I didn’t know this, but I have green fingers. I knew I had a green thumb, but not green fingers. It could be worse – I could have green ears or green toes. Or even green eggs and ham.
For all that I can be a klutz on many things, I’m actually quite good with plants. I lived on a farm until I was seven, and then puttered in gardens whenever I’ve lived in houses since. As for indoor plants, years ago I had a house full of them, including an elephant ear that grew to enormous size.
I moved around quite a bit, and would carry my collection of plants from place to place. There was a couple of ferns, and several varieties of ivy and shamrocks and jade plants. I also had African violets, coleus, and schefflera and philodendrons – I must have had ten or so philodendron plants. When I moved down to Arizona, we didn’t have room for all the plants in the moving truck; when my Dad came for a visit, he loaded them all into his Ranchero and dragged them down. Of course he got stopped at the border – bringing plants into Arizona or California is a big no-no. However, he managed to talk the inspector into letting him keep the plants.
I hauled them around Seattle and to Yakima; from Yakima to Arizona, and back to Yakima. From there to Ellensburg and on to Seattle and Oregon and then over to Vermont. But when we moved from Vermont, we had a garage sale and I lined all the plants up with a sign saying, ‘Free to good home”. There was a woman who loved plants and solemnly promised to care for them, and you could tell she would because of the way she started talking to the plants immediately. She hesitated with the elephant ear, though; uttering a faint, “My”, when she saw it, but gamely said she would give it a go.
We had to find a new home for the plants because Zoe is a greens eater and will nibble any plant until it dies. Doesn’t matter if I haul in greens for her to eat, she wants the plants. No matter how hard we would try to keep her from them, she’d find a way to jump over barriers, or crawl under gates, and climb poles. Now, I can’t have bouquets of flowers or potted plants, and I put my life in my hands bringing in corn that’s still on the cob – corn husk is her favorite green.
I could let Zoe outside to ‘graze’, but we also feed birds and bunnies, and there seems to be something a little obscene about using natural ground feeding techniques for critters and having an outdoor kitty.
Cats and plants do so well together outside, but can do so poorly when both are trapped indoors. When I was in college, the person who lived behind us also had house plants and a sweet little white kitty he adopted. One day, he was late getting home and since he would keep her inside during the day and didn’t provide a cat box (and they say animals are dumb), she made a running jump and caught on to the macrame plant hanger for one of his plants, climbed into the pot and used the dirt as her potty. He wasn’t happy about the mess, but I was rather impressed with that cat myself – only female cats will do this, males will use any old spot in a pinch.
When I still had my plants, I had quite the assortment of plant care tools, including a device with long prongs that you put into the soil and will emit a sound reflecting the condition and amount of moisture in the soil. My ex-husband hated the thing because when the soil was not in great shape – too dry, or too acidic– it would emit a loud, screeching sound. He said it sounded like we were murdering the cat along with the plant.
I wasn’t much of a plant talker except with the Elephant Ears, and that was mainly curses trying to move the thing. I think my secret to their good health was the fact that I didn’t water too much or too little, used good potting soil, made sure they had good drainage and the appropriate light for the plant. Oh, I also followed their social habit.
I believe that some plants like to be alone, and others want to be in a crowd; I put the plants that were loners into their own corners or space, and the crowd lovers I would group together until they were almost touching. My ferns liked company, but my Christmas cactus did not. My elephant ears liked company, but it was so big it intimidated the other plants and had to go into a corner by itself. I did have other plants in the room, and since it thrived no matter I tried to do to it, it must have been content.
In addition to the balcony garden I hope to have this coming Spring, I think about getting another indoor plant for my desk – a cacti, which could hold its own against Zoe.
Loren posted a lovely poem by Roethke called “The Geranium”:
The things she endured!–
The dumb dames shrieking half the night
Or the two of us, alone, both seedy,
Me breathing booze at her,
She leaning out of her pot toward the window.