I think I may have mentioned it before, but I am not a big fan of houseplants. I find my time off from outdoor gardening a refreshing change from plant induced worry and care , and hate having to find all the appropriate space and lighting to be successful growing things indoors.
I have also come to realize that the trait I find most endearing about my outdoor plants is that in 99% of the cases when something is going wrong ( disease, pest, damage etc) I can cut the affected baby to the ground and it will shoot out all new and clean , thus further inflating my very large gardening ego. With houseplants, as a rule this is not so true, and in the cases where it is ,the progress is slow going -flatly deflating my gardening ego.
Back in Fall 2009 at the tail end of my Master Gardener Classes, Tovah Martin came in to lecture to us on growing houseplants. Tovah spent many a day working in Logees Greenhouse(s) and is caretaker in her own home of numerous plants which she loves dearly. Can I just say she is a-dor-a-ble! I first “met” her through the books she wrote about one of my gardening super heroes, Tasha Tudor. Given the opprtunity, I would love to garden the way Tasha did, with all her glorious cottage-y borders, yankee thrift and chickens. I have the corgis already ( she had many),, but my Tasha experience would be lacking as I would never give up electricity, proper heating, UPS delivery 365 days a year, and of course, Bill. I am also not, as both Tasha and Tovah are, a bonnet and calico dress wearin’ kind of girl, relying as I do on “foundation garmments” and make-up to enhance and deflect the eye.
But I digress. Back to Tovah. I was so looking forward to this class, and trying my hardest not to act like a crazed groupie. She talked to us about the vagaries of the tropicals , and in my starry-eyed state I took zero notes. I just wanted her to be my best friend, skip the whole indoor plant thing. At the end of her lecture she announced that she was going to give away the divisions of a plant she had used to demonstrate re-potting in sort of a raffle/lottery. Well, guess who one of the winners was? EE-GADS! How to decline?? There was no way I could not accept such an offering and still remain able to gush all over her and get her to sign my new book, “The New Terrerium” .
This week in my fervor to get back to my garden-ness, I tried working outside but it was COLD and SNOWING again. So I turned to the least likely place you will ever find me, tending the houseplants that have finagled their way under various and convoluted circumstances into my living room. The Tovah Plant, (as I like to lovingly call it) has grown and grown, on might even say thrived, but that is tempting fate . It needed re-potting and so I took it to the kitchen and went in search of my master gardening notebook. Given that I know next to nothing about houseplants, but have vague notions that some prefer to be pot-bound , root pruned, and other uncomfortable sounding treatments, I figured i would look up the plant and at least try to give it the proper care .
My search using the name found in my notebook, Amomun Cardomom left me scratching my head. Cardomon is a tricky plant to grow. The directions used words like “fussy” and “difficult to grow”.It does not like drafts, sunlight, or a regular watering schedule. It likes to be misted daily, but have it’s roots kept dry. Blah-blah, on and on with all it’s Diva requests.
Um, this could not be the plant I had been tending, that is for certain. More searching ensued.
Turns out the most common mis-identifiation in Houseplant Unniverse, is ID-ing Amomun Cadomom when you really have Alpina Nutans (Cinamon Ginger). Both plants look very similar, and both have spicy scented foliage. BUT Cardomon is FUZZY on the underside of it’s leaves and difficult to cultivate outside a warm steamy greenhouse.
I can not, and will not accept Tovah, MY Tovah, was wrong. I must have in my dreamy eyed stupor somehow imagined she said Amomom Cardomom, when what she really said was Alpina nutans. I forcefully brush the thought that I have never heard of the plant before and could not possibly have written it down without someone not only saying it ,but also spelling it for me, out of my head. Tovah is not wrong, not now, not ever.