(Saddleback Valley Bromeliad Society), 12(4), p.6-6, April 2005


Photo shown with grandchildren Samantha and little Lauren

By nature, I am a plant lover. I like all growing things including weeds. I am amazed at the beauty of
each plant. I also love the deserts, with the different colors of sand and stones: white, gray, black, and
red. And mountain brooks, rivers, and other things God created. I love birds, especially hummingbirds,
always snooping and buzzing around and flying in our yard and patio, smart and curious and brightly
Around our patio I put up baskets where birds, mostly pigeons, could make a nest. Sometimes they
even just leave an egg in a patch of Spanish moss in a tree crotch. They take turns male and female,
trading places in the baskets as we watch, covering their eggs to keep them warm all the time. We see
the mother birds with their babies until they know how to fly to the ground. Then they like to stay in our
yard and watch their babies for a long time as they eat some of our excess flower seeds, while gaining
confidence to finally leave our fenced yard and go on their own. They often come back to visit. What a
wonderful place we have.
I am so lucky that I am married to a guy with a special interest in plants since he was 8 years old. He
has made a hobby throughout his life from plants. He observes how all our plants grew, like cactus,
succulents, bulbs, palms and cycads, and especially bromeliads and Tillandsias. All the seeds which
he can find on his travels, he collects and we watch them grow. But if I messed up with plants I didn’t
recognize, and over-water or move or trim,Wow!
At first I was helping my husband potting the plants with the right size of pot and color appropriate to
each selected plant. I am good with colors in an artistic way. I always assemble the plants with the
shade and type of pottery needed to make them look good, with the correct stone as the final touch. I
also use fertilizer as needed, something my husband usually neglects.
As an example, if the plant has a shade of magenta, I will use maroon or red types of pots. If the plants
have striped leaves I use the dominant color for the pot. It turns very beautiful when the final product is
growing. All the plants have ceramic labels that he makes. It makes my husband happy to see our
collection of plants in the yard, the way I have fixed them up. I feel proud that I have acquired his
passion. He admires all the things I do.
He is so generous to buy things I need for potting our plants. Considering the cost of the pottery, I am
happy that he doesn’t care how much we spend in famous pottery makers with different varieties and
styles. We get hanging pots, bonsai pots, designer pots, tiny, huge, tubular, square, round, flat,
whatever types of pots: there are always appropriate plants to fill them up.
During our travels everywhere we have shipped tons of blooming flowers, orchids in particular, with
insurance to make sure the plants are covered. This is especially important considering the price of
flowering orchids. We collected over 200 varieties of orchids. At first I bought the proper orchid pots for
these plants that are mostly holes to give good drainage and air. I then transplanted them carefully. But
my joy and excitement vanished eventually as months and years passed, due to the diseases that
orchid get. They often are very delicate with humidity and temperature sensitivity. Many cannot handle
our long periods of cold wet winter weather, and others have problems staying moist enough to grow
during our hot dry summers. So the orchid blooms alone are not enough to make me happy. In short, I
have become discouraged with the orchid family. They are too labor intensive and too dull looking when
not in flower.
As I watched my orchids and other plants in the yard, I noticed my husband’s Tillandsias and
bromeliads growing like mad. The luster and radiance of the leaves is so beautiful in multiple colors.
They have combinations of colors, stripes and spirals of red, magenta, yellow, black, green, and white,
that are rarely seen in other plants. At the edge of the leaves it can be smooth, or have different types of
