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My Greenhouse Beauty


There are a few cyclical events in my life that I look forward to: the first lazy snowflakes, the emergence of a small spring bulb, the fulsome green of spring, my July birthday, and the sudden shocking pink of Aechmea fasciata leaping out of its silver urn.

This dependable July-blooming member of the Bromeliad family is popular for its pink spathes and blue seeds, which will linger, slowly losing color over three to four months, while around its base pups (bromeliad talk for small offsets) will form. The pups can be cut from the mother plant when they have reached 6 inches high or have formed six leaves (my own rule of six). Then the mother plant slowly dies.

Aechmea fasciata is native to Brazil and grows easily on a sunny windowsill, or even as a houseplant. But my aechmea is a greenhouse plant that has never seen the outdoors. I received it from my friend Rita Turow. (I am immortalizing her name here — she deserves it for giving me this plant.) The pot was so heavy that someone had to help bring it to me. It contained three plants with dried out flowers.

Photos By Nancy Kekst

As soon as they left, I quickly cut it apart and reduced it to one plant. That was in 1996. (I checked the date in my sometime journal.) So I am growing the great-great-granddaughter to the 16th generation, flowering all these years. My current plant is tall and narrow because I left it on the mother plant too long, but next year it will retain its normal shape.

Next July, that is.

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questions

What is the green worm that eats my roses and columbine every year?

I recently moved to Chicago from Houston and I miss fresh picked figs. Is there any way to grow figs in Chicago short of installing a greenhouse? Will sunny windows do? I’m desperate.

Why do I have brown areas near the tips of my dwarf Japanese junipers? This has been occurring the last few years. They are supposed to be drought resistant”

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