What’s Growing at The Varghese House

Going to a nursery is perhaps the earliest memory I have. When I was very little, my family went to a tiny church “behind the gas station”. That was what we called it as it was…right behind a gas station. I’ve been told you can’t remember things before the age of two, but you also can’t believe everything you hear. I know I remember this nursery because I have no pictures to jog my crisp mental image of it, and the place is long gone today. Now this church in the 80’s was before the era of church mother’s rooms with snack fridges, television monitors and glide rockers. So when I was a toddler and would get fussy in the service, my dad would walk me out of the church across the driveway to a nursery shop and let me walk around inside. It had a pebble floor, wet from the fountain overflow, lots of green plants which seemed like a rainforest when you are toddler sized, and a very nice owner who even gave me a small wooden owl trinket one time. I can still smell the wet rocks and remember the crunchy ground as I was just learning to walk. There is something about plants and growing things that is very attractive and therapeutic and I’ve been really enjoying getting into this with the girls recently. I’m gonna touch on our three latest botanical endeavors today and maybe you’ll just have to add one of them to your future plans!

I’ve been perusing nurseries in the area checking out their tree selections as we have several spots that we want to get trees into asap. First few I checked out weren’t super impressive as far as tree quality goes. Then I found the most amazing nursery I have ever been to in my life. When I parked however, I realized that I had made a giant mistake; I had attempted this expedition by myself on a very hot day, with all three girls, and it was rapidly approaching nap time. The front of the nursery has acres of trees for sale. Then there are rows of greenhouses with every plant imaginable and another few acres of potted flowers and plants. Usually you have to sort of pick through plants to find one that seams sturdy and healthy – but not here! I didn’t see a single plant there that didn’t appear to be thriving. We were barely into our exploration when it was very clear I could spend hours here and it wasn’t gonna pan out well for me on this particular day. Things were getting knocked over by our entourage (thankfully not the expensive pottery that this place has in stacks everywhere) and then Brighton stood up in the stroller and the entire thing capsized. She was covered in mud and bleeding out of the mouth where she face planted into the wet crunchy pebble floor. I moved our hot mess as quickly as possible to the parking lot, passing several adorable childless 20- something couples picking out their next plant baby probably thinking good god is that what I have to look forward to. Everyone was stuffed into the car and we left as fast as possible with no new plant babies of our own in tow.

The next weekend I said I was spending Saturday morning by myself. In years past I might have gone to get a pedicure and a quiet brunch or something. All I wanted this Saturday was an early morning workout and a proper trip back to that nursery. I spent two solo blissful hours there and while I could have easily dropped 30K (yes I could – trees are nice and they aren’t cheap) I behaved myself. I had wanted to get a nice house tree and while I was looking at the fiddle leaf figs which I have admired for a while, I saw something else. It caught my eye immediately because I had seen a picture of this adorable tree on Pinterest some time back but it didn’t have a name given. It’s called Ficus Benghalensis, and it’s colloquial name is Ficus Audrey. It’s being touted as the “houseplant of 2020”, whatever that means. Supposedly less finicky than fiddle leaves and it has a fresh look as it’s only been available as a houseplant for a couple years in the states.

Ficus Audrey

Sometimes they have separate stalks or like mine, they can be “braided” which will cause them to eventually merge together into a single trunk. So far the only issue I’ve had is after leaving it outside in direct sunlight for a few hot days, some leaves got burned. He is recovering well and I’ve been more careful to ensure his sunlight is indirect but constant. I love this tree and I try to keep it in a separate room from our original CA palm to avoid any Velveteen rabbit situations… I was thrilled to find this super affordable plant basket which comes in a couple different colors and three different sizes (I got size medium). Fun side fact that proves this baby was meant for the Varghese home; Ficus Audrey’s origins are in India!

spiderwebs and rosebuds everywhere this morning!

Not too long ago, while staring at our weirdly designed cement retaining wall behind the house, I decided to start a tiny rose garden within this section that juts out. I have no idea why the wall was made this way and it’s quite an eyesore. Maybe some miniature roses would help! I bought three Knock Out rose bushes and one afternoon took a shovel and went to work. I knew I would have to work pretty hard to till the soil here which is very rocky and hard. What I didn’t expect to find was a concrete and metal waste pile. I’m not even kidding. What I thought would take 20 minutes was more like several hours as I dug out huge cement chunks and old pieces of who knows what. Apparently the previous owners demolished something at some point, dumped it here, and poured dirt over it? About 3 or 4 bucketfuls went in that week’s dump run (yes, we have a trailer and Ronny now does a dump run every single weekend!) until I had cleared the dirt enough for what I think will make a happy home for my rose bushes.

I have never planted or grown rose bushes before so this is an experiment for sure. I poured in ample amounts of bone meal and rose fertilizer, and pruned them back quite a bit. I learned that after pruning them down to about 12” in late spring, removing any damaged canes and helping shape and size them as desired, they will triple in size during the summer!

paprika knockout rose

I covered the ground with pine chips which is helping keep out weeds which grow so fast here. For several weeks they didn’t look so hot but now are bursting with new shoots and rosebuds! Isla has been helping out by carrying any ladybugs we see over to the plants with hopes that they might snack on a few aphids.

rose garden sans roses

I’m also obsessed with hydrangeas and planted my first several weeks ago. Our neighbor on one side, (the one I’ve mentioned before who has the immaculate yard), has several hydrangeas growing under each of his big old-growth trees. They are beautiful and bursting with giant blooms. I totally have yard envy in that direction and trust me it is not reciprocated. We have a jungle on top of the old chain link fence surrounding our ancient tennis court and the majority of that jungle borders his property. When we moved in, he expressed that he had been fighting off that jungle for years, trying to keep it out of his [perfect] backyard retreat. He thanked us profusely for cleaning the place up as much as we already had at that point and then expressed that Operation Jungle could be a joint effort of sorts (*hint hint*). He is very nice but his distaste for our property over the past few decades was palpable. Anyways, I started with a single Little Lime hydrangea “tree”, as it is called since it can actually grow into a small tree of sorts rather than a bush.

It has cone shaped white flower bunches with a tiny hint of green. It is by the side of our house where it gets a lot of shade..(perhaps too much?) Digging the hole was so much easier as thankfully the spot I chose wasn’t a cement slab burial ground this time. I covered the ground with pine chips again and…that’s it. Just gonna see how that little feller does! Although he’s probably wishing he lived in my neighbor’s yard.

3 thoughts on “What’s Growing at The Varghese House

  1. Ok the Velveteen Rabbit line made me honk-laugh. FYI both roses and hydrangeas like coffee grounds amended into the soil AND that can help keep buggies away! Beware: slugs LOVE hydrangeas but don’t worry, I gotta guy who can get you ducks 😁

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ya Ive given my roses coffee grounds. I also gave it to my hydrangea but it turned the flowers pink, which apparently happens when the pH changes, and funny enough while I love pink I like white hydrangeas lol!
      don’t you dare get us ducks.


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