Plant projects

I spent part of this morning interviewing a couple of beekeepers for a newspaper story I am writing. I love my job. I get paid to go talk to interesting people about interesting topics. I meet everybody. I met beekeepers today. I met the guy who runs the sewer plant a few weeks ago. I tagged along after the garbage truck one morning this summer. I spent this afternoon in a boutique/animal shelter that finds homes for stray cats. Sometimes I still can’t believe what a great job I have.

On my lunch hour, Ron and I grabbed sandwiches and then went to Hippygift, a little shop here in town that is going out of business. Everything in the store was 40 percent off, so I bought several objects I didn’t need, just because they made me smile. Here are two of them:

1. I had to have this butterfly because it reminded me of something you’d see on Fraggle Rock. I hung it up in my home office window tonight.


2. This flower reminded me of the flowers on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, which is still one of my all-time favorite TV shows.


After work, I went to Garden Ridge and picked up some pots and potting soil and perlite (and several objects I didn’t need … I think I am turning into a magpie) so I could transplant a couple of cacti and make the cute mini-terrarium I saw in Cottage Living last winter. Here are some pictures of those projects:

1. The cactus that my friend Hilda gave me a couple of years ago. It’s needed to be transplanted forever. I finally got around to doing it.


2. The cacti I started from seed using this mini-terrarium I bought at Cline’s Corners during our last trip to New Mexico on Route 66.


They aren’t very big, but I’m excited, because this is the first time I ever got cactus to grow from seed.

Seedlings uncovered

3. Here are the transplanted cacti. I don’t know how well they’ll do, but we’ll see. I divided the one from Hilda. Half of it looks alive. Half of it looks mostly dead (but still slightly alive). Hopefully it will grow.


4. This is the first step of the terrarium project. I took a clear glass Christmas ornament (chipped at the top but still usable) and put some perlite and vermiculite in the bottom. That pot in the background is one I decorated earlier this year during a brief fling with decoupage. I’m not great at decoupage, but the pot turned out kind of cute.

Terrarium start

5. I added potting soil, a teaspoonful at a time, and sprinkled in some California poppy seeds I saved when we lived in Belleville. There isn’t room in there for them to get big and bloom, of course, but they tend to germinate well, and the foliage is pretty, so I thought they might work. I added a little bit of water and put the cap back on the ornament.

Terrarium filled

6. It was a little bit heavy and pulled itself off its cap the first time I tried to hang it, so I used some ribbon to make sort of a net or sling-type thing to support the bottom, which allowed me to hang it in the window beside the butterfly.

Terrarium finished

If the seeds sprout and grow, I will take some pictures of their progress.

Also, Anne sent me the picture she shot of that owl we saw the other night. It was really dark out, so the image came out a little fuzzy, but I love it because it reminds me of a very cool moment.


Wherever you are, I hope you are enjoying your job and doing lots of fun projects and having lots of cool moments and surrounding yourself with little things that make you smile.


“The wisest keeps something of the vision of a child. Though he may understand a thousand things that a child could not understand, he is always a beginner, close to the original meaning of life.”
— John Macy

8 thoughts on “Plant projects”

  1. Hey, nice cacti! I have peruvian torch and san pedro seeds that I am going to try to grow soon… any advice on soil and did you use chinosol or whatever? Some kind of fungicide to prevent damp off disease? I need to find a terrarium or make my own… hmm.

  2. The cacti seedlings haven’t grown at all in the year and a half since I posted this. They’re not dead; they’re just not doing anything. I suspect they’re suffering from lack of light. I don’t have a good south-facing window where I can set plants, and it’s been so rainy this year that I couldn’t put them outside. The more mature cacti are more tolerant and have just kind of grown slowly while they wait for me to stop abusing them and give them adequate light.

    The California poppies sprouted in the terrarium but quickly outgrew the space, which I knew would happen from the outset; I only used them because they were what I had on hand, and I was not willing to invest money buying plants that I knew were doomed from the get-go. This type of project is basically just a quick fix for people who are convinced they will die of January poisoning if they don’t get to see something grow. A Mason jar full of alfalfa sprouts would serve the same purpose and have the advantage of being good on sandwiches.

    If there is a way to prevent mold and damping off in terrariums, I’ve never found it. My best advice is to plant something in a pot, water it every day, and forget the charming but generally doomed-to-failure concept of plants under glass. If you’re bound and determined to do it, choose a plant that will tolerate low light and wet feet — such as a rabbit’s-foot fern, baby’s tears, or perhaps Corsican mint — and don’t spend a lot of money on it, because it’s probably not going to live very long.

    Terrariums were all the rage in the late ’70s and early ’80s, but there’s a reason they disappeared. Some of the best gardeners I know tried terrariums and couldn’t pull them off.

    That said, if I could put my hands on one of those ridiculous Eames-looking terrarium planter stand thingies from the ’70s (the kind with the conical base and a big clear plastic bubble on top), I’d buy it in a New York minute….

  3. Do you happen to know what type of cactus that is that Hilda gave you? I ask, because I have one which I think is the same kind, and I can’t find any information on it. I would love to buy some more, but can’t find it anywhere. Any information you could give would be greatly appreciated. Thanks and best wishes! ~heather.

  4. hello
    my room mate has a cactus like this that she bought somewheres & its been fine until we moved into a new apartment ..ever since then it seems to be browning 1 little cacti-bubble at a time …im just wondering if you have any tips to bring it back to life? or if you could tell me what variety of cactus it is so i can find care instructions online (she doesnt remember what its called)
    thnx much,

    1. No idea. All of the cacti pictured above are now deceased. I think temperature issues got the one from Hilda (I had it in a window and failed to notice that the window in question got very cold, plus I forgot to water it for a long time, which obviously didn’t help it — even succulents need water now and then), and about the time the one I grew from seed started to grow spines and look like an actual cactus, it started dying back and just never recovered.

  5. Hi, I know this hasn’t been commented on in years, but I have the same kind of cactus you had, and mine seems to be doing the exact same thing. It slowly started turning borwn, but first on the tallest piece, then slowly to the other ones. Its also groing this white mold looking thing on the cactus, and the dirt. Do you know what the cactus is called because I am going to get rid of this one, and try to find a new one.

    1. I don’t know the species, but if any part of it still looks healthy, you can probably save it by repotting it (use sandy soil in a decent-sized terra cotta pot with a drainage hole) and moving it to a warm location with full sun. Don’t overwater it; mold suggests to me that it’s simply getting too much moisture.

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