Friday, May 20, 2011

All Thumbs

I'm not so good with plants.  Brown isn't dark enough to describe my thumb.  It is the blackest of blacks.  Grim Reaper Black (take that, Crayola).  Spring, Spring, Killing Machine.  Every spring when the sun comes out I get excited and try again.  The sun makes me do silly things.  Plants are dead by summer.  I've read gardening books and watched gardening shows on tv.  I've diligently fed and watered my plants.  Talked and sang to them.  Given them magic potions, more or less sun.  Tried every soil under the sun.  Each year as dead as the last.

I have killed succulents.  Do you know how hard it is to kill succulents?  They are notorious for surviving the bleakest conditions.  They thrive on neglect.  I killed them.  Dead.  One year for Christmas, my mom got me the bonsai I had been pining for.  I read up on the little guys, followed all the instructions and advice to a tee, loved it as hard as possible, and the damn thing was dead within 6 months.  When my grandma moved from her house, I was given her potted palm.  According to legend, my dad had given it to her in a terrarium when God was a child and she had raised it to the beautiful specimen that punctuated the corner of her front room.  It was moved briefly every year, displaced by the Christmas tree.  Christmas afternoon the tree came down and back went the palm.  I can't picture my grandma's house without it.  I was hesitant to take it, but they insisted.  And as is my wont, I killed it.  I tried desperately not to.  But I did it anyway.  Last year I even planted some pots with wild weeds.  These, I thought, would at least survive my cursed thumb.  No dice.  I built a mini green house and started some lettuce.  The local wildlife ate every stitch the night after I planted them into the ground.  Dee brought home two fake trees for me a few months back, "maybe you won't be able to kill these".  "Maybe", I shrugged.  We'll see.

We had one sunny day last month and I got excited again.  The sun makes me act a drunken fool.  I bought some flowers to plant.  The very second I got home, it started raining.  Hard.  It rained for the next month.  My little starters, still in plastic containers, were beat down, flowerless, soaked to the bone (or root, as it were).  I swore off gardening altogether.  But then a week ago, something strange happened.  I keep my empty pots on a low shelf outdoors in the wintertime.  On the bottom shelf was a pot I hadn't fully emptied full of foliage.  A few days after that I noticed my camellia, which had never so much as produced a green leaf, was alive and doing well.  Today I spied the little mess of plants I bought a month ago, whose lifeless carcasses I had tossed into a pile in a container I had planned on getting rid of.  Each and every one was alive.  Half were bright with flowers.  When I fished them out to replant, I revealed a hosta the size of my head, just chillin' in the discard bucket.  I'm not saying I've turned over a new leaf (pun sooo intended), but maybe this year will be different.  After all, the plastic trees are still doing quite nicely.  I have to say I'm cautiously optimistic.  Or maybe that's just the sun talking.

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