Lacking indoor gardening gene

I’ve been known as a plant-killer—a reputation that has spanned a good many years and one that is fairly well-earned.
A shortcoming, if you prefer, and one that I share with my mother.
Her plants always looked a tad beaten, neglected, misfortunate. Her life was busy; perhaps I will use that excuse—I mean reason.
As a result of my inability to remember to water my houseplants, I quit acquiring them. But still I admire plants. I imagine green life up on my shelves and hanging down from my cupboard tops, waving at me in a friendly manner.
“Hello,” they’d say if they could. “We’re watching over things.”
Ancient cultures recognized the beauty of houseplants, and their positive influence on both the aesthetic and psychological climate of the home. Plant hunters, of which Charles Darwin was one, went out in search of new exotic plants so that the affluent could outshine one another.
Dr. Nathaniel Ward, in 1833, developed a glass container, later called a terrarium, to transport delicate plants that required temperature control. Thus began the very lucrative business of selling indoor beauty and the challenge, for people like me, to keep up—to keep the living foliage in our homes, well, living.
Though I may blame my lack of a green thumb on my genetics, my sister does not share the same limitations and her story is a much different one. Sherry’s house is bursting with plants (well, maybe not bursting but certainly her house sports an abundance of houseplants).
She, it turns out, is careful to remember to water and not to over water; and when to trim and when to fertilize, and whether full sun or partial sun or no sun at all.
The plants on her tables and hanging from the ceiling, and filling up an entire corner, aren’t just any old plants, either. These plants have a story; every single one means something to her and has a long history of cheering up the homes of Sherry’s friends and family.
Sherry has a weeping fig tree that has been in her home for 20 years and at times has threatened to take over the entire space. It has pruned itself on occasion when a limb has torn free or when knocked around by moving, but still it flourishes.
She also has a Christmas cactus that belonged to our mother’s eldest sister. This cactus has flowered and delighted those with plant envy for more than 20 years in Sherry’s home and just as many in Aunt Mary’s home.
She has spider plants from a neighbour’s home before the neighbour had to move into a nursing home, and a variety of plants from our late cousin whom we both adored.
None of Sherry’s plants came from gardening centres or grocery stores, but came to her by way of a gesture—a gathering up of memories and a legacy of love that she has respected and nurtured.
It is a lovely notion, this honouring of the houseplants that belonged to others. The gesture keeps those folks with us, sharing our space long after they have departed.
Sherry truly loves her plants, speaks to them, discusses their needs and, as a result, they bloom and grow with tremendous vigour.
I must try harder to become a competent plant caretaker. Perhaps if I wrote a note to myself and placed it on the refrigerator, or on the back of my hand or my forehead, so that I would remember to pause and check the soil and have a chat with them and encourage them and remind them of how special they are.
I think I’ll give it a go. I’ll try again.
wendistewart@live.ca

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