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By Raquel


Back in May I was feeling a bit overwhelmed – everything – my apartment, my container garden, my own writing, my shopping and even vitamin and medicine schedule was off (I am a type 2 diabetic) and I knew that I had to get it back together again. But where to start? Everything needed attention, everything needed time. Besides my vitamin and medicine schedule, which I couldn’t put off re-organizing, I had very little energy for anything else. But whenever I thought of tackling the mess in my apartment my thoughts immediately turned to the garden. I would much rather, I thought to myself, garden, though it also means cleaning up a mess of almost a year of semi-neglect. And so I did.

The first thing I did was prune and begin watering regularly the plants that had survived until then. I also threw away the dead plants, the dead skeletons of the petunias and the hybrid geraniums that I had so enjoyed. I pruned the red impatien, which had wilted in the sun (but was still alive, my mother told me once that it is almost impossible to kill an impatien as long as you keep it watered because this is a plant that likes it damp, and it’s true, it’s re-sprouting already) and watered it to its heart’s content. I also sprayed all the plants -but especially the miniature roses – against insects, etc, and fed them the oragnic fertilizer I like to use. For months I had been using liquid Miracle Grow when I water and that kept them alive, I suppose, but I was surprised by how much better they look, especially the red begonias, since I resumed feeding them the organic fertilizer. All of a sudden they’re not just green, they’re spreading and mounding and shooting off new flowers!

I then looked critically at the pots I had left. I threw away one plastic one that was too dry and brittle to be much good, including the soil. Why the soil? Well, that was the pot that had the red miniature rose, and I am not sure exactly why the rose died…I think it was a combination of the heat, and an infestation of the soil by ants and an attack by mites/aphids…because of that, I didn’t want to re-use the soil either. In fact, I decided to replace the soil of all of the pots that were empty. It was an expensive decision (my mother would be aghast – she always mixes old soil with new soil – and finds it an incredible extravagance to change the soil the way I sometimes do – but then again, she lives in a subtropical climate and I don’t!) but worth it, because I want to make sure that the plants I buy now have the best chance of making it through the heat of summer. I bought Rabbit Hill Farms’ Big Pot Potting Mix (I love their name, it reminds me of Watership Down!) and am now on my second 5 gallon bag.

I also decided to line all the ceramic / clay pots with plastic before filling them up with soil. This was a suggestion from GoY and while I would much rather NOT use plastic, as it is not enviromentally friendly, I must admit it does wonders for helping to retain the moisture in clay pots. The ceramic / clay pots are wonderful, but they literally BAKE in the sun and dry out the plants too much…the poor roots get too hot and there goes the poor little plant to the mortuary. Sigh.

The fun part was of course, going to Wabash, my neighborhood nursery / pet store (including rabbits)/ bird store (and I mean chickens, doves, roosters) and getting the new plants: that first time I bought equinacea and the red verbena and the lilac rose geranium; another trip brought the red and yellow lantanas as well as the hot pink zinnia. I also swung by Whole Foods and came home with a pink penta that was still small enough to put in a pot, and a cherry red geranium. A white geranium was added to the garden yesterday. (I bought them cheaper than I would have because they were already looking a little wilted at Whole Foods – the trick is to buy slightly stressed plants that you can nurse back to health fairly easily, not so stressed that recovery efforts are useless…and sometimes it’s hard to tell which they are!)

Do I plan my garden? Um…not really. In this, I think, I am very latin (as my thesis advisor would have said, he’s British and his wife Italian so sometimes he would just throw up his hands in frustration and say of his wife “well. She’s latin…” which always made me smile because I had never heard that word applied to anyone outside of Latin America!), meaning that I go by emotion rather than logic when buying plants. I buy whatever catches my eye, whatever colors I’m attracted to at the moment. And this does change, for the previous two years at least I was attracted to deep purples as you can see from these pictures of my petunias and ‘Americana violet’ geranium:

Right now, I’m gravitating towards bright reds and all shades of pink, and to a lesser degree, peachy-oranges or peachy-yellows (the exception is the bright yellow lantana). The most I’m doing in terms of planning is trying to make sure that the color of the flowers don’t clash with the colors of the pots. I do try to buy plants that I know will do well on my balcony or which are supposed to be sun-tolerant and hardy. This doesn’t always work out. zinnias, for example, tend to get burned on my balcony. The same with the gerberas, until I lined that pot with plastic. All of a sudden the gerbera is doing much better…but it is a high maintenance plant for me. The portulacas, for example, are very happily low maintenance. Here you can see my love affair with pink and red in this african violet and red ‘Bullseye Cherry’ geranium:

I have toyed with the idea of doing an all-white garden which I think would look cool, but I realize that at this time I simply don’t have the discipline. I love color too much to give it up! Maybe someday, if I ever have a real garden (as in grass instead of pots) I might designate part of it as an all-white area.

For me the garden is really a creative expression and an emotional reaction to life in general and in particular, my life, of course. It has no rules. Though I will say I would like my garden to show exuberance!

Now that the garden is almost done – there are still a few gaps but I need to wait until next month to keep buying plants! lol – all of a sudden I feel the “need” to really work on organizing my apartment and on finishing my writing projects. But what I find interesting is that the garden had to come first. Then again, why not? It makes me happy!

More blog posts by Raquel

Previous post: It's a new garden. (Kind of.)

Next post: The Survivors.



I don't know why part of my blog is struck out with lines, but it's not supposed to be.

12 Jun, 2010


Hi Raquel...
Go to edit blog... and remove the hyphens each side of the crossed out part...

so in other words, if you key in -Raquel- then Raquel when published will have lines through the whole word,

so remove the - before but and the - after look...
I hope this helps :o)

12 Jun, 2010


Thanks TT! That did the trick!

12 Jun, 2010



12 Jun, 2010


Really great and interesting blog Raquel~gardening can be remarkably healing in body and soul, am glad you started on this first, the rest, as they say, should follow lol! :~))

12 Jun, 2010


Lovely blog Raquel

12 Jun, 2010


gardening- the tonic of life!!!!

12 Jun, 2010


Thank you all for all of your comments! Working on my garden has done me a lot of good. Now I can also concentrate on other things....

13 Jun, 2010

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