Sunday, January 1, 2012

On Expectations (What Just Happened)


So I said I would try to explain my 4-week absence from PATSP at some point. I realize I don't have to, but I wanted to, because I felt like I was failing to hold up my end of the agreement I think we have as blogger and audience. (We may not actually have an agreement like that, but it feels to me like we do.) Also I've been thinking about these things a lot -- rather more than I'd like, actually -- so this might be the only thing I can talk about anyway.

My understanding of our agreement is basically that I will try to provide something for you to read and/or look at, which relates to plants, on a nearly-daily basis, and in exchange, you agree to read and/or look at it, and attempt to find it interesting even if it's really not, occasionally providing feedback from which I gain egoboo, learn stuff, or whatever. So what got in the way from late November to early January? Four things:

Oh yeah. Since I had orchid posts scheduled for the days when I wasn't posting, and I didn't bother to write the posts, I have a backlog, so the illustrations for this post will be leftover orchids. This way even the people who don't give a fuck about why I stopped posting will still get some entertainment. First up is Phragmipedium besseae, which looks quite a bit like it did last time we saw it.

1. Blogging: Possibly Not Actually a Career?

The most serious of the four reasons is that although I didn't begin blogging with the idea that I would make money from it, that idea developed over time, as I 1) saw what other people were managing to do with their blogs and 2) quit the garden center job and had no money coming in anymore.1 Which hasn't worked out the way I'd thought.

I've tried things, kind of haphazardly. Blog ads went fine until Google decided that they didn't have to pay me. Plant selling would have worked fine for a little extra money if I hadn't also been permitting trades -- as it actually played out, most of the profit I made from selling plants was immediately used to pay shipping for plants I was trading, and there was very little net benefit. (I'm not saying that's a terrible thing -- I got several great plants out of it -- but it wasn't what I'd hoped for.) Running sponsored posts didn't happen because 1) almost nobody was interested and 2) it just felt wrong. Getting free stuff to review did work out okay a couple times, but even if there had been more interest, that's a way to accumulate stuff, not a way to make money. (Also what I really wanted to review was plants, and nobody sent any of those. Or offered.)

The only thing that's worked at all, really, is asking for donations with the PayPal button: I've gotten about $300 since I put that up a year ago, most of it in the first four months after I put it up, and most of it from two particularly generous people. Which is good, considering that I'm asking people I've never met to give me money, and then they do, but $300/yr also isn't anything like a liveable income. Not that I'm owed a liveable income. I know. But still. As ways of turning the blog into something careery, asking for donations hasn't worked out either.2

Now okay. I didn't pursue any of these opportunities as aggressively as I could have, and it could be argued that however much work blog-writing might take, it's unreasonable of me to do it with the expectation that money's just going to fall into my lap. But whatever. The point is that I was feeling frustrated, around early fall, with how the plan to treat blogging like a job until it became a job was working out. And the only idea that I hadn't really tried yet was writing a book.

I'd already gotten a couple inquiries about writing a book, from real actual publishers with websites and reputations and everything. The first (fall 2010) would have let me write more or less the book I wanted to write,3 but eventually turned me down, because s/he talked to his/r marketing department and was told that people don't, you know, actually buy books about houseplants. At least they don't in large enough numbers to justify publishing one from me.

Which is okay. I mean, it didn't do much for my (already low) opinion of marketers, but at least there was an actual, fairly straightforward reason why it wasn't going to happen, and s/he had given me plenty of information about how the business works, so I figure I wound up ahead regardless.

The second (early-/mid-winter 2011) publisher basically had a book already in mind, and were just shopping around for someone to write it. I would have pursued this one harder had the book in question sounded like something I'd be interested in, but their idea4 sounded like the same houseplant book I've seen five hundred times already (the one nobody buys), and although I talked to someone about other ways the book might go, something more like what I'd been talking about with the first publisher, they didn't seem that interested in changing the concept, so I let that opportunity go. This was perhaps a mistake on my part, but it made sense at the time.

So but anyway. Everything else having more or less failed by the end of this summer, I started thinking about book-writing as a route to fame, fortune, and groupies again, and wound up talking to a couple other bloggers via e-mail about book-writing, and convinced myself in the process that: although writing a book would be easy, the subsequent promotion would likely all but kill me, so there wasn't any point to trying.5

So to sum up: the justification for the blog had increasingly become someday I'll be able to make money off of this, so I should keep doing it until something happens that causes money. Book-writing was the last idea I had for how to make that happen, so when I decided it wasn't going to be workable either, my motivation to continue took a huge hit. It's not like I especially wanted to stop blogging, necessarily, but at the very least I would need a new motivation.

Sophrolaeliocattleya Hermann Pigors.

And again.

2. Blogging is Frequently a Chore

(This is the reason why I thought I was taking a break, when I was taking the break. It's not untrue, but it wasn't the whole story.)

Blogging has always been, to some degree or another, a chore for me. That's not to say that I've always hated it, or that I ever hated it, just to note that it's something that I tried to do every day, along with brushing my teeth and taking Sheba out,6 and some days I didn't really want to. So, sometimes, I got stuck trying to throw a post together right before bed because I hadn't done one, which was occasionally stressful and unpleasant, but 1) there are worse things, 2) sometimes the thrown-together posts were inexplicably popular, or turned out in ways that pleased me, and 3) we have the unspoken agreement where I'm supposed to find you stuff to look at. Usually I was happy enough with what I'd gotten posted, so if there was occasionally a post that didn't quite meet my standards, well, nobody expects perfection.

But sometimes one does want to take some time off and flake out, also, especially coming on the heels of the Rumble Among the Jungle, when I'd been posting almost twice a day for a few weeks.7

That's pretty much all there is to this one. I mean, I think I need a vacation is a pretty broadly recognizable feeling.

Paphiopedilum Hsinying Rubywet '#13' x Paph. callosum '#1.'

3. The Internet is Full of Unpleasantness. (And Cat Pictures, for Some Reason.)

I don't have much in the way of money or power, but do have depressive tendencies, yet I read a lot of news. Bad combination. I kind of can't help it, though -- I feel sort of obliged to know what's going on, as a citizen -- so I visit a fair number of political/newsy blogs.

And I should totally stop. Especially going into an election year, I should stop, 'cause it's only going to get worse after the Iowa Caucuses on Tuesday, and it's not like I don't know who I'm going to vote for already. But it's hard to stop. I get bored or frustrated with whatever I'm writing, I wander around the net, and I wind up hearing about all kinds of people doing all kinds of awful things to all kinds of other people, or planning to, or just being dumbasses, and I get upset / frustrated / fearful / whatever.

One of the nicest things about going on a Sims8 binge is that the way things are set up here, I can't go on-line and play Sims simultaneously, so the more Sims I play, the less I know about what's going on in the real world. I mean, a few things slip through anyway, but it's much more manageable. Whereas when I'm working on the blog, I have to be on-line in order to post, and it's very easy to be exposed to some news accidentally. Then, suddenly I know even more stuff to make me hate humanity in general (Here is one of the hundreds of possible examples.), and have nowhere I can go, nothing I can do, except, you know, just . . . sit there. And hate humanity.

Which is definitely unhelpful for me; it has not, so far, had much effect on humanity.

In mid/late November, when I started the hiatus, the main news story was the unnecessary pepper-spraying of the UC Davis students by the cop, and I'd been hearing about various police abuses for weeks before this, in connection with Occupy Wall Street and its related protests. Which was all sort of distressing. Not having to hear any more about that seemed like a really good idea.

Dendrobium smilliae 'Lea' x Sib.

4. Am I Even the Person You Want to be Consulting About Houseplants in the First Place?

And then there was the Gardenia person.

