House of horrors

phil
Seven feet high! Doesn’t look it. I just finished whacking it back.

I DON’T WANT this to become a gardening website, but awful things merit mention.

The plant in the photo, a philodendron, is about seven feet tall.  Before moving to Mexico, I thought philodendrons were little, potted plants for the home. Only sometimes.

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Better Homes & Gardens says this about philodendrons:

(It’s) one of the toughest houseplants you can possibly grow. Whether you choose upright or trailing/climbing types, they are perfectly happy in a home setting. Even people with so-called “black thumbs” are usually successful at growing these plants. Philodendrons are very low maintenance and can sit idle for long periods. You can train them up a trellis or simply leave them to their own devices — philodendrons will survive no matter what.

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By toughest houseplants, they don’t mean tough to grow. Quite the contrary. It’s a tough customer. Very low maintenance? Will survive no matter what? No joke!

Not only does this grow easily. It multiplies. It started with one little stalk about a decade ago. Now it has many and continues to add more. And the plant is creepy. As it grows, it tosses “stuff” below. It’s the sort of stuff you’d expect to see in a werewolf movie, the scene in which the villagers discover what happened in the forest overnight. Oh, gross!

But this is one plant I do not plan to remove because it doesn’t toss trash over a wide area, just at its base. I do wish it would stop the proliferation of stalks, however.

I foolishly planted another in the small, carport, garden area of the Downtown Casita. It too is beefing up at a remarkable pace. I never seem to learn.

trash
The wheelbarrow contains just a bit of the gooey, grim material found at the plant’s base. The photo does not do justice to the miserable stuff.

Grappling with greenery … and apples

barrow
Philodendron on right. Aloe vera on left.

IT’S OVERCAST this mid-morning and 64 degrees on the upstairs terraza.

Abel the Yardman is coming later to cut the grass, so I decided to do some overdue plant trimming in advance. Out I went at 9 a.m., my tummy full of bagel and cream cheese.

The first victim of my clipping shears was the philodendron Xanadu, which grows here to mammoth proportions. Secondly, I attacked the aloe vera which, similarly, buffs up like mad.

I stacked the philodendron cuttings on the floor of the Garden Patio to be chopped up later and dumped into a very big bag. The aloe vera will be tossed into a ravine out back where I have Abel the Yardman throw green garbage.

pile
Philodendron cuttings await fate on Garden Patio floor.

What about apples? The grumpy neighbors on the side opposite the sex motel have an apple tree abutting our property wall. Little thought was given to placement when they planted it years ago. Now it’s big and leans over our wall insouciantly and dumps apples into the grass in summertime.

How nice, you may think. Actually no. When I find them, they invariably have been gnawed by unknown beasts, leaving them fit for naught good.

I pick them up and throw them away.

But enough of this. I now must water the potted plants on the downstairs veranda. They are thirsty and don’t care that I’m writing this.

Life goes on below the Rio Bravo.

Afternoon relax

yard

EARLIER THIS week, I was on the Jesus Patio relaxing, a talent I have possessed in spades for most of my life.

That’s my foot you see there in a Crocs shoe, the footwear designed for semi-professional relaxers.

My child bride and I are polar opposites in this regard. Although she is very fond of her own Crocs, she does not use them to relax because she’s mostly incapable of relaxing.

She’s always full throttle.

I don’t understand those people.

It was about noon, and the neighborhood was uncommonly quiet, possibly because it was Christmas Eve.

I was reading a book on my Kindle, Guadalcanal Diary by Richard Tregaskis. It’s an excellent followup to Ernie Pyle’s Brave Men, which I finished about a month ago.

Both were correspondents during the Second World War, a profession that baffles me because you stand a good chance of getting killed unnecessarily.

Tregaskis was not killed in the war, but he came very close. Pyle was less fortunate, shot dead in the war’s final months.

Both books are excellent though Pyle’s is the better of the two. They provide a good idea of what war is like, or rather what World War II was like.

It was one of America’s greatest moments.

Occasionally, I would quit the Kindle to look at the scene above. That’s aloe vera on the left and the other is philodendron. They were quite little when I planted them.

One of the many good things about reading is that it can transport you to another world.

I was jumping from chilling on the Jesus Patio to dodging grenades and machine-gun fire in the Pacific.

You don’t get to do that every day.

I hope Santa was kind to you. This has been an exceptionally fine year.* If you read books like Tregaskis’ and Pyle’s you know that better than most. History matters.

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* Trump!

End of spring

abel
Abel at work, pushing my lawnmower.

IT’S OVER. Spring has gone, and summer has begun.

I know it’s not the official end of spring, but we march to a different seasonal drummer at the Hacienda.

When Abel the Deadpan Gardener (and neighbor) mows the lawn for the first time, it means summer has started, and it has. The summer rains are easing in. Sweet.*

Abel mowed the lawn yesterday.

Another sign of spring is that two bunches of lily bulbs beneath the ground in what I call the Willy-Nilly Zone** push their noggins above the dirt.

I often think of my second ex-wife when I survey our Hacienda domain. She’s a gardening fanatic and a certified “Master Gardener” via a course offered by the county extension service in Houston. Her yard is nice by local standards.

I see it via Google Street View. It pales, however, in comparison to the Hacienda spread, and I’m not a gardener, neither certified nor master. I’m a rank, lazy amateur.

Our yard tends to itself and only requires stern discipline. This year, more than ever before, I’ve eliminated lots of greenery because it was getting out of hand, berserk actually.

I like the cleaner look. Some of the eliminated stuff was huge, all planted by my child bride who gleefully plants whatever and then goes on her merry way, leaving the fallout to me.

But summer is here. Rains will quickly increase until they become daily. Downtown streets will flood most afternoons. The air will be cool, and the nights romantic.

Philodendron in its niche. Trimmed by me. About five feet high.

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* I won’t think it’s sweet in waterlogged October. I’ll consider it a curse, but that’s for later.

** The Willy-Nilly Zone wraps itself around the two exterior sides of the downstairs veranda. It’s hemmed in by the Romance Sidewalk. It’s a happy zone for plants because, I think, the proximity to the house reduces cold in winter. In modern parlance, it’s a “safe space” for greenery. Plants are never offended in the Willy-Nilly Zone.