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Hunter: One Of Life's Mysteries

04/23/12 5:55PM By Edith Hunter
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(Host)  Spring is a time for celebrating all things green and growing. And for writer, historian and commentator Edith Hunter, it's also a time for remembering.

(Hunter) One of the wonderful old books in this house is titled Window and Parlor Gardening. A guide for the Selection, Propagation and Care of Houseplants by N. Jonsson-Rose with illustrations by the author. It was published by Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1895.

The author wrote that a plant, "when unfolding leaf after leaf and blossom after blossom is not merely a beautiful object, it is a living being replete with interest; for it is not only the form we admire or the color, but more than anything the mystery of life, the wonderful and constant changes working beneath our eyes."

"The mystery of life" and what a mystery it is!

When my son Graham died a year ago last March, I was given a small pot of flowers. It was about eight inches by four inches and rectangular in shape. In it were an African violet, a philodendron, a Boston fern, an umbrella plant and something I have not been able to identify. They were a rich green, small, and all very much alive.

After about a month, they had grown so steadily that I decided they were crowding each other too much. I asked my daughter-in-law April, who has a way with plants, to separate them and put each one in a separate pot. She did this and now they are a handsome mass of greenery growing on a table by the window in my kitchen.

I have got to figure out something for the philodendron to climb up on. And the umbrella plant is now almost two feet tall. What does the future hold for it? I have never housed one before.

In describing the best climate for houseplants, the author of my houseplant guide suggests that the house should be "sufficiently warm" but that "an occasional low degree of heat above the freezing point does not injure any plants, provided the mean annual temperature is sufficient."

I heat only with wood. I have a soapstone stove in the kitchen and I don't get up in the night to feed it. As a result, the kitchen can be pretty chilly by the time I come down at 7 o'clock . One night in January it went down to -8º outside and when I came down in the morning it was 42º in the kitchen near the plants which are on the opposite side of the room from the stove. Like me, the plants must have found it stimulating, although they may have breathed a sigh of relief after I got my faithful soapstone stove roaring. Before long I had the kitchen up to 60º.

I don't yet know what I will do with these plants when summer comes. But they are certainly a lovely living reminder of my son Graham.
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