The Telegram (St. John's)
A new passion for houseplants
Since the pandemic, many people have found solace buying, selling, trading and nurturing plants in their homes.
Diane Collins started with one tiny plastic fairy garden planter with some succulents that she bought in July 2020.
“I didn’t like the pot, so I took out this variegated trailing succulent and put it in a hanging pot and it grew like crazy. Then, it flowered with this amazing little pink flower,” said the St. John’s woman.
That was the start of what Collins refers to as her “succulent obsession.”
When Collins’ local nursery started selling more houseplants, she bought a beautiful, majestic palm to remind her of her frequent trips to Florida. Trips that, thanks to COVID-19, she can only dream about right now.
For many plant enthusiasts, a trip to the grocery store will often mean coming home with more than meat, milk and macaroni.
“Every time I go to the supermarket, I come home with a plant,” Collins said lightheartedly.
While her plants bring her a lot of joy, she said, they can also be high maintenance.
From fungus gnats to spider mites that often make their homes in houseplants, Collins has learned a great deal about getting rid of pesky pests.
She’s a big fan of the Facebook group Houseplants of NL.
“That site is really informative. I have put pictures on the site and people have identified it for me.”
Collins now has over 30 plants and jokingly says her home is becoming a jungle — a jungle that takes away some of the stress the pandemic has brought with it.
“My daughter lives in Toronto (the city has been a pandemic hotspot),” she says, adding that her 15-year-old dog also passed away three weeks ago.
“Working on my plants takes my mind off things for a little while. I love it. It relaxes me.”
ROOTS DURING TROUBLING TIMES
For Megan Barnes, also of St. John’s, COVID-19 completely uprooted her life.
Barnes is the music director of Women of Rock Productions and a long-time performer and current member of the teaching staff at the Studio of Etcetera Productions.
While the pandemic has been challenging as a musician — Barnes has not performed since February 2020 — her biggest challenge has been not seeing her students face-to-face.
“I am so fortunate to have continued my teachings online, helping students grow and providing a safe learning environment has always been my first and foremost priority. Though I could still lend my listening ear, I am always gravely affected by the morale and emotions of those around me.”
Barnes has always had an interest in houseplants but had little success keeping them alive.
With more time on her hands and a desperate need to aid in a growing experience, she started visiting local nurseries and the greenhouse section of hardware stores.
Armed with little experience but a keen love for leafy green foliage, she started growing her collection.
Barnes readily admits she made mistakes that most novice plant owners make.
“I bought an outdoor plant as my first plant, thinking it was a houseplant. I potted things in less than ideal soil or pots. I overwatered. I underwatered. I didn’t provide the correct light for most of my plants, and I definitely annoyed my plant friends with a million questions.”
Her “plant friends,” she says, were great at answering Barnes’ questions and, through it all, she learned a great deal about her new passion.
“I learned so much about various plants in general, but specifically what plants survive best in our environment with my care routines and how to bring my home to the ideal conditions for those plants I just couldn’t do without,” she explains.
“Now, my apartment is jam-packed with all varieties of plants, and I have constructed an indoor greenhouse with an IKEA cabinet for my more needy plants and propagations.”
Barnes’s collection now nears 100 houseplants. She keeps a personal journal of watering, fertilizing, repotting and other notes.
“Sometimes, people water on a watering schedule but I was finding that some can go longer without needing to be watered. So, I find it good to write it all down to make sure I’m not watering too soon or too late,” she said.
Barnes has made many friends and learned a great deal through the Facebook group ZENL Plants. She has also connected with people from all over the world — from Australia to The Netherlands — on Instagram.
“I’ve learned about different plants that I didn’t know excited,” she said.
Barnes’ keen interest in plants has also helped her give up some unhealthy habits and care more about doing her part to help the environment.
“I tried quitting smoking in the past but was never successful until now. I’ve been cigarette-free for over a year. And I always recycled but I’m more aware of it now. I’d never throw something that’s recyclable into the garbage. And I just love to do more things outside.”