Someone going by the handle "omnomnomsies" showed up on the Gardenia jasminoides profile in early November this year, with a five-steps-to-Gardenia-success checklist. Which is great, I guess. I mean, I have no reason to think that their advice is bad advice.9

The problematic part is what they said after the advice, which was
The above might sound complicated but it really isn't. It is the way nearly every indoor plant should be cared for. There might be minor differences in desired pH but gardenias are no more difficult to care for than any other plant. Control insects, fertigate properly, plant in appropriate soil, win.
Which I had a problem with, especially the first sentence. After mandating: a soil mix that most people would likely have to mix for themselves, adjusting the pH of the water one uses with every watering, plus mixing in fertilizer, a runoff basin for excess water, supplemental lighting, lacewing eggs to take care of pests, and possibly even an insect feeder, to feed the adult lacewings so they'll lay more eggs, plus "for lacewings to be successful one must also control ants --" after all that -- it "might sound complicated but it really isn't."

Seriously? 'Cause that sounds pretty goddamned complicated.

And the conversation kind of devolved from there. Omnomnomsies has a problem with me calling Gardenias exceptionally difficult, his/r reasoning apparently being that if you do all of the above, Gardenias will grow nicely for you, and doing all the above works for all other plants as well, therefore Gardenias are merely just as difficult as everything else. Which I think shows a peculiar understanding of the word "difficult." If you manage the light, temperature, water chemistry, insect population, soil structure, and every other aspect of your plants' existence to replicate ideal tropical conditions, then yes, you will probably find tropical plants a breeze to grow. But A) most people don't want to go to that much trouble (myself included), and B) there are plants that don't demand that much trouble.

The point of the difficulty scale -- which is only ever supposed to be sort of a rough guide in the first place, bear in mind -- is to point out that some plants are going to require more extensive rearrangement of your home than others, and the number is an attempt to quantify the degree of rearrangement necessary, and/or how narrow the acceptable range of conditions actually is for each plant. Then omnomnomsies was all like,
Your test seems to be: can I take it off the s[h]elf and grow it in a pot? My answer to that will always be: no. You might think the plant is doing ok but it almost certainly isn't living up to its potential unless you've gotten very lucky and picked a plant that meets the pH of your water and every other aspect of culture.


Wait. WHAT? That's the standard we're supposed to be working toward? 'Cause if full genetic potential is the yardstick we're using here, then I've never grown a houseplant successfully, and neither, probably, has omnomnomsies or most of you.

And no lie, that whole conversation really threw me, for quite a while. 'Cause the idea that some people would consider a plant a success only if it managed to reach its full programmed potential just wouldn't compute.10 And yet people do think this way. I ran into someone at Garden Web expressing basically the same sentiment while the conversation with omnomnomsies was going on.

So then for a while whenever I was watering -- which is all the time, because I'm always watering -- I'd have fleeting thoughts comparing whatever plants were in the tub to what they could have been, if only I cared enough to grow them properly. Imagine that for one plant, multiply by 880 or so, and you can see how this might not be the best state of mind in which to go a-blogging. Add to this that some plants actually died while I was taking the blog break,11 and I started to question whether I had any business writing about houseplants at all.

I got over it, at least partly. (If I think my plants are doing okay, then they're doing okay, whether they're growing according to their full potential or not. I'm the one who's responsible for caring for them, so I'm the one they have to please, and everybody else can fuck off. Damn it.) But there was still a bit of a crisis there, for a little while, anyway.

Ascocenda Sweet Pea 'Ruby.'

5. So Whither PATSP?

None of the above issues have actually been resolved, of course.

I still don't know what my motivation for continuing the blog is to be, exactly. Blogging will continue to take time I might prefer to use for other things. I'm nearer burnout on Sims than I was, but I haven't burned out yet.12 The internet is still full of assholes and news about assholes. My plants still sometimes die, and those that live fail to grow to their full potential.

Nevertheless . . . it feels like time to return to blogging. I think. So . . . I'm going to try doing that again? Probably not daily, especially not at first? And we'll see?


1 The husband's income keeps the lights on, more or less, but the budget is still tight, and things do happen. Plus anything plant-related, obviously, comes out of my money. It's more complicated than that, but that's the gist.
2 Also please don't donate right now. If you do, then I'll assume it was because I made you feel guilty with this post, and that will make me feel guilty because, after all, this whole post is about how I've failed in my sort-of-kind-of-but-not-really obligation, to provide you with semi-diverting plant-related stuff on a regular basis, so it'd get dumb pretty quick -- me feeling guilty about making you feel guilty because of my post about how I feel guilty. So rather than put me through that, how about waiting a while to see if I'm even going to resume regular posting before you donate?
If you're going to donate at all.
Which you totally don't have to.
I now feel bad about having planted the idea.
Though not bad enough to delete it.
I'm serious about the don't-donate-now stuff, though.
3 Something resembling a collection of plant profiles, though they wouldn't be the same plant profiles that had appeared on the blog, because publishers aren't interested in republishing stuff that's on-line for free already. So if I profiled a plant for the book that I'd already written about for the blog, I'd have to come up with a whole new angle for talking about it. This wasn't a problem for me, since I am kind of itching for an excuse to re-write some of the profiles anyway, especially the older ones.
4 Something along the lines of "Impossible to Kill Houseplants." Which, taken literally, might have actually been interesting: I don't know anything about the people who design and manufacture artificial plants, and learning could be fun. Alas, they meant peace lilies and jade plants, etc. Not only are they mostly not plants I care about and want to spend a lot of time contemplating, but they are also -- as is sadly typical for living things -- totally killable.
5 During the break, a few people e-mailed to ask whether I was okay, and I was like, yeah, yeah, I'm fine, just want to play Sims and get away from the responsibility of the blog for a while, no big deal, but re-reading this post makes me think there was likely a depressive episode happening, if a pretty minor, low-level one. They don't always feel like depressions when they're going on (I know, that doesn't make any sense. It's hard to explain.), and the bupropion makes them less frequent and less severe, so it would have been easy to miss. This is especially likely in light of reason #3, which has been a fairly common feature of depressions in the past, and which we'll get to.
6 Though I found that it didn't work to try to do all three at the same time.
7 I'd like to point out, too, that according to the official tally in the sidebar, I put up 387 posts in 2011, only one less than in 2010, so you still got more than one per day, over the year as a whole. If you choose to look at it that way. Which if I were you, I wouldn't look at it that way. But you still could.
8 Technically Sims 2; I have the original, but haven't played it in years because 2 is far superior. I am aware of Sims 3 but haven't tried to buy it; it's pricey, and I don't know that I have a computer capable of running it anyway. What I've heard so far makes it sound like Sims 3 is essentially the same as Sims 2 anyway, as far as the stuff I find interesting about the Sims games.
9 You can read it at the original comment if you're interested, but my paraphrase would be: well-draining soil, hand-adjust water pH with vinegar before watering, feed with every watering, place near window, add supplemental artificial light on a timer, buy green lacewing eggs on cards annually when the plant comes in for the winter to keep pests under control. Nothing particularly controversial or unprecedented; I already do all those except the pH and lacewing things.
10 Among other things: why on earth try to grow plants indoors at all, then, if that's your objective?
11 Some plants are always dying here, both because I have a tendency to declare them official plants too early and because I hang on to plants long after it's become clear that they're never going to do well for me. But, between November 22, when I started the hiatus, and December 23, when I'm writing this part, I lost:
• 2 Saxifraga stoloniferas, which have all been having a rough time over the last six months or so and I don't know why,
• 9 Abutilon seedlings (underwatered, and also I was just tired of them and their neediness so I let them die when I noticed they were wilty, rather than trying to save them),
• my original Pelargonium 'Mrs. Pollock' (A pair of cuttings I took from the plant have survived. I suspect the original plant failed because I took cuttings from it.),
• an Astrophytum myriostigma (which rotted and hollowed out: this was particularly painful because it was a gift from a reader who sent it to me because s/he felt like the plant wanted to come live with me. If this was ever the case, then it obviously changed its mind. I was also especially bummed out by this one because I thought I'd figured A. myriostigma out: the previous one, I thought, I'd lost because I watered when it was also cold. So this specimen, I stopped watering in like October, and the plant room has yet to get seriously cold this year. But no. Still dead. Don't think I'll be trying A. myriostigma again.),
Kalanchoe prolifera (another example of a plant that didn't survive being cut back),
Dendrobium 'Karen,' which hadn't been doing very well for a long time (Orchids can Suck. My. Balls. I'm not going to throw away the ones I've got until they die of their own accord -- and they will -- but I think I'm done buying more, ever.),
• 2 huge hanging baskets of Plectranthus verticillatus (not sure about the cause, but I suspect it's temperature-related: they were in a spot that's normally cold, but which is also indirectly in the path of a heat vent, so probably one or the other killed them),
• a Davallia tyermanii I started from rhizome cuttings (probably a watering/soil problem, but I don't know if it was too wet or too dry; 2 other Davallias are currently in the process of dying on me, in a similar fashion, but I have no idea why or how to respond.), and
• an Aloe 'Doran Black' offset which rooted and grew last winter but was clearly unhappy all summer and fall this year -- it died when I tried to pull off a dead leaf and snapped the stem instead.
12 I like building the buildings. I mean, the whole business with sending Sims to work and having them make friends and buy things and what have you is sometimes mildly diverting, but the only reason I bother with those things is so they'll have enough money to build larger/cooler/weirder houses: for some reason I prefer the way houses turn out if I've slowly grown them by adding bits here and there, as opposed to the way they turn out when I start with a plan and don't worry about cost. I particularly like making buildings that look abandoned and filthy. Don't know why.


