Sunday, January 30, 2011


Our coffee harvest will not be large even though there are yellow berries on the plant in our bathroom (thirteen). They’ve passed the green stage and, when they are brown, will fall off (eventually) and we will extract the beans (two from each berry) and plant them. Each year we imagine what it would be like to roast them, grind them and drink them. Each year, we imagine how small a cup we’d need.
Although it may well be that coffee plants like warm, steamy atmospheres, this is not why there’s a coffee plant in the bathroom. It’s simply a matter of space. As plants get bigger, they have to be moved around the house. In the summer, we put as many as we can in the garden. Every year they grow - which means they are an even bigger problem when we bring them back in the autumn. Our window sills don’t grow. Nor does available floor space. So . . . this coffee tree has been relegated to the bathroom. We have another in the living room. One of our cats likes to sit in the pot with it, tail wrapped around trunk.

We gave Didcott cactuses for Christmas. They are in the bathroom too. He’s worried the cats will prickle their noses on the spikes and hairs.

A bathroom atmosphere may not be ideal for cactuses - but our bathroom is rarely hot and steamy. I can’t see the point of heating the room we spend the least time in so I don’t turn the radiator on. People are unlikely to linger unless the ambient temperature is warm, so, as ours isn’t, members or our family are generally quite efficient about getting in, washing and getting out again. I run a mean and ecological ship!

There are two cactuses. We don’t know what they are. They came from a shop where the florist had stuck dried helichrysum flowers on top to make them look as if they were in bloom.

Cactuses were, perhaps, not the best present for a boy who likes to water things. However, in the absence of lithops and Venus fly traps at this time of year - reasonably interesting.

If anyone knows what they are called and how often they would like to be watered - we’d be glad to know!

* * *

Ever since we had a terrible infestation of fleas a few summers ago, our cats are rarely allowed upstairs. I’d never had fleas in my house before so, by the time I realised what was happening, they’d taken over and were jumping around all over the place - especially on me.
To make it worse, I misunderstood how flea-killer works. I thought fleas leapt onto cats for a quick snack and - as long as said cats were up to date with their anti-flea drops - instantly fell off; dead. That’s why I encouraged our two cats to sit on our beds. It was, I thought, a mopping up exercise. But there’s a time delay between eating and expiring and the fleas took advantage of their last moments to lay eggs. It all got worse. As I said; terrible.

We weren’t the only ones affected. The whole town was under flea-attack. Vets and pet-shops ran out of flea killer. Our nearest pet shop closed for cleaning. We suspect it had fleas too; the man who ran it half opened the door when customers knocked - and poked purchases out through the gap.

In cold weather, fleas aren’t a danger. Mud is. Muddy footprints are not welcome on duvet covers so, ever since the summer-of-fleas, our cats haven’t been allowed upstairs except in cold, dry weather - which is not often! And when they are allowed upstairs they know their situation is precarious. They try to look invisible. They have had no interest in the bathroom since they were kittens.

So why was there a cat in the bath this afternoon?

Cats like plants, that’s why. It had got into the bath to look at a pot of freesias that has been in it for a week.

* * *

It’s been a long day.

You don’t want to know why there are freesias in the bath, do  you?


Liz said...


Freesia in a bath?

Coffee plants in the bathroom?

Sure is an interesting house you have there, I'd love to see if you do manage to make your own coffee! Sounds very exciting, but you'd need a whole field to last the entire year? They'd be very special little beans and no doubt taste so much better.

Ali said...

I'm glad you have a coffee plant in the bathroom, I think it sounds simply wonderful. I have a peace lily in there, but am inspired now to put something a little more exciting in there... an eggplant?

easygardener said...

I have had a flea infestation once - I still remember them jumping on my bare feet. That was in the days of powdery/aerosol flea sprays when the cats were very unco-operative and covering them was a hit and miss affair.
It sounds like you have a breed of super flea in your area. We will soon be seeing maps on TV showing them spreading across the UK

colleen said...

Can't help out with identification of the cacti, I'm afraid though there are several cactus books around the house...somewhere. All I know is that they need modest watering in winter. My son used to ask us to buy those tiny little cactuses when he was young. Most of them ended up in a greenhouse at the school where my partner works, then he planted them out. They grew enormous, looked fantastic and prevented short cuts by a thousand children. Marvelous.

garden girl said...

Of course we want to know why there are freesias in the bath Esther! I'm sure there's a good reason, just as there's a good reason for the other plants in there.

Your coffee tree looks wonderful - seems to be thriving in the bathroom climate.

Our dog George has never had fleas. His first two years I used a flea product on him, and haven't since. He's 10 years old, and I'm amazed. I've wondered if there's something about his chemistry that repels them.

Although the Lawn Man doesn't like cats, before we met I always had them, and had more than one flea infestation in the house. I can definitely sympathise! The times when it happened, my girls were young and still crawling around and sitting, playing on the floor. Their poor little legs got all bitten up. We all had flea bites. It was really awful!

Amy said...

