And here we are, four years later. A few more tattoos, a few different hair colours, a few favourite hobbies.

Some people like to do yoga to find peace of mind, others may choose to cook or knit or play with their pets. I find comfort in two of my favourite activities: boxing and horticulture(ing). But this blog will have little to do with boxing (unless my fellow southpaws want to share tips).

Plants, plants, plants. I love horticulture. My home is full of plants.  I’ve been a budding horticulturalist for 2-3 years now, especially since moving into my current home a couple years ago. Although I try to be a minimalist, I will fill every space with plants, just like this gorgeous William Sonoma fruit bowl that I turned into a cactus garden.

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I think I’ve fully embraced my obsession with plants recently when I asked for a clipping of a beautiful vine during a stop at my favourite coffee shop in Toronto’s west end. I visit Field Trip Cafe almost every weekday morning after a boxing class, and their Americanos are the best in the city. But the Americanos aren’t cheap, so I feel like I’m helping them invest in their plant collection. In that sense, I saw no harm in asking the barista if I could take a clipping of the vine for propagation purposes. My coffee partner was amused as I navigated through the packed cafe with a pair of scissors in hand and determination to take home the plant I had been eyeing for weeks.

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Success! But I haven’t been able to identify this vine plant so far.

I’ve decided to re-start this blog again and dedicate it to horticulture because I can’t seem to find good blogs or websites about plants that aren’t outdated, poorly designed, or difficult to read. I’m still learning but come join me in my adventures. Please note that I was unable to find my camera charger, so photos are courtesy of a well-abused iPhone 6 (sorry!).

Propagation + Plants

I’ve killed a lot of plants over the years (RIP every string of pearls plant I’ve owned). In their memory, I’ve been learning how to propagate succulents and other indoor plants since January, mostly because I’m curious but also because I don’t want to keep purchasing plants when I can grow my own.

My current propagation adventure has been a rebellious move considering that succulents are dormant in winter. However, I want to share my current attempts and welcome feedback on how to propagate succulents during a winter that seems to never end.

Potted Plants

The pothos plant is one of the easiest indoor plants to keep and propagate. I’ve had my pothos plant for two years, and it grows like a weed with minimal care. I’ve propagated many pothos cuttings for friends. It seems to take 2-3 months for their roots to grow big enough to transplant into soil. Here’s a recently pothos cutting that has been sitting in water for 5-6 weeks.

IMG_1290Some of the clippings are newer, so their roots haven’t formed yet. I have floor-to-ceiling windows so the plants receive a lot of light but it is north-facing.

Along with the pothos, the Field Trip Cafe vine, I’ve also propagated this beautiful vine. It’s another one that I haven’t been able to identify. I wasn’t sure if it would grow in water (I tried to propagate a bird fern in water, but it wouldn’t grow roots). This vine seems to be doing well but growing roots at a slower pace than the pothos cutting. It also sits in north-facing light.

 

 

 

Succulents

I’ve been experimenting to learn how to propagate succulents. Previously, I scoured many Pinterest articles, watched plenty of YouTube videos, and consulted with my plant people (yes, I have plant experts in my life because that’s how you roll when you live on Dundas West and, like for the record, we’re talking about West Dundas West that only begins at Ossington, not Bathurst, okay). But I’ve had little success in finding information so I’m trying things my way.

 

 

 

Okay, so maybe the above is a bit excessive or too eager. These are four different types of succulent plants, starting from the furthest away: jade (crassular ovata)hens and chick (sempervivum tectorum), and echerveria. If you’re like, Rose, that’s cool, but can you tell me the specific names of the hens and chicks and echerveria? Sorry, I honestly tried to find the names but it’s a deep, dark interweb out there and I don’t have time to dig for information. If someone could create a plant app that’s similar to Shazam, then I would sleep better at night, k?

Anyway, I’ve twisted the leaves from the stems of the plants, making sure to carefully twist at the base. If incorrectly twisted, the leaf cutting will probably rot and die instead of growing roots. Like this little guy is starting to do (*sad face emoji*).

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Once separated from the stem, I let the cuttings dry on a tray or sheet of paper so that they callus at the end. I lost a beautiful aloe that I had inherited from a friend’s vintage store because I didn’t believe the aloe needed to callus. If you place the fresh leaf cuttings on soil, they will rot because they’re too moist.

