Amidst torrential downpours in Manhattan today, I set myself an easy task – or so I thought: to find either seed trays or 1″ pots in which to pot up my root and leaf cuttings. The African violet leaves I had started to propagate were currently residing in a makeshift chopped up plastic bottle with a few holes stabbed in the end for drainage. The holes were proving to be sadly deficient in the drainage arena, and the clear plastic was letting light filter into the potential root area. Four of the leaves were struggling bravely onwards, but the fifth looked positively ready to throw in the towel.
Off I set, wading through the tail end of yet another tropical storm in order to pick up something more appropriate. How dumbfounded was I to discover that early September in Manhattan is a gardening supply wasteland. Shopkeeper after shopkeeper displayed genuine discombobulation that someone would look for a 1″ pot or seed tray in September. Several of them admitted to never having been asked for such a thing. Disheartened, I trudged homeward, only to happen upon the Salvation Army Thrift Store. It was raining pretty heavily by this time, so I ventured in and had a rummage around. Sadly, no 1″ pots in sight, but there was a deliciously dark red tin 3″ planter for the bargain price of $0.99 so I shoved that under my arm and wandered towards the cash register.
It was at that moment I caught sight of a lone CD rack, and realised its potential as a rather quirky plant stand. It was the perfect width and height for my window sill, and if I could find something to slot in as shelves, it could provide a home for quite a few plants. I mentioned my burgeoning idea to the affable chap at the cash desk, who grinned and said ‘Why don’t you use the CDs as shelves?” and pointed to a shelf of empty jewel cases. Brilliant! He gave me the stand for $2.99 and threw in the jewel cases for good luck.
Wandering home with my red tin planter and my soon-to-be-reborn CD rack in the cold and the rain, I felt closer to being a proper gardener than I had in a long time.
In the door, I popped on the kettle and set to work – gave the CD rack a quick once over, popped it up on the window sill. Perfect width. Denuded the jewel cases of their covers – quick side note- several of the empty jewel cases were of Irish artists – Enya and Clannad – every time I hear Enya or Clannad I giggle, reminded of Colm Meaney’s hysterical detective with a predilection for Celtic mysticism in the film Intermission. If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favour and check it out. Here‘s a snippet on YouTube.
Plant stand assembled, I still faced the dilemma of repotting those poor African violets. I didn’t dare leave them there for another night; that fifth leaf was practically crawling out of the container, and the others were likely to follow suit. I grabbed a couple of plastic cups I had stashed just in case Hurricane Irene had done anything untoward and started cutting. The cups were much easier to cut than plastic bottles, so I was able to fashion some serious drainage holes at the bottom. Once they were cut, I covered the sides with gaffer tape to prevent light getting to the roots, and voila! I optimistically repotted all five violets and hope at least some of them will forgive me. I also repotted some tiny succulent leaves and the Hoya leaves – which are a total experiment anyway – they were left over after I made Hoya cuttings so I just bunged them in soil to see if they’ll take root, who knows? The succulent leaves were already sprouting new growth, and I had some other African violet leaves I’d been trying to start that had grown pretty good root systems but thrown up no new growth, so I moved them to their own individual pots (I have a total of six 1″ pots so they each got their own).
And off to the plant stand they went. Here is a picture of the finished product:
I’m awfully proud, in a MacGyver meets Gardener’s World sort of way. It may be higgledy-piggeldy, with those makeshift gaffer-taped cups, but it’s a little corner of happiness that didn’t exist before today.
Safe in the knowledge that it’s quite difficult to misquote a quote that’s been translated, here’s a thought from Hans Christian Andersen:
“Just living is not enough,” said the butterfly. “One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”
Then I did what any proper gardener would do after a job well done. I had a cup of tea.