Picky plants reside in the library
March 8, 2017
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A love of plants and having the knowledge to take care of them has given Malpass Library nursery worker Rebecca Fross the ability to tend to many plant species.
Fross, who earned her Board of Trustees degree at Western Illinois University in 2000, was a late bloomer before she discovered her love of horticulture.
“It took me awhile to get going, but the Board of Trustees program was excellent for me,” Fross said. “I then started an ornamental grass nursery. I also taught plant (identification) at John Wood Community College, and I have written some articles for the Macomb Journal. It was several years ago, but that’s kind of my background. Basically, I did my ornamental grass nursery out of industry for probably 11 to 12 years before I came here.”
After Fross purchases a new plant, she takes her time to understand its needs and how to best take care of it.
“I enjoy plants, so when I get a new plant, I research it, I study it, and all different times during the day, I check to see how it’s reacting,” Fross said. “I supposed just like if you own a cat, your cat has a certain personality. I just kind of assumed that all justina plants are going to like low light, are going to not like to be overwatered, so I just go by their characteristics basically and research them.”
Fross came across some very difficult plants that she referred to as “diva plants” during her time as a Malpass Library nursey worker.
“I came across a few plants that have been very difficult, but yet they’re fascinating,” Fross said. “If you work with them long enough and learn (what) their horticulture care requires, it’s nice to see them pull out of that divaness and become what they can be.”
Fross said a favorite plant of hers is the platycerium bifurcatum, commonly referred to as the staghorn fern.
“We have several (staghorn ferns),” Fross said. “They just get huge and on the ends of their frans is brown and it looks like a deer’s antler that has all of this velvet, and so that’s how it gets its name. It’s just an awesome plant. It’s huge; we have one on the fourth floor that was given to us by the first female electrician here at Western. It’s just enormous.”
Fross even learned about taking care of cactus plants and found out more information about them.
“We have some (cacti) in a new arrangement on the sixth floor, and I’m finding out that they’re a little pickier than I thought,” Fross said. “Some like to have more water than others, and so I am learning how to water them. If they receive too much water, they’re going to rot and die; too little water, they’re going to shrivel up, so there’s a fine line between that.”
Fross does notice that plants will have different needs, even if they come from the same plant family.
“We have a few plants that like full light and the similar species in the same family would take less light,” Fross said. “Some plants like to be completely dried out before they’re watered; other ones, if you let them get too dry, they’ll die. They can be in the same family, so it’s kind of like kids in the family. Every kid is a different individual and it’s the same way with species of plants.”
Fross even noticed that two different plants of the same species will react differently, especially by their location, the amount of light they received and the size of the pot.
“I know that in the library, we have several different floors,” Fross said. “You can take the same plant and the same pot and put them throughout the library, they’ll have to be watered (differently) just because their location affects them.”
As an experienced plant nursery worker, Fross would advise a new plant owner to conduct research and obtain more knowledge about the plant.
“Of course we have several good books at the library, so I would have them research, read about the plant,” Fross said. “I would start them with simple plants, something that they will have success with immediately. African violets, because of my grandma and my mom, are one of my favorites. They’re also one of the easiest to start, easiest to grow and they bloom, so it just can’t get better than that.”