Finally Fixing and Focusing on my Succulents

5 Jun

Each May my Dad would begin to plan his summer plantings for my parent’s Catskills home. Over the years he had added gardens and flowers to the property that was once owned by my grandparents. Where my grandfather once had a large vegetable garden, something my Dad had helped with for years, my Dad decided to focus on flowers.

Some of my Dad's planters at the Catskills' house.

Some of my Dad’s planters at the Catskills’ house.

He loved to garden. In the spring and summer, it was at the Catskills property. My parents would drive into Monticello and go to a garden center and pick out the perfect annuals. These he would plant around the front of the house and in the now filled in koi pond. In the back of the house he always planted around the garden he put around the well. And all along the side of the house were more gardens. Of course he had plants on their screened-in porch as well.

He was always ‘puttering’ in the garden or with his plants. One year he was so upset with the deer eating his rhododendron, he went out and got hyena or coyote urine to keep them away.

When the summer was over, he would mulch his flowerbeds to be ready for the next year’s plantings.

My parent's large cactus plant!

My parent’s large cactus plant!

The rest of the year he focused on indoor plants. He had many succulents, including a beautiful flowering cactus and a large spiny cactus. He kept them in great shape. As well as many other plants that grew in their living room, kitchen and on their terrace.

My Mom and I had always joked about our winter ‘schlumbergera’ flowering cactuses (Also known as Christmas cactus). We fought over whose had more blooms. I will admit, my Mom and Dad won that battle.

His love of plants worked to my benefit, as twice a year my parents came to spend 10 to 14 days with my family in Kansas. They came every Passover and Thanksgiving, and since Dad needed to keep active, I kept a list of ‘chores’ for him to do. Which meant every spring, he and my husband worked on outside gardens. When we first bought our home, 29 years ago. It was brand new, with no gardens. Over the years we have put in massive gardens and plantings. My Dad helped to dig out the first gardens. And as the plants and gardens grew, Dad was in charge of mulching and weeding. He also helped in choosing the perfect new plantings each year.

A portion of my outside gardens.

A portion of my outside gardens.

When my Dad became unable to do heavy work, he would just do the mulching with my son. We hired a gardener for the other jobs.   And then when he could no longer even mulch, he would sit out on a chair and direct and chat with John the gardener. John and Dad had lots to talk about. Thanks to both of them I have wonderful outside gardens.

In autumn, Dad would focus on my inside garden. I had many succulents, both inside and outside. But it was my inside ones that Dad kept going. Every autumn he would repot those plants that needed the extra space. He would trim back dead areas, and keep my plants look wonderful.

When he was not here, I just watered and removed dead leaves. I waited for him for any repotting needs. I knew he loved to do it. When my children were little they always helped. It was a great bonding time for them.

It worked out just fine.

Then the unspeakable happened. My parents passed away nine months apart. It was a stressful time. My Dad did not come out in the autumn, as my Mom was ill. He did make it in the spring, but was unable to do his usual ‘chores’. When he fell truly ill, he ended up being in a hospital and then rehab for the last three months of his life.

My Aunt and Uncle and parents with the cactus planter my Aunt now keeps.

My Aunt and Uncle and parents with the cactus planter my Aunt now keeps.

At his shiva, it was obvious his lovely plants needed help. My Aunt Mickey took the planter with succulents that was on the coffee table. My brother took the living ivy and small plants. My sister took the giant cactus. Since I lived in Kansas, I did not take a plant. Dad would have been happy to know his plants were in good hands.

Over the past few years, since my parent’s deaths, I have not touched my succulents, except to water them.   Included in my plants is an aloe plant that is over 50 years old. It had been my husband’s Mom’s. It became mine when she passed away 30 years ago. It, along with my other plants, began to suffer. A friend of mine would occasionally cut back the dead leaves. At times she watered them when she came. But even with her care, some succulents did not survive. I would take the empty pots and put them away.

Eventually she told me that I had to re-pot and care for my plants. She was right. My Dad would have been very unhappy with me. Even though I was caring for the outside plants, I had ignored the inside ones.

For some reason, this May I finally got the inspiration to fix my plants. I bought seven new succulents for inside. I bought several new ceramic pots. On Memorial Day, after I went to a veterans’ memorial service, I repotted my plants and I planted the new succulents.

Just as my Dad always did, I put old newspapers on my counter. I got the potting soil and the new pots and plants. And for a good hour, I worked on my plants. Placing some of them on my kitchen garden window, and others in my planter. I planted so many that I ran out of room. So I put two on my cookbook shelf.

My kitchen window garden.

My kitchen window garden.

While I worked inside, my husband worked outside. He planted herbs and flowers in the flower boxes on our deck. He planted new yellow speckled lillies in one of our outside gardens. And we planted a beautiful new peach-colored rose bush, called ‘Cinco De Mayo,’ in our front gardens. I chose this rose bush in memory of my Mom. I plan to plant a blue hydrangea for my Dad. We have white ones, but he always wanted some colored ones in my yard.

As I finally fixed my indoor gardens and saw my planters filled with the life of new succulents, I felt a burden lift from my heart.


2 Responses to “Finally Fixing and Focusing on my Succulents”

  1. Roseann Copeland July 13, 2014 at 10:22 pm #

    Ellen if you want Blue Hydrangea’s you have to feed them acid food. If you don’t they turn White. This year I have been feeding mine and they are a deep purple. The more I feed the more blue they will get. I give mine “acid” water from my machine. It is the residual water that comes out when we hit the “Alkaline” button for our drinking water. I save it and have been watering my Hydrangea with it. Last year I didn’t do this and my plant suffered.

    I am happy to know that you are finally taking care of those poor pathetic plants that were in that window. LOL Love you friend.

    • zicharon July 13, 2014 at 10:24 pm #

      I want some acid water for my plants!!!
      All of my hydrangea are white.
      Yes my poor pathetic plants are much happier. You need to come and see.

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