This is the story of an unlikely, wonderful houseplant. It began life as a science experiment for a book I wrote. I needed to sprout some seeds for a growing experiment, so I got one of those little pots from the dollar area of Target. It had clover seeds.


February 24, 2010. I sowed the seeds and used the incandescent bulb in my swing-arm lamp as the light source. The office air is very dry, especially in the winter which this was, so I made mini-greenhouses with sandwich bags to keep the dirt moist. The seeds sprouted in just four or five days and never looked back. Clover, it seems, grows very quickly and very enthusiastically.


March 16, 2010. It wasn’t long until it outgrew its starter pots. I transfered the seedlings to somewhat larger pots sat back for the ride. At times I almost felt like I could see the growth happening before my eyes! (That’s garlic in the foreground that I grew from cloves for a separate experiment.)


May 11, 2010. Even in the now too-small pots, the clover thrived, and became a tourist attraction for visitors from outer space.


July 13, 2010. I soon moved the clover into its permanent home. I put the plants from both small pots together in the new large pot and that’s where they’ve been ever since, growing the heck out of it!


April 8, 2011. For over a year now, I have enjoyed this yard weed as a unique and conversation-starting desk plant. It has been perfectly happy under my lamp and I love how hairy and wild it is. Because of its success, I started some strawberry plant seeds the same way (in the small cup on the overturned pot) and though they have sprouted and the leaves are taking on the serrated quality of mature leaves, it just doesn’t grow quickly at all. The seeds took about two weeks to sprout and the growth you see in the photo above is about two months’ worth. Quite a bit less satisfying. Yesterday I transplanted them to this slightly larger cup in hopes that they would find the extra leg room inspirational. If they ever become worthy of it, the overturned pot will be theirs. Time will tell.


My desktop garden also includes several philodendrons which love the conditions. And just recently, I started buying a stem or two of cut flowers at a nearby florist because it adds a nice element of gaiety—a touch of fancy, if you will—to the environment.

In case you’re wondering, my clover has not yet produced any four-leafers.







Tree fractals

March 7, 2011


As I was waiting for the train to work last Friday morning and looking around for things to take Instagram pictures of to kill time, I had the sudden feeling that one of my favorite things about winter here in the deciduous northern hemisphere is seeing the bare trees reaching toward the sky and knowing that what I see above ground is happening below ground as well.

I hadn’t thought of tree branches as fractals until I saw an episode of Nova a few weeks ago, but I have known for a very long time that trees have root systems underground that are equivalent to their branch systems above. As I stared at the beautiful, veiny, starkness of the winter bare branches, I was a little overwhelmed by the thought of the symmetrical happenings in the dirt.

I didn’t have time to leave the train platform to take photos of the trees that were uncluttered by power lines, apartment highrises or other impediments, but the images stayed in my memory all weekend and were the inspiration for this illustration based on tracings of my hands.