As much as I would love to buy chickens and all sorts of cute barnyard animals for the yard, my coworkers have forbidden it. They yell at me and say I’m crazy when I send adorable pictures of barn-y creatures over the work instant messenger. You’d be surprised by what you can find on Craigslist. Adorable little goats, miniature donkeys, mules, guinea fowl, Rhode Island reds, horses, ponies, and pot belly pigs have tempted me, especially with the shed/barn in my backyard. But alas, the hens and chicks I refer to are of the plant variety.
Last year I went on a plant buying frenzy in June, which is way late to be going on a plant buying frenzy in Tennessee. By that time of year, most of the plants at Home Depot and Lowes have been fried to bits or they are completely out of what you want. The True Value garden center actually exceeded my expectations with a few things, and John Deere and Hewitt’s were just way too expensive for what they were selling. No, I won’t spend $14.99 on a hosta that has been trimmed to a bloody stub because someone forgot to water it, thank you.
One of the things I couldn’t find anywhere last year was Hens and Chicks. They are like the holy grail of succulents. All the garden centers were out of them, so when I saw a big display of them at Home Depot last week, I snatched them up. As I was driving home I realized it’s still cold winter, and planting succulents at this time of year is stupid. No matter, I had my chickies.
Hens and Chicks thrive in crappy soil. Imagine the driest, sandiest, rockiest, ickiest soil that normal plants wouldn’t be able to live in. Got it? That’s what the chickies like. I’ve also read that they don’t like to be fussed over. This is a little upsetting because I really love fussing over plants. I over-fuss. Apparently one is not supposed to water chickies too often, except when you plant them. That’s when they get a good long drink that will see them through seasons of unfussiness.
After looking around at very expensive pottery planters, I stumbled upon a little gold mine at Big Lots. I wouldn’t recommend buying many gardening related things there, but they actually had a great selection of planters that were less than half the price of the other places I looked. The pots were $8 apiece and the green one is an old Pottery Barn Outlet find that was hanging around. I got some cactus soil and added a bunch of white rocks that were dumped next to the patio by the previous owners. This is what happened.
I hoped that by adding the rocks, the plants would feel
like they were roughing it and, you know, be inspired to persevere in
their difficult circumstances. I watered them well and set them on the front porch so they wouldn’t get rained on. Then I started worrying. Did I water them too much? Do they feel too fussed over? I’ve been ignoring them for a few days, haven’t even gone to check on them once.
A few years ago I discovered that I have a knack with orchids. This is weird because lots of people buy orchids from the grocery store and kill them in no time. I think this is due to over-watering. Two of the ones I have are now in their fourth year of re-blooming thanks to a cranky orchid grower I met in Florida a few years ago. She said the secret to getting a phalaenopsis orchid to bloom again is to put it through a cold spell. When the weather reaches around 45-50 degrees at night, around October or November, put the orchids outside for two weeks, then bring them in and treat them like normal. Before you know it, they’ll be sprouting a new stem with buds. It’s amazing. Every year it works without fail. But I enjoy fussing over my orchids, misting them every now and then, turning them, fertilizing once a year, chatting with them…so I’m trying the opposite strategy with the chickies. Hopefully they’ll make it. Hens and chicks overwinter in Tennessee so I’m not too worried about the cold, but I am a little worried. Just a little.