About Plants

From container gardening to a mini tropical farm

It’s been 9 months since I moved from the City of Angels to the outskirts of a sleepy surfer town in Costa Rica. I can still see the (same) sea from here.

As a child, I often transplanted seedlings from my Batcave, underneath the towering pine trees in my backyard, into pots. I couldn’t figure out why they didn’t survive for long in either environment. I did successfully grow some plants back then, such as beans, avocado seeds, succulents, and African violets, but the tiny pine trees would remain a mystery.

I also tried growing Morning Glory, my grandfather’s favorite flower. I would’ve liked to have met him. Eric C. (Callum) Murray was a very interesting man. From the Murray Clan, in Scotland, he grew up in London, later San Diego, then moved to Costa Rica to live an extraordinary life. I might write about him someday. My Mom is the youngest of his seven daughters.

He passed away when she was 15, long before I was born, but we share the same birthday, August 21st. I like to think we are somehow connected, or that maybe I inherited some of his adventurous spirit.

In time, mostly by trial and error, I’ve come to understand and take better care of plants. I feel like I “get” them, although I’m still learning every day. When I lived in cities, I enjoyed bringing back to life abandoned plants I found in the alleys. I also had a habit of picking up bits of broken plants from sidewalks, and bringing them home to put them in water. Some grew roots, some did not.

Through the years, I dragged my plants around, from home to home, from apartment to apartment. I’ve lived in over 20 different places, in Costa Rica, Colorado, New York, Connecticut, Ohio, and California. Within towns or cities it was challenging but doable, however, moving to a different state, or country, usually meant giving away all my plants and starting over, with some heartbreak involved.

A Secret Garden

This was definitely the case last November. Living in Santa Monica for 9 years I had accumulated quite the collection for the size of my patio. It had once been part of a walkway connecting the street and the alley, but had been closed off and was only accessible from my apartment. It was long and narrow, all cement, and bare, only a beautiful Jasmine vine grew over the fence at the far end. That fragrance will always remind me of California.

This is what the patio looked like when we moved in.

And this is what it became…

Plants and layouts varied through the years. By the time I left I had a small forest of Yellow Mallow trees that gave me lots of delicate flowers, 5-foot tall jade plants, a palm tree, and a wild assortment of shrubs, vines, grasses, succulents, and strawberry plants.

I had an 11-foot flowering cactus I rescued as a stump…

I also took care of several composting bins, three container ponds, water plants, and a red-eared slider turtle named Turtlee. She lived in the garden almost year-round.

It was a secret garden, a small oasis in the middle of the city.

I had to take it apart before I left. I tried finding the plants good homes…

A fresh start

These days I’m working on a new garden. It feels wonderful to plant directly into the ground.

Will have more updates soon, I’m still catching up.

Bye for now -Elena


  1. When you talked about picking up broken plants and trying to grow them, it reminded me of the times I visited my granddaughters interstate. I would take one cutting each visit, of plants I saw hanging over a fence, and tried to grow them at home. They were mementos of my visits. Most definitely suvvulants were the easiest to grow.


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