The Pot Plant I Didn't Kill

This morning, as Benson-the-Friendly-Puppy and I took our constitutional, we met a tiny girl out walking with her grandpa. The tiny girl was carrying a red plastic spatula.

"Have you been cooking?" I enquired.

"No," replied her grandpa, "She is taking the spoon for a walk."

On a completely different note, last year I planted privet in the pot at the front door, in desperation as I have so far killed everything I have planted there. No morning sun, and fierce afternoon sun has killed many plants so far, and others have been killed off by blight, pest infestation, or gardener neglect (that would be me forgetting to water). But so far, fingers crossed, the privet is thriving. Here is the privet in December 2014:

Here it is today:

It would be several feet higher but for severe and regular pruning. This is the longest I have kept a plant alive at the front door, so hallelujah! I must admit, I have been watering it daily, which obviously helps. I have a jug on the kitchen bench which is exactly the right size to hold all the cold water that comes out of the kitchen tap while waiting for it to warm up.

The smaller jugs are also receptacles for waste water from glasses and drink bottles, plus the half-cups of herbal tea which I find all over the house. Sigh. Anyway, the privet loves it.

And, I knew you'd ask - yes, privet turns out to be useful as well as ornamental. Should I ever require a green dye, privet will supply it for me, as well as reducing noticeable grey in my hair when I use it as a hair rinse (possibly by dyeing it green??). Also it will cure my bronchitis, pneumonia and other respiratory infections, as well as acting as a powerful laxative. What's not to like?

Meanwhile, if you are tired of being conventional and want to give the neighbours something to talk about, why not rifle through your utensil drawer and take some of your spoons for a walk? This is guaranteed to be more fun than Christmas shopping.

Updated to add: As Fran noted in the comments - all parts of privet are poisonous. I remember when I first put it in feeling a bit like a wicked witch, flanking the front door with poisonous plants - surely very bad feng shui as well! This does not mean that privet is not medicinally helpful - think of digitalin or belladonna from other poisonous plants. However, I would no more munch on privet leaves if had pneumonia than I would make a salad of foxgloves leaves to treat a dicky heart. I am not a herbalist, and none of my posts on useful ornamental plants is meant as medical advice. I am rather hoping to share my wonderment of the enormous benefits of the common plants that grow all around us.

Apparently privet is banned for cultivation in some places as its flowers can cause eczema and other allergies. Also, horses can be poisoned by munching on privet hedges. As I am using mine for ornamental topiary balls, they won't ever have the chance to flower or fruit, and not many horses make it up the six steps to my front door... but maybe take these points into consideration before planting any at your place..


Heather F said…
Keeping any potted plant alive is cause for a celebration in my book! Happy holidays, Jo!
Linda said…
Oh, I love the idea of taking a spoon for a walk. An ideal pet in my book: no hairs on carpets and furniture, no mess to clear up, no smelly food bowls. Just the ticket! Not sure I fancy the weird looks though!
Jo said…
Heather, I know!! Pot plants are never safe in my care. I killed off two out of the three geraniums I grew from cuttings last year when I left them out in the coldest winter for fifty years. Oops!

Linda, the lovely Benson is shedding lovely beagle fur all over the house.. a spoon would be so much tidier. Maybe not so adorable though..
Fernglade Farm said…
Hi Jo,

That was an unexpected and surprising revelation by the grandfather. I hope he wasn't being a smarty pants?

The prviet is looking great and the bees love that plant too when it is flower.

Top work with the water jug - I do exactly the same here. Water is precious. Here's hoping for some rain in the new year.

Cheers. Chris
Jo said…
Ha, Chris, no, he had a spoon as well. Apparently she made him take a spoon on the walk too. She seemed to be a very insistent young lady!
Pam in Virginia said…
Hi, Jo:

What a funny story, and what a charming family they must be! Thanks!

You have turned out to be a master privet gardener! Stick with what works? Thanks so much for the privet uses tips. I used to make up my own natural dyes for cotton fabrics, but had never come across privet being used for that. I had hoped that the many boxwoods that we have might be privets, but I looked it up and they are an entirely different species. I see that Chris says that bees like them; another incentive. Hope I can find a small plant to start with.

narf7 said…
The privet looks incredibly healthy in that pot. Please don't try to eat it or use it medicinally though as privets of all kinds are actually poisonous! Not sure where you got your uses for it but the main reason nothing touches it is that it is one of the U.K.'s native poisonous plants. Don't let Benson eat the berries Maybe you should put a Luma apiculata topiary or something in that pot? They are hardy as stick and Benson could hoover it down for dessert. I love your idea with the jug. We no longer allow our water to head to the septic at will. We have a large sink sized tub that we use to wash our dishes and clean veggies etc. that now goes out into the garden and is single handedly keeping the garden alive. I can't believe how much water I used to run down the sink! We installed plastic bottle ola's this year (the ceramic ones made from two conjoined teracotta pots siliconed together are MUCH nicer but I needed a quick fix this year and am going to slowly amass my teracotta ola army over the course of 2016) covered with a thick layer of straw mulch and Sanctuary is doing amazingly well. No more watering morning and night, the moisture stays in the soil at the root level and makes for a happy garden AND a happy narf7 and another benefit is you can add seasol or powerfeed (or weed tea or fish emulsion ECH!) straight into the top of the ola, fill it with water to dilute and screw on the lid and NO smell. I just went to visit a man in Devonport who has the most amazing productive small suburban garden. You would be completely inspired. I was, and took lots of photo's and am going to write this Sunday's blog post up all about it. Have a lovely simple Christmas Jo and here's to a magnificent and most elegantly sufficient 2016 :).
Jo said…
Hi Pam, I have never used anything except onion skins and tea to dye anything, but it is something I would love to try!

Fran, you are so right, yes, privet is poisonous; that doesn't prevent it from being therapeutic in the correct dose, but your warning has prompted me to add a note to my post, safety first!!

So looking forward to your inspirational garden post! And I must say I absolutely love your Christmas wish, yes, a magnificent and most elegantly sufficient 2016 to you too xx
Unknown said…
What a lovely Grandfather. More men should be out spoon walking.

The bush looks lovely but the shape lacks your normal flare. Im seeing animal shapes next year. Now that you have success a growing nativity scene might be the local drawcard, I jest, i couldnt think of anything worse and stick with two rather large Lilly Pilly balls outside my front door.

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