfly eggs. But I ask: if we caused the problem, why are we blaming the invaders? It’s not like they came here on their own, looking to invade. We carried them here, somehow or other.
I know it sounds hippy-dippy, and I do understand the important of well-balanced ecosystems (duh). However I find it interesting and telling that a problem we ourselves caused is solved by what in any other circumstance fits the definition of cruelty. Especially in the case of the lanternfly, where we aren’t even killing them for the use of eating them; although, arguably, we are killing them to eat by protecting food crops. It’s all complicated.
And, moving on finally from non-native species, my last two vacation reminisces: here is the terrarium my dad and I put together years ago, including a plant in the jade family, a cactus, and aloe – look at the size!
And I finally got myself a set of Posca pens – here’s where the “sci fi podcast” element comes in. I’ve been listening to Night Vale, and gosh am I enjoying it. I had heard of it when it first started up, but honestly forgot until my best friend brought it up. I’ve started doodling some things inspired by the show, including a Radon Canyon poster. ✿
who needs porn when there’s real estate listings & pinterest?
Okay, but seriously. I spend a lot of time looking at dream houses, funky furniture, and color inspiration. So here are some room design ideas centered around plants that I put together for fun! Enjoy.
But first, inspiration from my own apartment:
Yes, that’s right, I’m inspired by the apartment that I set up. Sounds self-centered, but people deserve to love the places they live. I set up a home that comforts and inspires my every day.
And so, with that:
This first grouping above was inspired by that piece of floral tapestry at the center.
This group above was inspired by a palette I made on coolors. (If you haven’t picked up on this already, I love color.)
But my favorite color combination of all time and in all contexts, is black, white, and red – sometimes with a splash of mossy green:
Decorating and picking out funky furniture is just something I enjoy. And, plants liven up any room, no matter the style! ✿
It’s been a rough week emotionally, mentally, and at this point also physically. So I bought myself a prayer plant as some self care, and I’m getting deep into learning about it and my two bloodleaf plants (that’s right, it’s two now – read on for how that happened) who need a little TLC.
So about a month ago I bought a bloodleaf plant from a local shop, but it wasn’t doing so well after a few days at home. When I went to repot it, it turned out to need separation – so now I have two bloodleaf plants.
One stayed in a southern-facing window.
The other went in an eastern-facing window.
They look better than they had, but neither still looks all that happy. Upon learning more about these plants and talking to my dad, it seems since they’re just babies they might benefit from more indirect light. They also need better humidity, as does that new prayer plant I mentioned – so I purchased some ‘humidity stones’ (which haven’t come yet) and moved them all to the same spot near, but not in, a southern window.
Now, I don’t want this setup to be permanent. What I plan to do is let them be here for now with some gentler light and love, then when the humidity stones come separating them with the bloodleafs both in an eastern window with one of the stones, and the prayer plant where it is with the other stone. I like the aesthetics of that better, plus I don’t want to crowd this shelf because my cat likes to sit by the prayer plant. Thing is though, grouping plants can be good for them – we’ll see what the best move is.
Now, in somewhat unrelated news, you’ll notice my tiny basil propagate in that old Starbucks glass. I was worried at first because it looked droopy, but look at it’s root structure now!
I mean, okay, it makes sense. I’d be droopy too if someone pulled me off of the rest of my body and stuck me somewhere by myself. (As if.)
But seriously, I’m proud of this little dude.
Prayer Plant Factoids
It’s called a ‘prayer plant’ because it’s leaves fold up at night, like praying hands! Good to know, because I thought it wasn’t doing well!
They’re native to South America but are named after an Italian botanist.
My prayer plant is specifically a ‘lemon lime prayer plant’.
They like somewhat acidic soil, indirect light, regular room temperatures, and high humidity.
They’re pretty sensitive to chemicals in the water. So, I’m going to start using distilled water for them and probably all of my plants, and I’m going to try to figure out a good way to collect rainwater.
Subsequently, I’d like to thank this commenter for commenting this on this video. I sure hope I do a good job with my prayer plant, but I have a thriving Calathea in my apartment so I trust I can care for a Maranta.
Bloodleaf plants are also, like prayer plants, native to South America.
They have lots of other common names besides bloodleaf, including chicken gizzard and beefsteak.
They don’t need tons of sun and do well in warm, humid places. This makes me think I’m just going to move both of my little dudettes back to the bathroom to be with my Calathea.
I wasn’t sure if my bloodleaf is this exact species, as mine doesn’t have those characteristic purple-red leaves but rather has green leaves with purple-red veinage.
From reading it seems that there are a lot of varieties of herbstii though. I genuinely don’t know what mine is – I’m still seeking answers!
Chlorophyll’s empirical chemical formula is C55H72MgN4O5. That’s
So yeah, not a small molecule by any sense!
Chlorophyll is the photosynthesis molecule. More scientifically, it’s a green pigment and is actually a name for more than one molecule – there are different kinds of chlorophyll with different chains of atoms on them.
Personally, I think the coolest thing about chlorophylls and other pigments is how the beautiful color they endow is intimately connected with something’s energy. When something is visible as a color it’s because the chemical make up of that something reflects that color of light. So green light isn’t absorbed by green leaves – it’s reflected. Red light is well absorbed by plant leaves, and so it’s actually the energy of red light that best helps plants make their own food inside themselves. That’s some impressive energy.