spines: tiny, curved, long, hooked, sharp, or soft. These add to the beauty of the plant. Because of the
sharp edges you have to protect yourself with gloves when handling the plants. You should work
carefully without hurting yourself or damaging the plants.
The wonder of bromeliad flowers is that the blooms are so spectacular and long lasting. Often a bloom
will continue for 3 months, 6 months, sometimes even a year. During this time you can enjoy the colors
and beauty of the flowers that continue to adorn the plant. Birds and bees are busy visiting the flowers,
but they normally ignore us. And they add that special romantic touch to the yard, especially for those
fortunate enough to have a private garden, as your eyes follow them darting around between the plants.
We enjoy (most) of the creatures that come and visit us, snails and such excepted.
At the same time the plants often have many babies growing around the perimeter of the pot or even
coming from the flower stalk. Wonderful! You watch the babies as they enlarge until they are old
enough to detach from the stalk, ready to be independent. The new growths have such beauty and
graceful radiant colors.
Mind you that even without flowers the leaves are very decorative due to their colors. Why, the variety of
design that you can see! Spotted and striped, red and magenta, magenta, pink and white, yellows and
oranges and purples and blacks and browns, edges in contrasting colors, all mixed with different
shades of green. Bromeliads have so many varieties with smooth or pimpled or downy or even furry
leaves. And many have stripes in various colors, sometimes 3 or 4 on one leaf. The old leaves have
different shades with the young leaves lighter in shade, plus the babies have different leaf colors,
usually more muted. Their flowering parents usually put on an extra burst of color on the center of the
flowering heads.
Mind you, I group my plants by size of the leaves and color. For example, there are bromeliads with
elongated fine leaves, curly and striped green and red, that I place in a tubular pot so the leaves can
hang down without touching the ground. I usually place these plants in higher locations and on stands.
There are plants that are soft and with short leaves so I put them in one section. Some are put in
hanging pots in different colors to give some variety, so even if there are no flowers the shapes and
colors of the leaves make you smile. They are so hardy and disease-free plants. Actually as babies
grow off from the mother plants, if you have no room you can just hang them without any pot or soil.
They will still survive, maybe just needing extra water compared to the same ones in pots. But if you
forgot to water, they just relax without complaining, waiting to be taken care of as soon as we
By the way, Mother Nature allows many bromeliads and Tillandsias to take the coolest and the hottest
weather in our San Clemente yard. We don’t ever have frost except on extremely rare occasions for an
hour or two, so our plants don’t suffer much. Our plants look just as good as those I have seen growing
in tropical Asia—Singapore, Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan, Bali, etc.
I give thanks to all the generosity of our fellow growers in the club who have contributed to the
overpopulation explosion of my collection. The main part of the collection is on our back patio so we
can smile at it as we have our morning coffee, either in the kitchen or as we wander throughout the
back yard in our robes, sipping and discussing the plants. I think it is like a little Garden of Eden, with
all the bulbs and other things, in addition to the bromeliads.
We have a camera always ready to capture the new blooms every day. Every one of the plants is treated
as a special specimen. We have so many hundred and thousands of pictures that now my husband
Jerry has put them on the Internet for people to enjoy and hopefully buy ( Both
color prints and CDs collections are available.
This is my first written article to the Bromeliad club. Thank you for reading this far! I hope you enjoyed it.

