Saturday, April 14, 2007

My Split-Leaf Philodendron

Is Bigger Than

Your Split-Leaf Philodendron

If you live in Canada, and you have a split-leaf philodendron, it lives in a pot, and it is about as big as a basketball, and you bring it indoors during the winter, carefully protecting it from drafts and placing it so that it is not near a window through which it can even see snow.

We, however, have a split-leaf philodendron the size of a Volkswagen. See? At the base, it is wider than the Golf is long, and it's considerably taller. I considered, and rejected, an idea to park the Golf lengthwise in front of it to prove this point, as there is a weak spot in the concrete directly in the center-front of the philodendron.

That would not have been a good idea, for reasons which shall be disclosed later in this post. But. I did measure the frond-span of the thing, and it is indeed about 20 inches (roughly half a metre) wider than the Golf is long.

It's so good to have my dear little VW Golf all shiny and repaired again, what with great, huge dents last autumn caused by uninsured strippers, and little-bitty dents caused by road debris in the months after Katrina. It's amazing to me, that some people actually do not believe in either physics in general or gravity in particular, and these people heap unsecured cinderblocks and scrap metal on flimsy lawn trailers, which they then drive down the Interstate at alarming speeds, merrily spilling their contents on the road to entertain other drivers.

But I digress. Back to the split-leaf philodendron. We didn't have any freezes cold enough or long enough in duration to kill it back to the trunk this past winter, so it has started into spring with a decided advantage. Some tropical plants, like banana trees, survive in this manner in moderate climates, in our bi-polar weather that ranges from tropically steamy to pond-freezin' cold. They can die back to the trunk and start over in the spring if they need to.

If you wander back to one of my posts from the summer of 2005 regarding the Big Shawl For Me, you will see a close-up photo of the same plant. This is possibly the largest split-leaf philodendron in captivity outside of its native habitat (and no, I do not know where that is), but this is not because I am a talented gardener. Far from it. I am rather skilled at taking care of animals and people, but any plant that manages to survive anywhere within range of my lethal gaze does so out of sheer botanical luck. Our plants have been known to uproot themselves and crawl to the neighbors, like the French Foreign Legion lost in the desert, pleading for water.

Since last summer, while Plantzilla thrived in spite of the fact that the rest of our yard was barely suriving the searing August heat, and later during the winter, in which it remained robust despite freezing rain and also being sleeted upon, I considered the possibility that perhaps, long ago, I may have sprinkled Special Miracle-Gro Fairy Dust in the soil in the planting bed in which resides the split-leaf phildendron.

Magic Dirt or something. Fairy Fertilizer.

But noooooo.....

It turns out that the philodendron is so lush and ginormous because we had a leaky sewer line, and this particular piece of foliage sits directly on top of the leak.


The leak, in fact, is so prodigious that it has washed away the dirt under part of the pavement there and caused some subsidence, and there is also an alarming crack in the concrete -- thus, the inadvisability of providing a lengthwise comparison photo of Das Golf.

But back to knitting. I have been up to my ears in grants and proposals lately, and my knitting mojo has gone just a little south-by-southwest in the past several weeks while I relocated office space and buried myself in paperwork.

I have also been trying to help my friend Joan Hamer a bit by guest-blogging now and then while she recovers from surgery, and I have a highly classified project going on with Lisa Louie for a charitable benefit, which shall be revealed over the course of the next week.

lately I have taken a break from re-knitting the yoke of my green fisherman's sweater, which I keep putting aside to knit things for other people, so I could finish a shawl I started a long while back. It's a complete idiot's delight triangle, in garter stitch on fat needles in Lion Brand ribbon yarn in the City Lights colorway. No technical accomplishment whatsoever, just fun with color, something utterly mindless to tote around in the car for Knitting While Waiting. I also made fringe. See?

I sprawled the thing across an ancient butterfly chair frame. I had to dispose of the old canvas seats, as they had rotted. Does anybody know if there is a sensible manufacturer our there who makes butterfly chair covers out of some rot-resistant material like ballistic nylon?

I mean, these things sit outside. They are patio furniture. It rains here. It rains a lot. Butterfly chairs have bucket seats. They make little ponds. Little ponds rot fabric. Anybody awake out there in seat-manufacturing land? Not everybody lives in the desert, dudes.

On the needles: less than two hours away from completion -- gotta find the two hours first -- a tank top, with a lace hem, in blue Unger Cotton Plantation. Yes, this is almost exactly like the one I made my Mom, but I finished hers first, so it would be in time for Christmas.

