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By way of a gift, Basil and Angelica have given me a magnificent bonsai. Residing in an elegant china dish complete with practical matching drip tray, Zanthoxylum piperitum (Japanese pepper) requires a cool spot indoors. Sufficient light is a must so the kitchen is out of consideration. Frequent irrigation with a modest amount of water is a prerequisite, meaning that I cannot put it on a windowsill where I might forget to pander to its whims. Being scared of a plant is not a familiar feeling.
Primula auricula “Maggie”
Primula auricula “Maggie”

I’ve settled on the hall as being the best pitch. I think that the long window will allow enough light and although I’m mostly asleep as I stumble to or from my bedroom, I should notice when a spritz from a spray gun would be welcome. I keep other houseplants in the area, so adding just one more specimen entails a major reorganisation if I want to open the front door. I’m not a judgemental person but push has come to shove. Time to earn your keep. Get out and walk, you pay no rent. You can tell that I’m mixing my metaphors and girding my loins. Ctenanthe setosa “Grey Star” (fishbone prayer plant) I’m looking at you, kid. The parent plant has been languishing and dying in slow motion for so long that I tore off a chunk and stuffed it in a fresh pot. The infant is making a cautious bid for life, while the original is still sulking. I took the latter to the conservatory to complete its demise, where I can’t see it or feel pity.
Corylus avellana “Contorta” (corkscrew hazel)
Corylus avellana “Contorta” (corkscrew hazel)

Billbergia nutans (friendship plant) is an epiphytic bromeliad, getting its common name for the ease with which you can rip off a lump to share with other masochists. It squats ominously in its pot, a rat’s nest of scrawny leaves, with a recalcitrant teenaged look about its face. Other growers have left theirs in the garden. Serves it right. Allegedly the plant can suffer down to fourteen degrees of frost but doesn’t like it. Good. It’s also called queen’s tears, from the drops of nectar that weep from the flowers. Supposedly it blooms with arching tails of pink, yellow, purple and green. I wouldn’t know, since after decades of tender loving care, it has given me nothing but bad hair days. I can make better use of the space, so likewise it goes to the mortuary ward.
Zanthoxylum piperitum (Japanese pepper)
Zanthoxylum piperitum (Japanese pepper)

I found the marble table which is the focal point of my display. I was dropping off a trailer full of prunings for re-cycling at the tip and spotted the stone ware, awaiting a strong arm to heave it over the barrier. The gentleman in charge was only too pleased for me to save him the job and I bore it home in triumph. After extensive renovation, the top wobbles fearsomely on its metal skeleton despite the application of many tubs of filler, so it is sited where there is no pedestrian traffic to cause an upset. The handsome miniature tree is now installed in pride of place, where I may admire it in passing, or sit on the stairs to gloat at my leisure. I think that I’m in love.

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