Friday, April 29, 2011

Houseplant Pet Peeves

Ah, pet peeves; those minor annoyances that, although quite insignificant, can instill great frustration in anyone, even the most easygoing of us. We all have a few of our own ‘insignificant’ irritants that grind on our nerves. And I’m no exception. Below are a few things that wind me up:

1. Unnecessary double parking. What is it with people that double park when there are parking spots available? And they quite often do it between cars right and left of them, which makes it difficult for other drivers to get by.

2. Stopping in ‘no stopping’ zones. Why do people stop in clearly defined ‘no stopping’ zones that absolutely forbid drivers from pulling over even for five seconds, causing other drivers to stop unnecessarily?

3. Shopping cart abandonment. Would it kill some people to take a few extra steps to properly put away their shopping cart instead of leaving it in the middle of a parking lot, many times in front of another car?

4. Dirty tables at fast food joints. Yes, I know it’s easier to be a slob but how much energy is needed to move used food containers, wrappers, utensils and napkins from the table to the trash can that’s, oh, about ten feet away?

5. The aisle hogs. No matter how spacious an aisle is in a store, some people assume it’s all for them. They block the way by parking their shopping carts (and themselves) right smack in the middle and then look annoyed when someone says “excuse me” so that some room can be made (grudgingly) for them to pass.

The above is a small sample of some of my pet peeves; there are others but not all that many. For the most part I’m a fairly easygoing person that isn’t bothered by a great deal. But I’m certainly not immune to the aggravation caused by people who are selfish, inconsiderate, lazy, arrogant and just plain dim-witted.

Hello! No the universe does not revolve around - or for - you. Yes your mother told you that you are special when you were growing up, and that’s all very nice. But what she didn’t tell you is that the rest of the world doesn’t care what mom said. So pick up after yourself, share the space with other people and respect the rules that apply to everyone - yes, even you. And walk a few extra steps from time to time; it might do you some good.

So that’s that. [Breathe in...hold it...breathe out]

Along with the day-to-day nuisances, I have pet peeves that revolve around the houseplant world, which I will share with you today. The focus is entirely on retailers who sell indoor plants, not on individuals who care for them, so I won’t grumble about a neighbour, friend or family member’s deplorable plant care habits. At least not today.


My Top 10 Houseplant Pet Peeves

1. Artificial flowers glued on cacti. Okay, so this isn’t a major issue. Truth be told, I find it more ridiculous than annoying. And somewhat entertaining. Why? Because some novice plant growers honestly believe that the fake flowers are real. Imagine, as a novice, how being able to keep your cactus in bloom for years makes you feel. Damn proud, I would imagine. Hmmm. I guess for the beginner this is a good thing.

2. No care instructions. Now this really bothers me. Would it be a big deal for greenhouses to include a little care information, which may help extend the life of a plant? This is very useful, especially for beginners who need a little guidance. Most plants I see for sale include nothing, which is bad enough. But then there’s the totally lame effort that includes a label that reads something like this: Light, little water, fertilize. Oh yeah, that helps.

3. Unidentified plants. In addition to no care instructions, most plants are not identified. At the very least, if a store/greenhouse is going to purposely exclude care information, they should provide the plant’s name so that the buyer can research about care information on the internet or in a book.

4. Pebbles glued on top of soil. Yes they look pretty, but you’ll find out soon enough that small rocks glued on top of your plant’s pot can cause problems. A couple of negative aspects include: 1) you can’t verify if your plant needs to be watered since you can’t see the soil, so you may end up over or under-watering and 2) the pebbles are glued so tightly together that air is prevented from circulating properly; this will cause the soil to stay wet longer than it should, which will lead to root rot.

If you’re going to buy one of these decorative setups, consider removing the layer of glued pebbles from the surface as soon as possible.

5. Pots without drainage. Even the most experienced houseplant owners have trouble managing houseplants in containers without drainage, so I certainly would not recommend this type of growing environment to anyone. Proper drainage is extremely important. Without it, you can’t leach the soil every now and then to remove excess soluble salts. And your chances of over-watering are extremely high.

Visually appealing containers without proper drainage don’t have to be eliminated entirely; use them as cache pots instead. Pot up your plant in a container with drainage holes and slip it inside your preferred pot.

6. Inexperienced staff. While I certainly don’t expect the convenience store that sells a few potted plants to have people on hand that are reasonably knowledgeable in houseplant care, I do expect this from large retailers that have greenhouses in (or attached to) their stores; places like Home Depot, Lowe’s or Rona, for example.

Large, fully-stocked greenhouses that sell a multitude of plants and plant products should have at least one person who is experienced enough to answer your questions. I’m not asking for someone with a degree in botany, just someone with some basic – but relevant – knowledge who is able to assist shoppers, many of which are clueless in plant care.

7. Painted foliage. You can now find Poinsettias with blue, hot pink, purple, orange, lilac and fuchsia leaf colours. Although quite striking, they are not shades that are produced naturally by the plant. Rather, the leaves of ‘painted Poinsettias’ are sprayed with floral paint; some of them even have a sprinkling of coloured glitter added on top. Apparently, this fad that started awhile back in Europe and making its way here in North America is very popular with younger generations that are quite fond of the dramatic colour schemes.

Even though I know that the paint is not harmful to the plant, I’m not a big fan of this latest trend, especially when it includes glitter, which I can’t stand in general. I don’t have a logical argument to offer that can explain why I’m so opposed to this; it just feels wrong in so many ways. Maybe it’s taking marketing just a little too far for my plant taste. [Shrug] Or maybe I’m just too old to appreciate it, since I’m no longer part of the ‘younger’ generation.

[Sigh]

8. Boneheaded bagging. To whom it may concern: No, you do not shove, toss or drop a helpless little plant into the same bag as the 3.78-litre jug of windshield washer fluid any more than you put sandwich bread in the same bag as the 10 pound sack of potatoes. And please don’t roll your eyes and grunt at me when I ask you to put my little plant in a separate bag to prevent its untimely death.

9. Contaminated soil. Although this is a rare occurrence, when it does happen it makes me want to run out of my house screaming. I would much rather eat a large plate of nausea-inducing, hairy, slimy okra (which I suspect is nothing more than a mutated green bean that some farmer successfully introduced as ‘new discovery’ after his crop went bad) than to find millipedes in my newly-purchased bag of soil that – according to the packaging – should have been sterile.

10. Dead plants lying around. Here’s an experience I had a few years ago: A retailer advertised in their weekly flier that they were having a big sale on all the plants in their greenhouse. The prices were enticing so I went. When I got there, I noticed that there were some dead and dying plants amongst the healthy ones; this demonstrated to me that the plants were shoddily cared for, which had me wondering if I was going to end up with a lemon of a plant with all the apparent negligence in the place. In the end I bought nothing.


While this doesn’t bother me all that much personally because it is the retailer’s problem, I can’t help but question the wisdom of it. Note to companies: For crying out loud, at least get rid of the evidence of neglect – before the customers arrive.


That concludes my top 10 pet peeves about houseplants. Do you have any of your own?

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