Much To My Delight

Much To My Delight

How To Save a Life


It wouldn’t be fair or accurate to say I have a black thumb. That would require a history with plant life. I have only recently acquired an interest in the fine art of home botanical tending, but I’m finding that some of my own natural proclivities (ie: I bore easily, I tend to go with my gut in lieu of doing research) are standing in the way of becoming a master gardener.

To the new people here (hello! I think there are two of you!), I recently moved into a home with plentiful sunlight after living 10 years in  a cozy, yet cavernous basement. As a result, every time I pass a plant shop or Home Depot, I scoop up another little green friend to bring home. I’m happy to say that most are still with me, though others–I hate to report– are barely hanging on.

new living room

Here’s a question: How come none of these things come with instructions, and I mean REAL instructions? Sure, there’s a little pointy thing stuck in the dirt with a little sundial on it, but that’s about the extent of it. Everyone’s used toothpaste since toddlerhood but they STILL always put explicit instructions on the tube in the off-chance that someone out there who can read has never used it before. Put this on your teeth. Spit it out when you’re done. Don’t eat it, ya big dummy.

Why can’t they do the same with plants? There are apparently a lot of rules that come with taking care of plants, and not one of them has been written on the little container any of my plants have arrived in. You think any of my plants came with instructions to re-pot them? No! My friends told me that. There are so many things I’ve been learning along the way, none of which was explained to me via a helpful label or tri-fold brochure. You have to fertilize them. Move them around. Talk to them. Don’t underwater them. DO NOT overwater them! Trim the wonky parts. Tickle their roots. Sing them lullabies.

Dust their leaves. Dust their leaves!  Did you know you’re supposed to dust their leaves? But they live IN DIRT!!

I’m doing my best to keep up with them all, but I have a day job and dinner to make and other routine obligations that make it tricky to figure out all their unique, persnickety needs. Some need to be watered every other day, some survive on only one little sprinkle a week. The one currently looking the worst was voted “easiest houseplant to keep alive ever” on the internet. I demand a recount.

I feel mortally obligated to keep this peace lily alive not just because of its name, but because it was a housewarming gift from my friend. It must not die. The results could be disastrous!!!!!

Or, you know, I’d just feel really really bad about it.

I noticed it was starting to do the sad-spinach wilt, so I moved it into a plastic pot I purchased downstairs in the Astor Place K-Mart. Now here’s another question. How does Astor Place K-Mart do it?? Their plant section is in the basement of the store, so deep underground that it exits directly into the subway. What does K-Mart have that I don’t have? (besides 24-hour artificial lighting and miles of rayon).

Anyway, I learned quickly that the pot I replanted in was way too small to accommodate the lily, proving I have no idea what I’m doing and no good deed goes unpunished. After a week, it looked like this:

Sad plant

Is that not the saddest sad sack you’ve ever seen?

One morning (oh, it’s this morning, it just happened), I’d simply had enough. I picked up the plant, propped her on the counter, looked her right in the dirt and said, “I’M GOING TO SAVE YOU”.

So I found an even bigger pot and got to work. I poured in the Miracle-Gro and patted her roots deep into the dirt. I cut off the sad yellow bits and fluffed up her green ones. I watered her. I dusted her. I consoled her.

“It’s not over,” I said. “We’ve only just begun.”


Check in next week for the update! I’m going to do everything I can to avoid calling it “The Funeral”…

Jenn P.

30-something psychotherapist. Loves cooking, hosting parties, exploring new places. Texan by birth. New Yorker by choice. Likes to tell little stories. Pull up a chair; I'll tell you one.

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