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Houseplants and gardening suggestions for when you can’t leave your house

The Geiger Counter's weekend picks

Tillandsia, also known as air plants for their ability to live without soil, are a good houseplant for beginners. They can be placed in a variety of areas to make unique decorations.
Courtesy Alyse Piburn

Don’t know what to do this weekend? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Pull up a seat to the counter, and I’ll tell you about everything that’s hot and happening.

While spring has technically sprung, it’s hard to smell the roses when we’re all cooped up at home. A rising trend during the coronavirus pandemic has been to focus on nurturing houseplants and herb gardens as an attempt to bring the outdoors in.

Alyse Piburn, owner of Mountain Roots, and Carla Pettit, owner of Garden of Eden Flowers & Gifts, suggest to use this time to repot plants, start planting vegetable seeds inside, get creative with decorating and prep your tools and supplies for when gardening season truly begins.

For the brown thumbs

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Colorado’s cold and dry climate isn’t the best for some plants, but if all you’re worrying about are houseplants, then your main target for keeping the greenery alive is sunlight.

“A lot of people are in condos here that don’t have a lot of windows, so that’s definitely a factor,” said Pettit.

For low-light, hearty plants that don’t require a lot of maintenance, both recommend ZZ plants (sometimes known as Zanzibar Gems), spider plants or pothos. If you have windows with a bit more southern and western exposures, try rubber trees, jade plants or umbrella trees. Another option is tillandsia — also known as air plants for their ability to live without soil.

“Those are super easy to care for and you just place them anywhere and can do a lot of different creative things,” Piburn said.

Rather than simply putting the potted plant on a coffee table, if you want to make things more interesting Piburn suggests installing floating shelves, hanging planters from pipes or getting a trellis to mimic the outdoors. Using deck railings is another option, as is placing a ladder with shelves outside.

“Maybe you have some shelves on the ground or a rail or something hanging off of it,” Piburn said. “You can do a lot with a small space if you think kind of vertically.”

Another way to utilize those sunny spaces is with an herb garden. Piburn recommends the basics, such as thyme, mint, sage, rosemary, parsley, oregano and chives. Pettit also says that leafy greens such as kale and spinach do well in the High Country and that having the patience to grow tomatoes over the summer (as long as you bring them inside each night), pays off.

“I love the taste of a fresh tomato right off the vine,” Pettit said. “It doesn’t taste like anything you taste at the grocery store. It’s absolutely worth the effort.”

Join the clone club

Cloning or propagating plants, which is when you cut a portion off and place the clipping in its own pot, is another way to spend time with your houseplants during quarantine. Pettit likes cloning succulents, umbrella trees (also called schefflera) and especially enjoys doing it with Swedish ivy.

“Not a lot of people are familiar with it, but it’s really hearty and probably my favorite plant,” Pettit said of the ivy. “You can clone it over and over and over again.”

You can even turn it into a brief socialization activity by gifting the clones to friends you haven’t seen in awhile — just make sure the drop-offs are contactless and safe as possible.

“I’ve cloned it probably about 100 times now and given it out to people,” Pettit said.

What I’m Reading

‘The Drunken Botanist’ by Amy Stewart

Everybody knows wine comes from grapes while spirits and beer have their roots in grain, but the worlds of alcohol and agriculture are further intertwined than that. More than a basic list of cocktail recipes, Amy Stewart’s 400-page book is a fascinating tour of drinks from the perspective of the flora that make them.

Organized by plant, people can read on the history of rice and sake, sugarcane and rum, and potatoes and vodka. Best of all, if you want to move from basic houseplants to something more self-sufficient, Stewart can instruct you on how.

Learn to grow your own black currants to make crème de cassis for a kir royal, sloe — a type of shrub from Europe — for a sloe gin fizz and other common or exotic ingredients.

Jefferson Geiger is the arts and entertainment editor for the Summit Daily News and managing editor for Everything Summit.


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