Indoor-Outdoor: Carpeting the house with plants

The last three weeks has been the slow labor of dragging the potted plants indoors–scratching floors, dropping leaves and leaving trails of disgusting, plant-tray water.

I don't have tons of plants that summer outdoors, but what I have are good-sized suckers. Above is the hibiscus–a donation from a friend. The photo is deceitful–this is the only flower on the entire 8' tall plant that has about 1/16th of its leaves. And the ones that are there, are yellow. The above also photo satisfies my obligatory November Garden Bloggers Bloom Day post.

To the left are the two ficus. They're both planted in large crocks picked up at estate sales. The tree in the foreground is the son of the one in the background. I planted a branch of the store-bought father with some rooting powder a few years ago and had more of an opportunity to encourage it to have a single trunk. Plant coasters are the only way to handle these bad boys. Father plant has seen better days. I need to do some extreme pruning and get him outside next summer. He stayed indoors this year. The comparison between father & son is shocking. You'd think he was adopted.

The next two are two neighbor plants, both huddled near one of the few windows that gets filtered light. The pencil plant was a cutting from a friend last year. It LOVED being outdoors and seems happy here.

The cactus was a going away gift from a photographer from the early '90s. He was staying, I was moving. My job had me take a position in Rochester, NY against my will, better judgment, and wife. Turned out to be short-lived–but the cactus lived on! It doesn't get lots of light but has been in this spot for seven years and doesn't complain. He stays inside during the summer, though next year I think he could use a summer away. The orange blob next to it are the Chinese lanterns brought indoors and dried from last years' garden.

Some of these plants I've had so long I don't remember where they came from. Maybe in my zeal, I brought in a few of my neighbor's plants over the years. Many have gotten too big for their pots and if they have they get bigger pots–or divided. So now I have two of most plants. This winter at some point I'll be dividing again. Then I'll have four of each, then, next year eight. When does it all end?

To the left is a pot that had some tropical-looking, store-bought plant in it. For a winter I kept throwing avocado pits in the dirt–straight from the avocado–no toothpicks in water for us. As you can see, the avocados (guacamole trees) are very healthy and happy and do much of their growth in the summer outdoors, overtaking the plant that was in the pot originally.

Hey–did you ever burn dried avocado leaves? I had some dead brown leaves on the floor last year and threw them in the fire place. My wife came downstairs asking what the hell I was doing. The house had filled with the very strong and very distinct smell of pot. I can't imagine what the neighborhood thought as the smell went up the chimney and outside for all to enjoy. Good times. Good times.

Does the fern sculpture to the left count? It was created by local artist Paul Gallo. I've had it for about seven years. I take that outdoors in the summer too. It is wonderfully rusty and will catch any fabric that comes within three inches of it. Outdoors it looks great mixed in with the live plants.

I do have one fake plant. My father-in-law hates the look of kitchen upper cabinets that do not go to the ceiling. It's sort of a joke, but for Christmas a few years back, he gave me the basket of plastic greenery. You can see it to the right, on the cupboard above the refrigerator. I've got to admit, it fills a hole.

I don't keep any plants on my second floor. I tried, but found I am extremely unreliable and irresponsible when it comes to watering–especially those farthest from a water source. Fortunately, I am acutely aware of my inadequacies.

This post was inspired by Elizabeth's post on Garden Rant, Behind Closed Doors. She's got a plant room in her house (hope it's near a source of water). And she's got an office of plants with a plant maintenance company on retainer. I don't have either of those luxuries. So I pick up dead leaves every day in every room.

Did you get all your plants in before the first frost? I lost one Swedish ivy this year (above). Laziness on my part.


  1. Jim .. you have some beauties here. I am a huge fan of indoor plants (especially this time of year .. garden withdrawal and all ..) in any case .. I keep my indoor plants in the kitchen .. akak "my office" I think they have a positive affect on the family and for me ..the fake plant thing for you is hilarious : ) LOL

  2. You have quite the plant colletion. I love the provenance you've provided for your favorites!

    I don't do "indoors" very well. I have a spathe that manages to survive in my kitchen window because I can use the sprayer to water it! I am toying with the idea of growing Hoya! :-)


  3. I realize this is about plants, but I just want to say you have used some wonderful paint colors in your house. Each room better than the last. And, though your daughter's pictures are cute, Snow White is a knockout!

  4. Joy,
    Plants in the kitchen just wouldn't be enough for me. Although my theory that a plant (with me) has a better chance the closer it is to a water source, those wold be the healthiest.

    I like my plants, like my artwork, to have a story. Like the plants, all the art on the walls I have a provenance, usually by people I know or have met.

    Ms, Wis.
    Thank you. Friends call our house the cartoon castle. We spent a good chunk of time choosing the right colors. Not many can get away with having a yellow living room next to two-tone purple dining room leading to a kitchen with a metallic-persimmon wall.

    And good eye with the Snow White poster. It is a 1937 original. After our house, it is the most expensive thing we own (worth more than the two cars - combined). My father-in-law took it from a movie house just after the movie first aired. It was hanging in my wife's basement while growing up. When her parents went to sell the house they offered to let her to go through the "garage sale junk" before hand. They had this poster marked for $5. My wife wanted it for sentimental reasons. It's now worth upwards from $60,000, last we checked.

  5. I love the wall colors in your home! So warm and inviting and a great backdrop for your plants. I did drag some in and left a few outside to freeze. So it goes...

  6. Yikes!! $60,000!! I'm glad you're living with it instead of keeping it in the vault.

  7. Layanee,
    Thanks. Same as outdoors, I don't think the green can clash with anything. Well, according to the Barenaked Ladies, "A real green dress – that's cruel."

    Ms. Wis,
    It's insured. And enjoyed.

  8. Well, I had to drop by and read about your garden adventures and am glad I did! Great blog. Very exciting and lots of interesting posts. Now I know how the "other half" (cold climate gardeners) deals with their plants during the cold season. Looks like lots of work but must be nice to have your plants up close and indoors.

  9. Shirley,
    You other half, warm-weather gardeners, don't you keep plants indoors? I'm sure you don't have to do the twice-annual dragging of the plants, but there are plants you keep indoors right?

    Though that hardly seems humane to keep plants in your climate indoors, by windows, longingly wishing to be outdoors with all their friends.

    Sounds like a sad life. Whereas my well watered & fed indoor plants get to say "Ha!" when they look outside & see dormant, leafless, naked cousins.

  10. I had over 175 plants in the house last winter. I know I have a few less this year, but it's still up there. And like you, some of mine have gotten quite large (brugmansias, for one). I usually lose a couple things throughout the winter, but most of them do fine once spring comes and they can go outside again. And I'm ready for them to go outside, too!

  11. Kylee,
    175 plants? That would take up my whole house!

  12. Some are in the basement, under lights for the winter. The others are clustered around south and west windows. It actually doesn't look like that many, or so my visitors tell me. I can tell you it is when it comes to caring for them all!


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