Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
July, 2008
Regional Report

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May I introduce you to my longtime friend and companion, Son of Giant Plant.

Meet Son of Giant Plant

Giant Plant and I have been together since 1972. He was born from a cutting from a huge Monstera deliciosa that thrived in Dearie's greenhouse in Napa. Dearie had such a green thumb that all she did was cut off a hunk of vine and plunge it into an old clay pot filled with a combination of manure and garden soil. "No water for ten days" was her only instruction.

I was living in Mill Valley at the time and had a perfect window where the tropical vine could thrive. The cutting of the monstera seemed to like the spot because it soon began to grow, and grow, and grow. I was new to gardening at the time and was thrilled to see such exuberance in an alien (to me) life form. Soon, the vine had made its way to the ceiling. I called Dearie and asked her what I should do now. She told me to cut off the top and stick it back into the pot, which I did, with astounding success.

The Monstera deliciosa is a tropical vine that will grow to 50 feet. The common name is Swiss cheese plant because the mature leaves develop perforations along the center rib if provided with enough light and more humidity than a native Californian can stand. Conditions must have been ideal in the Mill Valley house because during the second summer the plant actually developed a fruit. It looked like a green banana, smelled like strawberries, and was segmented like kernels of corn. It was around this time that the name "Giant Plant" stuck.

Guests marveled at the size and vigor of Giant Plant. He must have thrived on the praise because he only grew larger and more lush. I fertilized with liquid fish every other week during the active growing period, and held back on water during the winter months.

Sadly, the time came to move from the Mill Valley house to a small apartment in Napa. Giant Plant was given first consideration for location and a spot was found near a south-facing window wall that had a surrounding arch. I set the base of the pot up on a wooden rack, to keep the roots out of the water. Monstera develop long, rope-like aerial roots that will root when they reach soil. These aerial roots help support the plant, and the additional root structure sucks up any nutrients from the surrounding soil. I was continuously tucking roots into the pot and saucer to prevent them from snaking across the floor and tripping me in the night. (Remember the man-eating plant Audrey from The Little Shop of Horrors?)

Giant Plant survived several more moves, each time growing in stature and reputation. I think the place it loved the best was an indoor atrium in Menlo Park. The only problem with that location was I had to crawl through a small window to water. The manager of the building liked the look so much that he contracted with me to fill and maintain the other three atriums in the main hall of the building.

Then we decided to move onto our boat. Housing prices were going through the roof and we were being killed by taxes. We needed a write-off and loved boating. The solution seemed obvious. I found a home for all my plants, including Giant Plant. I was working at Sunset at the time, so I borrowed the company truck and with the help of several people, moved the vine to the greenhouse in the nursery. Over the years, we made many cuttings from Giant Plant.

I left Sunset in 1996 to pursue a career in television. It was sad to leave my good plant behind after 20-plus years together, but there was no place for it on the sailboat. Luckily, I retained good relations with my friends at Sunset and was finally able to bring a small cutting of Giant Plant to grow in my office. I guess the location was just right, because Son of Giant Plant has taken off!

It's strange to think of a plant as a friend and companion, but I honestly believe that plant and I will be together for many more years. He certainly has aged better than I have, perhaps he will outlive us all!

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