West Coast Style (Houseplants)

July 17, 2012

Speaking of my trip to Pittsburgh, a scarf wasn’t the only thing brought I back to NYC. I was also gifted with more easy-care succulent cuttings. Which I, ahem, just planted. Thanks goodness they’re basically unkillable, right? (Knocking on wood).

Witness:

hens and chicks!

And:

some nice sedum

(You know I’m feeling confident when I plant something in one of my vintage, drain-hole-free, floral dishes. I only do it when the plant in question is super hardy and can survive on very little water, so I’m hopefully never tempted to overwater, since without a drain hole, overwatering = death).

This sedum has me thinking on the subject of southern California, where I lived for a while. I tend to get caught up in the need to make my plants look “nice”- i.e. well rounded, not too scraggly, etc. So I turn my plants every week so they grow in all directions, trim off their brown leaves, and prune for bushy-ness. I’ve also put together a few cactus and succulent dish gardens. You know that kind of thing I mean. (I figured out it was a really popular trend when I saw a bunch of tiny cacti and succulents in Lowe’s with labels indicating they were “perfect for dish gardens.”) And they are pretty: they fill up the space nicely, with a variety of colors and shapes, i.e.

How freaking respectable can you get?

But I’m occasionally reminded of some plants I saw once in an apartment window in Los Angeles- a cluster of scraggly, dusty houseplants in big pots. Here’s the script that was playing in my head:

Me: Those plants look really unkempt. Somebody oughta prune ’em and dust ’em so they look nice.

Me too: But hey, the owner isn’t hiding them. S/he’s displaying them. Like that’s a perfectly acceptable way to display plants. 

Me: Wow, I never really thought about how much I stress over how plants look. I’m feeling relaxed just looking at those plants. 

Me too: It actually is kind of nice. They’re all idiosyncratic and plant-ey. Like they were just growing outside, except in a pot. 

Me: Don’t plants look great outside? They’re not really decorations after all. It’s kind of like a great piece of art. It has its own value apart from how well it goes with the rug. 

Me too: My head just exploded.

Unkempt plants are so southern California. In some ways it’s the opposite of New York, and the East Coast in general, where women wear high heels on the subway (egad) and (I suspect) keep their plants all nice and tidy. In California, no one looks at you funny if you wear sweatshirts and sneakers every day of the week and let your philadendron get root bound.

So, in short, I planted the sedum in a pot all by itself, and I’m gonna let it grow however it likes. Here’s another one:

Ahhhh. Isn’t that relaxing?

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