Dr Charlotte said...

Dear Mr Subjunctive,

You are entitled to take a break / holiday whenever you feel like it. Just please, please don't stop PATSP altogether. Where else can I go for indoor gardening advice? Gardening forums full of bores and typographical errors? Humorless and often wildly inaccurate gardening websites? The local garden store so some 15 year old in a green vest can stare blankly at me over the phalaenopsis? No! You have to keep blogging! Not only to keep me happy (although that - self-interest - is clearly why I am leaving this comment) but because you are so good at it. I won't say writing an indoor gardening blog is what you do best, because I don't know what else you do (you might be bloody amazing at Sims for all I know) but you sure are good at it. It's not just the humor, the plant advice is dead accurate too. I've looked up every plant I've tried and your profiles are right every time. And I live in Australia where the climate is all wrong and upside down.

So. Thank you. Keep up the bupropion and keep away from the news.

Kind regards,

orchideya said...

Mr.S - There are other companies beside Google that will let you make some money with your blog.
Have you considered becoming affiliate? They do sell indoor plants, so if you had a post about certain plant - you could provide a link to amazon where people could buy that plant and get a small referral fee. It dosn't cost anything to buyer...
Also I see a lot of Chitika banners on blogs, maybe that one works good for blogs too?
It would be nice if you could keep this blog running.

mr_subjunctive said...


I know there are other ad networks (an earlier draft of the post mentioned this, but I guess that part got cut in the final rewrite); I haven't looked into it closely because I kind of figured that if Google's behavior is considered acceptable in the business, then I don't have much reason to think that any other ad network would be any better. I mean, it's not ruled out, but I'm reluctant to try that again, especially if I'd be advertising products/services I haven't actually used or don't necessarily like.

I'd considered Amazon before, a long time ago, but for some reason decided against it. I don't remember why. Perhaps I should check it out again.

El Gaucho said...

I just wanted to chime and say that not only do I find your blog an incredible resource on houseplants (for the 30 or 40 totally ordinary houseplants I have), but it's really an entertaining and enjoyable read. Your blog has encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and try to raise something other than the ficus benjimanas, philodendrons, and spider plants. That you could provide good information in a humorous and entertaining way is something you should be proud of.

Justin said...

You look at the news when you're bored on the internet? Whatever happened to good ol' fashioned porn?

Stay healthy, make sure you have what you need, and blog when you're ready.

And for the record, if you wrote a book, I would buy it.

lrvjim said...

Dear Mr. Subjunctive,

I wondered where you had been.

The container jihadist "omnomnomsies" is obviously a disiciple of the 'Gritty Mix", most likely a recent convert. No different than any fundementalist you might encounter anywhere in this big 'ol world, for him\her there is only one path. This path will be constucted of fir bark, granite grit and Turface, in equal measure, and will lead them to heaven or full genetic potential for their container grown plants.

Seriously, you're a good writer, your blog is one of my favorites and I hope you can see a way to continue and perhaps even monetize your efforts in the coming year. Good to see you posting again and Good Luck-


Jeane said...

If you wrote a book about plants I would totally buy it. You're the only one of all the plant-related blogs out there I read regularly, the only one that entertains me. The others are often informative, but you also make me laugh.

Pat said...

I assumed our agreement was:

The party of the first part allows me into his quirky head to appreciate the only comedian who specialises in plant jokes based in plant science, experience and proper grammar.

The party of the second part tries not to be a dick.


Killing plants gives you experience in those things that every plant grower needs to know. Why is my plant dying?

Monetising your work can be done more easily if you are shameless. Promote it all over the place, etc. No, I couldn't do that either, which is another reason I love your blog.

If you are going to write a book you need a hook. How about:

Zombie Plants, even if you chop off their heads they still keep coming. Get a good cartoonist interested and get them to do the promotion tour. If they are any good as an artist they should be able to fake your signature.

Have you thought of doing houseplant consultancy for local private individuals?

Talking of comedians, Dara O'Briain has an interesting view on our love of cats and dogs. He asks his audience "who loves babies" (small scattered cheers) "who loves kittens and puppies" (huge roar). "How fucked-up are we as a species that we love the young of other animals more than our own?".

omnomnomsies has some interesting opinions but they are irrelevant to most houseplant growers who don't want to make it their life. I would suggest a free-draining compost to everybody but I often forget to water and damage my plants because of that. I probably shouldn't have so much Seramis (expanded clay granules) in the soil. The first thing I would ask a new houseplant owner is "Does the pot have holes in it? Does water come out of the bottom when you water it?" It is amazing how many plants are sold in pots without holes.

Easy Gardenia culture:

1) Move to Spain or your local equivalent (Texas?)
2)Grow Gardenia on your balcony.

If you are not going to the trouble (goggles, pipettes, gloves) of using phosphoric acid then lemon juice or culinary quality citric acid is better than vinegar, the plants can actually use it as nutrition.

I shouldn't listen to the news, they have just reminded me of Aum Shinrikyo, it took me ages to forget them. You just have to try to remember that the majority of the 7 billion people are really ordinary, unnewsworthy and nice.

Greensparrow said...

Mr. S,
As has been said: You are a completely unique, funny, talented writer and I would be sad if I didn't get to read your work anymore. I hope you can find a balance that works for your mental health.
I liked your description of the types of odd, unplanned houses with bits added on here and there you like to build on the Sims. Maybe that is a good analogy for your future career? Don't plan too much, just start trying to add bits of new stuff and see what happens.

mr_subjunctive said...


Very possibly. The issue I have with the grit-tites is not that I think they're wrong; it's that they don't care about the convenience of the grower, and often sound contemptuous of anybody who does.


I have thought about houseplant consulting, but I don't think it's a service that's in much demand here. And also it would involve dealing with people directly, face-to-face, so even if it were in demand, I'm not sure I'd be the person to do it.

As to the news, well, as Molly Ivins said in 1986:

Here are six perfectly good reasons to keep laughing during the Reagan administration:
•Things are not getting worse; things have always been this bad. Nothing is more consoling than the long perspective of history. IT will perk you up no end to go back and read the works of progressives past. You will learn therein that things back then were also terrible, and what's more, they were always getting worse. This is most inspiriting.
•Things could get worse. The fact that they probably will should not be used as an excuse for tossing away this golden opportunity to rejoice in the relative delightfulness of our current situation. Is there anything to cheer us in the realization that Ed Meese is attorney general? Yes. It could have been Jesse Helms. And may yet be. Let us give thanks for Ed Meese while we yet have time. . . .

I'm trying to keep those two general principles in mind. Not sure it will help, but I figure it can't possibly hurt.

archnemesis_goldenhair said...

