How Many Plants Can You Fit into a Telephone Box?

Now that there are so few telephone boxes around, you no longer seem to get the regular imbecility of students trying to get into the Guinness Book of Records by cramming  as many people as possible into a phone box without actually asphyxiating anyone. But  every autumn the tradition lives on in my house. Except instead of people, I use plants. More sensible people don’t buy tender plants unless they have somewhere to keep them over winter. I can’t resist exotics such as plumeria, plumbago, oleanders and bougainvillea to name but a few.



The gradual migration of tender plants into the house at this time of the year seems to put a strain on the Pianist’s usual sunny disposition. It starts when he finds the table in the utility room full of succulents.   As he is our chef he seems to consider tables his personal domain. He says he needs them for food preparation. I don’t know why he has to spread himself around so much.

Utility room.

Utility room.

Fortunately, he hasn’t looked into the spare room recently. Let’s hope nobody comes to stay. If they do they will run the gauntlet of various spiky, prickly things and they will not be able to draw the curtains without doing themselves serious harm.

Spare bedroom

Spare bedroom

Those long leggy epipyllums in front of the window are becoming ever more of a problem, but they have such stunning flowers in June.



Downstairs, I have one or two lovelies which I bought on a recent visit to East Ruston Vicarage.  This orange climber, Pseudogynoxys chenopodioides, or if that is too much of a mouthful, ‘Mexican Flame Vine’, looked spectacular winding  through their plants in pots at East Ruston Vicarage. Unfortunately it is tender.

Pseudogynoxys chenopodioides

Pseudogynoxys chenopodioides

And I fell in love with a beautiful blue fern which I am not convinced is hardy.  A friend is trying this outside, so I will watch with interest how it deals with frost. Like most ferns it has a tongue- twister of a name: Phlebodium pseudoaureum. It used to be a Polypodium but now has become yet another plant reassigned by the taxonomists to keep us on our toes. I think it is stunning.

Phlebodium pseudoaureum

Phlebodium pseudoaureum

But I haven’t really got started on the migration yet. I have lots more to come inside. By the first frost our dining room resembles a rain forest. It is a problem, because I have to shame-facedly admit, that I already have twenty- three orchids in the house. It’s not my fault, these Phalaenopsis orchids will just not die and they are ridiculously cheap; £2.99 at our local cut-price store. Every time I need some dog chews or a lavatory brush I come home with another.

Phalaenopsis orchid

Phalaenopsis orchid

So the dining room in particular gets more and more crowded.  One year we had to use a massive red-leaved  banana as a Christmas tree. It has since grown so large that I had to give it to a friend with a conservatory.

I am sure that keen gardeners will understand that as I don’t have a conservatory I have to use the dining room as one.  And all the other rooms too. Before you feel too sorry for the Pianist, I have to add that as he doesn’t have a music studio, he uses our library instead. Apparently this involves ever more keyboards and cables; lots of them snaking all over the place.  The floor looks like a book cover for  Francois Mauriac’s ‘Le Noeud de Vipères.’  He completely blocks the poetry section and  getting to biography is getting increasingly dangerous. He is as crazy about cables as I am about plants. He has suitcases full of spare ones. Which is really odd in my opinion. Very often the postman arrives with yet another little package of cables to add to his collection. He is as addicted to them as I am to jugs. Or pitchers as Americans like to call them. So there we are, we have to live with each other’s eccentricities.

A tiny corner of the writhing snakes of cables in the library.

A tiny corner of the writhing snakes of cables in the library.

The greenhouses are already filled with  far too many plants, packed in with an irresponsible disregard for the dreaded botrytis . Salvias are so easy to propagate that I have far too many.

dsc_0235 dsc_0234

No more room here either.

Pelargonium 'Ardens'

Pelargonium ‘Ardens’

Plumbago auriculata

Plumbago auriculata

Haemanthus albiflos

Haemanthus albiflos

I have no idea where I am going to put this lot.

And of course an increasingly large area of a greenhouse is devoted to nerines. But I will save these for another day.

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51 Responses to How Many Plants Can You Fit into a Telephone Box?

  1. sueturner31 says:

    Brilliant …someone else who is as nutty as me for plants…

  2. The telephone box analogy did make me laugh, it is spot on! This is an annual dilemma here too, maybe I shall follow your example and try sneaking smaller pots into the house ….

  3. Christina says:

    I was smiling all through reading your most amusing post, although of course I know it isn’t really funny; it is a problem many of us face. Our house isn’t very suitable for most plants because they need more light than most Italian houses have and all the windows have internal shutters to close at night so I’d have to move everything twice a day if I wanted to use the windowsills. So far there is space in the greenhouse but then I haven’t brought anything inside yet! Perhaps the pianist could be persuaded to get you s conservatory for Christmas!!!!

