"Gardening is about enjoying the smell of things growing in the soil, getting dirty without feeling guilty, and generally taking the time to soak up a little peace and serenity. " ~Lindley Karstens

Monday, August 30, 2010

One Story About My Plants Obsession

I am obsessed with plants!  (In case you have not already known...) I think every garden blogger out there can easily make the same statement about themselves.  If you are a gardener, and growing a garden alone is not satisfying enough, you have to talk about it, write about it, and read about it, the chance that you are obsessed with the plants is quite big!  Don't you agree? 

One typical symptom of this obsession is that you saw one plant in some public or private garden, or from somebody's blog, and you fell love into it.  Then you "google" it, or "bing" it, try to find as much information as possible.  If all the researches tell you that you also could OWN such a plant, and this plant is a good fit (or a "close" fit) in your climate, you put it on your watch list, and even start selecting a spot in your garden in your mind for this special plant.    To very extreme, you might even dream about it!  At that time, you know you are obsessed!

To back up my statement, let me tell you one story about my obsession.

It all started with this picture that I took in a garden when I visited China this summer.

The plant in the container is called Medinilla magnifica.  That was my first time to see this plant, and I was just fascinated by both its flowers and the foliage.  So I took a picture of the plant label, and came back to google it.   When I found out that some people in Florida also grow this plant, I got excited!  That means I also could have it in my garden if I could find one!  I also included this same picture in one of my China trip posts as well.

Since I have not seen anything like this in my one year extensive plant shopping experience, I also knew this would not be an easy find.  So I kind of setting the low expectation to it.  You know, high expectation sometime means big disappointment.  

Until one Sunday night, hubby and I went to a big box store to buy something, and I checked out their garden center like everytime we went to this store.  I saw three plants sitting on the floor that looked just like Medinilla magnifica that I remembered!  Of course, since it has been a while, I could not remember the name anymore (in case you also didn't know that I am very bad at names, both plants' and people's), I was not certain if it is the exact same plant that I saw in China, and therefore it might not be a good fit to my garden (you know the reputation of big box store to sell the wrong plants sometimes?) .  So, I decided that I will hold on the purchase until I go back home to double check and do more research on it. (a decision that I regretted so much later!)   We left the store with the label name written on a piece of paper.

That night, I went back home, googled it with that name, and compared to the picture once more, I knew I have found it!  So I went to sleep picturing where I can put that beautiful plant in my garden.  I was so certain that only thing left for me to do is just going there to buy it.  Next day was Monday, I went to work early morning, and after work, I needed to take my boys to their weekly piano lesson.  During the piano lesson, Hubby called me that he needed to go back to that big box store to buy more stuffs that he needed. I asked him if he could also buy that plant for me. 

"What plant?"  he asked.

"The one I showed you in the store. "  I said.

"Which one?  You showed me lots of plants." He asked again.

"The one we all saw in China, and I also put it in one of my blog posts.  The one that has pink pendulous flowers and big leaves.  The one that they put in the shaded area of the garden center..."  I kept to add more clues for him.

"I still don't know what you are talking about."  He seemed confused even more. 

At that moment, I realized that although he supported my gardening obsessions, and helped me removing the sod, digging the roots, carrying all those soils and gravels,  he is NOT the gardener, and lots of plants to him probably still look the same.  I should not expect he can remember every single plant I showed to him.  Not wanting to take the risk for him to bring the wrong plant home, I decided that I will go to buy it the next day myself since it would be too late to go after the piano lesson and kids needed to eat the dinner first.

Tuesday right after the work, I directly drove to the store and walked to the exact spot to get that plant.  I COULD NOT FIND IT!  All three were gone, and even not single one left!  My heart just sunk at that moment.  I asked the store cashier, and he said he did not remember such plants.  "Maybe they were sold out, maybe the supplier came to take them away, or maybe they were moved to somewhere else".  He lifted my hope, so I pushed the cart in the garden center hoping they were still hidden somewhere.  After three rounds of searching, I knew I lost it!  You can imagine how disappointed I was when I drove back home, and I kept blaming myself that I did not buy it when I first saw it in the store!

Within three weeks after that day, I still occasionally talked about this plant, and showed the picture to hubby one more time.  I even showed hubby the spot that I thought would be the best for that plant!  Hubby felt bad about it since he did not buy it for me when he was in the store one day earlier.  "Why don't you go to the store to ask where they got the plants from, maybe you can go to the supplier directly.  Maybe you can check other stores to see if they have any..."  He tried to give me some suggestions, but I thought if it is gone from one store, then other stores won't have any either.  Maybe I was just afraid to have more disappointments...

Until this past Sunday, after I dropped kids to Sunday Chinese school, I went to the same big box store, but near by the school to look around.  [Here is another symptom of the plants obsession for women:  enjoying plants shopping in the hot nursery center as much as (or even more than) cloth/shoe shopping in the air-conditioned mall.]  In the house plants section, among all the greens, I spotted something pink!  And there it is! 

Only two of them were left, so I grabbed one immediately. When I drove back to the Chinese school, I had big smiles on my face all the way. Since there was still one hour left before the class ended, I could not take the risk to have the plants cooked in the hot car, I took the plants inside the waiting area of the school where other parents were waiting for their kids. I felt like a proud mom to show off her kids when other parents gave the compliments to the plant!

Can you blame me for being obsessed with this beauty? 