I'm glad to know that other people keep plants in the tub and bathroom. Mine are all reaching up to get some sun. Hope you get a coffee harvest.Maybe you could use the little expresso cups for your coffee. :)

Elephant's Eye said...

Now I feel guilty because there is a little heater in our bathroom, and I use it in winter. More guilt. I like to linger in a deep bath. (But it is solar powered hot water in summer, and grey water for the garden) Still guilty, as charged.

Is the freesia in the bath because you ran out of windowsill?

Barbara said...

The photo of the cactus next to the razors is priceless. If I had a good place for it, I'd have plants in the bathroom, too. Heck, there are plants in every other room - why not there, too?

jodi (bloomingwriter) said...

We are fortunate; whether it's the clay, the cool temperatures, or the fog, but we have never had an infestation of fleas here, despite having a brood of cats. Our bathroom is far too small to put plants in it, but they're pretty much everywhere else in the house, especially my office, the living room and kitchen. Makes the house much happier, and I like to think, healthier, though I have to keep some plants up away from bad nosy cats...

Esther Montgomery said...

Hello Liz. Making coffee is . . . not very likely but nice to dream about! However, we find the beans are fertile and grow them as presents.

Ali - a Peace Lily! Sounds wonderful! An eggplant sounds exotic. Quite big though . . . and would you have enough sun coming in? Incidentally, we put our coffee trees/bushes/plants (not sure how best to describe them) in the garden for summer months - along with other house plants which appreciate a break from the indoors.


Esther Montgomery said...

Hello Easygardener. I think fleas must come in waves because we didn't have this kind of trouble last summer (thank goodness!). Nor did I hear that anyone else round here did either. We have two cats and put anti-flea drops on the backs of their necks. One doesn't mind. The other struggles on principle. The vet told us the drops he used to supply no longer work - fleas have got used to. He now sells a different kind. Maybe that was the trouble that year; fleas had become immune to the previous version.

Hello Colleen. I hadn't thought of these little cactuses growing so big they could be planted outside and be dramatic enough to be a deterant. How long did it take?

Hello Garden Girl. I had lots of bites. My husband none. They really itched and looked unsightly. It must have been worrying to have small children when there are fleas about. We had to spray the carpets and I would have worried about close contact with the chemicals.


Esther Montgomery said...

Hello Amy. I suppose we might get enough beans for one expresso cup of coffee - but not espresso strength!

Diana - we live in different climates. I know South Africa is hot in summer but I have also seen (on the television) people wearing woolly hats so I guess there are times when it is cold too. We are fortunate in our insulation and that makes a difference. I don't want to give the impression we never heat the bathroom . . . My husband likes long luxury baths from time to time and my children can sometimes only be persuaded to have a bath at all if I lure them with a cosy bathroom. These count as special events though!


Esther Montgomery said...

There you are, Barbara - why not plants in a bathroom? Maybe we have inspired you.

Jodi - how nice not to have to worry about fleas! On the other hand - we haven't had them before or since so I'd still be wary in case they suddenly grab your house too! Cats and plants - sometimes I feel we are mean to our cats by having so many plants on our windowsills. Cats so much like to sit there and look out. I confess, despite the post, I'm not really a house-plant person. (Husband and son are.) It's in the spring that I start competing for space on the sills for that's where I put seed trays and seedlings . . . and little tomato plants and . . . !


Plantaliscious said...

Of course you keep freesias in the bath. Though it does rather make me wonder about the collective cleanliness of your household. I am choosing to believe you have a separate shower.

I've never had cats but have twice moved in to houses that had had cats and still had fleas. Ghastly.

Personally I think the sooner someone comes up with extending windowsills the better, though I fear I would just fill those too. Though not with cacti. My great grandparents had a wonderful collection in their porch, and one day I decided they looked strokeable. It took a long time with the tweezers to remove the prickles, giving me plenty of time to foreswear cactus ownership for ever.

rosa said...

I'm glad you posted about all your weird houseplants. I think this group of ragtags goes unmentioned often. Let's see, what have I got? 3 struggling orchids and something related to a pineapple, but with long, monocot leaves. None of these plants are thriving, and I just barely remember to water them. No fertilizer is ever applied, so that is probably the trouble.
The coffee bean plant reminds me of my dad-he lives in Hawaii and likes to fish. There is a small reservoir (with the strange name of 'Square Tank'-I think it's the original Hawaiian)in the middle of a coffee field that is one of his favorite spots. I went with him once, with a book, and sat hunched between two coffee plants reading in the red dirt.
B has an enormous mental block against succulents. He says they remind him, along with wind chimes, of growing up in the 70's.
However, I am not so emotionally damaged-I think lithops are so totally groovy, man!

Esther Montgomery said...

Hello Plantalicious. I doubt you would be impressed by our collective cleanliness! (Though we'd take the freesias out of the bath when we needed to use it and they are out completely and in the garden now.)

Hello Rosa. Orchids! Struggling or otherwise the very word is exotic! We don't have a related-to-a-pineapple but do have a pineapple plant. In the right conditions its leaves go a lovely pink.

(In the right conditions . . . and from time to time . . . I like wind chimes too. I suppose that means there's no hope left!)


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