I enjoy you blog, but take as much time as needed to recuperate. I don't know if it matters to you, but the reason I enjoy this site, is that its very easy for me to understand. I've tried looking at other plant sites, but usually give-up after 15 min. I hope you have the opportunity to write your book, it could very well be the only plant book I would ever own.
Have you considered print-on-demand? Basically, you create your book, and the printing company only creates a book when someone orders it. You could add a link to the front page, and it would handle itself. Many of my favorite web-comics creators use the same methods for their books.
That was just my two cents. Take care.

Nat said...

The reason I got into blogging was to share my passion with the world, and that passion as of late is strange plants. Your blog was one of the first I read and it inspired me. On a wierd level your blog helped inspire creativity. I have never read more in depth and entertaining profiles on plants anywhere else, and your scale although loosely arranged from 1-10 in difficulty, is useful, and kind of fun to browse.

Everyone is a critique, you must reliquish negative thoughts to the wind. We blog because we live, and our friend's are tired of hearing about plants. Turn off the youtube and the news, it will only hurt your spirit, instead, browse happier topics like plant explorers or comedy. I also have found myself in dips of motivation, and the big question why? But really, why do we do anything. We'd love to be rich and famous, and who knows if it's the blog that will get you there. The one thing I do know is that creativity in any form, is better then none, and it will eventually lead to good things.

Wishing you happy new year in whatever endeavor you do. Cheers and thanks for the laughs


danger garden said...

I've been thinking about your post since I first read it this morning. I do understand your feeling that someday your blog would produce an income, when I was first laid off from my paying job I thought the same thing, for a bit. Then over time realized that's not what it's about (for me). It's the opportunities that come from the blog that might someday produce an income. The people (friendships), the plants, the books (for review!), the professional opportunities will come along as a natural progression of what you do and what your passions are. I realize that's not going to put bread on the table (or plants on the shelf) but maybe that's okay? My husband has spent a great deal of time creating art to be hung (and hopefully sold) in art galleries. A while back he quit. Not making the artwork, but showing it. It took the fun out of his passion to be trying to create for other people. Instead now he's creating some of the best work of his life but for nobody except himself, and he's enjoying it like he hasn't in years. He's also being appreciated my a small audience in a way he never has been before, is that just a coincidence?

I feel a little like I'm talking in circles, so maybe time to end this comment. One more thing though. I'm not a houseplant person, well not on purpose. I become one by default over the winter when my outdoor tender plants have to come inside or die. So I'm not terribly interested in your topic...on it's own. It's your wit and style that keep me coming back to read your blog. You've got a unique voice which people respond to. Keep writing.

Also a question (which I may be able to answer by reading back through your archives but I don't have time!)...I'm assuming you live in a house rather than an apartment or condo. Do you have an outside garden? Or is your interest purely an indoor activity?

Anonymous said...

Having looked for a decent Houseplant book and resigned myself to what's out there I would do a happy dance if you wrote one. I would also buy it and recommend it to everyone I know.
I don't have any super positive life advice for you, but you're good at this and I'd miss you if you quit.

sigonee said...

You don't have to feel bad about donations. With your experience and research you provide a service for the rest of us, and entertain us as well. There's no reason we shouldn't pay for it. Heck, we pay for the news, which is neither entertaining nor particularly useful, so I'd say our money is better spent on your blog!

mr_subjunctive said...


I know about the idea of print-on-demand books; I'm not familiar with any companies that actually do it. The idea has some appeal (also the idea of e-books; I know people who are thinking of writing books for formats like the Kindle).

danger garden:

Yes, it's a house (since June 2009). I've dabbled a little in outdoor gardening, and outdoor gardening is similar enough to indoor gardening that I understand, abstractly, how one might find it appealing, but it really doesn't excite me at all. I don't have any particular insight into why, though, beyond the fact that my attempts so far haven't gone well.

CelticRose said...

First of all, I do hope you keep blogging because you're funny, entertaining, and informative. Thanks to you at least 2 of my plants are in much better shape than they would be if I had to rely on the info, or lack thereof, available elsewhere on the net.

Pace yourself. You don't have to post every day. I read around 30 blogs, and very few of them have daily posts. Most of those that do are run by a group of people. Daily posts, particularly when they're as long as the ones you write, are just too much to ask of one person.

Have you considered self-publishing a book? You could write whatever you want and not have to do a publicity tour. If you stick to ebook format your costs should be pretty low. Plus, no deadlines.

Re omnomnomsies: Every hobby has snobs that think there's only one way of doing things and go out of their way to criticize anyone who's not doing things their way. They do a lot of harm because they discourage newbies from taking up the hobby because it looks too hard, and sometimes they manage to convince people that they're no good at what they do because they can't live up to the snob's unreasonable standards.

Try not to let them get to you. It doesn't matter what your methods are (provided they're not illegal or unethical) as long as you get the results you want. For pity's sake, if people only grew houseplants that lived up to their full potential then hardly anyone would grow plants at all.

philosopher said...

hi--i came across your blog years ago and have always enjoyed it. i love houseplants, and it's evident that you do, too. plus your advice is usually spot on. there's a lot of bull**** in the internets. try not to take it too seriously, and keep on trucking.

also: have you thought about asking for donations more frequently? i am a fan of the comic curmudgeon, and he puts the tip jar out every other month or so. he seems to be doing OK. you would be surprised how those of us who enjoy visiting your site might be inclined to drop you a fiver every other month. and as you know that can really add up.

lastly, is there any chance you can get the garden center job back? i'd have to say that i'd be afraid to leave any job whatsoever in this economy. just my hunches here.

best wishes, and always remember my favorite aphorism: illigetimi non carborundum. don't let the bastards get you down!

Jordan in Oregon said...

Chiming in to say I read this blog just as much for the 'company' as I do the knowledge. You have a good sense of humor, you're above and beyond a good person, but all in all you're only human, and I don't think any of us here want you pushing yourself beyond what you can handle. But if the blog was to go away, I'd miss it. I'd archive all the posts, because there's both info and good writing I wouldn't want to disappear. Heck, your blog inspired me to start my own, and maybe one day when I manage to have a second pair of hands helping with the houseplants and garden, I can make that what I originally wanted.

All in all, you're appreciated. You're so much more than that, though, you're sought after. And don't ever change.

Anonymous said...

Mr S, with apologies to Nat, please don't stay away from YouTube. There's gold among all the bullshit, and you have a knack for mining it. (The gold :)) I loved 'Chiron Beta Prime (ASL) and have been singing it for days. The mashups you find are always a tasty treat, too.

You rock, Mr S! Thankyou.

Jenny said...

Mr. Subjunctive,

As a new, but loyal reader (found your blog in 2011) I was initially surprised when I noticed you had daily posts. I think a weekly post would be more than sufficient, and twice-weekly might just spoil me.

Also, don't take people's comments too seriously. For all I care, if you don't like what they say, delete their comment... it's your blog!

Please keep blogging. I never thought house plants could be funny until I found your blog.

mr_subjunctive said...


I don't know a lot about self-publishing of actual physical books, but the general impression I have is that that tends to involve vanity presses and eventually leads to a garage full of unsellable books that turn moldy over time. A print-on-demand business makes a bit more sense to me, though I expect that probably comes with its own disadvantages.

Really, everything else being equal, I'd prefer to go through a traditional publisher: they seem more legitimate. But they're also more restrictive about what they'll agree to publish, and I suspect the money may be better through other routes. I don't know.


Though I know it might be effective, I don't think I could bring myself to post donation reminders. One site I used to follow did that, and it annoyed me so much that I stopped visiting even though the reminders were only like every month or two.[1]

The garden center job is not an option at all. I don't think they'd want me back; I'm pretty sure I don't want to go back; and my old position was filled (more capably, I might add) more than two years ago.

Jordan in Oregon:

I can't change ever? Not even a little?



[1] I didn't leave solely because of the reminders -- I'd been having issues with them before that. Also being reminded to donate wasn't what was obnoxious: what was obnoxious was the justification for the reminders, which was basically women's work has been historically undervalued; I am a woman; blogging is my work; therefore you owe it to me to make blogging provide a liveable income because feminism. No argument on the first two items, but whoo boy those last two were some damn leaps of logic.
PATSP donation reminders wouldn't necessarily go like that -- I'd at least have a tough time claiming that people had to support PATSP or they weren't good feminists -- but that's a road I really don't want to go down. I mean, it took me three years to put up a donation button at all.