Although the plant label only says "Medinilla, Rose Grape", after more research, I found out what I got still has slight difference from what I saw in China. This one is called Medinilla cumingii. You can see the difference of the flowers. The flower is a little smaller, and doesn't have the petals outside of the grape shaped flower cluster. The leaves are also a little smaller. This is the more compact and dwarf type compared to Medinilla magnifica. The young flower is soft pink, and then the pink becomes darker and darker when the flower ages.  The final stage of the flower looks like berries. So you often can see different shade of pink flowers in one plant. It is said the flowers can hold quite long on the plant. I will know more about it later.

It is said that this plant loves bright shade with moist soil. It can not tolerate the frost, but could tolerate near freezing cold weather. For this reason, I might put it into a big container, and then situate the container to the spot that I have selected for it way before (remember that planting in the mind?).  In this case, I can bring it indoor in case any long-lasting frost days for the coming winter.

Needless to say, my husband was also glad that I finally got what I wanted.  First he doesn't have to listen to my nagging any more, second he does not have to feel guilty any more.

Well, this is one story about my plants obsession.  Hope it did not bore you too much.  Do you have any story about your plants obsession?  Come on, write about it and be brave to admit it!  Let's all hear it!


  1. I fully understand your obsession, and often find myself wanting more plants than I can fit into my tiny garden. It must be nice for you to find something from China that will grow in your garden, and it sounds as though it will adapt to the Florida climate quite well. I know I have been obsessing about finding a clivia for some reason. I know that they grow in South Africa where I grew up, but dont remember seeing one there. I know that one day I will get that clivia.....and I know the exact spot that I will plant it!

  2. Ooh, Clivia! I knew it is quite precious flower in China. I also have not seen one in Florida, maybe because it doesn't have enough cool night in the fall here. That is an plant people would easily obsessed about, needless to say it associates your childhood memory. Good luck to find one!

  3. I love your obsession story. It is such a comfort to know that there are other crazed, obsessed gardeners out there.

    P.S. I have become obsessed with your Medinilla also after you posted those photos from your trip. Unfortunately, it probably wouldn't be hardy here. Not that that's ever stopped me before.

  4. FG: Hehe, glad that my story gave you the comfort! Isn't this one of the reasons that we blog? We want to know other obsessed gardeners out there, so we can talk about as much as we want without getting the "look" :)

    Yes, I think you should go for it if you can find Medinilla in your area. I found it in HD. You may put it into the container to bring it indoor during the freezing days.

  5. I am so happy for you Ami. I remember you posting about this lovely plant from your China visit. Sometimes a plant just attaches itself to our hearts and we can't forget it, and IF we can grow it in our area all the better. Glad you had success in finding it.

    Enjoy, as it really is a sweet plant.


  6. Dear Ami,
    That was quite the story to find that lovely pink flowering plant.

    Just yesterday while working with a client I spotted a flower in a garden I couldn't ID but would love to have it in my garden. I stopped on the side of the road to take a photo (with my client in the car).

    Typically I probably am more guilty of dreaming and daydreaming in the form of 'design'. My mind is always creating 'spaces' and visions with plants. Wherever I am it is the plants I notice first... It can be a bit obsessive.

    I'm happy for you to find your Medinilla even if it is a slightly different cultivar it is very pretty. The leaves remind me a little of a Tibouchina... am I seeing that correctly?

    I hope you have a wonderful day.

  7. Oh Ami, I loved reading this story. I can just picture you carrying your plant inside to wait for your children. Yes, we gardeners can be quite obsessed. It is a lovely plant I know will be a stunning focal point in your garden. To have such a pretty plant that also brings memories of home is a double blessing.

  8. I could definitely identify with your story. Many times I've done the same thing. Left the nursery...only to return the next day and find the plant gone. I have many plant obsessions without a doubt...orchids, begonias, containers, garden art are just a few.

    My mom has one of these plants and it is beautiful. I know she does bring it in during cold snaps. Good luck with your new found plant and enjoy it!

  9. I can understand how you feel Ami - once we get set on having a particular plant.

    Medinella's a quite a popular houseplant here in the UK especialy placed in urns so that their big drooping flowers can hang over the edges.

    I hope you enjoy your new purchase.

  10. FlowerLady: Thanks! You are so right, some plants are just attached to the heart, and this is one of those! Now I just need to make it happy in my garden :)

  11. Meems: I am glad to hear your version of story :) Obviously your daydreaming really paid off, you garden looks just like a dream garden. All those plan and envision really worked!

    I don't have a Tibouchina, but I just googled, and yes, the leaves looked very similar to Medinilla.

  12. NanaK: To bring that plant to the school really made some of my friends laugh. Now I have the reputation of plants obsession among them!

  13. Susan: All your obsessions turn into gorgeous collections! Loved your orchid, container, begonia and garden arts pictures you have shown in your blog. Glad to know that your mom also has this plant, hope it is not too difficult to take care.

  14. Leavesnbloom: Oh, I can picture how lovely this plant looks when planting in an urn. Here in Florida, I think most of time it should be able to stay outdoor except some occasional cold days.

  15. ha ha ha! I'm glad you finally found it. It would have been really disappointing to know you saw it and missed out!

    Last year, I was totally obsessed with gomphrena "strawberry fields". I don't normally feel like I HAVE to have something. Anyway, I scoured the Internet and stores to find it and only found a pack of seeds in a catalog. The shipping was several times more than the seed! Anyway, it's here in the garden, it's really really pretty, but ultimately, I don't think it "goes", so at the end of the season, it's going to "go".

  16. Hello there!
    I some how stumbled across your blog when I was searching for unique house plants in China. I know that was years ago, and I'm sure you aren't as interested any longer but.. I did run into that plant offered online, if you ever wanted to find it again. $20 for a 6in pot:

  17. hi, love your blog... love your gardening... love your storys! and wow! love your flowers!
    grettings from méxico


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