  4. Kris P says:

    Ha! I see that you have indeed developed something of a taste for spiny succulent things. The folks up in the Pacific Northwest can no doubt sympathize with you. I just count myself very lucky that that’s one garden trial I don’t face – I’ve not sure I’d even exchange my raccoons (now nightly visitors once again) for that annual migration chore.

  5. Chloris says:

    Honestly Kris, I have no idea where all these succulents came from. I was astonished when I gathered them all together. My niece loves them so I bought a few for her. I didn’ t realise how many had slipped into my basket.

  6. homeslip says:

    I once used a potted yucca as a Christmas tree – pre-children of course. You have no idea how much “stick” I get when I cut my own Scots Pine for Christmas. My (absent) daughter’s bedroom has a wide and very deep west-facing window sill which I’ve been using for my tender plants over the last couple of years. Luckily she doesn’t mind when she comes home for Christmas. Our succulents come under the porch and I brought in the cacti today and I think my growing collection of scented pelargoniums will spend winter in the sunny downstairs lavatory. I especially enjoyed listening to GQT this pm – blogging certainly keeps one in the loop.

    • Chloris says:

      Ah, it would seem that you are as bad as me then. I like to know that I’ m not the only one. A yucca for a xmas tree is worse than a banana. So uncomfortable for the fairy.

  7. Cathy says:

    I am just about to plant up some Amaryllis, but have to limit myself as I have practically no space indoors at all… we have floor to ceiling windows on one side of the house and radiators under all the other windows! A conservatory or heated greenhouse would be lovely!

    • Chloris says:

      I haven’ t got a great deal of room either and between you and me all the plants do get in the way. But I would never admit it to the Pianist. He s quite resigned really and thinks that this is what you get if you take up with a mad plant woman..

  8. Liz, I am thinking you could use a southern outpost, my neighbors Mexican Flame Vine just started flowering in earnest and I am considering the electric pole saw…my husband might rival yours on cables, his go to amps and guitars and stuff.

    • Chloris says:

      I suppose cables must be a man thing. Mine claims he can connect anything to anything. My response is – but why would you want to?
      I have never come across Mexican Flame Vine before. Oh dear, I hope we’ ll be able to find the door by the end of the winter…

  9. Eliza Waters says:

    I think you’ve been bitten by the plant bug quite badly! ;-D

  10. Cathy says:

    Oh Chloris, how I giggled – as of course you knew we would all do! Your unique style of writing just adds to the drama of the situation and of course your honesty is so refreshing – I am sure most of your readers will understand exactly where you are coming from even though they may be more reluctant to wash their lacy underwear in public (but perhaps you would draw the line at that…?!) ps if you wanted to reduce your quantity of salvia cuttings then that’s something I could help you with…

    • Chloris says:

      Am I the only one who turns their house into a jungle do you think? They are only plants, i don’ t have hundreds of cats or piles of newspapers.
      Of course you can have some salvia cuttings. Would you like them now or in the spring?

      • Cathy says:

        Never fear Chloris, I am sure you are not although I personally haven’t come across them – you could always start a Turning the House Into a Jungle Overwinter Anonymous group and then they would all start coming out of the closet (it would be full of plants so there would be no room for them anyway…). Despite having been a houseplant geek in the old days I couldn’t trust myself to nurture any plants in the house these days – strange though it may seem. If you would a little extra space in your greenhouse I would be happy to relieve you of some cuttings now if it’s not too much trouble, especially blue/purple ones. I have plenty of neon pink S Neon cuttings if you would like some…

  11. This is very funny, and totally understandable, they just keep coming don’t they!

  12. Flighty says:

    What an amazing collection of fascinating and colourful plants. xx

  13. croftgarden says:

    Don’t worry you are not alone, there are others playing the autumn plant shuffle. Fortunately my turf war is over who gets room for his or her favourites and I think I’ve lost the first negotiating round to the succulents!

  14. rusty duck says:

    Cables. Urgghhh. So hard to keep dust free. Computer geeks are equally bad I can assure you. So much for the wireless age.
    I have indulged in a small way in tender plants this year and still have the dilemma to come. Perhaps one of the few advantages of living in a mud house is the extra wide windowsills!

  15. I thought this was an ingenious pitch for a conservatory until I saw your comment about planning permission. What an inconvenience. Here we can build anything and usually do. There is no limit to bad taste—it’s the American way. Too bad for you though, sincerely, as one of the most interesting aspects to me of (some) British homes is that they are uniquely cobbled together through the years as tastes change and fortunes rise and fall.

