Published in the Rains County Leader on November 5, 2019:
The earliest freeze on record in North Texas was on October 22, 1898. We missed that record by a few days, but the low temperatures last week still had lots of Rains County residents scrambling to move vulnerable plants indoors. I haven’t been part of the scramble in the past, because my indoor plants stayed in the house year round, and my outdoor plants were planted in the ground and were on their own when the temperatures dropped. This year was different.
Since Kitty came to live with us over four years ago, her interest in all things green and leafy has caused me to limit our indoor plants to those that have been given to us for one reason or another. We have two peace lilies – one was a sympathy gift when Mom passed away, and one was a Christmas gift. I also have two Christmas cacti and an African violet that were give to me for one reason or another.
The lilies were confined to the small bathroom in the front of the house when Kitty decided they were particularly tasty and that the dirt in their pots was fun to dig in. The smaller plants have been relatively safe on the island in the kitchen except for the one time Kitty decided to dig up the violet. It must not have been as exciting as she had expected, because she hasn’t revisited it. The plant has recovered, but it hasn’t bloomed since its trauma.
Earlier this year, when our neighbor Ed built our new porch, he added a plant ledge to the front, and my friend Mary envisioned hanging baskets of red begonias. I didn’t find any affordable baskets, but I did find two hibiscus “trees” on sale. They looked beautiful on the ledge, and their continuous blooms added lots of summer color. My neighbor Connie later shared some basil with me, and I brought home a parlor palm I had received from Pastor Jason but had left at the church when I retired for fear that Kitty would eat it. Once we added furniture to the porch, I brought my indoor plants outside with the exception of the lilies. I thoroughly enjoyed my own little green space until last week when the cold fronts were predicted.
I crossed my fingers and set the cacti and the violet back in the kitchen, but I had no idea what to do with the other plants. My previous experience with hibiscus plants was with two that were planted in my yard. My green-thumbed neighbor advised me to mow them down to the ground in the fall and expect them to pop back up in the spring. That worked, but I didn’t think my two would react the same way. In each of the pots, several plants had been intertwined and trimmed to form a tree shape, and I didn’t think I would get the same result if I whacked them off at the dirt.
So far, Kitty has ignored the greenery on the island, but I felt sure the larger plants on her level would be too much of a temptation for her to resist. I walked the house, looking for available space in any of her forbidden spaces. There’s the office, but she sneaks in there almost every time David opens the door, so I crossed that off the list. There’s also the middle bedroom, but between the stored furniture, the treadmill, and my inventory of books, there’s no floor space. That left the small bathroom – the really small bathroom. I have to leave space for the door to open and a little space in front of the toilet, so there’s no floor space in there either. But there is a bathtub – so that’s where the hibiscus and the palm ended up. The basil is on the counter by the sink. The plants seem to like their new home. All look healthy, and the hibiscus blooms are lasting three days instead of one, so I guess the sacrifice was worth it.
We also gave up the tub in the master bathroom several years ago when Kitty needed a second litter box. We never used the tub. It’s big and shallow, and it drains the hot water heater before the water is ankle deep. We have a separate shower, so it’s no big deal. But if someone gives us another plant or Kitty decides she needs the shower for some reason, we’re in trouble.