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Where have all the houseplants gone?

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The weather's been bad lately -- much colder and snowier, earlier than usual -- and I've been so busy I've barely had time to sit down occasionally. So I figured that a couple of new houseplants would brighten my house and my spirits. I wanted something new, something I hadn't grown before.

While I was attending the Garden Writers annual symposium in Portland, Ore., in September, I sat beside a representative of the Florida foliage industry on one of our tours and I became all fired up about the exciting indoor plants she described.

Then I got back home -- and life happened. I forgot about houseplants as I planted bulbs, got the container garden ready for winter, cleaned up the garden, and all that sort of stuff. Then the holidays -- and accompanying out-of-town guests -- took over my attention.

But then I was reminded of my desire to add some new houseplants to my collection. I looked around at the supermarket when shopping for the weekly groceries, and didn't find anything out of the ordinary. In fact, it was mostly the same stuff in different sizes and containers.

So I tried another supermarket and, while the selection was better, the stock was low and the plants common stuff I'd grown for years. I almost bought a gloxinia out of desperation -- at least it was blooming -- but I decided if that was my only criterion, I'd be better off getting a moth orchid at Trader Joe's.

Well, I kept looking -- at a greenhouse, a nursery, a flower shop -- and still didn't find what I wanted. I'm sure the plant for me is out there and I just haven't found it yet. But I never recall having to search much before when I wanted a new plant.

As it turns out, I wasn't the only one to notice a dearth of houseplants, and my area isn't the only one to experience it. The topic came up on a listserv I belong to. Others had also wondered what was going on.

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