This gardener knows how to bring plants back from the brink.
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In just about everyone's past there's been a failed fern or ficus, and we all probably also know someone who can revive even the sickliest plant.
Every plant in Allegra Woods' garden has a story behind it, and that's because every single plant has been given a second chance at life. Most of these plants have been saved from the compost pile. Woods has gained a reputation around her neighborhood as the plant healer because of her uncanny ability to nurse dying plants back to life. According to Woods, plants are much more forgiving than most people think.
"Plants are amazing, they really don't take that much know-how," says Woods. She isn't a trained botanist, master gardener or nature specialist. Woods attributes her secret to success by just paying very close attention to her plants.
Woods admits she killed her first houseplant. "I really killed it within a week and that scarred me for a while." Her mother introduced her to a box of plant fertilizer, and with a few words of encouragement, a gardening guru was born.
Woods says her so-called healing powers are nothing more than simple rules of gardening. Take for example this newly acquired cyclamen.
"It needs a little help, water to start with," says Woods. "There's definitely no drainage, and that's probably its biggest problem." Remember, the first rule, if it's dry, water it. Secondly, containers need drainage holes. Others' failure to pay attention to such details is the reason Woods' garden continues to expand.
So how do all these neglected and rejected plants end up at her house in the first place? Well, the situations vary, but in this case, Woods' husband Doug just received a couple of plants from across the courtyard; the story behind them is simple — the neighbors have a brand new baby, he's thriving, but the bougainvillea isn't.
Woods suggests watering the plant first. Then, using simple minimal interventions, Woods searches for signs of life. Woods clips the dead branches back and reveals some green in the stem, which is a good sign, meaning the plant is still alive.
Another rule that can help save a suffering plant is that pruning can be productive. By getting rid of the dead branches, Woods redirects the bougainvillea's energy into producing new, healthier growth. And besides that, she gets another wonderful gift from her healing garden.
"It's very calming. You read reports saying that dogs and cats have that calming effect that actually lowers your blood pressure, and plants do as well," says Woods.
Woods' straightforward approach to plant success proves that more often than not, gardening can be as simple as a dose of tender, loving care.
The best way to avoid major pest problems in the garden is to practice a little restraint.