Growing strong

Turning five


My beloved cyclamen must have decided it really likes its pot and its location on the window sill, because it gets bigger and blooms more abundantly every year. This one, year five, must be its best yet.


Spring harbingers

The first of many, and very fragrant too! Can't wait to plant it in the garden as soon as the weather warms up.

I'm not used to seeing enthusiastic bloom from my potted plants, it's just one of those things I learned to accept over the years, so this glut of flowers took me a little by surprise.

It's worth repeating that cyclamens go dormant and die back to the ground during summer, at which time they're usually discarded. Don't throw them away! As soon as September comes around the healthy heart shaped foliage of their little clumps comes back eagerly, and by the time Christmas comes around again their dark green leaves are topped by a cheerful mass of pink flowers.

This year they've outdone themselves. Why? Who is to say? Maybe it's the sunshine. Maybe it's the Miracle Grow. Maybe they just started liking me more.

The Persian Cyclamen is a native of the Mediterranean shores, where it enjoys mild winters, and it grows in abundance all around this sea's basin, from Algeria to Israel and from Crete to Greece; here they are exclusively indoor plants unless you live in a climate zone warmer than zone ten.

If you do happen to live in a climate like that, you're in luck, because they grow well in dry shade. If not, don't miss out on growing them in your little garden on the window sill. What other plant is going to spoil you with flowers like these in the middle of January?


Holy aloe!

Aloe vera

I got this aloe plant for medicinal purposes, since aloe gel is a wonderful moisturizer and a great first aid balm for minor scrapes and burns.

At first I couldn't bring myself to harvest any of its tiny leaves, I thought it needed all of its foliage to adjust to the new location and stabilize what looked like a very unsure bearing, easily uprooted.

It tripled over a couple of years, and now it's growing so strong I can't believe it is the same plant. I still hesitate to harvest its leaves, I don't want to upset its balance. Soon I'll probably have too, just after I repot it into a much larger container, because it is getting too big and heavy for the one it's in already!

If you never used unprocessed aloe vera before, it is nothing like the smooth gel at the supermarket, the one that comes in a bottle and has been homogenized and thinned a little to improve its texture. Raw aloe vera gel is clumpy, slimy and stringy, and it sticks to your hands in a way that is not altogether pleasant, but once mixed into an ointment it is pure health in a jar: it smoothes roughness, hydrates, heals minor ailments, cools sunburn, balances combination skin, tightens and imparts a dewy glow to any complexion.

Aloe vera is as good for your insides as it is for your skin, but between the stringy, mucilaginous consistency, the sharp bitterness, and its laxative effects, I'm probably going to pass on using it internally. It offers great benefits for your health, though, if you are willing to get past the fact that it's really unpalatable: it is chock full of vitamins, helps clean your liver, like any bitter, restores your electrolyte balance, hydrates and alleviates small irritations inside your digestive tract.

I wonder how big it is going to get?

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