Black Thumb

1

July 30, 2009 by skwishface

Over the years, I have accidentally cultivated a unique talent: I can kill any plant.

Place a plant in my care, and it will die. Dandelions have wilted sadly in my yard, and geraniums have strangled in their own pots, one last bright red bloom forlorn on a dried-out stem, like a dying breath. Even a cactus has withered and died on my porch. Mind you, it’s not like I’m making any special effort to kill these plants. I’m not watering them with bleach or anything. I’m just neglecting them. Completely.

And then we bought a house.

Everything about a house is big. Big investment, big home improvement projects, big cost for said projects. We can’t afford to do all the fix-ups that we want to do with this house all at once (new roof, new siding, build a back porch, paint the upstairs rooms, etc), so we’ll have to space our projects out over time, probably years. But since I’m such an instant-gratification kind of girl, I can only go about a month before I gotta-gotta-gotta do something to pretty up my home.

Enter the Undead Plants:

*cue scary music*

*cue scary music*

They cannot be killed. No lie.

The bamboo on the left was a housewarming gift from my stepmom, a “lucky bamboo” to bring us good fortune in our new home. I gushed over it and thanked her, then put it on my dining room table and promptly forgot about it. Months of darkness and drought later (because I never did manage to put it in the sun or water it), and it was still going strong. Turns out that bamboos don’t need silly things like FOOD or CARE. They do, however, need to not be munched on by bored housecats. The Husband’s Damn Cat had decided this bamboo was delish (see the ragged leaves?), so it got relocated to my office, where I can neglect it for 40 hours a week.

The wacky hippy-looking plant on the right is a Ponytail Palm, which was a gift from a boss a few years and a few jobs ago. It’s been moved, ditched in corners or porches, and utterly forgotten for years. But apparently this particular plant needs nothing. It likes minimal sunlight and the occasional accidental sip of water. It likes living in a pot that should be way too small for it. Now it lives on my mantle, as a shining example to all creatures in the house whose lives I am responsible for: Behold! You can survive in spite of her!

Anyway, the Undead Plants stuck around and lived through alot of crap, and stayed determinedly pretty and happy throughout. They inspired me, I tell you. It turns out that plants, when actually tended to and maintained, can pretty up your home. Huzzah, I have found an affordable way to satisfy my compulsive home improvement urges! And there was much rejoicing (yay).

Let’s start in my kitchen, where the useful and edible plants live.

Also, Dorothy the fish. Dorothy is a boy fish. I blame Elmo.

Also, Dorothy the fish. Dorothy is a boy fish. I blame Elmo.

The aloe vera plant has been maintained much the same way the average first aid kit is maintained – replenished every now and then, but mostly just left to get dusty until it’s needed. It hangs out on my kitchen windowsill because, frankly, that is the room where folks are most likely to get burned. And aloe, it’s a miracle for burns.

But the other two pots, I hear you asking, what’s in those? They look remarkably empty! Let’s take a closer look:

*gasp!* So tiny!

*gasp!* So tiny!

Herbs! No, not that kind ….

*sigh* So delicate!

*sigh* So delicate!

The kind that you eat. And not as baked into brownies. The itty-bitty darlings shyly sprouting in the white pot are baby oregano, and the gangly little fellows in the blue pot are cilantro. Did you know that when you plant seeds in good, healthy organic soil, and then water them gently a little each day and give them a sunny spot to live, they’ll grow into actual plants? Yeah, me neither. But here it is!

Who am I kidding? Kindergarteners know this. They grow bean sprouts on damp paper towels and call it “science class”. Twenty-five years later, I recall the lessons of my youth. Someday soonish, I will have delicious fresh herbs for to cook with. I cannot begin to describe how satisfying this is. For reals.

Hopefully, because I’m approaching the care of these plants as a home improvement project rather than as taking care of plants, these little dears will have a fighting chance. It does help that they’re indoors and right next to a water source that I spend alot of time around (ie – the kitchen sink).

But what about outdoors? Isn’t that the natural environment for the flora of the world? Why yes, it is. But that is also the place where all growing green things enter a magical void in which they no longer exist to my consciousness. And you can’t feed or water or re-pot that which does not exist. True story.

When we first moved in to our new house, we discovered that the previous owners shared my philosophy of gardening. In the back yard, there was a half-assed attempt at a flower bed in which there grew a multitude of grassy weeds and one large potted plant. Yes, a potted plant in a flower bed. If you had seen the paint job that they had hastily covered with generic white before putting the house on the market, in which the entire interior was painted the same god-awful peach color as the exterior, you would not question this redundancy.

The house had been unoccupied for weeks when we moved in, and the yard was way down at the bottom of a very long list of To-Do’s. So this potted plant languished outside with absolutely no care whatsoever for the better part of six months before The Husband got a wild hare and decided to tear down the flowerbed. In so doing, the potted plant got parked in the front of the house, by the trash cans. Like maybe some whim would see it on the curb one fine Tuesday morning with the rest of the trash. Undaunted, the plant continued to not just survive, but thrive.

So I moved it to the front porch and gave it some water.

It's purple!

It's purple!

Mind you, the front of my house faces almost directly west. This normally wouldn’t matter at all, but for the fact that we get raging, blazing, devastating western sun for the entire latter half of the day.

Did you know that there are different kinds of sunlight? I used to think there was just sun or shade. Sunlight or an absence of sunlight. Turns out that sunlight comes in different flavors depending on what time of day it’s shining. Morning sun is gentle and sweet. Afternoon sun is the boiling pit of Hades itself. Oddly enough, not a whole lot of plants can survive prolonged exposure to Hades sun.

That plucky little potted plant from our yard, though? It’s a Purple Queen. Apparently they like the scathing blistering intensity of a Texas afternoon. Hey, somebody has to.

Also enjoying crazy heat and drought conditions is a shrub called the Silverado Sage. Which sounds like a Harlequin romance hero. An outlaw with dark good looks, deadly-fast draw on the six shooter, and a secret heart of gold. Swoon! My inner romance novel enthusiast is often not so much inner as very outer and buying pastel-colored bodice rippers by the armload at Half-Price Books, so ….

Now imagine it's riding off into the sunset, the wind in its unruly hair.

Now imagine it's riding off into the sunset, the wind in its unruly hair.

I had to get me one.

Silverado Sage and the Purple Queen. Ye gods, it’s an overwrought love story right by my front door. Some kind of east-meets-west star-crossed tale of a Texas outlaw and an exotic princess. Whatever misadventures they endure, apparently they’re happy.

Flowers mean the plant is happy, right?

It must be love.

It must be love.

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One thought on “Black Thumb

  1. Eva says:

    I thought I’d finally killed the aloe vera that resides on my kitchen window sill. I hardly water it to start with and then I went out of town for an entire month leaving it in the care of my husband.
    It was entirely brown when I got back. Not even at it’s very heart was there any amount of verdigree. I gave it one more shot though, watered it up good and it’s coming back.
    That plant is a glutton for punishment.

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