TALK (Saddleback Valley Bromeliad Society), 12(5)p.4-5, May 2005.



Modern marriage guides are woefully incomplete and misleading. Open any romance magazine and
parse the list of questions about compatibility and love. They cover things like:
Do you both like sex/want children/desire a house or apartment/SUV or convertible/Democrat or
Republican/city or country/do you brush after meals/shave even after marriage/trim each other’s
These are indeed valid, interesting, even important questions to ask. But really, really critical
compatibility issues are never even mentioned. Our feeling is that you should ask your prospective
spouse the most important questions, else you may find your relationship under unanticipated strains.
The most important question obviously is : Are You A Plant Person? If she or he says yes, tread with
care else you may soon be facing the lawnmower of divorce.
Consider the possible responses to this question, in order of desirability for being your future mate.
1. I am indifferent to gardening. THIS IS THE BEST POSSIBLE RESPONSE! It means that you have all
the space/money/time for yourself and your beloved plants. Sure your eventual spouse may feel lonely
during those beautiful days of sunshine, but you can always sit together at night in front of the TV.
Courts don’t recognize bigamy with plants as the co-defendant.

2. Any response that indicates that the spouse is less than actively hostile to gardening. THIS IS AN OK
RESPONSE. It means that the future spouse will probably not actually try to kill your plants, though they
may kick them over if they are in the way, or accidentally spine them or rip their clothes.

3. Yes I love plants too. THIS IS THE WORST RESPONSE. If both spouses love plants and are
collectors too, your relationship may already be in trouble. What your selfish spouse-to-be is really
saying is, all the space should be for me instead of you.

4. Yes, and let me show you my awards. THIS IS ABSOLUTELY UNBELIEVABLY BAD. The hidden
message here is, My plants are better than your weeds! I intend to fight for every place I can put one of
my plants.

Well, let’s assume you went into this relationship woefully unprepared. Is your relationship in trouble?
Here is a quick guide. Read the list of the following questions and honestly think about them.

Have you ever heard the following fighting words?
1. Did you move my pot?
2. Why did you turn my plant?
3. What happened to that special pot I was saving?
4. How could you water the winter/summer growers in June/December?
5. I need more space (for my plants).
6. Your bugs are attacking my plants.
7. I didn’t blow the budget on those stupid plants.
8. It’s your turn to stay home and water the plants.
9. We don’t have any more room for your plants.
10. Look at the plants I got us for our anniversary.
11. How could you prune my show plant?
12. Some of your plants have to go.
13. You killed my plant.
14. If you got rid of some of your plants, I might have enough room.
15. My plants are more desirable than your plants.

If you can check off 6 or more items from this list in the past year, consider moving to a larger yard.
Double the space you have now will be fine for the short term and may allow you to come to grips with
your problems.
If you have experienced 6 or more of these items in the past month, you need to immediately get to
GardenerHolics Anonymous (GAA!) meetings.
If your answer is, I have lots more items to add to this list, then it’s too late for rational reconciliation.
Your only recourse for staying together is to take an option on a cute gardener’s cottage, say in the
middle of the Huntington Gardens.  

People who know us, know that we both love plants, are fanatic collectors, are just a teensy bit
competitive, yet still manage to co-exist. We won’t disclose all the secrets of coming to grips with our
life style, but we have achieved marital happiness. Here are some of the ground rules we have worked
Jerry prefers only cacti, succulents, cycads, bulbs and Tillandsias, bonsai, wild flowers, and some
flowering trees for variety. Terry loves orchids, bromeliads, ferns, palms, and anything not too blatantly a
weed. Fortunately we both have quite a bit of overlap in our vegetable loves. This has tempered our
conflicts and allowed us to compromise, since neither of us wants to lose joint custody of the rest of the
plants. Remember, divorcing people even fight over incontinent dogs, just to keep the other spouse
from getting them.
So we have some fairly rigid rules. The yard belongs to Jerry! Beware where you walk or set pots, and
don’t even think about weeding anything because basically everything in the yard is NOT a weed. Terry
owns rights to the front porch, back covered patio, and associated benches. Her plants are strictly
arranged mainly by aesthetic merits: pot versus plant color, leaf crinkle and degree of pendulous-ness,
whether the spines would nip your clothes as you try to edge past.
Terry owns all the plants inside the house. The benches on the two sides of the house outside belong
to Jerry, especially the ones with transparent rain covers. The potting bench and rock pile are neutral,
but sometimes disputed, territory. We have an uneasy truce with the hanging pots and plants on all the
fences. Most of the plants actually in the trees are Jerry’s.  Terry won control of the hanging pots from
the patio and eaves.
Jerry bows to Terry’s aesthetic pronouncements, and has been known to repot a poor plant/pot choice;
on rare occasions, he will submit to smashing a particularly hideous pot (some people remember with
shudders Jerry’s choice garage sale pot, with large garish ceramic roses decorating the lip.) Terry
resists the urge to move and order Jerry’s cacti by pot color and size, instead of cultural requirements
and botanical relatedness.
And so it goes. One more anniversary is coming up. I wonder what plant I should get Terry/Jerry for our
anniversary this year?