Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Traveling Houseplants

           Before embarking on my summer 2016 adventures, I wondered how to approach doing a travel blog. Could I possibly pick up a little plant friend to carry with me throughout Europe and leave with a friend before heading back to the U.S.? On my first day abroad in Rome, I went to Mercato di Campagna Amica "Friend of the Country Market" (thank you Google Translate) just around the corner from Circo Massimo. The one-Euro potted succulents were incredibly tempting, but most likely a total pain (literally for the cacti) to carry for one more week through Italy, and the rest of the trip. 
On a fairly spontaneous day trip to Pisa while traveling between Florence and Genova--by train I would be traveling through Pisa whether or not I stopped to see the tower--I wandered through the campus at University of Pisa while walking through town. I found a destroyed succulent plant. Sad and in pieces, I collected some of the undamaged leaves and planned to hang onto them and see if they could be propagated. I also picked some more Jade plant-like leaves, and I can't remember from where (I think Genova. At this point I "caught" something which yelled at me that this was a good idea. I have to be restrained at garden stores). 

It's amazing how confidently one can "tourist"
when everyone else is doing the same thing
Forgotten in my purse, and impressively undamaged except for one, the leaves lived outside of sunlight for about 4 more days, and then found a home in my window at the residence in Toulouse. At this point I had started the official study abroad with PURPAN, and was keeping the leaved moist enough by dripping water on their toilet paper "bed."

I was lucky to be paired with a culinary wizard of sorts (she made pistachio custard, octopus stew, and a Greek cucumber soup, and made she there was goat cheese and fruit for breakfast and enough rice pudding for dessert) who gave me a leftover jar to transport my little ones to the next stop of the summer, a month at an internship on a vineyard. 

In just two weeks time, the leaves had shrunk significantly in the hot, sunny window sill. I left three or so plants with my host family at Chateau Boujac, just 50 minutes north of Toulouse. Plants were then gifted to a friend I visited in Brussels after the internship was completed. The Belgian propagations were officially reported dead, as the housecats loved them so much they ate them. The final home (but hopefully not "final resting place") of the plants is in Uppsala, Sweden, where they were left with another friend I was fortunate to visit. Yes another friend hosted me while in Milan, but the plants were merely leaves yet then (Hey friends--once again, thank you!)

Just before leaving, the final leaf--this one from Barcelona--was just pushing its new leaves and tiny roots through the callous formed over the wound. Some kind of metamorphosis takes place behind that light brown veil, a magic of sorts. 

If you are interested in propagating your own succulents, the internet is absolutely full of resources. I liked this blog post. Throughout my young life as a houseplant owner, I have learned a lot from the plants I have killed (by far not just a few plants). Don't be afraid, and keep trying. Sooner or later you can find the sweet spots for lighting and watering in your home. 

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