Once callused, I sometimes dip the cuttings into rooting powder but I haven’t seen a difference in doing so. Half of my current leaf cuttings have rooting powder and the other half do not. Let’s see what happens.

IMG_1297Referring back to the experimental propagating process, I’ve created mini greenhouses to see if the warm, moist air will help the cuttings grow faster. I’ve placed the leaf cuttings on a mixture of cacti/succulent soil and normal indoor plant soil.

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Theses include different types of succulents, such as a gollum jade, zebra plant (haworthia fasciata), panda plant (kalanchoe tomentosa), a variegated aloe, and one giant cutting of a little warty gasteria.

Some of these guys have been dormant since January but they haven’t shrivelled and die, so I still have hope that they will grow roots. The echeveria (second from the left) just started growing roots in two weeks. Promising.

But the little warty gasteria in my hand has been an ordeal. I plucked it in January. It was dormant. Then it started to grow roots, then stopped, then started to grow again when I put it in the mini greenhouse and now has appeared to stop again.

 

This little hen-and-chick is the teacher’s pet because it’s sprouting new leaves. Good lil fella – A+ in my books.

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I spray the leaf cuttings every few days. You can see in the white container that there are few that have died, probably from too much moisture (you can tell the leaf is too moist because it’s rotten and will almost burst like a water balloon when you squeeze it). Although this is indoors, I think the weather influences their growth so I have to be more aware of when it’s sunny or overcast. I’ve recently indulged in bad behaviour by spraying the plants in the morning before sunrise because that’s how early my morning boxing classes are. Clearly, watering plants in the morning during winter is not a good idea because the lack of sun traps moisture.

Additionally, there’s no waste in leaf propagation: you can keep the stems for the plants that you pluck, because they will grow back leaves. It’s a win-win situation, so thank you Mother Nature.

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So, in summary, my succulent propagation involves the following steps: twist leaves, allow to callus, place on top of proper soil mixture, put in greenhouse during winter, and sing them lullabies to enable growth (before switching to punching the life out of my partner and/or boxing bag. I strive for balance, duh).

And, because I love to sing and dance while watering my plants, here’s my current favourite album to listen to while horticulture-ing:

Courtney Marie Andrews – May Your Kindness Remain

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During a reunion trip with some close friends from grad school earlier this spring, we visited a Mexican- American horse farm in Napa Family. My friend’s Mexican-American family have deep roots in Napa since the 1950s. Her aunt and uncle own the horse farm. We spent the warm evening travelling over just a few of the hundreds of acres they own, drinking Napa wine, visiting some of the horses that freely roam the land, and eating a lovely homemade dinner while Motown music played in the background.

The ranch felt like a setting in Like Water for Chocolate (1989). Without the hum of city lights or urban noise infiltrating our ears, we almost felt cocooned by the valley’s intimacy and preserved in a state of the calm, soothing Americananess that once attracted immigrant families to the United States’ northern California countryside.

 

Motherhood: Life After Cancer from Rose D’souza on Vimeo.

Meet Trisha and her 22-month-old daughter, Kiyanna. Trisha is learning to be a parent without her own parents guiding her. She lost her mother and father to cancer by the time she was 25 years old and with a newborn child. Her laughter is infectious; her spirit is inspiring.

Toronto’s Gardiner Museum opens its clay studio to the public for drop-in classes a few times a week. Participants can use a potter’s wheel or sit at tables to build something creative out of clay.

I joined a friend for Friday evening’s session, which included a wide range of participants from couples on a date night to friends hanging out to parents and children spending time together. The studio was very small, which made it difficult to take pictures since I was constantly in someone’s way (sorry!) but it was a great experience trying to capture fast movement in a tight space.

Side note: later that evening I participated in a lively discussion over dinner on the pros and cons of living in the city versus the suburbs. Some friends said they prefer raising their future families in the suburbs where they have more space, green grass, and are part of a community. However, I’d argue that you can easily enjoy the same lifestyle in an urban setting. The Gardiner Museum is right off a subway exit. Across the street, you can visit the Royal Ontario Museum, University of Toronto’s scenic campus, or walk down to Ontario’s provincial parliament building at Queen’s Park. Around the corner of the Gardiner Museum, you can eat at restaurants serving a variety of cultural dishes.

