Learning To Be a Plant Parent

(Post 127 of 263. Thanks again to those who participated in the Fundrazr. As I mentioned in the post announcing Bast’s passing from COVID, I thank everyone for your generous donations to the original Fundrazr campaign, which resulted in sponsored 263 posts. I will continue to honour the commitment to write those 263 posts, but I will not commit to more. The link above is to a new campaign to help Bast’s family.)

I had an epiphany recently about my belief that I have a black thumb. It’s something I’ve always accepted about myself and never questioned. Even when I had great success as a plant sitter in Spain and in Chelem, I never made the connection between having a black thumb and ignorance. And I’m ashamed to say that I also never made the connection that a plant is a living, breathing thing with its own unique needs. I wouldn’t adopt a dog without doing research on dogs, so what was I doing adopting plants and then treating them all the same? The reason I had success in my assignments is that the plant parents took me at my word that I was a complete noob and left me super detailed instructions and schedules. I needed to do the same thing with any plants I brought into my home.

I’ve had a couple of plants for about a year now. One thing that I’ve found helpful is to give them all names, to remind me that they are individuals. So I have a snake/mother-in-law’s tongue named Bob, a little cactus named Larry, an aloe vera named Vera (original, I know), and two of something named Darryl and Darryl no one has been able to identify that had small leaves and spread and shed like crazy. What I learned from those plants is I like neat plants that stay in one place, have thick leaves, and don’t shed. The cat who comes in and out of the house ended up murdering Darryl and Darryl, so that left me with Bob, Larry, and Vera. Bob is unkillable, but Vera has been struggling.

All my efforts to find a plant mentor had thus far failed. It’s like “plant people” don’t get that it’s not an instinctual thing and that noobs need hand holding. But now that I’m in my own house permanently, I really want to figure this out. House plants would help with air quality and noise control, while softening sharp corners, and would eventually let me graduate to a vegetable garden.

My office is just about done, and I wanted to add a plant, again, for air quality, but also aesthetics, to hide a bunch of cables in a corner. I spent ages on Marketplace looking for a plant seller who might be patient enough to take time to discuss my needs and abilities and find me the perfect plant and planter for my corner. There are lots of plant vendors around my house, of course, but I needed a complete solution, so looking on Marketplace made more sense. I was pleased to find someone very near me after all. I sent her a picture of the corner, explained that sunlight comes from the skylight, and was honest about my lack of plant nurturing skills. She told me that, frankly, the snake plant was made for folks like me and that there’s no shame in not being suited for something that needs more attention. She suggested a chocolate planter to blend in with the floor so as to not draw attention to the cabling there as well as an oak trivet on which to put it. She could deliver the perfectly potted plant to me that evening at 6:30. Sold!

His name is Doug (Thor Ragnarok joke that plants wouldn’t find funny, but a good reminder of my shameful past behaviour).

I couldn’t believe she put little feet on the trivet, to make it easier to glide across the floor.

I also want some cactus and succulents for my bedroom. She had this little guy available for an additional $180, so I added him to my order.

My name is Korg. I’m not made of rocks, but rather am a cactus.

She arrived around 7PM and spent close to 30 minutes talking about the plants in my front garden (same family as the snake plant, to my surprise) and my Madagascar palms that seem to take everyone’s breath away, and giving me some tips to keep Bob and Vera happier — Bob needs a bigger planter and Vera needs more sunlight, so I moved her to my bedroom. Finally, we talked about a veggie garden and she confirmed that I’ve suspected — it is REALLY hard to grow tomatoes in this climate because there’s just too much sun. She said I might be able to manage cherry tomatoes started inside and then put in an area with shade half the day, like my rear patio. Late August or early September is apparently a good time to try for tomatoes, so I’ll add that to my to-do list.