Seen at the Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Friday, 7 October 2016

A windowsill makeover

Three pots of congested Aloe vera
Before: evidence of my shameful treatment of Aloe vera  
I knew something was wrong when I found the pictured basket of Aloe vera on my kitchen chair recently, instead of the windowsill where it usually resides...

"... What's that doing on my seat?", I asked NAH.

"It's getting in the way, and I'm fed up. What is it anyway?"

"It's Aloe vera. I keep it there in case we have a burn to treat."

"And how many times have you used it?"

"Er, none," was my shamefaced reply, "that's why it's got rather out of hand."

Aloe vera is a tough succulent suitable for growing indoors in the UK. That pictured little lot goes back well over nine years, as I was given an offshoot to pot up by my GNO friend H well before I left my last permanent job. The only care I've taken since then was to pot up the pictured three pots of them grown from the original offshoot, and to trim the dead ends and leaves from time to time.

I'm shocked by my own neglect, yet pleased NAH in his Drastic Gardener guise has stirred me into action.

Aloe vera flanked by Plectranthus
After: two small offshoots of Aloe vera flanked by two different Plectranthus species
I also took the opportunity to pot up a couple of cuttings Barbara gave me last year to make a more varied display. All that remains is for me to buy some nice gravel to top the soil. This will reduce the need for watering; a necessary move as I tend to leave and forget my potted plants.

Barbara gave me another two Plectranthus species, related to the coleus we looked at in my Keep it Simple front garden recently.

She thinks the plant on the left is Plectranthus habrophyllus, but can't say for sure as she herself received it as a cutting. It's an aromatic plant, which has a quite a minty overtone when I gently crush a leaf.

On the right we have Plectranthus amboinicus, another aromatic plant with a host of common names e.g. country borage, French thyme, Indian mint, Mexican mint, and Spanish thyme. Barbara called it Cuban oregano and I'd say it has more of an oregano/thyme aroma than mint. The leaves are fleshy and fairly hairy, and the plant grows quickly on my sunny south facing windowsill.

It doesn't seem to mind being chopped back quite severely, so I'm going to experiment with using it as an alternative to basil and oregano in my pasta dishes this winter. Basil in particular does not grow at this time as there's insufficient light, so it'll be interesting to see what my new plant brings to the kitchen table.

Note: if you're wondering where the windowsill referred to in the title is, I've spared you the sight of it as my windows need cleaning.

Latin without tears

  • Aloe derived its name from the Arabic word alloeh meaning bitter, because of the bitter liquid found in the leaves
  • vera means true or genuine in the context of being the most effective healer in the case of Aloe vera
  • habrophyllus is derived from the Greek habros meaning graceful, and phyllus for leaf. The frilled leaves of Plectranthus habrophyllus are quite pretty in my view
  • amboinicus means 'of or from Ambon (or Amboina), the name of both the island and the capital of the Indonesian Spice Islands in the Maluku island group' (source: Plantlives)


  1. I'm glad I'm not the only one! Mine was like yours and I'm afraid I threw mine out! I regret it now, as I have used it a few times and it does work, but I'm sure I can beg a piece from the friend who gave me the original plant. Your basket now looks so beautiful with it's new occupants.

    1. That makes me feel much better Pauline :) I'm sure you'll be able to get another piece from your friend - H's gift came via one of the members of her team...

  2. Very good! Now you only have to clean your windows. ( So am I) Groetjes,

    1. Good idea Hetty, especially now the days are getting darker!

  3. Had a much earlier discussion about Cuban oregano

    Not to be confused with variegated South African Plectranthus madagascariensis - which looks on photos exactly the same to me. Ours is absolutely NOT edible.

    1. Oh yes, the non-variegated form does look similar...

  4. PS Bulbine is just as good for gel on burns, and it has good flowers!

    1. That does look a good plant Diana. I especially like the orange flowered form :)

  5. Perhaps I need to get an aloe vera plant as I seem to often be in need of treatment for burns. My house plants get neglected too

    1. It's funny isn't it Margaret - I wonder if it's their closest proximity which makes us forget about them?


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