From the Digest

September 2021 Program and More

Falling leaves are a harbinger of the changes coming for our plants.

By Mike Hellmann

Now that the end of summer is here, it would be an understatement to say that the past 18 months have been rough. No matter who you are, where you live or how you spend your day, you’ve been affected by this global pandemic.

The silver lining for most of us is that we’ve had our plants on which to focus, distract us and relieve the stresses as we work our way through these troubling times. And we aren’t an anomaly. Plants in general are at the top of the list when it comes to increased interest and demand worldwide.

As we were forced to stay close to home, we spent more time with our plants and pets. Where there was a void (perceived or not), we went out and bought more plants or adopted another pet. This was a boon to the animal shelters that were able to find homes for many animals that wouldn’t have otherwise been so fortunate. This was also a boon to the growers who produce the beautiful plants that show up at garden centers and other sales venues.

Another silver lining, due in part to the above, is that HSCSS has gained many new members over the course of a year. It is great to have these new hobbyists in our midst, where we can all share knowledge and plants with one another. I’m sure many of our new members have special interests and experiences to share once we’re all able to get together again. Whether you’ve been a member for three days or 30 years, we all have something to contribute and gain regarding our experiences and knowledge.

When I first joined this group, I felt nervous, like I wasn’t worthy of belonging to a specialty plant group. But I was wrong – very wrong. After the first meeting, I got to know some of the members, found that I could indeed contribute and was in an instant comfort zone. The members were friendly, outgoing and generous.

As back then, today we combine all levels of plant experiences and knowledge in order to grow our collections and our hobby. There are those who may not own any plants at all, but love them, the books and their discussion, as well as the company of their owners. Most fall into the general collectors group with a wide variety of interests. And then there are a few who are obsessive/compulsive collectors whose antics sometimes border on stupid. That’s what makes this group interesting. So many different levels and interests make all feel at home and happy to be part of HSCSS.

My point is that it’s the plants that brought us all together. So this month, the plant focus continues. During the August Zoom meeting, we had a nice discussion on a variety of plant topics. The September 2021 meeting program will focus on the general care of our plants as we begin to prepare them for the transition into their winter confines now that summer is ebbing to a close.

As the days get shorter, plants perceive this, and their metabolism changes as it would in habitat. We need to adjust for this change as much as we needed to adjust for the spring season just a short five months back. It’s just not as fun.

The leaves of this Dorstenia crispa are beginning to look tired, thanks to shorter days and cooler weather.

Our plants have hopefully been growing well through the summer months. Accomplishing this is the biggest advantage you can give your plants prior to going into dormancy. Plants are like people in many respects. The healthier we are, the better our chances are of staying healthy during cold winters and times of stress. Summer should energize your plants and make them strong, much like the charging of a battery.

It also helps to know from where in the world your plants originally came. Their natural habitat will tell you the climate they like, the level of cold that they’ll tolerate and the watering rations they can endure. The idiosyncrasies of these plants are many, and the more we know them, the better off we can prepare our plants for the looming winter ahead. The same holds true for cultivation during the summer growing period. Knowing the climate in which your plants evolved in is imperative.

While few of us look forward to winter, dormancy for our plants is a good thing. It is natural for most all plants in that it prepares them for the next growing season and the next round of flowers. To keep succulent plants growing year round is generally not healthy, and forcing growth during the low light lower temperatures of the winter months will do more harm than good. The plants should be resting.

For the September program, several members will share their winter care tips. Some of those who specialize in certain plants like haworthias, sansevierias, euphorbias, etc. will present their experiences and tactics. We’ll also discuss some general winter care topics, such as lighting, watering and pest control. The program will focus more on overwintering plants in the home rather than in greenhouses. Members are also encouraged to share their experiences. Please feel free to jump in and share your thoughts.

After the program, we’ll once again show some of our plants as we did last month. If you have a blooming plant, one of which you’re proud, one that needs help, etc. This is your time to enjoy the plants of others while sharing your own. Please don’t be shy about showing an ailing plant if you need help. We’ve all lost plants.

Try to use HSCSS membership instead of your own trial and error. Plants are becoming more and more difficult to find. Please be responsible for their care. You have plenty of resources from which to pull. Take advantage of this Zoom meeting opportunity and plan to attend.

If you’d like to share your plants, e-mail photos and a few notes to Marge Williams ( or Nikki Murdick ( several days in advance. Take care, and I hope to see you all next Sunday!