There are some things that happen when you jump head first into a new hobby. No matter how much you read about it (and online nowadays, there’s a ton to read, for better or for worse), and how familiar you are with certain things, there’s bound to be a hiccup.

There have been a few of those, but one weekend in particular, last weekend, was a reality check, one of those “ah, yes” moments when you remember that there’s work involved.

In case you hadn’t already read it, and you likely haven’t, I went from zero plants, just me and my doggo, to (now, as of the time of this writing) 40. Actually slightly more than that, because I have a pothos that I split, the new (well, smaller) half of which is at the office, as well as a handful of succulent cuttings that aren’t actually mine, as well as six or seven little succulentlets that have grown their own roots with their own little babies budding forth, but I’m not counting them (yet). So we’ll say 40. The newest and most exciting of those is a fiddle leaf fig, which I’d told myself I wouldn’t get, and then I was at the nursery and there one was and I did the seeing and the asking and the buying and the bringing home, and it’s wonderful.

But back to the hiccups. A few weeks ago, I saw some cotton candy in the crooks of one of my plants, a very sad looking (I’m just told slow-growing) D. surculosa, so I panicked and got online and looked super close, and sure enough: mealybugs. That was actually after I found a few aphids on an Ardisia japonica. They’d nestled up into the unopened leaves at the very top and I picked them all out and that was that. Didn’t see any more. There was a nasty little army of fungus gnats that came in with, of all things, a kalanchoe I’d ended up with, but those are since resolved. Oh, and my H. helix had its own wonderful little city of

Anyway, the realization came to me that bringing pests and bugs into the house is a real threat, something I need to be prepared for, especially if they end up migrating to a few of my beloved, larger, more expensive recent purchases. So then what do we do?

I should mention at this point that it’s not quite as easy for me to jump over to the nearest Lowes or Home Depot (which has blocked access to its website from my country, apparently…) and talk to one of the people and say “Hey, these are the things that’s going on. I have these bugs on these plants and I’m looking for something quick and effective, something safe for my plants, and my dog, that won’t poison any of us,” etc. Actually it’s not that hard, but I’ve got to figure out how to say “neem oil” or “Bacillus thuringiensis” or “diatomaceous earth” or “imidacloprid” or whatever in Chinese, which I have done, and I’m now the proud owner of concentrated neem oil, so that’s wonderful, but it takes a bit of research.

So all the plants got a spray today, save the succulents, and even they might get a bit of a spritz to their soils. We shall see. I have a basil plant who was not in superb shape when I got it, clearly a bit past her prime, because she was full and bushy leafy, but also starting to get a little sad. I’m going to have to figure out how to propagate.

In any case, plant quarantining is a thing, and I have my new purchases at some distance from the other residents and will keep a weather eye out for anything there that shouldn’t be. The cleaning and spraying of the spider mites on the underside of the English ivy certainly tests my patience, and that one may not be salvageable. It’d been in some poor condition even before I realized it had visitors.

For the most part now, though, I am getting plants with big leaves, large foliage, lots of flat space instead off teeny little frilly spaces. Except for my pocket-sized parlor palm. Actually it just barely fits in a coffee cup, but is growing like a little weed and I’m hoping it doesn’t catch any critters.

That’s all for now. I have yet to photograph about…. 15 of the newest additions, but they’re beauties. Other things are more pressing, at the moment. It’s a good thing Fred (which is not the nursery owner’s actual name) didn’t have a monstera just hanging around, or we’d have been in trouble. He did suggest the fiddle leaf over the rubber tree I’d asked about some time back, so now it is in my possession. That’s all for now. Three cheers for neem oil, and its weird peanut-esque smell, and hopefully keeping my plants happy and pest free.

Live and learn.

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