Growing Gardener

Chapter 2–Memorial Mug

            In my brief tenure as a gardener, I have discovered a love for planting in unconventional containers. Vases and Terra-cotta pots have their own beauty, but I lean towards the quirky personalization of planting in something that wasn’t meant for soil or roots. And when that something has special significance to you, it becomes even more satisfying to see a living plant thriving inside it.

This past January, my father passed away. Even though he was a diabetic with failing kidneys, we expected him to be around for many more years. He was on dialysis and his doctors were optimistic. Needless to say, his death shocked our family. After someone dies, you learn more about yourself and the person you lost. Those revelations are for another day. To be honest, I’m not quite done going through that process. But it has been comforting that have things around that remind me of Dad.

My parents have been divorced since I was about four years old, so I was surprised when Mom called me in mid-March to tell me that she had an item that reminded her of Dad. In my last post, I mentioned Mom’s love of antiques. She’s got a special fondness for silver pieces. There’s an ornate tray on top of her commode with a small vase, a jar that hold cotton balls, and a baby cup that she used to hold Q-tips–all antique silver. After years of neither of us paying particular attention to the items beyond their aesthetic appeal, Mom realized that the baby cup had Dad’s initials engraved across the front in plain script. She asked me if I’d like to have it, and when I said yes, she suggested planting some kind of shade plant as a positive reminder.

Mom promised to bring out the baby cup when she visited me in May and even purchased a little fern that fit perfectly. Unfortunately, you can’t bring plants on a plane, so the fern she bought had to remain back in St. Louis. Part of our agenda for her visit became finding a small shade plant at a nursery. En route to a fabulous used bookstore, we stumbled upon M&M nursery, an equally fabulous place to find a variety of plant life.

M&M nursery was a fun little oasis to explore, with a friendly and knowledgeable staff. We quickly found a pink and white petite fern that would be quite happy in the baby cup. Despite Dad’s initials being present on the cup, it’s a girl plant. I’m weird about naming objects both animate and inanimate; I’ll spend quite a long time trying to figure out just the right name. Thus, there is a pink plant in my bathroom named Vanessa. Who actually needs to be watered…

Chapter 3–A Touch of Whimsy

                Something about miniatures increases the cute factor. Witness, toy breeds and tiny bottles of wine. They’re freaking enchanting. And really, really hard to resist. This whole green thumb thing kind of spiraled out of control after finding M&M nursery.

While on the hunt for a plant that would suit the baby cup, I became absorbed with the nursery’s Wonka-like aura of wonder. There were moss capped stumps of bleached wood made to look like toadstools. Teeny tiny trees with white rose buds reminiscent of the Queen of Heart’s garden blooms. Porcelain figures trapped under an errant wine glass in a picnic basket garden. Multiple miniature gardens all with an invitation to play and dream.

M&M specializes in fairy gardens; they even teach classes in how to craft them. The gardens ranged from sprawling miniature cities to fairies perched on a soup ladle. I instantly loved the idea of creating my own, but realized I didn’t have the outdoor space to support a large garden. I’m also renting, which means that what outdoor space I do have isn’t truly mine. Plus, there’s the moving factor. Carting an extensive garden cross country if I have to move in the next year or so just isn’t practical.  I had nearly convinced myself that it was impossible, until I reached the checkout counter. Next to the register was a smaller scale garden in a rounded glass vase–an indoor terrarium complete with winged fairy. Once again, I talked myself into this.

That night, Mom and I journeyed to Michael’s, where she helped me pick out a 160 oz. brandy snifter. The next day we returned to M&M and picked out five small shade loving plants, including a tiny ivy vine. Each of the plants selected should be good indoors, receiving enough diffused sunlight from the kitchen window to keep them happy.

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My five shade loving plants.

Upon the recommendation of one of the chief fairy gardeners I bought a medium sized bag of both peat moss and perlite, along with a small baggie of charcoal. The ratio needed is 2:1 peat moss to perlite, with a few tablespoons of charcoal thrown in to eliminate odor and keep the garden fresh.

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            To fill my 160 oz brandy snifter, I ended up using 3 cups of peat moss and 2 cups of perlite, mixing in the soil that came with the plants to re-balance the ratio. I added two spoonfuls of charcoal to complete the mixture.

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                     The hardest part of shopping at M&M nursery was the limited space I had to work with. There were so many cool things it was hard to limit my purchases. They had hobbit-esque houses, miniature tea sets, unicorns, hedgehogs, margaritas…how am I supposed to make these kinds of choices??? On a side note, I’m convinced I’ll have to seasonally redecorate. There was a set of mini skeleton mariachis for goodness sake!

But I digress. After prowling around the nursery, I settled on a trellis for the ivy to grow on, three white rabbits, a porcelain piglet (Mom and I had a huge debate over barnyard vs. forest creatures, but I couldn’t let the little piglet go. His name, if you were interested, is Winston), and a curtsying little chalk fairy.

First I put a baseline of the soil mixture in the snifter and got the trellis situated. The ivy went in first so I could wind its vines through the slats. The other plants were staged to create a diverse look of colors and textures.

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                    The finishing touch was placing the fairy, bunnies, and Winston, the wee pouting piglet.

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The final product

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Aerial view

I love having my little fairy garden in the kitchen, but I fear it may only be a gateway fairy garden. I could see these turning into Christmas presents for friends, or a larger scale garden for myself when the outdoor space is available. Strangely, I haven’t yet landed on a name for the pink fey.  Any suggestions?

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