A few of you have asked me for my top tips for keeping plants healthy. In my previous post, I mentioned being careful about over-watering (just don’t do it!), re-potting and moving plants around to give them a new lease on life. The other thing I regularly do for all my plants (except for Eugene, coz fuck that guy) is to wipe their leaves clean from time to time. Dust (or in our case, sand) accumulating on leaves actually prevents plants from being able to photosynthesise, which can then lead to all sorts of problems. I like to get some kitchen towel and sit down next to my babies and chat to them as I gently wipe their beautiful leaves clean. Sure, it can be a little time consuming, but it’s also a special time, a time to bond and to just be with each other.
Speaking of plant love, shamed by the revelation of my blatant disregard for one of my own plant babies, I’ve spent the last month trying to get to know Sally. Just giving her a bit of my attention. I haven’t been the best mother to her, in the past. But I want to change. I’ve tried to change. It’s taken her a little while, but I think she’s starting to open up to me. She’s starting to come around.
Chester is a Monstera adansonii, commonly known as a monkey mask Monstera. I bought him in a supermarket, where, surprisingly, most of our healthiest plants were purchased. Nearly all the plants that have perished under my guardianship were bought in nurseries, so I don’t really bother shopping at garden centres anymore. Chester and I went through a bit of a difficult patch for a few months because, for some inexplicable reason, I kept calling him Charlie. It didn’t quite feel right, but he didn’t correct me either, so I’d say we’re both a little bit to blame for that nonsense. Yes, it was awkward for a while, but we’re back on speaking terms now.
Peter is a Ficus elastica, also known as a rubber plant. These guys have always appealed to me because I remember having one in our flat when I was a small child. Peter isn’t a fancy kind of plant, and he’s always been an easy baby. I think he’s pretty content to stay in the background and let the other kids steal all the limelight. However, he is currently growing some beautiful new dark green, shiny leaves, which simply delight me (so maybe he is a little bit of a showpony after all). When his new leaves pop out of their sheaths and unfurl into existence, I like to give them a little kiss to welcome them into the world (yes, I am affectionate with my children; probably the same way that you are with yours, so… whatevs).
Bill is a trendy Ficus lyrata, more commonly known as a fiddle leaf fig. I swear to god, you can’t even open a design magazine these days without seeing one of these hipsters sprucing up an interior. In fact, when my sisters and I were styling our family home to put on the market a couple of years ago, we went out and bought one of these guys to zhuzh up the house.
I very distinctly remember the day that Bill was delivered to our apartment. David and I had gone out with a friend that afternoon and… hmm, let’s just say we’d had a little bit to drink. When Bill arrived, I popped him onto the dining room table to admire him, and as soon as I turned my back, perhaps threatened by all the attention I was lavishing onto the newcomer, David decided to establish dominance by taking a large bite out of one of Bill’s beautiful, crinkly leaves. I was not impressed, and promptly slapped a restraining order on David, which stands to this day! He has visitation rights, but only when I’m at home to supervise. And Bill still bears the scar of the bite mark on his lower leaf. Whenever he gets self conscious about it, I like to show him my own scars and tell him that it gives him character. Parenting 101.
Ivy is a golden pothos, just like my work-kid LuLu, who you met last time. For a while she was marooned in a land-bound pot, while I conducted high level negotiation talks with David to please, please, please let me hang some macramé pots from the ceiling. Eventually he relented and drilled some hooks into our ceiling from which to hang the kinds of plants that like to hang around. Ivy absolutely fucking loves hanging around. She has grown so unbelievably fast since we put her up there, and some of her tendrils are now almost three metres long. I have grand plans to trail her branches all around the living room, which is actually possible because they can grow up to 12 metres long. Jungle living, bitches!!!
Lou is an Asplenium nidus, also known as a bird’s nest fern because they grow out of a central, fuzzy rosette that looks like … you guessed it, a bird’s nest. Lou prefers to be referred to by the pronouns they/them, and we fully support that. They were a land-based plant for a little while, but after I convinced David to screw the holes in the ceiling, we hung them up and they’ve burgeoned ever since. In this photo you can see a brand new baby frond unfurling. Tell me it’s not breathtaking!!!
