Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"Don't Touch Me Aspidistra"

When I was a teen living in England I worked at the Ardley Kennels near Bicester.  The owner, Mrs. Beril Kelland would have me in for tea.  While it was being prepared I would sit back and enjoy the beauty of her Victorian home.  The detailing of both house and furnishings amazed me,  and I remember thinking that some day I was going to live in something similar.  The Victorian era enthralled me and even at that young age I would go to antique shops in Oxford and make little purchases of items to go in my future home.  With a big love of flora in or out of doors I fell in love with all of Mrs. Kellands plant stands and one in particular held a very large and ancient Aspidistra in a beautiful Victorian planter passed down to her from a family member of that era.  I was just lightly touching the detail of the pot when she came into the room "Don't touch me Aspidistra" she called out in her shrill voice.  I jumped in surprise and she started to laugh telling me that was a quote from one of her favorite comedies on BBC and can't help screeching it when she gets the opportunity.  Comedy aside, I inquired if she knew anything about the Aspidistra.  "No, it is just one of those plants that never dies."  Truly the Aspidistra elatior is known as the Cast Iron plant for a reason, it can withstand all sorts of neglect, harsh temperatures, smoke, dust  and many other bad conditions.  Because of this ability to withstand those conditions it was very popular in Victorian homes.  Later that summer while on a family vacation in Spain, I spotted the perfect ceramic pot for an Aspidistra.  My mother told me it was too large as with two adults and four children space was a premium in the family car.  I pleaded with her and promised to carry it on my lap all the way back home to England, she gave me a rye smile of "Bet you can't do it", and I made the purchase.  Stubbornness prevailed and the pot remained on my lap the rest of the trip.

I have had this plant since 1971 when we settled here in Portland
The corner it sits in is almost devoid of natural light because of the heavy draperies just as in the Victorian homes,  and the brown tips on the leaves are due to neglectful watering.  Hey, "Do as the Victorians do....or did!"


  1. And I believe, if allowed to, they become HUGE.

  2. What a great planter! You definitely had an eye for things, Doc. Not ever heard of this plant, but it sounds like something that I might actually be able to keep alive!
    Thanks for sharing a wonderful story. :-)

  3. Yours is the second house plant post I have read today, I noted the date of when you got your plant, it is older than me! Have a good Christmas. xx

  4. Merry Christmas to you and yours Doc, I hope you have had a wonderful Christmas.

  5. I think you could call that aspidistra a 'keeper', not to mention the container - it would have been knocked of the dainty stand long ago in my house (not by me, of course!)
    Wishing you and all at Menagerie Manor a happy and healthy 2014.