My mother was a remarkable plantsperson. She grew unusual things that had no business making it in the yard of our suburban, Long Island split-level. And yet, I cannot remember going with her to a nursery to buy plants. Instead, she helped herself to small cuttings here and there. In fact, when I was a child I remember being mortified (many times!) when she enlisted my help to block her while she bent down at the NY Botanical Garden to take a few little cuttings, using her long and extravagantly manicured fingernails to make clean cuts. She then surreptitiously slipped the cuttings into the Baggies that she conveniently had in her purse. I was convinced we were going to be found out, hauled off to the office of the Garden Manager, and then escorted off the grounds. Maybe the police were going to be called in. I do not remember ever getting caught, however, I know that if we were, she would have easily talked her way out of the situation. In fact, she would have been given a tour of the work rooms and offered more cuttings.
I do not have my mother’s nerve but I do like to propagate my own plants, and cuttings – of the right plants – are about the easiest way to do this. So when I saw a few overgrown and potbound coleuses at a local nursery, I thought of my mother and had to buy them. Not only are they not native to dry Southern California, they are tropical ornamentals from southeast Asia and Malaysia that require lots of water, both in the soil and in the air. Nevertheless, I had fun making cuttings and unless I get busy, I may be able to keep their colorful leaves from turning into brown, dry and crunchy chips, for a little while, anyway.