# Urban Jungle Bloggers Desert Still Life

The October challenge from Urban Jungle Bloggers is a Desert Still Life. This worried me a bit, because being picky I initially wanted to make sure that the plants were all at least from the same continent, rather than just randomly selected xerophytes. But I gave up on this as being just a touch too challenging to manage without using it as an excuse to go and buy plants.

So we have a desk-desert: p1010640

Complete with rat corpse, fossil and er bricks.

With Basil the rat (all rats are called Basil) below, there is a probably-Turbinicarpus, an Aloe melanacantha some Faucaria and a cuddly cactus.


Below is probably a Gymnocalycium (please do correct my id’s in the comments, all my cacti are rather old and lost their labels years ago).


And this is Haworthia truncataone of those succulents designed to spend dry times almost completed underground with just the transparent parts of the leaf protruding, so as to reduce water-loss whilst still allowing photosynthesis. I saw this plant in the Princess of Wales house at Kew years ago and spent ages looking for one. It isn’t difficult to keep alive, but it took a while to move to a home where I could offer it the conditions it wanted to be able to grow.


This is Leuchtenbergia principis, a cactus that looks like a succulent (but note the areoles at the tips); this plant is at least 25 years old. It used to belong to my mother, and she has been dead for 20 years…


A better view of the Faucaria, also a succulent from South Africa, like the Aloe.


The backdrop is a beautiful book Wild Cactus by George Huey and Rose Houk.


#urbanjungle #plantselfie



Urban Jungle is a global community of plant lovers started by Igor and Judith. As part of the Urban Jungle blog topic for September this is my #plantselfie. Go and check out the other blogs in the series – if you think indoor plants are dull or stuck in the 70s, they will change your mind.

Lower shelf in the porch

As I am not terribly keen on pictures of myself on the blog, here is Mercy among her plants. This is my rather rickety front porch, full of succulents and cacti. I love nearly* all plants, but have a long-standing obsession with houseplants and pelargoniums. At the last count I had 112 plants indoors, in a 1.5 bedroom flat. As it is summer (just) still there are quite a few of them outside still.  My first love was a swiss-cheese plant and my current obsession is tillandsias.

austin leaf
Monstera deliciosa (a leaf without spots of emulsion paint)


Below is one of my tillandsias (T. seleriana)holidaying outside on a pine tree, and a begonia that is also out for the summer.

I have worked in horticulture for nearly 20 years, and I have just finished a Masters in Ethnobotany, for which my final dissertation addressed the question of why people grow houseplants. I am currently working as a Research Assistant and have a small Etsy shop selling airplants and houseplants. I started the shop as a distraction and an outlet for my fidgeting while I was studying and I will be widening the range soon.


One of the aspects that interests me is trying to stretch people’s imagination about what they can grow where. We tend to feel that windowsills are the be-all-and-end-all of houseplant habitat. They can be grown in so many more positions, and are so undemanding ( I spend less than an hour a week looking after mine).


This hanging bowl is a potential solution for those who want to have plants at eye level but are worried about leaks and drips. I am interested to see what the roots do, whether they are affected by the light or not, and how difficult it is to water. I have used very easy to care for plants to start with (Asparagus densiflorus Sprengeri  Group and Plectranthus verticillatus).


I see a lot of succulent arrangements which look impractical to me because they have little or no drainage. So I decided to make one to see if the plants rotted over the winter, if it works I may put some sort of variation in the shop.

p1010438This little spider plant has survived three months so far in its tin can planter (again, no drainage hole) in full sun. p1010442

This hanging arrangement of spider plants in a piece of burnt terracotta found on the beach is the result of a mad hour of fidgeting. The compost and plants are anchored in chicken wire and have been in-situ for a couple of months. Not as hard to water as you might think, but it is quite heavy and needs to hang from something sturdy.


More fiddling, this time a Tillandsia juncea (or juncifolia).

*I am not overly keen on Symphoricarpos  and might wince very politely upon receipt of a poinsettia.