The Tommy’s are (ostensibly) tomato plants. These weirdos are actually freaks of nature. I planted some of my Mum’s heirloom tomato plant seeds in October of last year, and a few of them sprouted leaves. But I must have fucked up the timing, because these guys haven’t grown at all since then. But they’re not dead, either. The three that have survived have literally been this size for the last nine months. It’s bizarre. It’s like they’re in some kind of stasis, and I’m here for it. I’m trying to keep them alive long enough for them to make it through summer, and maybe then they’ll start growing again? Who the fuck knows. I’m just winging it here, people, flying by the seat of my pants. This is completely new territory for me. Also: maybe science??
Aziz is a Zamioculcas zamiifolia, also known as a ZZ plant. These guys are super duper low maintenance, which is why you’ll frequently see them growing quite happily under the bright, artificial light of malls and office buildings. And that’s exactly what I love about Aziz – he is quite comfy sitting in the darker areas of the house, where a lot of other plants would suffer from the lack of light. I’d been on the lookout for a ZZ for a really long time, and when I saw this charmer in IKEA one afternoon I literally jumped for joy. He’s gorgeous, isn’t he? I think the other plants get jealous of him sometimes because he sits in a spot I walk past frequently, so I’m always giving him a high five or whispering, “Yo Aziz, whaddup!” The other plants need to get over it.
Shane is a Peperomia obtusifolia, also known as a baby rubber plant. She’s one of the OG flora we bought when we first moved to Dubai. She’s been with us a long time, and I don’t think any of the other plants will be surprised to hear me say that she’s my favourite. We’ve been through a lot together; a lot of years, man. She’s moved house with us, twice. And, I’m not embarrassed to say that she spent a short stint in a foster home when David and I went to Australia for a few weeks in 2016. Our friends Nat and Andy did a wonderful job of looking after her because when she came back home she started growing like CRAZY!!! Perhaps the change of scenery triggered a growth spurt? Who knows. What I do know is that she started overflowing her pot with this beautiful, lush, dark green leafery, cascading down the side, a luxuriant waterfall of frondescence.
Last year I gave her a haircut. I think it makes her look younger and more youthful, and it’s definitely easier for her to manage. And despite being the grande dame of the bunch, she’s still growing new baby leaves, like a plant half her age. Shane is a great example of a babe that doesn’t need too much attention to thrive. In the 12 years we’ve had her, I’ve never repotted her. And I only water her once a month. I hope that what I’m doing keeps working and that she sticks around for a long time because I just love looking at her, chatting to her, touching her and waking up every morning to see her at the foot of my bed. I’m used to having her around, and I love her.
Vera is an Aloe vera, also known as aloe vera. I knicked a little cutting from the walking track behind our apartment a couple of years ago and she grows like she’s on steroids. We have to keep cutting her back as she frequently outgrows her pot. I like having her around because her gel reportedly has amazing healing properties, not least of which as a soothing gel to apply to sunburnt skin. I can actually vouch for this one, as I got quite a nasty burn last year and the only thing that made me feel better was fresh aloe vera gel.
Richard is an Ixora coccinea, also known as a jungle geranium. We bought him when we first moved into this apartment, just over five years ago. He could probably do with a little more care, but guess what? I’m the inside plant parent. Outside is David’s domain. I’m not laying any blame here. Dubai’s “outside” is horrendously hot and inhospitable for most of the year, and any plant that can survive for five years on our balcony is a fucking superhero in my eyes. In fact, David has done a remarkable job of keeping all the outdoor plants alive. While Richard definitely looks less vital than when we first got him, he still flowers quite abundantly during the winter months which is just glorious to behold, and which must mean that even though he’s a little bit abused, he probably likes it?
LOLI, ELLIE & BARB
These assholes are Yucca gloriosas, also known as Spanish daggers. As you can see we treat them like absolute shit, and they repay us by brutally stabbing us every opportunity they get. We get along just fine. As long as David keeps trimming and watering them (coz I won’t go anywhere near the bastards unless I absolutely have to), and as long as they don’t perforate our eardrums or skewer our eyeballs (which are apparently amongst the more common injuries inflicted by these shitheads) then they can stay.