Diane said...

This is an area I really know nothing about, but is writing for magazines or newspapers an option?

Expecting houseplants to achieve their full genetic potential... well yeah, that's not possible once you remove the plant from its coevolved ecosystem, so that's just silly. Houseplants are more like living art, or pets that don't move around much. They're fun to have around. They're fun to interact with. If my pothoses grew to their full potential, I'd have to move into the garage.

As for The Sims, have you tried any of the many challenges that are out there? There's one in particular that cracks me up: the Snow White challenge. Build a house and fill with one adult and seven babies, and try to keep them all alive for some amount of time with no cheats. There are many others described on-line as well. They're great for reviving interest in the game when you start to get bored, because they give you goals to achieve. Taking photos in-game and telling stories with them is also a lot of fun!

archnemesis_goldenhair said...

Here are a few links you might find useful or overwhelming. -a review of lulu.
And a guide for making your own e-book for the kindle,
I've also heard good things about
but they seem to be more graphic novel orientated.

Ginny Burton said...

Ah, Lady Depression, I know her well. In fact, I diagnosed her as the Prime Mover in your disappearance. One antidote that springs to mind: Get out of the house. As far as I can tell, your only forays to the outside are when you're walking Sheba and when the husband drives somewhere that you can go plant shopping. Force yourself to get out more; in the long run it will help. I wish you would learn to drive. You'd be surprised how much better you'd feel with that independence. I've taught several adults to drive -- each one swore she would never enjoy it and was learning only out of necessity. Now they all love it.

About private publishing: I would buy several copies of your plant profiles if they were printed and bound. does a nice job. My landlord uses that company for his software manuals and I have a copy of the genealogy that one branch of my family had published by Lulu. One benefit is that you can make changes in the text as necessary. You have a very loyal following here and I'll bet lots of us would love to have a book by you. (Show of hands, everyone.) The plant profiles are already written and nearly ready to go, after you've made the revisions you want. I don't know what it costs -- I looked briefly around the website, but didn't see a cost estimator -- but I think it's not prohibitive. Also, you could get us to cough up some money first by using something like

Would it be possible to have a two-tier PATSP, one where your posts are seen only by paid subscribers when they are first published, then released to the non-payers a week later? I have zero knowledge about how blogs work, so maybe that's not possible to do.

Stop looking at things that make you sad/angry if there's nothing you can do about the problems/jerks/stupidity/etc. It's really hard to do, I know, but just stop. Pretend that reading those things is like smoking cigarettes and force yourself to give up a bad habit and protect your (mental) health.

Best wishes for 2012 and whatever you decide to do. You're smart and you'll figure it out.

mr_subjunctive said...


About the newspapers/magazines question: I'm really not sure. I very rarely see houseplant-related stuff in those places, which makes me think that there might not be a lot of demand. Not something I've looked into much, partly because I don't really know where to start looking.

I haven't tried any of the Sims challenges, though I'm aware of several. Like I said, for my purposes the little playable people mostly exist to justify the building of more and bigger houses; I've played long enough that I've seen most of what the characters can do, and most of that isn't so entertaining that I want to repeat it over and over.

Also there's a good argument to be made for the idea that if my interest in Sims starts to wane, I should let it, rather than try to re-enthuse myself. It's technically a waste of time, in that nothing I do in the game has any effect on any living people or the world in general. At least with blogging, some actual living plants plants might live longer.

mr_subjunctive said...


Thanks. The link is particularly interesting.

mr_subjunctive said...

Ginny Burton:

In fairness to me, I hadn't seen Lady Depression wearing that I-Just-Need-Time-To-Play-The-Sims frock before. (So many outfits! When does she have time to go shopping?) Though the The-Internet-Is-Making-Me-Angry scarf should have been a clue.

I don't know that I'd get out of the house that much more often even if I drove, because the main reason I don't is that the plants need to be watered at least 5 days out of the week, which is something I can't do from outside the house, and working on the blog takes up a lot of time too. I mean, it's really not surprising to me that I would eventually burn out on blogging and watering 24/7/365; the surprise is more that it took four years to happen.

I occasionally think that I should have a driver's license anyway, though, for other reasons. I can't imagine enjoying driving, though: I never enjoyed the practicing.

lierne said...

Hi Mr. S

I am a long time lurker and just wanted to come out of hiding to say that I am a big fan of your blog even though I am not completely obsessed with houseplants. I only have five species and came across your blog trying to ID a simple dracaena. But I like your writing style and humor and your analytical way of treating and researching plants.

In reference to publishing books, I am also a fan of female webcomic and indy comic book creators. It is a pretty niche market and one only a few smaller publishers consider and one which the big ones wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole for fear of getting girl cooties.

One business plan I have seen play out successfully many times is the Kickstarter self publishing route. Print on demand (Lulu etc) is too expensive to make much of a profit. But self publishing requires a lot of start up capital. So creators will set up a Kickstarter project with publishing the book as the main goal. People can donate to the project and if the goal is reached, you get the money and use it to publish the books and give one to everyone who donated above a certain amount.

Kickstarter is useful for gauging how much interest there is for your book. You would want to print more than just those to cover your donators, so you could sell some yourself afterward but you would know on the order of how many people were interested so that you would not have a garage full of books.

Another useful and money making aspect of Kickstarter is incentives. If people donate a certain amount they will receive a book but if they donate more, they can get, for example, a signed copy. If they donate more, they can get a signed copy plus a T-shirt, or photo print, or seedling or something. The additional amounts are always higher than the cost of producing and sending the incentives. Sometimes people are hesitant to straight out donate for nothing but have no problem over paying for a book just to support a favorite artist/writer.

Also, most creators offer a digital copy of the book as the lowest donating level. This is almost pure profit and only costs the time to email off some .pdfs.

It is still a lot of work on top of blogging and watering plants but if you are going to spend all the trouble to write a book, you should try to profit off of it instead of giving all your profits to the print on demand company.

As a disclaimer, I have never used Kickstarter as either a creator or a donator. However, I have purchased books that were funded through Kickstarter.

Good luck! And I will remain a fan no matter what you decide to do with the blog.

Lisa said...

I'm glad you're back. Also, ignore people who are annoying. Obviously, you know what you're talking about~you have 880 living plants. There isn't a houseplant alive that prefers to live in the house. Wouldn't they all rather be in their natural habitats? But, they don't know any better and what we can do for them is usually enough. If not, off to the trash they go. I haven't counted my plants lately, but have 100's. (If I counted them, then the husband would know how many I really have. Which he already knows is too many, as he is surrounded where ever he is.) None of them are probably taken care of as good as they should be, but they make me happy, and I don't intentionally try to kill them, but, of course, it happens. I really enjoy your blog, so keep writing!

Derek said...

Mister S: I renew my offer to help you self-publish a book. You can do it without the garage full of boxes. I can't guarantee that it'll make a ton of money, but it's a great first step. And there's nothing like holding a bound pile of words with your name on the cover.

Anyway. I totally relate to the "I love to do this, if only it could make me some money" situation. Most gardeners/writers can, I'm sure. All I can say is, I'm grateful that you do it, whatever the reason. Thank you.

Derek said...

One more thing re: know-it-all commenters. I totally hear you. Stuff like that is why I didn't have comments for a long time. When I finally turned them on, I posted a set of guidelines to communicate as clearly as possible what they were for. Suggestion: Write a set of your own guidelines. It'll help your readers know what you want, and help you to feel totally justified when you blow away a comment that violates your guidelines.

Ivynettle said...

I don't really have much to say that hasn't been said before. Definitely also in the "I'd buy a book" camp - I gave up buying houseplant books because they just repeat each other, but I can't imagine that happening if you wrote one.

And don't feel like you have to post daily - I've probably said it before, but I couldn't do it! I post when I have something to say (OK, and sometimes not even then), but I refuse to feel obligated to find something to post about if there isn't anything I think is worth sharing, or if there's no time to post.

