The Sensory Pleasure of Houseplant Foliage

Begonia maculata | Wings with silver polka dots...what's not to love?!
Philodendron Rojo Congo -- it seems to like its place on top of the frig. The lush foliage is beautiful from all angles.
Philodendron Rojo Congo — it seems to like its place on top of the fridge. The lush foliage is beautiful from all angles. There is something, well, sexy about this plant–I don’t know why.

Of the many eventualities I tried to plan for in the garden back when we first began planting 20 years ago, gardening-without-knees wasn’t one of them.

Back in late May, my knees decided to take a prolonged sabbatical. After various tests including MRI’s and a recommendation against surgery for now, it appears I will be gardening with different abilities than I have up to this point.

The butterfly "murals" I painted with the help of granddaughters, which are installed at the new butterfly garden site. Host plants for the caterpillars to feed on are gradually getting transplanted here.
The butterfly “murals” I painted with the help of granddaughters, which are installed at the new butterfly garden site. Host plants for the caterpillars to feed on are gradually getting transplanted here. More on this another time.

I’ve been very lucky in my life to have had a hearty and strong body, so this new physical challenge is forcing me to learn new things, like improving body awareness and care in moving around, new skills like asking for help when I need it, and also just allowing myself to rest when I need to. I’ve always been driven about projects (a friend of mine playfully describes me as “naturally caffeinated” 😉 ). Now it is time to enjoy what is here — to sit back and smell the roses, as it were. (My spouse will probably laugh upon reading this, recalling how energetically persuasive I was that we proceed in creating the new butterfly garden just a few weeks ago.)

Monstera deliciosa - Swiss Cheese Plant
Monstera deliciosa – Swiss Cheese Plant | The monstera definitely adds to the indoor jungle effect!

New tools are helping me: hinged knee braces, an indoor salon stool with wheels to zip around the house, an outdoor electric trike with a basket for garden produce. We’re also on the docket to have more of our garden paths converted to granite so I can get around better.

As my knees have been resting and recuperating from an acute phase, I’ve been sitting and enjoying the forest of houseplants now sparking joy all around my home nest.

Winter naturally suggests a time of inward repose and our days here are alternating between umbrella and sunhat weather.

As the winter sun comes in low and brilliant, the houseplant leaves are illuminated and even more enjoyable than usual.

And this brings me to a plant that is stunning in the winter sunlight. It’s an heirloom recently received that I treasure greatly, propagated and sent to me from my mother, given to her from my grandmother decades ago. Seeing it makes me feel connected to that lineage and just feels like home. It is uncommon to see it in nurseries, but commonly handed down as an heirloom through families, friends and neighbors. It is Begonia Erythrophylla, also known as beefsteak begonia or pond lily begonia.

The under-leaf has a glittery-copper color, and the tops shimmer from dark green to metallic teal. This shimmer reminds me of the water element, which is maybe why they are also called Pond Lily Begonia. It seems to be happy here and is sending out new shoots.

Begonia erythrophylla - Beefsteak Begonia
The undersides of the Pond Lily Begonia seem to sparkle with coppery glitter, and I love the texture and colors on the stems.
Begonia maculata | Wings with silver polka dots...what's not to love?!
Begonia maculata | Wings with silver polka dots…what’s not to love?!

Near to my comfy chair, I keep another favorite begonia: The Polka Dot Begonia (Begonia maculata). Those silver polka dots reflect the sun almost like little mirrors. I don’t know what the evolutionary advantage of that is, but if I were ever given the chance to be a houseplant, I’d want to be this one. Or maybe a garden fairy with those leaves as wings?

Towering over the polka dot begonia, in the upper canopy of houseplants (I’m waxing dramatic here) is the Alocasia Sumo. It feels like a protective roof to sit under and its softly purple stems are sensuousness itself.

Alocasia 'Sumo' -- This plant may outgrow my space entirely if it remains happy, but for now, I'm loving the lush green foliage and purple stems.
Alocasia ‘Sumo’ — This plant may outgrow my space entirely. Maybe I’ll get rid of the couch to make space for it? 😉 For now, I’m loving the lush green foliage and purple stems.
Agleonema "Red Siam" getting a watering at the kitchen sink. The bright colors of the foliage are so cheerful.
Agleonema “Red Siam” getting a watering at the kitchen sink. The bright colors of the foliage add a festive energy to dark winter days.

Our first little saffron crocus harvest

Following up from my last post, our first saffron harvest is complete. It totaled only .8 grams but that is .8 more than we’ve ever had before and so we’re delighted! If you are looking for a source of saffron for cooking or tea, someone from an online group turned me on to this site, Peace and Plenty Farm, up in Kelseyville, California. Their website is educational with some great recipes too.