Early this morning, Shamu, who is employed as a Tactile Assessment Engineer here at the Knitting Asylum, inspected my work for softness and even stitchery:

I like the design, but I feel very ambivalent about this particular shade of blue on me. It looks great on my Mom, who is ultra-fair-skinned, but I inherited my Dad's olive complexion, so I tend to look seasick in "dusty" shades. Later this spring, I plan to prowl the local creekbeds in search of enough wild indigo to overdye the garment. If I can't find enough, I will use a commerical dye in either indigo or deep purple.

Although the color shown is not the best possible shade of blue for me to wear, Unger Plantation is my favorite cotton yarn, and it's out of production, so I take what I can get and occasionally have a little dyeing adventure. If I finish it while the weather is such that it still gets cool in the evening, I can always top it off with a shawl.

While Shamu was inspecting the tank-top-to-be, I heard the familiar sound of chainsaws next door. Normally, I don't pay much attention to the chainsaws, because I have heard them for about seventy-five weekends in a row, but this morning, the sawing was interrupted by a resounding whump.


During Hurricane Katrina, the neighbors lost a 90-foot, multi-ton red oak, which fell katty-corner across their yard and the adjacent neighbors, flattening the cedar fence between them on its way down. Dave and I have admired our neighbors' persistence weekend after weekend as they have chipped away at this gargantuan heap of botany.

Because the tree did not fall directly upon a dwelling, their insurance company did not want to pay the many-thousand dollars necessary to remove the tree, so the neighbors took on the job themselves. For a year and a half, they have whacked away at the monster almost every Saturday morning. Then they chainsaw each weekend's efforts -- usually half a cord or so -- into fireplace-sized pieces, and stack them neatly at the curb ... and by Sunday morning, all the wood is gone, thanks to firewood scavengers (including ourselves).

Not a bad little urban ecosystem, I think.

Why do they cut it up and put it out so nicely, so other people can have free firewood? "We have to cut it up anyway," says the neighbor. "And it's easier to manage small pieces in the wheelbarrow. Why not let somebody get some use out of it?"

Gotta love that.

This weekend marked a milestone in Project Tree: until today, the fallen tree had, of course, rested in the horizonal position while the major trunk was chipped away by our industrious neighbors. But this morning, amidst the usual whining chainsaw sounds, we heard a loud "WHOOSH," followed by a house-shaking "THUMP." Investigation of the noises revealed that the wide root base had had enough of the major trunk chipped away to fall naturally back into its accustomed postion.

Here, the neighbor's father-in-law (a regular participant in the weekly, year-and-a-half-long, oak-sawing marathon) is seen walking away from the stump, which sits against the back property line. I wasn't fast enough with the camera to get a shot while he was still standing next to it. The stump is about six feet high and ... well ... wider than a Volkswagen is long.

It's probably wider than an SUV is long, really.

This is not the forest primeval. This is the backyard in a perfectly ordinary Baton Rouge subdivision, in a heavily trafficked part of the city, within sight of the Interstate.

Oh, and the hazy look in this photo? There is nothing wrong with my camera. That's the ... um ... air.


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At 3:13 PM, Anonymous Lori said...


Check with a company that makes "canvas" awnings. The ones around here tend to use some form of probably ballistic nylon and it seems to hold up in our steamy summers and freezing winters rather well. And your jungle sized philodendron. Living proof about of how well organic fertilizer works.

At 3:23 PM, Blogger noricum said...

Sounds like you need a grommet in the bottom of the seat to let the water drain out.

I had a philodendron before I left home for grad school. It never went outside, but it would grow up to the ceiling... then I'd chop it down, root the top foot or so, and start again. I had forgotten about that plant...

At 3:47 PM, Blogger Sheridan said...

Reading you and Crazy Aunt Purl made me itch to start knitting again, and your Big Shawl For You made me do a Big Shawl For Me as my first project. I am so in love with it. Would love to show you!

So, er ... enquiring minds want to know ... is the sewage leak going to be fixed, or in the interests of botanical experimentation, are we going to see just how big that philodendron can get? Is MamboCat going to have to use a machete to leave the house in the mornings? LOL.


At 4:05 PM, Blogger Dez Crawford said...

Xeres. I would love to see the picture of your Big Shawl For You ... and yes, the sewage leak will be fixed. I mean, really. What I keft out, for the sake of decorum, was that when the concrete cracked, a certain amount of vapor was emitted, and then I was thinking:

"Collapsing sidewalk plus HUGE plant plus HUGE stink -- DUH! Somebody hit me with the stupid stick!"

Great idea for awning company and YES, the grommet is necessary for a butterfly chair cover. I never understand the people who manufacture these things. I swear they all live in Las Vegas.

If WE made them, they would be made out of hammocky material, eh?


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