Tips for first-time plant parents and reminders for the experienced ones

Plants are becoming more and more popular in the pandemic, among both long-term and new plant parents. Growing up, my grandparents travelled a lot and as one of the few people in my family with a green thumb, I was always put in charge of looking after my grandmother’s plants. Now, I have half a dozen plants of my own and the beginnings of an indoor herb garden. 

While many plants are relatively low maintenance, here are a few things that I’ve learned over the years that are worth keeping in mind as you adopt a new plant.

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1. Do your research

First, while there are lots of lists on the internet detailing the best and most resilient plants for first-time plant owners, it’s important to do your own research first. Each plant has its own optimal growing conditions and it’s good to ensure that your home can meet them.

For example, temperature is an often overlooked but important condition to be aware of. Most plants do best anywhere between 16°C and 26°C. Do your best to avoid dramatic temperature changes in your home and keep plants away from drafty windows, especially in the winter.

Availability of light seems intuitive, but not all spaces in your home will get light equally and it’s good to consider where the best, most well-lit corners of your home are before you bring your plant home.

It’s also worth taking into account the other conditions in your home, such as the availability of space in your house, the thoughts of your housemates and your ability to take care of a plant. Also be aware that some plants are not safe to have around pets, so if you do have pets be sure to check that the plant you have in mind won’t be a danger to them. 

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2. Don’t overwater!

Once you have adopted your plant, brought it home and set it up in a nice and sunny spot, you’ll be responsible for watering it. While creating a schedule or setting reminders on your phone can be helpful, it can increase the risk of overwatering your plant, which can be harder to come back from than underwatering. 

Good lighting can help the plant dry out and mitigate the dangers of overwatering, but the best way to avoid it altogether is by checking the soil regularly and letting your plant tell you when it needs more water. If the soil is very damp, your plant doesn’t need any more water, but if the soil is drier, be sure to give your plant a drink. 

Additionally, the amount of water a plant needs is proportional to its size, so your smaller plants will need less water than your larger ones and as your plants grow, they may need more water than they did before

Most planters have a drainage hole at the bottom, which mitigates the possibility of overwatering. If your planter does not, it would be good to find a planter that does have a drainage hole. It can also come in handy if your plant is underwatered because you can fill a sink with a few inches of water and set the plant in it to soak up some water quickly.

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3. Start simple

There are a plethora of plant accessories out there but when you’re starting out, it’s often best to start simple: plant, pot, watering can (or even just a designated cup will do) and maybe a spray bottle for misting the leaves. 

Misting the leaves can help keep your plant free of dust. It also gives you a moment to check the leaves for any signs of illness or bugs as well as to remove any dead leaves. Many tropical plants will shed some of their leaves during the winter months and removing them makes space for new growth. 

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4. Ask around!

Lastly, but maybe most important, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Most nurseries or greenhouses are happy to chat about plant care if you call them. Plants are also a great conversation starter for Zoom calls with family and friends, who are likely happy to share their own plant advice and experiences.

Forget about your school stress and live your fairytale at Royal Botanical Gardens

By: Belinda Tam, Contributor

Wonderful aromas, flowers, trees and shows. Doesn’t that sound amazing? With the stress of tests, midterms and assignments, sometimes it’s hard to get away from it all. The Royal Botanical Gardens (680 Plains Rd. West) is one of those places that will make you feel like you’ve walked into a fairy tale. With midterms in full swing, the RBG can be a great way to take time for yourself and relax without having to leave the city.

As the largest botanical gardens in Canada, a national historic site and a registered charitable organization for over 80 years, the RBG is an ecological gem. It was built and founded by Thomas Baker McQuesten, a Liberal member of provincial parliament for the area, who created what would become a regional botanical tourism site and environmental agency.

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In 1941, McQuesten was granted a provincial mandate for four areas of development: conservation, education, horticulture and science. Nearly 80 years later, the RBG has established an international reputation as a living laboratory for science, a leader in sustainable gardening and a key player in connecting Hamiltonians to nature. Within its 60 documented collections and 40,000 plants displayed in four major areas, it is a shining attraction just outside the city.

The RBG is comprised of four parks: Hendrie Park, Rock Garden, Laking Garden and the Arboretum.

Hendrie Park

Hendrie Park is the largest garden, known for its various plants and trees arranged in a unique design. It holds 20 different areas including the Rose Garden, Medicinal Garden and a Scented Garden. Each area boasts has a peak season that ranges depending on the time of year, allowing areas such as Hendrie Park to always give visitors a new experience.

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The Rose Garden has been newly renovated and is an extraordinary display of roses across two acres of land. Many of the roses are joined by companion plants that help to protect the roses within their vicinity.

The Medicinal Garden is unique because each bed in this garden is focused on a particular part of the human body. The beds are organized by the diseases they treat, but also features plants from various cultures, allowing one to compare ancient traditional herbs to modern medicine.

The Scented Garden features the traditional conception of a garden: stone walkways, a beautiful central fountain and the fragrance of flowers pollinating the air. You are encouraged to walk through the garden, smell the annuals and consider why we have an emotional attachment to plants. Why do we place them in vases to adorn our tables? Why do we plant them outside of our houses?

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When you go into different areas of Hendrie Park, it feels like you’re walking from one section of a storybook to the next, making it a magical experience.

Rock Garden

Then there’s the Rock Garden. It is RBG’s newest garden, built to celebrate the start of a new era with a modern twist. The founder of Royal Botanical Gardens, Thomas Baker McQuesten, took abandoned gravel and used it to form what is now known as the Rock Garden. Within the garden, there are ponds, a waterfall and a year-round perennial display. The new garden also showcases a multi-use visitor center that houses a restaurant, conference centre and a look-out deck with a view of the garden’s lower-bowl.

Laking Garden

The next area of the grounds is the Laking Garden. This is the second-oldest garden at the RBG and is home to perennial collections. Features of the garden include its iris, peony, and clematis collections, typically in full bloom during the summer months.

Arboretum

The last section of the garden is the Arboretum. It looks like something that came out of a landscape painting, with a vast arrangement of trees and plants. This area is especially beautiful in the spring when branches start to bud, but also in the fall when the foliage starts to assume beautiful reds, yellows and oranges. There are plants from all over the world here.

As large as the RBG is, they hold many events during the year.

The RBG has two ticketed events in the pipeline. “RBG After Dark: Boos, Brews & BBQ” is a Halloween costume party that will be held with creatures from the past. Enjoy the activities, music, locally crafted brews and delicious BBQ on Oct. 17 from 7-10 p.m. in the Rock Garden. Come out in your Halloween costume and take in the amazing autumn nightscape of the Boo-tanical Gardens!

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“The Great Pumpkin Trail” is taking over Hendrie Park’s South Bridle Trail lining each side of the path with hundreds of jack-o-lanterns. Enjoy the live entertainment, face painting and pumpkin-themed activities and games while taking in the autumn weather before All Hallow’s Eve. The event will take place on Oct. 24 and 25 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Both of these events are a fabulous way to meet up with friends, grab a bite, enjoy the scenery and get in the mood for Halloween!

As students, we have a lot of stress on our shoulders. We need to be able to take care of ourselves throughout our journey. The RBG can offer an escape from the stresses of campus, while still keeping you within the city’s limits. Stepping into one of its many acres will transport you to your favourite fairy tale and hopefully allow you to feel rejuvenated as we enter the second half of the semester.

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