Last fall I was ordering some houseplants from Logee’s, a supplier of a broad range of unusual varieties. While looking at all of the goodies I wondered where I could possibly grow/display more of them in my new townhouse. Then it hit me…..a light garden, and here it is:
This was a reawakening of a long term interest. I’ve always enjoyed gardening. I began to grow summer flowers in a window box outside my room at college, and attended my first flower show while in college in 1953. After marriage and moving in to navy housing I went nuts with gladiolus in our 2′ x 4′ plot. Then I tried raising snapdragons from seed. I didn’t think they looked quite right so I asked a knowledgable friend who looked at the flat and pronounced them to be healthy chickweed seedlings.
At our first apartment in civilian life I built shelves for a bay window and filled it with house plants. Shortly after that we moved into our first home which featured a large back yard. I carved it up into small gardens and set out to raise the necessary dozens of seedlings under flourescent lights. Here’s that early setup, circa 1965
That worked so well that I built a three-shelf-high, 4′ x 8′ planter equipped with twelve 4′ long, dual-tube flourescent light fixtures so that we could enjoy flowering plants in the winter….the second season. I raised all manner of gesneriads, impatiens, balsam, browallia and begonias which do well under low light levels, but I also brought stock and dwarf marigolds to fragant bloom along with other summer annuals. It was about seventy-five square feet filled with color in the harshest depths of winter. A business partner once told his secretary that when he died he wanted to be laid out in my basement.
I moved it to the basement of our next home and kept plants going in it and then in successor wall shelves for some thirty years. I toiled through infestations of leaf and soil mealy bugs, spider mites, scale, cyclamen mites, red spiders, root rot, and mildew but I was finally brought down by thrips. I just couldn’t get all the plants cleaned at once so I threw in the towel except for a two shelf cabinet in the family room until I moved last year. If any of them showed problems they were evicted. Tough love.
So, now I’ve started up again, and it’s a joy to walk into the sun room in the morning and see all the plants, vigorous, in bloom, perhaps even purring. What triggered this post was the Streptocarpus shown below. From flowerless it has burgeoned with over two dozen blooms.
Also exciting for me is this Abutilon or Flowering Maple. I used to see it in the Park Seed Co. catalog but had never tried it as it’s a full sun plant. But, my friend, Nancy B., has a large specimen growing in her sunroom so I thought I’d try it. It has done well under the lights, rewarding me with a few unusual blossoms.
This Columnea (Gesneriaceae) is another joy for me. I had this particular variety for most of my years of light gardening, keeping it going by taking root cuttings and developing them. But it also fell victim to the thrips and, finally, my tiring of that struggle. Then I found it in the Logee’s catalog and invited it to come back home. The colors make me think of candy corn, and the blooms, of some exotic dolphin leaping from the water.