The olive harvest was small this year, probably due to the drought, but it’s always nice to have our own oil. In past years, we’ve harvested several trays. This year we barely got two.

Olives ripening on tree

Birdhouse camper renovation
Birdhouse camper renovation

Given the amount of time I’ve had to be off my legs, artsy tinkerings are coming more to the fore. Here’s a little birdhouse-camper trinket I picked up somewhere. It was originally a muted warm red which isn’t my favorite color and so I undertook a miniature renovation, with a new paint job, pieces of leftover jewelry bits and fabric scraps. It will probably camp amidst a thicket of houseplants so that I can pretend I live there. I think a lawn chair atop the roof would be a good addition, don’t you agree?

When not playing with paint, I relax in the evenings with colored pencils and nature-themed adult coloring books. The above pages are from Magical Jungle by Johanna Basford

And when it’s time to stop everything, I have a sensuously fuzzy alarm clock that climbs up on my lap, preventing all other activities but just Being (and petting) ….

It was clearly time to put down my colored pencils and just relax.
It was clearly time to put down my colored pencils and just relax. Perhaps we’ll call it the Puffball Kitty Meditation.

Hope you all are have a safe and wondrous winter season! … Unless you are in the southern hemisphere, in which case you are probably too busy in the garden to read this. Happy gardening!

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13 thoughts on “The Sensory Pleasure of Houseplant Foliage

  1. Sorry to hear you are forced off your feet at the moment. I am not to good at sitting still either so I think you have been doing very well to find other occupations and I love your caravan. It is very cold and dull here at the moment and forcing me out of the garden. I have knitted one jumper and I do not need any more and I am not very artistically inclined. Amelia

    1. Thanks Amelia! Sorry to hear it’s cold and dull there. We’re having many days of the same. I’m grateful for the rains we are getting, finally, but the dark days do affect my mood. I had a good laugh about the jumper and not needing another one. 😀 I feel similarly about my art projects—I don’t need another painting. In truth, I admire your skill at knitting and patience to do it. I’ve pondering trying to knit again but it might send me ‘round the bend. 😉 I’d probably end up with something that even the thrift store wouldn’t want. I would love to see your knitting creations, if you were inclined to tuck one into a post.

    2. I do not think “create” is quite the right term :). I had not knitted for a while but this jumper is more fashionable at the moment as it is a lovely thick real wool that I knitted with huge needles (thus the rapid completion). It is nice and warm for this freezing weather. Only problem was that it was not the colour I thought the wool was as I ordered on line. Still, it is a more “serviceable” colour ;).

  2. Oh Lisa, what an absolutely delightful post! I’m “hearing you” on so many levels, because this past year I’ve had to modify my gardening activities as well, due to a concussion and a torn leg muscle. No fun! But I’m also loving my house plants more than ever, and even say a few words to them now & then;) And I, too, am learning to ask for help in the garden, and to enjoy adult colouring books, which are so relaxing and absorbing! My latest blog post was about crocheting, which is an ongoing passion. I agree with learning to move mindfully, and to rest as needed~~not easy when you’re used to bustling around like I was, before!
    Thank you for this lovely post, and wishing you All the Best, Val

    1. OMG! Concussion and torn leg muscle! Yikes! Hope you are recovering well. Glad the post resonated with you. So many of us have physical issues of one sort or another and I like hearing how other gardeners manage. I look forward to catching up on reading my favorite bloggers and hearing about your crocheting. I just started knitting. I never had the patience before, but now I’m forced to sit a lot. Yes, as you say, it’s hard when you are used to bustling around! Thanks for your kind and encouraging words and wishing you healing, a nurturing environment, peace and happiness….. lisa

  3. You have a glorious collection of houseplants, I can see you take very good care of them! I had a hideous begonia once that grew horribly spindly so I donated it to the husband’s office. Yours on the other hand look great, love those coppery undersides of the leaves. My gardening course-book says that some tropical plants develop strange colourations and markings to look diseased so predators don’t eat them 😆
    Love your saffron harvest and caravan, keep up the creativity and hope the knees don’t get in the way too much.

    1. Thanks Sel! The houseplants really are bringing me a lot of joy right now. OMG that gave me a good laugh about what the evolutionary purpose of coloration might be for! LOL! A beautiful deterrent! Thanks for your encouraging words and hope your garden is doing great!

  4. I always love looking at the images of your beautiful plants but even more so, I enjoy reading your creative posts. Who would even think of becoming a fairy and using those speckled begonia leaves as wings??? I think while your knees are recovering you should write a book, you are a fabulous writer!

    1. Awww, this warms my heart! 🥰 I’m very grateful for your encouragement—it’s well-timed, as my knee issues are sometimes discouraging me. I read your last post and loved it, as always. Your painted furniture renovations bring me joy! Stay safe and wishing you a prosperous, healthy, and happy yew year!

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