Home & Design

Green Acre #377: Fooling Mother Nature . . .

This is how LittleBird Stephanie’s sago comes out of “hibernation.” Not so pretty. / Photo by Stephanie Cavanaugh.

PERHAPS YOU paint Easter eggs. I paint a sago palm. 

Each year the 10-, maybe 9-year-old, plant—which, while it looks like a palm, is not a palm but a cycad—moves from its perch in the foyer to a perch on the front porch, between the window boxes. It’s very grand when the sago leaves are greenly unfurled.

At the moment, it’s not in the least attractive.

Sadly, it’s a pain in the butt to water indoors in its rather shallow, though fabulous and dramatic, cast-iron planter. You can hardly take a hose to it in the foyer, and the planter is not just heavy but wide, making it a two-person operation to lift and place anywhere, so it tends to dry out a little too frequently.

The result is that the leaves gradually yellow and by around this time each year you have a nobbily core that strongly resembles a pineapple and a bunch of pale and brittle fronds. This is an unappetizing sight. It looks, in fact, rather dead. But it’s not dead, it’s just doing what it does, guzzle water in preparation for a spectacular regeneration. 

Here’s where a can of Colortool spray paint, from Design Master, comes in handy. A particular shade called Basil is a dead ringer for life. And totally harmless to plants, I’ve found, by testing it myself many times over the years. 

If I were more careful, cautious, I would have The Prince help me put the plant on the porch floor on top of layers of newspaper to avoid spraying walls and such surroundings. This is what he would do, being far more fastidious about such than I. Instead, I take the day’s sports section of the Washington Post, which would otherwise be used for the evening’s fireplace starter, carefully place it under a frond, shellack it with spray paint, then repeat with each leaf.

Sorry I can’t give you the full drama of this transformation as it only occurred to me to write about it when I was about 75% done—but you can see some of the yellowed leaves in the photo above and the newly greened leaves in the finished project, below and on the front.

The finished, spray-painted sago palm. / Photo here and on the front by Stephanie Cavanaugh.

Note that here and there I’ve left some brownish yellow at leaf edge? Ah! This is the genius: I do not want the plant to look unnatural, therefore I leave bits unpainted or not thoroughly coated, as if they’re just beginning to brown. 

This might also be read as I was too damn lazy to do the job properly, which is what Some People might say.   

What you can’t see are the little nibs in the center of the center that are just beginning to develop. The sago has this amazing habit of issuing those pointy bits, which sit and sit for weeks and then suddenly—overnight, I swear—they emerge and unfurl, inches high. And then they laugh.  



2 thoughts on “Green Acre #377: Fooling Mother Nature . . .

  1. stephanie Cavanaugh says:

    Just found! Design master makes gold, silver, and glitter spray paint. All safe for live plants, they say. Oy! Glitter! Could be tacky, could be fantastic. You’ve inspired me. Thank you.

  2. cynthia tilson says:

    Delightful! You’ve inspired me again! In my case, it’s the denuded ficus tree in my family room. For three decades, she plays dead in the winter, but springs back to life every spring and summer in the garden. Next fall, I may hang fake leaves or even sparkly jewelry from her branches…a winter holiday wardrobe of sorts.
    Why not?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.