    In anticipation of an April flower show sponsored by my garden club, I’ve added a number of begonias and ferns to my collection of indoor plants (previously mostly succulents and orchids) and have quickly discovered most of the begonias and a few of the ferns are too needy for my nurturing abilities. However, like you, I’m completely enamored with the blue rabbit’s foot fern (Phlebodium pseudoaureum) and it seems to be thriving. Tony Avent of Plant Delights Nursery shows it as a zone 8a to 10b plant (10 to 15 F or -12 to -9 C), so not winter hardy for me, but it will make a fabulous summer addition to some of my mixed container gardens.

    • Chloris says:

      Listing for important buildings started in 1950. It was probably a good thing because many old houses were being destroyed by architectural modernisers. I do realise that those of us who are privileged to live in an ancient house are custodians for the next generation. It is annoying though, when you can’t even paint your house a different colour or have a new front door without permission. And you are right up until 1950, old houses were changed and added to over the centuries. Many houses like mine have a Georgian or Victorian front. No I wasn’t angling for a conservatory, it would be a waste of time anyway as the Pianist rarely reads my blog.
      That blue fern is absolutely stunning, isn’ t it?

  16. Yikes!
    Yikes my succulents are still outside
    Yikes is this my start down a slippery slope?
    The plant equivalent of mad cat woman?
    Yikes x

  17. Peter Herpst says:

    Thank you for the morning giggle of recognition. How does this happen to us? That blue fern is a stunner and it’s been tempting me at stores lately too. I’m reminded of an episode of “Keeping Up Appearances” where Hyacinth Bucket hosts an “Exclusive Outdoors-Indoors Luxury Barbecue with Finger Buffet.” In the episode, her lounge looks like a jungle and guests get lost in the foliage.

    • Chloris says:

      Indeed, the plants do get in the way a bit when I am having one of my candlelight suppers. Or inviting people to drink tea out of my Royal Doulton china with hand- painted periwinkles.

  18. Brian Skeys says:

    We are just starting to deal with the ‘migration’ crisis (what a good description!) it is, I guess, the result of being a plantaholic!

  19. snowbird says:

    Hahahaha….I couldn’t stop laughing reading this! I loved it! I hope you do an update when you manage to squeeze the rest in! It must be lovely looking at your indoor garden throughout winter! I can’t have many indoor plants with these dogs, they eat them y’see, or knock them over when peering out of windows, or while playing.
    I would have loved to see your banana tree decked out, how utterly bohemian…and eccentric, I just love eccentric!
    The wires had me laughing too, my hubs seems to breed heaps and heaps of papers,and old redundant computers and techie things, they live everywhere. My problem is trying to keep the numbers of critters in the house down….there always seems to be something living here that shouldn’t be!xxx

    • Chloris says:

      Yes, your house is full of animals in the same way as mine is full of plants. I wonder if those pigeons have managed to enviegle themselves into your bedroom yet.
      I am not sure what is going to serve as the xmas tree this year. Possibly my lemon tree. I do have a huge cactusy type plant.. But I can’ t use that out of consideration for the fairy who has to sit on top.

      • snowbird says:

        Oh…oh….spitting my tea all over the computer laughing at that!!! Struth…the mind boggles….I actually think you just may be weirder than me! Yes…Indeedy I do! Shakes head sympathetically….xxx

      • Chloris says:

        Weirder than you? Oh come now Dina, you win by a long chalk. I don’ t have skeletons in my garden. Or pigeons in my bedroom.

  20. Yes, I hear you, sister. A fun post, with some serious undertones which I understand well! It’s the time of year when we keep threatening to throw away all the plants (no-one will take them – we’ve tried) or build a conservatory (we definitely can’t afford that), and shake our heads in disbelief and resignation.

    • Chloris says:

      Well, I am seriously thinking of throwing out some of the orchids. But I have trouble throwing plants away. It’ s an annual problem which just keeps on getting worse each year.

  21. Have you thought of seeing how many plants you could cram into a tiny car, like a VW bug?

  22. Lavinia Ross says:

    I love that blue fern, the polypody Phlebodium pseudoaureum. I have a big Bear’s Foot polypody fern that came up from spore.

  23. Chloris says:

    The blue fern is gorgeous. I am very impressed that you grew a fern from a spore. I’ ve never tried propagating them myself.

    • Lavinia Ross says:

      I put the leaf with spore case side down on some damp soil. Keep warm and moist. I have grown Maidenhair and Bear’s foot ferns this way. Best luck I had was growing them an aquarium with a fish tank light overhead. It was a nice environment for them.

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