And that omnomnomsies? Pff. Reminds me of a lady at a writing group meeting, who told us all how to write our books. I generally try to be nice to all people, but some of them just have to be ignored until they realize they're not welcome, and go away. I doubt there are many people who care about a plant reaching its full genetic potential - most of us are satisfied with keeping them moderately happy, and and some even with just keeping them alive (and if omnomnomsies is so full of good advice, where is his/her blog?)

And those Sims houses? Remind me of the Lego houses I used to build... now I almost want my Legos back!

Natasha said...

One of the things, besides the fantastic humour that makes me laugh out loud, which makes me return over and over to read your blog (and re-read posts) is that I find both you and what you write human. Most blogs or sites I've found have such a faraway relationship with their plants and the people reading them, that it seems they NEVER make a mistake, NO plant of theirs dies and they are simply perfect. So, when I tried to grow one of their "simple" plants and it died, I would end up extremely frustrated. It was not until I found your blog that I realized it's NORMAL. I might also add that I've expaned my indoor-plant count to double (or probably triple) since I started reading your blog. It just inspired me to try and make it happen. And enjoy it in the process. Whatever you chose and decide, I just want to say thank you. For the laughs also- that's always necessary and appreciated!

Diana said...

I've been thinking about what to comment since I read your post (and it inspired me to write my own why-I've-been-a-lame-blogger post). I'm not sure that I can add anything to what others have said. But I will agree that 1) you should find something to do that requires you to get out of the house and interact with other people and 2) not checking the news as often will improve your mood.

I've enjoyed your daily postings and have suffered from withdrawal the past month but I'll understand if you come back at a lower post rate.

scottweberpdx said...

Whatever the reason for your return to blogging, I'm glad you're back. I think all the things you talk about ring true to many of us. I don't think I've ever seriously considered that I might be able to make $$$ from my blog (let alone survice on it)! Of course, I'd be lying if I said the thought hadn't ever crossed my mind in a flight of fancy :-) The past year has been a tricky one for me as well...I find myself with grandiose plans for blog posts...but seldom have the follow-through to do them justice. As a result, I sometimes become a bit discouraged with my own lack of follow-through, if nothing else. Anyway...I'm rambling. The only advice I can give is to just keep at never know what might just have to keep sending stuff "out there".



Paul said...

Looks like a busy thread/post. As I'm sure others have said (I truly had no interest in reading through all 34 posts up to mine), you are entitled to a break when you feel you need one.

Furthermore, while many, if not most of us, do enjoy reading your blog daily, there is no reason for you to feel obligated to post daily. That's just begging for burnout. Most blogs I pop in on just post once or twice a week.

I honestly do think you'd write a pretty good book if you decided to do so. But there is indeed a great deal of time and energy that usually goes into promoting it (book tours, signing and such). That's simply the nature of the beast and, I suspect, is to be expected with any endeavor in which one wishes to see success. Writing the one offered book -- despite it not being on the topic you wanted to write upon -- probably would have been a worthwhile experience for you. Definitely would have given you firsthand insight into all the ins and outs of authorship. Personally, I think a book titled something like "Plants for Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse" could be catchy. heh

Gotta admit, I'm surprised you're having such orchid issues -- I've found most of them pretty damned forgiving of my negligence and easy to get along with.

You don't drive?! Sufferin' succotash, man! Get your butt in gear (pun unintended but appropo) and get your license! You don't have to enjoy it! In this day and age, especially if you don't live in a metropolis with a good public transportation system, driving is pretty close to an 'essential skill'. Not only would it augment your ability & freedom to go out and about, but it has value as a skill in an emergency situation. For example, what if something serious should happen to Sheba? You're going to waste what could be precious time calling the husband, waiting for whomever it is to get a hold of him if he isn't at his desk or his phone is off for some reason, then for him to drive home, then get Sheba to the vet? For that matter, what if the husband is too sick to drive but not sick enough for an EMT and needs something?

Tom said...

I almost failed a semester of college due to The Sims 2. I totally understand that aspect of the hiatus. Also, Omnomnomnomnomnomnomasshole sounds like they need to learn how to make friends. If they're so god damn good at growing gardenias why don't they have their own blog about growing gardenias?

mr_subjunctive said...


I'll get back to you on the book. Maybe. Probably.

As for violating the commenting guidelines, as far as I'm concerned omnomnomsies didn't. There's no rule against disagreeing with me, or telling me things I don't want to hear, and I don't think s/he was out of line to describe a method of growing Gardenias that's worked for him/r.

The only part I have a problem with is that s/he doesn't seem willing to accept that other people have different priorities and that plants will work differently for people who aren't as willing to rearrange their lives around their plants. Which is weird, obviously, and I was in an unusual mood at the time so it had a disproportionate impact on me personally, but if you think you have a better plant-growing system than I do, I don't want you not to tell me about it on the off chance that I might be in a strange mood.

You're also allowed to disagree with me. You're even allowed to disagree with me in a sort of rude way.

The only comments I don't approve are spam / suspected spam, comments that reveal personal information I'd rather not reveal (in which case I generally e-mail the person to explain why, if their e-mail address is available), and comments that are abusive toward me or another commenter. I can only think of one, ever, that falls into that last category, though. It's almost overwhelmingly spam or suspected spam.

Pat said...

Donate or the Orchid gets it!

I would offer to proofread for you but that is unlikely to be necessary as you are such a perfectionist. I may be able to provide a few fun facts on ethnobotany for some plants that are not generally known but you catch most of those anyway.

Exercise is definitely good against depression. I am glad I have my chin-up bar in place again.

I am applying for a food-packing job tomorrow. Normally I go for secretarial stuff but I have to pay for my gardening habit somehow.

Bom said...

Mr S, I'm glad you are back even if I completely understand your need for a break. I'm not a demanding reader. I don't know that any of us are. Your posts will show up on our feeds or when we see them on our blog crawls. No need to feel the pressure to post for us daily.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate that you went to the trouble to explain what's going on even though you are under no obligation to do so. I did want to know, having what I consider a reasonable curiosity about people even if I don't personally know them, but what other people in my household deem as being "nosy".

For as long as I can remember I have been cursed with an inexplicable urge to try to grow houseplants, "try" being the operative word as I was rarely successful. I'd bring them home and watch them die, never knowing what I was doing wrong as all research ended up with conflicting advice regarding care. I even considered starting a blog called "Dead Plant Waiting", a phrase my boyfriend used every time he saw a new plant in the house. But about 2 years ago I stumbled upon your blog and everything changed. A houseplant blog that wasn't all kittens and rainbows, that was far more accurate than anything I had seen before and, as a bonus, made me laugh. I started following the advice in your posts and my kill rate dropped significantly, so much so that now I'm under suspicion for being a plant hoarder and find that it's better if I just sneak new plants in after everyone is asleep. The houseplants I see on my rare visits to Home Depot now remind me of Holocaust victims, fresh off the cattle car and squashed together, indifferent and indiscriminate watering, no thought what so ever given to what their care should be. Your blog turned everything around and I will be forever grateful to you for writing it.

Regarding making money, don't count on the blog. I'm in if you do put out a book and I will donate but your steady income needs to come from somewhere else. Blog money only comes when you're not looking for it.

You have a talent for writing and I hope it is fun for you but doing anything frequently can turn it into a chore. Check your contract, you aren't required to blog as much as you do. Our feed readers let us know when you post. Do it when you want to, we aren't going anywhere.

Dial down on keeping up on news, except maybe for some of the local stuff. It's a guaranteed downer and invites more dark thoughts into the mind. Don't give too much energy to things you can't do anything about. Go listen to some RadioLab and Snap Judgement podcasts.

Lastly, don't be a shut-in. Get out of the house and yes, learn to drive.

You have made a difference. Please don't go away.

Plowing Through Life said...

It's your blog, so blog away when and if you feel like it. I've been following your blog since you first started it and I always come see your posts when they show up on my feed. Whether you blog every day, once a week or once a month, I'll drop by to read what you put up. You are informative, interesting and entertaining. What's there not to like about your writing style? And I do understand your reasons for needing a break, and appreciate you taking the time to share them, even though there's no need to.

