I SUPPOSE fall has finally arrived. The trees are turning red and orange. It’s time for sweaters, if not coats, and I bought tabi socks—Japanese-style socks with a separate toe—so I can continue to wear my beloved Birkenstock Gizahs, essentially orthopedic flip-flops, outdoors for at least a few more weeks.
The spring bulbs are in place, pink and purple tulips and purple allium that will pop up amid the pansies and cabbages beginning sometime in March.
Meanwhile, the dining room is a tropical staging area, jammed with philodendron, pink and orange hibiscus, jasmines and small orange, Meyer lemon and lime trees.
These live outdoors in pots for the summer, on the back porch or in the garden, tucked among the hydrangeas, pretty much the only hardy perennials I can grow, given the mistake that is the kwanzan cherry tree which, like Audrey, the plant in Little Shop of Horrors, threatens to eat the minuscule plot. Read tags before buying, I remind myself!
There are, I think (don’t bother me with counting), 30 or so pots huddled on the dining room floor. Some are huge: The white bird of paradise, now over 7 feet tall, threatens to break The Prince’s back. Some are tiny, for a handful of orchids.
None can remain outdoors when the temperature hits freezing, as it has threatened to do several times in the past week. And so, last weekend, in they came, ready to assume their winter positions.
The leafy parlor palms are back behind the living room sofa, the ponytail palm is between the bedroom windows, the sago palm is back on its pedestal in the front hall, and once I tidy the little solarium outside my second-floor office, the rest will happily winter over in that warm sunny space, the miniature fruit trees and jasmine budding out in December, filling the house with fragrance.
Most of the leaves of the giant elephant ear that I talked about a week or so ago had to be lopped off; some were given away, others are in vases here and there. Big Mama will be dug up and put into a pot as soon as we find one big enough: It’s too much fun to store away and it will continue to leaf out throughout the winter. My more meager specimens have been unearthed and trimmed back, the bare bulbs tossed into an open metal box and shoved under a table. They’ll come back fine in spring.
While I love my outdoor garden, I might love it even more when it comes inside to complement the gray-green walls, the leopard-print velvet dining-room seats, the bronze monkey lamp, the gilded leaves, feathered lampshades, sequined birds and other jungle dreck I have managed to accumulate over the years.
Of course, more would be more. I’m contemplating a palm-print wallpaper for the kitchen to go with the palm chandelier hanging from the ceiling. A long and narrow green marble slab atop two urns as a side table would be nice, and on the wall (what wall do I have left?) garden and flower photos from Havana and Rome to go along with a favorite one that Baby took years ago of a royal palm on Grand Cayman that now hangs in the living room.
The painting of The General, will move from the porch, where he presides over the mojitos, to the dining room for the winter. He makes me laugh.
Laughter, I think, is something we all need rather desperately.
LittleBird Stephanie reports on the green goings-on in and around her house in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington DC every Thursday.