Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Basil Indicator

ProfessorRoush is, at times, an incredibly bad gardener of houseplants.  I am usually able to keep them alive, but, with the exception of an occasional Pothos sp., they don't often thrive under my care.  There is, for example, an infamous episode some years ago during a period when I had approximately 20 thriving orchids and 10 Christmas cacti, all of which would even occasionally bloom.  I adjusted the thermostat when we left for a Christmas vacation and we came home a week later to find that I'd accidentally shut the heat off and the house was hovering at 33ºF.  Not a single orchid survived the episode.  The Christmas cacti sulked for a bit, but eventually decided to give me a second chance. 

I restrict myself these days to Zygocactus and Pothos.  Occasional gifted houseplants and the annual poinsettias are held prisoner and then offered as sacrificial lambs to the houseplant gods to curry their favor in the direction of my Christmas cacti.  In place of the ceremonial altar and a flint knife, I have substituted benign neglect and the arid, desert-like humidity of the natural Kansas environment, watering only when I see signs of wilt.

That practice has not been kind to the mandarin orange and lemon tree that Mrs. ProfessorRoush insisted I add to our floral menagerie.  Both trees spend their summers outdoors on the porch, where it is moderately humid and I frequently forget to water them. They spend their winters indoors where the humidity is very low and I frequently forget to water them. 

Recently, I noticed that my fairly spindly orange tree was wilting at the top (above).  "Wait a minute," I thought, "orange leaves don't wilt; they yellow and fall off."  And indeed, on a closer look, I recognized there was a second stem in the pot; a spindly sun-starved basil that presumably was an offspring from one of our herbs, which also spend summers in pots on the back porch.  You can see the second stem better here at the left.

I'm certainly not going to root up this volunteer.  If a weed is just a plant in the wrong place, this "weed" is in the right place.  Mrs. Basil has done me a favor by going to seed and placing an offspring here in this pot to be nurtured.  The rest of the winter, I think I'll just watch the basil as an indicator for watering this pot and the lemon tree next to it.  Maybe both trees will now have a better chance to live to see another spring.  Besides, the basil smells so good.   

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad to hear another gardener is not so much with the houseplants! Not sure what it is, but I just can't get excited about gardening indoors. Congratulations on keeping Christmas cactus going. I love the look, but cannot seem to get any color out of them once the initial purchased blooms are spent. I'm sure it's something to do with lack of patience. So far, the seed catalogs provide my winter gardening "fix"!


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