My Greener Thumb
I wrote this as January neared its close, reflecting on my 2011 New Year's resolution to introduce live plants to my living quarters and thereby improve the air, as they inhale CO2 and exhale O2. My diligence was happily coming to fruition, I'm happy to report! (Though not without some degree of difficulty at first!, I admit!)
Now, February is underway - with a vengeance! Winter is upon my city! But after I wrote and assembled this, I acquired and am nurturing some more greenery, all doing well, properly named and spoken to regularly! I haven't taken their pictures yet. I didn't realize I hadn't published this, and decided I'd better just take the plunge now, if ever. Even writing about plants turns my writing thumb brown to match my regular brown thumb, it seems! Oh, for some green spray paint!
For example, I must confess that I nearly killed this Spathiphyllum, shown here after being snatched from the dead! No, no, I didn't paint the plant green. My thumb began to turn a bit more "khaki".
I've since named her Claudia and I talk to her sweetly as she favors my kitchen cabinet with her glossy leaves, many of which have raised from fully bent to the floor.
Now many of those have perked back up; glossy new leaves have sprouted and unfolded since her resurrection, too! We are becoming pals.
But I must backtrack a bit and tell how the disaster happened.
By the way, I didn't think to - and wouldn't have liked to - take a picture of the poor thing when I happened to raise my eyes from my laptop and Hubs, to cast a glance over and find that my pretty bushy new plant was drooping. It was too painful to immortalize.
You see, I'd brought it home from the grocery store in fine, glossy, perky condition. Now it was worse than an old cut flower after a couple of weeks of pampering and TLC, when it finally has no more to give. I suppose I expected at least as much from this living plant as from countless bouquets of fresh flowers I've bought and cared for, lo, these many years.
Any bunch of lilies would be shamed to have wilted this quickly, thought I! But my pity for the poor thing far outweighed my disgust and despair.
Granted, I was horrified at the pitiable sight it had become. its limp leaves drooped all the way down to the surface on which the plant rested, pathetically still in its tacky plastic pot with matted roots crowded into it and icky shiny foil wrapped around it, -no doubt a marketing trick to make it look worth the $15 price tag!
But here in my den it now looked like sad carrot tops lying limp after being pulled from the ground; a fish out of water - and I'd watered the thing, too! Oh Yes! I'd FED it too! I must have drowned the poor thing!
Now, though, I gasped! After all, it was here to provide more oxygen, not to wither from temperament after a day or two! This was to have been a mutually beneficial relationship! So what was this chlorophyll betrayal all about? Or was it vice-versa? The possibility took shape.
Older hardy plant friends
Even on a constant diet of neglect, some "old plant friends" have survived in one kitchen windowsill, sustaining their lives under the most sparse conditions for many a year. One was in this house when I moved into it twenty-five years ago, in fact. Let's see. That was 25 years ago! It's been a case of survival of the fittest, because that one, nearest in the picture, was one of many withering on a stand when I moved in. The others there on the sill have nearly as long histories, though perhaps with more propitious starts in life here.
I had them all trained to expect very little if they intended to survive; they would need to use all their best wiles to remain succulent or air-plant-sustained, - whatever it took to withstand long periods of denial followed by drenching deluges! I was aware that this treatment was not optimum but was the situation demanded by our own schedule when we were away for long intervals and no one to tend them. I trained them - or they learned to - survive the extremes which were their lot. And they've shown their mettle, as this photo shows - though it's after they received my recent efforts at better horticultural care.
Mind you, I come from a mother who could stick half a dead leaf in some dirt and it would sprout and grow.
My dad could plant endless feilds of alfalfa and other beneficial crops and they would flourish.
I won't say I have always consistently had either a brown or a green thumb. I've co-authored some impressive gardens and nourished some house plants successfully.
But plants are so DEMANDING, and I haven't always had time or inclination to meet their demands. They are like pets who never purr or lick one's face, but must be tended and coddled just the same.
But I decided to read the cursive "instructions" on the inserted label in the pot. Instinctively I had placed the plastic pot into another pot in which I figured excess water could drain so the roots wouldn't be standing in it. What I was to learn was that even water below not touching the pot would produce too much humidity for this plant I had watered a bit daily and obviously it was drowning. The instructions were to soak the soil and allow it to drain fully - elsewhere and then no more water till the soil feels dry. And, touching the soil, I discovered it to hard and tight. I reasoned that its roots were surely much too crowded into a pot much smaller than needed. So I vowed to get some potting soil and a more commodious pot for repotting it.
In fact, there were some clay pots on the patio - unkempt, of course, from lengthy exposure to weather and falling leaves. So I scrubbed one, along with its saucer and set out to Home Depot for getting some potting soil. I'd also scrubbed the "old friends's" pots in order to also surprise and repot them!
Indeed I was feeling quite committed to my New Year's Resolution now!
Dallas had been having quite cold weather but that afternoon the Fates were with me. It seemed a bit milder so, with my plants, clean pots and bag of potting soil, I braved it to do the deeds.
Stay tuned for a bit more about more plants and our Winter Wonderland in progress!
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