Anonymous said...

Mr S:

I don't read blogs, and i'm not interested in plants. But after visiting your blog by accident I keep coming back, and I ordered banana plant seeds online. I've got 3 huge banana plants of different species taking up half my living room now. The reason i read your blog, and ordered the banana seeds, I think is because your writing is so good. I'd read anything you write: so why don't you write a novel! Doesn't matter what it's about, form over content, and your form is all good. I'd love to read a book about you, your plants and the fight against Unplesantness and your nemesis Omnusnsoisnsius.

Btw: Sims 2 is boring. Play Mass Effect. It got Alien Sex. Alien. Sex.

Anonymous said...

Hello again from seriously storm-battered Scotland!
Thanks for explaining. Coupla tuppenceworths I'd like to add...
1. I'd buy any book you were to write about plants. You don't need to write a new book - you've got a great, interesting, engaging book already written, right here on this blog. The work's already done. Doesn't need to be a "how to" instruction book. It's your own, personal experiences and trials with living things under your care. That's highly engaging in itself. If this blog were bound and published, I'd buy it and I'd recommend it to lots of people. You're a good writer.
2. I think the reason the newspapers and mags don't have a houseplant guy is not, as you think, because "there's no demand". It's because no-one's thought about it - they haven't been approached. God knows there are a lot of extraordinarily poor, tedious writers filling up huge amounts of space in the supplements, talking absolutely unengaging, modish lifestyle tripe. Your topic would be engaging, organic; fascinating. Many would find your writing interesting; look at the number of comments you get from people who say they're not interested in plants. Any editor would be interested in the tenor of the comments on your blog. You could kick off something really big; a wholesome, healthy new thing. I am certain you'd be successful - a pioneer - as a columnist.
3. The internet is a truly, truly appalling invention. It is reeling us backwards, away from everything that is civilised in our society. It is making it all too easy for frothing, noisy, illiterate and scarily ignorant loonies to find each other, and grow in numbers. If I could close the internet down overnight, I would. No good will come of it. So.... knowing this, I would agree with the other comments here and advise that you MUST try to cut down on exposing yourself to its horrors. It will drive you stark staring bonkers - as bonkers as them crazy folks in your hyperlink.
4. You do NOT need to post every day!!
and finally 5. I agree with the other comments - you do need to get out more (and I don't mean that at all the way it's usually meant...)
There is much more to life than your tyrannical houseplants...
Moderation in all things!
In the meantime, you should see the rampantness of my (now 3) epipremnums, that all were propagated from a knackered old one earlier this year... cut it up, popped the bits in a vase of water and would you believe, they all grew roots and potted up no bother. They are away like a train!

Your subject is wholesome, righteous, pure and clean, your grammar is excellent and that makes you one of the good guys and an oasis on the net. Show a newspaper editor the comments on your blog. In the UK, we still have columnists - paid people! - writing about chess and bridge... there's certainly room for you! All the best to you.

mr_subjunctive said...


I actually feel strongly that I would like to write everything from scratch, though.

First: I remember being extremely disappointed as a child, when I'd been tricked into buying a new book by a favorite author, only to realize it was a compilation of material I already had, maybe with a small bit of new stuff at the beginning to make it look like a new product. This doesn't happen now that I have the internet and can check for myself before I buy, but still.

Second, I think I could write a lot of the profiles better now than I did on the blog, particularly the ones from PATSP's first six months or so. I could certainly come up with more interesting angles on some of them, and I have three more years of experience growing them, so the care information would be different as well.

I mean, given the choice between a collection of stuff you've already read, and a collection of stuff you haven't, with all new jokes, slightly better care information, and a different interesting angle on the plant, surely you'd rather buy the latter, no?


mr_subjunctive said...


Also: the flip side of the internet is that the appalling comment threads are illustrative of the things people are actually thinking but don't say, and provide an opportunity to push back against said ideas. Far from taking away "everything that is civilised in our society," the internet is exposing the rot that's been there all along. It's unpleasant to see, certainly, but I'm not sure it's a bad thing.

And also the internet makes it easier to organize. That's basically a neutral aspect of the net, I think, because it can be turned toward good or bad ends.

I'd also have to say that however insane it makes me from time to time, I'm probably a better person because of the internet. Certainly the internet has made me less racist and transphobic; it's opened my eyes to certain specific feminist issues (e.g.); I'm now more aware of -- if possibly still not that great about -- disability issues; etc.

In fact, it's sort of because the internet's made me a better person that I get so upset with the internet sometimes: there are that many more things I can get upset about, because there are that many more people I can care about.

The bigger problem, I think, is that the news is now continuous. I mean, 20 years ago, I could get fairly upset about certain things on network news, too, but then, network news was all there was, and it was only on for 2 1/2 hours a week (an hour and fifty minutes without commercials), and finding more information about what was going on in the world involved extra work, like buying a newspaper. Now, though, I've got stuff coming into my feed 24 hours a day, which is a different animal entirely, since I'm apparently not very good at recognizing when I'm reaching my limit on news, or sorting out what's important and worth getting upset over from what's not.

phantom_tiger said...

Happy New Year!

I love reading your blog because you tell the truth. I've realized that about 90% of the stuff I read about houseplants is a fib, and on 99% of their labels are some outrageous fibs, so I come here for some honest answers.

You are letting stuff getting to you because you're depressed, and I know because I am currently doing the same thing. News is a trigger for me, and I have to sternly tell myself that I am not going to read every story, and that only the terrible things get reported. Go hug your dog instead.

I am also looking for a new career direction, so if you see a boat flail past yours with someone aimlessly bailing water with a tin can, that might be me, if there is a plant in the boat.

Frankly omnomnomsies (really? that is the name they choose?) can get stuffed. And gardenias can too. I am coming to the realization that some plants are not suitable to some environments and/or people, and all the wishing and humidity and fertilizers can not change what is. Plus every time a plant gets snuffed by me, I learn something. One could say if you only grow 8 million gardenias in life, you'd be missing out. Statistically if you keep more plants, your death rate might be low but you've got more of them, so more of them will snuff it. Plants pretty much do what they want anyway. Some live despite the odds, in totally the wrong climate, and others get everything they need and refuse to grow. Potential pretty much depends on how they were treated as seedlings, long before they are bought in the store. Realism suggests that most people do not have the time to watch all their plants closely 24/7, and I would be suspicious of anyone who claims they do. Someone MAY in fact have hidden all their dead gardenias.

Really amused that you have enabled so many plant hoarders, and tempted someone into growing bananas. *banana envy*

Keep writing. You just need more outlets. Let people know locally that you are available. Where I am there are sometimes programs on radio or columns in the newspaper, but the thing is to let people know you exist so next time they have some kind of need for a plant guy they say, hey what about that blogger person.

Thanks for the blog, it's very useful.

Anonymous said...

First of all, if the goal of all plant growers is to have their plants reach full genetic potential, THERE WOULD BE NO HOUSEPLANTS. AT ALL. We take plants out of their native habitats and try to replicate those ecosystems best we can and realistically, it's impossible. But we try and do the best we can and most plants don't seem to mind too much, many flower and flourish and lead happy and long lives.
If we were all on the fringe, we could say owning houseplants is wrong as plants belong in their native locations and putting them elsewhere is wrong and tortorous. But we know that isn't the case at all. It's mutually beneficial relationship in that 1. these plants are going to be produced no matter what we think about plant ethics and we can give it our best as I'd rather any reader of this blog take care of plants rather than leave them rotting at Lowes
2. AND plants obviously are good for us and everyone here knows what plants give to the grower.

that being said, I come here to read of your experiences, the good bad and the ugly. You are an expert in that you've owned many, many plants and your sage words will help me better care for my plants. Sometimes it takes killing a plant or two (or 10) to learn about the particulars of a species and that's okay. that doesn't say anything about the grower as a person or their green thumb or lack thereof. I come here because I love plants, you do, too, and I happen to agree with you politically and culturally as well. I get some laughs, good insights on life and plant growing and share feedback on my plant experiences (although infrequently)

I'd be sad if you posted infrequently but I'd hope we would all be understanding that you have a right to your own procses and that might not include the blog or us. THIS ISN'T ABOUT US. You do what ya gotta, Mr. S, and don't let anxitities about this site get to you (easier said that done). Being so open publicly always is risky in terms of people bashing you or making you second guess yourself and what a shame that is when I believe you've given all of us much to learn from and ponder.

