Saturday, March 14, 2009

Drowning in Aloe

Above is my window box of aloe plants before I began the transplanting process last Sunday. These plants have been silently reproaching me for months, possibly years, I don't even remember now, as they've continued to multiply, each plant also growing in size. I was taking it on faith at this point that there was still soil down there; I certainly couldn't see or touch it. I know this is a desert plant, used to privation, and thus probably wasn't as bothered by the crowding as I was, but the sheer relentless fecundity of the damn things triggered all sorts of guilty feelings. There was the New York real estate reaction ('there is never enough SPACE FOR ANYTHING'), the bad parent reaction ('I can't even take care of HOUSEPLANTS') and the sorcerer's apprentice reaction ('by all that is holy, STOP REPRODUCING'). (Ever notice how guilty feelings use a lot of caps? Or is that just me?)
Sunday I finally couldn't take it any longer and decided I'd separate them until I ran out of pots or soil. I figured that would at least take the pressure off. Some expansion is better than none at all, right?
Here you see the result after I had pulled every plant out of the box and untangled their roots. See what I mean about being overwhelmed? There are well over fifty of them.
I think this is the original plant, the one that spawned all the others. It's the biggest and has the longest, thickest taproot, but maybe that just means it was in a really good location of the box (right near one corner). While it is the largest, many others come a close second. These babies have been living here for a long time.
I ran out of pots sooner than I expected, and felt like I had barely scratched the surface, so I cut up some plastic milk jugs and cola bottles to provide a few more places for potting soil. That ran out soon after, though. I could probably afford to buy some more soil and cheapo plastic pots to house the remaining aloes, but then real estate becomes a problem again in a new way; I don't know where the hell I will put them all. With the radiator still working, I can't leave plants sitting on it yet, even though it's right by a south-facing window. I'm a little wary of spreading out over too many window sills (not that there are many left) since presently there are two cats in temporary residence, and spiky plants would be no deterrent to sitting on a sill if a cat so desired. One of them, in fact, might actually enjoy knocking them to the floor. She likes doing that, especially if there's a audible crash at the end. I learned last week that aloe is actually one of the plants toxic to cats so it is simply sheer dumb luck that neither feline in residence happens to be a plant nibbler. In any case, even if there were no cats and the radiator was off for the season, there would still not be enough space for all of them. They need to leave my house.
In the photo immediately above you can see some of the twenty plants that made it into ten pots; almost everyone has to share a pot, but I figure it's still better than it was before. The photo below shows what I stuck back in the window box, and the pile of plants that just didn't fit anywhere anymore. I don't understand quite how that works; they all managed to cram into that space before, but when I tried to put them back (minus the twenty) it just didn't work. The window box doesn't look much better, does it, despite the fact that only about half the former residents returned here.
So. Anyone want some aloe plants? Obviously New York residents move to the head of the line, but I could possibly be talked into mailing some of them domestically. They travel well (desert plant, remember?); in fact that's how the first one arrived here, I believe. There may be laws about transporting plants across state lines, though, so maybe I can't do that, especially now that I've gone on record on the interwebs with my nefarious plans. Hell. I KNOW you're not allowed to do it across national borders, so my apologies to my international readers, both of you. If it were up to me, I'd send them to you in truckloads. These, by the way, are all descendants of my grandmother's aloe plants. They have relatives scattered all across the US, and for all I know maybe some of their kin have made it overseas - or at least across the border. If so though, I had nothing to do with it. Just to go on record.
The satisfaction from completing a long-neglected chore has yet to happen, obviously. Do you sense a tone of panic in this entry? Maybe just a bit. I do love these little guys, actually, and their sturdiness is part of their charm. That reminds me, they're really easy to care for, they get watered once a week at the most in warm months and once a MONTH in cold months; seriously, water them when you pay your rent/mortgage and you're done. SO easy. You don't even have to get anyone to watch them over Christmas if you leave town. OH, and you can use the gel to treat minor cuts and burns, I know some people drink the juice though I don't know how that works so don't ask me, but it's probably pretty easy to find out, I mean you could probably google 'juicing aloe' or something to learn all about it, and then you'd need to have LOTS of aloes so you always had a fresh supply, right? RIGHT?
All right, I'm not going to beg, it's unseemly. But seriously, if anyone in the greater tri-state area wants to meet me for an aloe hand-off, let me know.


