Thursday, August 13, 2020

Houseplant Bath and Liberation Day

For several weeks, we've noticed that our eight-foot-tall avocado tree -- which lives in a pot just inside glass doors to the garden -- was developing some kind of white, crusty stuff on its leaves. It was clearly evidence of a houseplant pest. The white crust was also getting on the windows, the floor, and other plants. I'd clean it up and it would reappear.

Yesterday I decided we needed a major cleaning of that whole area. So I moved all the plants into the garden, including the avocado and an almost equally tall yucca, and hosed them down to clean off their dusty leaves and give them some fresh water. In paying special attention to the avocado, I discovered that it has a pretty severe case of scale, which is probably what produced that white crust.

Here's the area around the back door with most of the plants gone and the windows and floor freshly cleaned. It looks so open! Dave expressed approval because we get a better view of the garden.

Now we're toying with the idea of leaving the avocado outside, at least for the next few months. To be honest, that tree is becoming a bit of a problem. It's just so big. I doubt it could survive a London winter, so putting it in the ground isn't an option. Nor is leaving it on the patio, unless we decide we don't mind it dying. And we might be at that point.

Meanwhile, it can enjoy some time in nature, among the birds and bugs and squirrels. We'll determine its fate later this year.

Remember the pathetic rescued ficus tree? This is what it looks like now. Still pathetic, but leafier.

Weather forecasts continue to taunt us with promises of rain that do not materialize. We had rain in the forecast yesterday morning, afternoon and overnight, and none of it actually happened. It's dry as a bone out there. I think today we may really get some, though -- the sky is cloudy and the rain chance is as high as 75 percent.

We've had temperatures above 93º F (34º C) for six days in a row. The BBC says that's the longest stretch of such hot weather since 1961. Today the heat is supposed to break, with a high of 88º F, and even cooler temperatures the rest of the week with more rainfall. Please God! Make the avocado happy!

The squabbly starlings are still visiting the bird bath daily. Yesterday I also saw a goldfinch, but didn't have the camera handy.

I called my Mom in Florida and gave her an update on life around here. (Not that there's much to tell -- mainly that I'm headed back to work in a week.) Meanwhile, Dave made a peach pie and a lasagna. I wish I felt more like eating. I'm just so hot.

(But as I prepare to hit publish on this post, I'm hearing raindrops outside!)


Frances said...

Yes, it was so hot yesterday wasn't it? We had a terrific storm in the late afternoon.
Nice not to have to water the garden for once!
If you cut that avocado plant off and leave a foot of stem, it might well rejuvenate from it. Worth a try. Some of the very top bits might also root to make much smaller plants.

Anonymous said...

Plenty of rain in Scotland with disastrous consequences.
We once had an avocado tree. It was huge and as it was grown from seed, not by us, at its seventh year it produced one beautiful avocado.
The heat there was a bit earlier last year when we visited. I don't envy your heat without air con.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

I have had a brainwave! You could knock on Mrs Kravitz's door and give her the avocado plant as a gift for all her neighbourly kindness. The other comment I shall make is one I have suppressed for several months. It concerns Great Britain's flag - The Union Jack. This is the flag that my forebears fought for, the flag of Queen Elizabeth II, Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens and The Beatles. But in your abode it is a bed for a dog! Pure sacrilege! I am looking out for a stars and stripes doormat.

David said...

I have to agree with Dave - the windows and open door do provide a lovely open view outside, at least while the weather is warm and dry. Having lived in the UK however, I know that the days can get dismal and grey (for weeks if not months on end) and I guess during those times you want to bring the garden indoors and block out the view.

Moving with Mitchell said...

Scale is so aggravating. We have a constant problem with it on a couple of cacti on our terrace. SG carefully cleans them with cotton swabs.

Sabine said...

Concentrate on the fig and give the avocado a graceful death.
We lived for ages with an avocado tree (much fatter and fuller than your poor specimen if I'd say so - your pot is way too small) and it didn't do anything for life and us and happiness. Got tons of leaves with lots of scale and seriously, we are not meant to have these plants indoors.
I've lived with real avocado trees, the ones that produce the real thing, large delicious edible fruit, when living in a tropical climate and it was then I realised that what we had produced indoors - first with the toothpicks inside the stone balanced over a jam jar etc. - was a poor substitute, a slave to our imagination, a torture of a plant. Our own plant Guantanamo so to speak.
(It's really hot and humid today, so apologies.)

37paddington said...

The leaves on that ficus may be relatively few, but they look robustly green and healthy. I predict a beautiful tree in the making.

ellen abbott said...

what an inviting view out your back door. I'm sure all your houseplants are loving the fresh air and hopefully rain as opposed to treated water. I'm surprised your avocado tree looks as good and is as big as it is in that way too small pot. All my potted plants live outside most of the year only bringing them in in the winter.

Edna B said...

What a great shot of the birds at the birdbath. I wish you lots of luck with your avocado plant. I agree, you have a lovely view from that room. I hope you get that rain. Enjoy your day, hugs, Edna

p.s. Thank you for the information on linking. I'm going to give it a try.

Ms. Moon said...

I hope you got a good gollywhomper of a rain and that it cooled everything off. I live in Florida and frankly, that would be too hot for me.
You could try planting the avocado in the ground and covering it in winter. Probably gets too cold though. I've got volunteer avocados coming up from where I threw out my compost and they amuse me. I wonder if any of them will survive.

Mary said...