Good luck to you...good luck to us all as we struggle to find meaning from life, ways to maintain happiness no matter what others are doing, and especially raising our little green babies that bring so much joy and love to us all. Kinda like you, Mr. S.

Much love-

Emily said...

Oh, I would love a Mr. Subjunctive houseplant book. You are absolutely guaranteed my sale.

And ditto to whomever said they always felt spoiled by your posting once a day. None of the other individual-run blogs I read do that. So if you post less, you'll be in good company.

Also, I totally get how disproportionately influenced we can be by a once-off comment at just the right moment, but I honestly wouldn't be interested in reading the blog of someone who's got a ridiculously specific, God-complexy, shame-on-you-lesser-mortals houseplant raising strategy. So there's that.

daphne said...

Please consider funding a [first] book through something like Kickstarter.

I am frequently asked for a recommendation for a good book on houseplants, and my usual response is to point people to your blog. I would buy copies of a PATSP book as gifts. For me it would work in softcover, in the $18-20 range, but others might have different budgets.

You could even leave it open to be a series, based character sources, or maybe degrees on the difficulty scale.

My understanding is that Kickstarter is pretty much no-risk for everyone- if we don't come through for you, at least you find out without going into debt. And if we pledge to you, the money isn't debited until you actually have enough to publish with. And then, eventually, we get a copy of the book. If it works, everyone wins, and if it doesn't, at least no-one loses.

I hope you'll consider it.

Ann, aka Amateur Bot-ann-ist said...

What brought many of us to blogging long ago was the community and the communication. I remember how excited I was to be able to meet and talk with plant nerds from around the globe but that has all changed so much. With so many professional writers and designers now blogging I often feel as though they've changed blogging and have made their own glossy paged version of life here on the Web and it saddens me a bit. What I've always liked about your blog is that it is unique, and that it is you, and that you are honest in a way that I feel many newer bloggers are not because so often they are simply just writing advertising/marketing/promotion for their businesses. You write for the love of plants and many of us read you for the love of plants.

Lastly, I will follow up on what Danger Garden said before me. We blog in the same city and it was amazing to actually meet up for the first time this past year. Talking about blogging in person was really good for me and maybe you should find someone nearby who blogs about gardening too. I read that you just do the houseplant thing, but maybe they could expand your reach a bit. You're smart and I am SURE you will make it funny.

(I garden both in and out but I learned about gardening from my many houseplants I've had since I was a girl. I actually designed my garden so that many of the larger houseplants can be moved outside during the summer. I think they love me more for it.)

cave76 said...

Mr S,

I'm posting this from MY point of view, not yours!

Please don't stop. I just 'found you' and I need you to bring some humor plus plant information into my life.

Is that honest enough for you?

Anonymous said...

This thread is a little stale now, but I'm a new reader. (Erm, I started reading your blog recently. I've been reading since gradeschool.) In fact, I'm new to the whole internet-plant-fandom scene; I've only been able to afford my own internet access since last month. To feel more comfortable, before I open a browser, I play an MP3 of dial-up modem noises.

Ha, okay, seriously. When you linked to this post, I was dreadfully confused about what in the flying fuck a 'grit-tite' is. By coincidence, I did some Google search which led me to the Garden Web house plants forum. And, um, whoa.

I'd been feeling pretty good about my plants. I dove in head-first; I mean, yes, for instance, the peace lily I've been trying to rescue for a year needs better drainage. For the first hour or so, I greedily soaked up information. This was followed by "OMG I'M DOING EVERYTHING WRONG WITH ALL MY PLANTS IT'S THREE O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING IF I HAD A CAR I COULD GO TO A BIG-BOX STORE RIGHT NOW AND BUY ALL THE THINGS AND RE-POT ALL THE HEALTHY THINGS BEFORE IT'S TOO LAAAAAAAATE!!!!1"

Since that wasn't gonna happen, I just kept dredging through the forum. The panic was replaced with resignation; "The Miracle-Gro soil I was given as a gift is poison and effluent. But I can't afford to replace it. So I guess all my plants are gonna die. That's it. I don't even understand all this jargon and I can't catch up fast enough. And I have to go to work in like two hours. Goodbye, cruel world."

True story.

Let's contrast that with how I feel when I read your archives or a new post adorns my feed reader: "LOLOLOLZ. Wow, I didn't know that! I could adapt that concept and maybe make my plant a little happier. Cool. Oooh, pretty picture. I can't wait to make a small adjustment and then observe for a few weeks. Time to go sit with my plants and hum a cheerful little ditty."

That kind of thing.

[essay comment part 1]

Anonymous said...

[essay comment part 2]

When I see a forum populated by crusty old white men, who fancy themselves Masters and Geniuses and Pioneers and Saviors, who will armchair-diagnose a problem, write a haughty internet prescription, and then find anything but total obedience simply intolerable -- and the people asking for the help are most often women -- well. I know what's going on there. And it ain't right.

The problem with sexist men in hobbies is elitism is the only appeal. Regular old house plant care? That's for ignorant wives and stupid chicks; everything your stupid grandmother did was wrong, so you might as well throw out the descendant of her pedestrian little *scoff* spider plant. So what happens if the ignorant wives and stupid chicks actually learn the methods? You'd have to get a new hobby because the appeal is gone. Give them partial information, cloaked in sometimes meaningless jargon, be terse and alienating.

They obey your orders, and the plant does well? Whoa, a real Plant Christ on our hands. They don't obey your orders, and the plant doesn't do well? Psh, that's what the bitch gets for being uppity about things she can't understand! They obey your orders, and the plant does poorly? Dumb girl can't even understand basic instructions. They don't obey your orders . . . and the plant DOES do well? Hmm, they won't bother coming back to say what worked for them, will they? YAY! Sexist, fundmentalist echo chamber complete.

I wonder, sometimes, about these white men with too much time on their hands. Would they even ENJOY their hobbies if their privilege was stripped away? When it's just them on the porch with a plant, is utter social domination still a priority?

Alas. I'm not sure I want to know. But I am sure that I am interested in enjoying my plant friends' company/the hobby, and learning as much as possible about their care -- they seem mutually exclusive endeavors amongst 'grit-ite' enclaves, but pleasantly compatible at your blog.

So, I thank you.

Try not to let the bastards get ya down.

mr_subjunctive said...


Yesterday, I tried several times to reply to this in the detailed fashion that I felt it deserved. I mean, you put a lot into your comment(s), so I wanted to give you a considered answer back.

But each attempt got interrupted, or didn't seem like it was working, or whatever, and then toward the end of the day a bunch of unrelated personal shit started happening and I realized I probably just didn't have time. So the more cursory version of my response is:

I'm pleased that you like PATSP and find it useful.

I don't like GW either, but I disagree with your characterization of the people there. I think the majority of people there are mostly there to be able to talk to other people who share an interest in the same hobby, the same as for most sites like that, and I'm positive that nobody is there strictly for purposes of being able to tell other people what to do and be treated as an expert. Trying to describe everybody's motivations accurately was what got me into trouble with previous incarnations of this comment, so I'll stop there.

There is of course sexism also, though I think GW and other gardening forums I've visited have a smaller problem with sexism than do a lot of other places I've seen on-line (comment threads on any political blog of either persuasion, for example).

I think the fundamental difference between GW advice and PATSP advice is that I think when people at GW get questions, they respond as though the question were "What is the absolute best thing I can do for this plant, in the situation I've described?" Whereas I tend to look at reader questions in terms of "What is the least amount of effort that will bring some kind of satisfactory resolution to this problem?" At least, I assume that unless they specify otherwise, or unless the perfect solution is extremely easy to implement, like "water less often" or something.