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31 August 2013

Rosal (Gardenia)

I was warned, but our mother had this plant all over the yard when we were growing up. The stench made me sneeze when all of them were blooming all at once but the plant, when healthy, is very nice---it is bushy with dark shiny leaves. This is the only plant I have seen that looks perfect when it is in bloom--the flowers are as creamy white as the leaves are glossy green. The contrast is amazing.
After a short autumn rain, gardenias look ridiculously photogenic.
Well-meaning people will advise you gently to get the hardy kind instead but of course you will not do that because that variety just does not hold a candle to the magnificent tropical kind, especially the flower with its inexplicably mesmerizing stench.

Against my best judgement, I acquired one pot of gardenia from a supermarket and it immediately threw a tantrum in the car and the fit lasted throughout spring regardless of my--I have to stress this---well-researched ministrations. Out of the nursery, the plant had about 50 flower buds in various stages of promise which it dropped one by one--probably in reaction to being transported from Florida somewhere to the frigid climes of the continent. Despite being positioned in a prime warm and sunny spot, the leaves eventually turned yellow/ The plant continued to produce buds but dropped those too, despite the absence of any visible pest (yes, I checked with a magnifying glass, you smartass). So, by May, the gardenia is kicked out into the TINZ. In fact, it was yanked out of the pot, plopped into a hole in the ground and completely ignored.

Well. No one likes it, even out there. Bugs leave it alone, the squirrels do not dig near it, the rabbits don't touch it and even the woodchucks walk around it. It's really a cunt of a plant.

This has the interesting side effect of allowing the bush to not just survive after being shoved into the ground, but actually thrive. It flushed with new leaves and by mid-summer, it was blooming non-stop. Bugger.
In the ground, unmolested by any kind of pest, blooming without pause.

Now it is autumn and the dilemma is whether it will be worth it to pull it out again and overwinter it indoors. This idea percolated for weeks until temperatures started going below 15C at night--a personal threshold at which point all tropical plants currently outside will be prepared for the stuffy indoors for the winter.

Sigh. Alright. If this gardenia survives being yanked out of the ground and shoved back into a pot, then fine. It goes indoors. But only after a soap/oil bath. With cold water. No special treatment.

Holding it firmly at the base stem--make sure you are not showing any sign of hesitation when you do this--give it a mighty pull until it is disengaged from the soil. Then just put it down somewhere while you get the pot and the potting media. (you can't be bothered to prepare everything before hand, even if it will reduce the shock on the plant). Mix in whatever will seem to you as the reasonable amount of organic azalea fertilizer (or else read the directions on the bag and then halve it). Make sure your medium is airy with some potting soil in it or you'd be watering every day--this is much more attention than a TINZ plant deserves. I used the gritty mix as base and added a couple of cups of potting soil into the 10-inch nursery pot I shoved it into. There were some debris lying around, I put them in as well. Into the pot this diva plant goes, water it in to settle the soil and just leave it out in the sun.

After this deliberately ungentle treatment, it will probably die, thus saving you the trouble of vacillating between bringing it in or leaving it out. Or it will bloom. Mine did. Argh. Twice. I have my eye on it now, dimly wishing it will die of transplant shock. Of course it won't. Because that's just the kind of plant it is. 
In the pot, regrouping.

Someone in Zone 5 said they leave their potted gardenia outside until it gets really cold, just above freezing. It is always the first to go out and the last to go in. So you can still change your mind over the prospect of what will surely be a winter battle with the prima donna.

I suppose it makes perfect sense to also have a jar of soap spray ready, as well as alcohol spray, nets, neem oil spray, a bottle of Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) for fungus gnat control, big transparent plastic bags for humidity control (punch a few holes in), fairy dust, holy water, bear traps and tranquilizer dart (for you, when you go berzerk in January after months of gardenia struggle).

Just go along with the drama, if you will. But dare it to push you one last time and spend the rest of its short pathetic life outside in the snow, along with its host of admirers and hangers-on across species--spider mites, scales, aphids, snails, vampire bats and mutant anthrax viruses the size of a wart.  Who needs the aggravation, right.

Try not to think of the perfect flower and its perfect scent, set against a background of perfect, shiny green leaves.

As a parting word, I am cutting and pasting a portion of a now-legendary thread on Garden Web Forum, perfectly summarizing the joys of having gardenias among your collection of plants:


"Posted by: ROBERT HUGGINS - 10 ) on Thu, Aug 12, 99 at 14:51 DEAR JOAN, ONLY AN IDIOT WOULD SPEND THAT MUCH TIME AND EFFORT FOR A SIMPLE PLANT!MY FRIENDS RECOMMENDED THAT I TAKE UP GARDENING TO RELAX AND ENJOY NATURE.OVER THE PAST SIX YEARS I BOUGHT EIGHT BEAUTIFUL AND FRAGANT GARDENIAS,MYSTERY,FIRST LOVE AND ETC AND AFTER SIX YEARS THESE SIMPLE PLANTS HAS TAUGHT ME HOW TO RELAX.AFTER SIX YEARS I TAKE FOUR VALUIM AND A HALF A GALLON OF SCOTCH AND STAGGER OUT FOR MY NEXT TRY TO KEEP MY ONE PLANT ALIVE.AFTER 3000 HRS ON THE INTERNET,GARDENING BOOKS AND HELP FROM THREE HUNDRED PROFESSIONAL GROWERS AND FOUR GARDENING CDS.HERE WHAT I HAVE LEARN. THEY LIKE WATER BUT YOU HAVE TO KEEP THE SEMI DRY.THEY LOVED SUN BUT YOU HAVE TO KEEP IN THE SHADE.YOU FEED THEM OFTEN.DISCRIBED AS SOMEWHERE BETWEEN TWO DAYS AND TWO YEARS ONLY ON SUNDAYS WITH A BLUE MOON RISING.THEY LOVED NORTHERN EXPOSURE IF YOU HAVE THEM ON THE SOUTHERN.THEY LOVE ACID AND IRON UNLESS YOU GIVE IT TO THEM.THEY LOVE TO GROW SPIDER MITES,WHICH YOU CANT SEE,AND APHIDS. I HAVE FOUND IF YOU BUY OLDER PLANTS THEY TAKE LONGER TO DIE.MY FRIEND SUGGESTED THAT WHEN ONE OF THE SIMPLE PLANTS WASNT DOING WELL TO MOVE TO THE NORTHERN SUN WHICH A LOT.IT DIED QUICKER.WELL I HAVE TO GO NOW MY FRIENDS IN THE WHITE JACKETS ARE COMING TO PULL ME AWAY FROM MY BELOVED GARDENIA. ITS OKAY I HEAR THEY HAVE A SALE ON GARDENIA IN THE NOVELTY SHOP." 

Winter Update: Indoor in the Kitchen

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