Would happily offer you some of our is pouring again this morning. Another waterspout appeared on the Chesapeake Bay just south of here (one last week came on land as a tornado). Under yet another flood warning until later today. Sigh. My grape and cherry tomatoes keep splitting because of excess rain, but the squirrels and even the Cardinals are happily munching away on them.

Sorry about the heat, though, without any a/c. I remember being in London when it was in the 90s. Pure misery.

Sharon said...

That is a wonderful, green view out your window. It's like opening up the room to the outdoors. I hope you got a good soaking rain. I'm hoping we get one soon too.

Linda Sue said...

Dealing with bitter cold is so much easier than dealing with heat. That is way too hot and depressing. Unable to eat because of the heat is a deal breaker! I put our avocado out on the deck this summer , pinched the new leaves off of the top so it would grow to be bushier. It has and it has also grown to be crooked. I had it next to the bird cage in March, the bird nibbled its leaves - they look lacy and tortured.
Your little ficus is adorable, leaves so vigorous. Give it ten years or so and it will take over your house. A sequoia only takes 3,000 years - so there
is some perspective.
Good job cleaning the nursery area- it looks beautiful and inviting.

Anonymous said...

The view out the window really is lovely. Perhaps the avocado plant will be happy out there for a while and you can find a safe place for it in winter.
I am so surprised by the heat there. Yikes. I'm glad you heard raindrops. I hope it cools down.

Catalyst said...

Raindrops keep fallin' on your guac,
Maybe they will make you rock.
But continued heat is a lock,
Buy a cooling fan,
Be an ice cream man,
You'll feel bet-ter!

(apologies to Burt Bacharach, Hal David and B.J. Thomas)

Michael said...

That is one huge avocado tree! Hopefully the rain you were hearing continued for a stretch of time. Good luck with school beginning. I go back on August 31. I dread it. A lot.

John Going Gently said...

When I had a bigger house and therefore more houseplants
In the summer I always put them all out in the garden for a natural drenching

The Bug said...

Starlings are hilarious to me - well all birds are, to be honest. We have a houseplant that we've talked about letting go of, but so far we've been stalling. It's just too big for where it is, and there is nowhere else to put it. But it's one of the kids, you know?

Also, now I want peach pie to go with Ellen's egg rolls :)

Alphie Soup said...

Plenty of advice about the avocado, sitting in it's little pot. Lol.
I have no idea whose phone new blogger is designed for, it's not mine, all the portrait photos are distorted. Just sayin'.

jenny_o said...

What a stunning view of your garden through that window! It's gorgeous. I'm impressed by the healthy growth on your rescued ficus. It just needed some TLC and you were just the person to provide that. I like the idea from a reader to cut off the avocado plant to see if it will start over. You might need a deep breath to do that after having it for so long, but it would be an interesting experiment and if it worked it would be a much more manageable size.

Steve Reed said...

Frances: I can't believe you had a big storm and we had NOTHING! Fortunately rain has come to us since then. Dave and I are currently thinking something similar re. the avocado -- prune it and bring it indoors for winter, but keep it outside in summer.

Andrew: Apparently avocado trees grown from seed sometimes don't produce fruit. This one is about eight years old now, I think, but it's been indoors the whole time and will probably never fruit, given the climate.

YP: We bought that dog bed in a British shop, from British people who apparently do not share your concerns. As for the stars & stripes, go for it. (I am not a flag person. A flag is merely a piece of cloth. My great-grandmother had an apron made from an old American flag!)

David: Yeah, that's a good point -- in the winter it's nice to have that curtain of greenery.

Mitchell: They're persistent little devils!

Sabine: Plant Guantanamo! Dave and I got a huge laugh out of that. The pot IS small, but we kept it that way deliberately in an effort to control the plant's size. (It didn't entirely work!)

37P: It will be interesting to see what kind of shape it has eventually. Right now it's very horizontal!

Ellen: I think that's what we're going to start doing with the avocado -- keeping it outdoors in warmer months and moving it indoors for winter. (Probably with a pruning.)

Edna: We did get some rain! Whew! We need more, though.

Ms Moon: I'm not sure it qualified as a gollywhomper (or my favorite, a toad-strangler) but we did get some rain and it was much welcomed. Avocados are amazingly robust! I bet yours will grow until you get your first freeze, unless you turn your compost and disturb the roots.

Mary: It's either too much or too little, isn't it? I hope you get a break from all that rain and are able to salvage some tomatoes!

Sharon: We did get a good rain, but a fairly quick one. I think we need about a day of long, slow, steady rain. We're supposed to get more this afternoon, so fingers crossed.

Linda Sue: London is not a city built for hot weather, obviously because it's so infrequent here!

Robin: That's basically our plan -- outdoors in summer, indoors in winter.

Catalyst: Bravo, you! You win the creative comment award. I had to go find that song on iTunes after reading your comment -- I hadn't heard it in years!

Michael: Not huge by avocado standards. Have you ever seen one outdoors? They can be quite gigantic!

John: Yeah, it does them a world of good just to clean them off. I think we have a few too many plants, honestly, but that's my fault. I keep finding them and bringing them home!

Bug: It's surprisingly hard to let go of a plant after caring for it for years, especially when it's one (like the avocado) that was grown from seed. And especially when the plant's only failure was getting too big!

Alphie: Yeah, I noticed that too. Yet another problem with NB. I've told them about it.

Jenny-O: We'll prune it down a bit, for sure. I'm not sure we'll cut it as drastically as Frances suggested but it IS getting spindly. (We've pruned it in the past, too, but not as hard as was needed.)