EB said...

I have a feeling you're actually great with houseplants! I can see others lurking in the background in the bottom photo just visible behind this box - could you post about them? OK, so I'm a garden obsessive and there are other things in most people's lives I know...

I'd never heard of aloes in window boxes before. Tempting to think if they can grow in NY they could do here too. I'll look into it!

dave said...

Clearly you need to get burned a lot more!

Java said...

Honey, just throw the extras out. Really. It won't create a rift in the space-time continuum if you toss them. The Aloe Faeries won't come haunt your dreams. Garden Gnomes won't curse your sweet pea. Aloe plants don't have eternal souls, so you won't be sending them to unceasing damnation. I'm pretty sure about this.

Jess said...

A tone of panic? Nah. Although I can picture you hanging out in an alley, summoning passersby: "Psst. Hey, buddy, ya want an aloe plant?"

BTW, I don't know how to tell if that particular one was the original plant, but I do love a long, thick taproot! ;)

Marta said...

i'm actually terrible with houseplants, but if you're willing to risk it, save one for me. i'll trade you for a belgian trippel.


Greg said...

Oh, my...they really are taking over, aren't they? Well, much of my real estate is shortly to be taken up with morning glories, but I'd happily arrange an (
secret, since it'd be across a few state lines, like we've never done THAT before!
) exchange if you like, although you may not. At least the aloe isn't likely to creep across ur bed and try to strangle you in the night.

Meanwhile, you might start leaving them on people's doorsteps, ringing buzzers and running away. Hey, actually, we both
know some newlyweds downtown who are awful with plants and could use one they can't kill!

Patrick said...

EB: I'm only too happy to babble about my houseplants. In fact I had a vague memory of having done so before, so I went looking for it.
Turns out I was talking about the aloe overcrowding a YEAR ago, and did nothing about it then. Oy.
I bet you'd have great luck with aloe as a houseplant. For what it's worth, I was also successful growing them indoors in Seattle, which has weather much like Britain's. I'm looking forward to seeing what Spring brings your garden.

Dave: Yikes! Are you trying to jinx me? Glad I didn't post this on Friday the 13th. Joking aside, you've reminded me that maybe I could use my plants more, and that might help with the over-populating too.

Java: Blasphemy! Throw them out? I don't think you've fathomed how much I've anthropomorphized my plants. They really have become pets for me in some ways. Green, slow-moving pets. Actually I have thrown some away in the past, and will do it again, but since I hadn't even TRIED to give any away in a while, I thought I'd give that a chance first.

Jess: who doesn't like a long thick taproot? So life-affirming. (Ya dirty bird.)

Actually I have also simply left potted aloes sitting out on the front steps of my building at times. They've always disappeared, I hope to people who wanted them, not simply into the garbage because the super got there first. I try not to make his life difficult. Hadn't thought of the drug-deal approach, but it would probably fly well in this neighborhood.

Marta: reason number 642 for me to pay you a visit. You've probably heard this, but most houseplants die from too much fussing, especially too much watering, so this might be a great way to break the cycle. They really do thrive on neglect, as is only too obvious from my situation.

Greg: I think a trade for some morning glories (or Belgian triple, for that matter) sounds like a great idea. You've been inspiring me to plant some more morning glories anyway, it's about that time. Maybe I'm about to become the Johnny Appleseed of aloe plants, using them as an excuse to go visit all sorts of fun people.

Birdie said...

I was going to suggest taking them outside for anyone to adopt, kind of like kittens in a box, but you beat me to it. Don't send one to me! I have the Black Thumb of Death, even for hardy plants like aloe. All my plants are silk now.

tornwordo said...

I learned that lesson many years ago. Don't grow the aloe! Just find a friend who does because they will never run out ; )

David said...

After my cats knocked over the aloe plant (onto and into my stereo) for the second time, I gave up on them. Perhaps it was a good thing, as I didn't know they were poisonous to cats and mine are definitely nibblers.

Butch said...

One can never have too much Aloe. ;)

Happy St. Paddy's Day, Patrick.

Word Verification: Here's one for Tornwordo.

: yelpoops ( sounds like a constipation problem to me. ) ;-)

Ben said...

Good grief, after all this you ask if there are any takers? A bit like asking if anyone wants a virus.