By Anthony Longo


original artwork of a green spiky aloe vera plant leaves in a brown pot.
"Aloe", original art by the author

My special plant is aloe. This past summer we went to a farm to get flowers. My mom walked to the second tent. It was filled with succulents. We decided to buy some succulents. We almost walked past the aloe. Then I looked over and saw it. I asked, “Can we please get this mom.” She said “Yes”, and we got them.


When we got home, we watered them. That weekend we put them in pots. The next day we made a jobs chart. My little sister had to water the plants every day. I was worried but eventually (after a couple of days of them not getting watered) I realized how they could thrive and live with little water. I was not worried about them.


A couple of weeks later I got burned making lunch. That day we broke one piece of aloe and squirted it on myself and put a band aid on it. It helped a lot.


Then we went on vacation. I thought the aloe might die because it had not been watered in a long time and we were leaving for a week. The problem was that if I were home, I could water it if it were dying but could not during vacation. When we got back, I was surprised to see it was the only plant still alive. It had so many leaves and was so strong. I was so happy we bought it. My mom was proud because she can never keep a plant alive. Then that fall we did not want to leave it out there to die so we brought it in. We always forget to water it, but the aloe is ok. It grows and grows and becomes stronger and prettier. It looks genuinely nice on our table and counters. It brings beauty to our house even when it is dirty. I am happy because once one of our plants survived the fall to bring beauty to our house and it is all because I saw it. Now that aloe is incredibly special and sits on my coffee table. I am proud of growing it and think it is beautiful. The Aloe hopefully will live through the winter and till the spring. Thank you for listening to my plant love story.

 

Anthony is a sixth grader at Tenth Queen of Angels Catholic School. Anthony submitted his Plant Love Story and original art to the Plant Love Story Challenge hosted by the Phipps Conservatory and Botanic Gardens in Pittsburgh, PA. His artwork was also featured in our 2022 Plant Heart Art Valentines Day Collection.


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By Charlotte Kovach

orange marigold flowers  on a blue, green and purple watercolor background.
Marigolds. Original art by the author.

My mom and I plant marigolds every year. I love planting with her. On our deck, there is a small container that contains marigold seeds. I always wondered why we had so many marigold seeds, and out of all flowers why marigolds? So, I asked, “Mom, why do we have so many marigold seeds”? She told me that they were my great grandmother's seeds, and had been passed down to her mom, and then her. That was in summer, now it is fall.


The marigolds we planted in the spring had overgrown into several big, pretty bushes. I went to a pumpkin patch and saw some marigolds on the way there. They were so small that I thought they were a different kind of marigold. Then, I saw some at the pumpkin patch. They were slightly different from the ones I saw on the way there, but they were still so small! When I got home, I looked up marigolds on the Internet and in almost all the pictures the marigolds were small. I realized that not only were our big, beautiful marigolds our marigolds, but they were special. I am so happy because my mom told me that I will be the next owner of the marigold seeds.


 

Charlotte is a fifth grader at Turtle Creek Elementary STEAM Academy. Charlotte’s story and artwork were part of the Turtle Creek Elementary winning team entry for the Plant Love Story Challenge hosted by the Phipps Conservatory and Botanic Gardens. You can read Charlotte’s teammate Brianna Smithwick’s story ‘Amazing Pumpkin’ also here on PLS!



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By George N. Diamantis

container of red grapes and green grape leaves

Growing up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, my mother always had a lush garden full of vibrant plants. I remember watching my mother tend to her plants while playing with my toy trucks in the dirt. She had a wide variety of colorful plants such as roses, hydrangeas, marigolds, hostas, begonias, and zinnias just to name a few. In the early spring mornings, I remember smelling the flower’s aroma and gazing upon the beauty of all the different brightly-colored plants. Not only did my mother have a flourishing flower garden, but she also had a selection of crops that she would harvest such as tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, basil, mint, and a grapevine. However, unlike all the rest of the plants in my mother’s garden, I took a particular interest in the grapevine.

leaves of a grape vine crawling up a wooden fence
the delicious grapevine leaf - waiting to be harvested in the author's backyard

Even though grapevines are usually traditional for producing grape juice, jelly, raisins, table grapes, and wine, many Mediterranean cuisines use the whole plant for food. In particular, the leaves are used to make a popular Mediterranean dish called Dolmathes—better known as grape leaves. I remember, as a child, getting excited when my mother would pick grape leaves from our grapevine because that would mean that she would be making Dolmathes, or as we called them in our household, Fela. Dolmathes consist of seasoned ground meat mixed with rice wrapped in a grapevine leaf. Dolmathes are not only common in Mediterranean cuisine, you can also find them on dinner tables in the Middle East and the Balkans.


My mother taught me how to make Dolmathes and how to pick the best quality grapevine leaves. The ideal size of grapevine leaves are harvested when the leaves are a deep green color and a little bigger than the palm of the hand. If you harvest grapevine leaves that are smaller than the palm of the hand, then you will need more than one grapevine leaf to make one Dolmathes, which could result in the Dolmathes falling apart while cooking. When my mother picks grapevine leaves, she stores them in either a jar filled with water or rolls them in foil and stores them in the freezer. This means we can eat these tasty delights year round, even during the freezing winter months when the grapevine has no leaves! The luxury of having a grapevine is that picking the leaves stimulates new growth and spurs the vine to develop more leaves. After about July in Pennsylvania, grapevine leaves become tough and difficult to chew, so I do not recommended picking leaves after July.

a white bowl full of delicious Fela, or Domathes.
Homemade Fela, or Dolmathes, with hand picked grapevine leaves.

In the fall, particularly starting in November, you should cut the vine back so the plant will be ready for the winter. Winter frost and cold can injure or even kill the vine if the base of the plant is not protected. My mother likes to pile decaying leaves around the cut stem while other people use straw to keep the grapevine warm during the cold months. Then, in the spring, you can watch the grapevine grow. It is rewarding to watch the plant grow from a small bud to developing into mature leaves that are ready for harvesting.


I first learned about the grapevine as a child from my mother. Growing up in a Greek-Italian family and being exposed to the culture has taught me about grapevine and has introduced a favorite dish that my whole family enjoys year round (not just for holidays!). I personally recommend growing a grapevine in any backyard because it is one of the most useful plants in a garden and am thankful this one plant has given me and my family so much.

 

George is a senior at the University of Pittsburgh majoring in Psychology. He is 25 years old and has aspirations to apply to medical school in the near future.


Photos: top (grapes and leaves - Photo by Cassie Matias on Unsplash), middle and bottom provided by the author




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