Cultural and creativity are all around.

Urban spaces allow residents to interact with each other more often than the suburbs because of the walkability factor. By walking instead of driving to the grocery store for a bag of milk, you may interact with the people you pass by (whether it’s a brief hello or a quick chat with a neighbour).

Suburbanism gives rise to individualism – you tend to be isolated in your car because you need to drive everywhere. Suburbanism also subscribes to the dated idea that you must own a patch of green grass so your children can play in the yard. But people can just as easily access public resources such as city parks, hockey rinks, swimming pools, and community centers. I spent many childhood summers in Toronto’s swimming pools and parks instead of my parents’ fenced off backyard.

That said, everyone has a different opinion of the kind of lifestyle that best suits their needs and desires, which should certainly be respected. I, however, enjoy the opportunity to walk to and use the city’s rich cultural resources. Perhaps that’s the Yatesian emerging from within me. (Maybe it’s just me but Revolutionary Road is the best scare tactic against suburbanism.)

Sometimes I feel like I run on top of Toronto since my office is located in the heart of the city and the building has a penthouse gym. From the north side, you can workout while watching traffic snake along a major city artery: University Avenue. From the south side, the view is not yet obstructed by tall condos or cranes so you can see the Art Gallery of Ontario and the stretch of Dundas that fades deep into the city’s west end.

Funny enough, I had not considered these views when I took pictures of Leigh, a co-worker and dancer. I also had not considered the difficulty of capturing movement as the light kept changing because of the glowing sunset. But I enjoyed trying to frame the angles of her flexible body twisting and turning into positions, especially against the static backdrop of the CN tower.

Here’s “Leigh, Made of Light.”

I love personal essays because they give readers a chance to glimpse into another person’s life and help change the discourse of “us versus them” and otherness into “we” and inclusion. Most often, personal essays help us learn from another’s mistake without the sanctimonious, preachy tone of self-help books or Malcolm Gladwellian essays.

I have a growing library of essay collections and autobiographies from the likes of Joan Didion, David Sedaris, Sarah Vowell, Sherman Alexie, and Gary Shteyngart, all whom share their often painful experiences using humour and touching anecdotes. However, I’m also drawn to storytelling from authors who do not necessarily have the same talent with a pen but having the willingness to share their experiences – good or bad – as a cathartic measure that we may also benefit from through appreciated insight. We all have baggage.

The New York Times‘ Modern Love column is one of my favourite collections of personal essays on, what else, love. Readers (who tend to be mostly established writers) are invited to contribute stories on the different kinds of love they’ve experienced in their lives. As column editor Daniel Jones explores the rich selection of essays he’s edited over the decade in his new book, Love Illuminated, here are some of my favourite stories:

Do not Adjust Your Screen or Sound

A daughter hesitantly builds a relationship with her ailing father after years of constant disappointment.

A Housecleaning That Swept Out the Ashes of My Marriage

On finding the power to move on after a painful, devastating divorce.

Our Story Ended With a Slow Fade to Black

On finally finding love but losing a spouse to a rare brain cancer.

My Triplets Were Inseparable, Whatever the Risks

An expectant mom considers carrying twins instead of triplets because of serious health implications.

A Wedding Invitation for a Mom Long Gone

A bride-to-be feels the loss of her mom as she plans her wedding.

It Took a Villain to Save Our Marriage

A married couple going through a rough period bond over their shared dislike for an obnoxious neighbour.

My Back-Seat View of a Great Romance

As a young woman analyzes the pseudo-relationship she’s in, she witnesses the start of a forbidden romance in a foreign country.

Those Aren’t Fighting Words, Dear

A wife patiently supports her husband as he goes through a midlife crisis and contemplates divorce.

Sharing the Shame After My Arrest

A heartbroken wife learns to rebuild her life after getting arrested by the F.B.I. for a crime her husband committed.

Picking Up the Scent on the Road to Bliss

After many failed relationships, a wife finds a new appreciation for her husband through their shared love for dogs.

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