Plants have always brought me great joy and I often marvel at the variety and beauty in the plant kingdom but I somehow never got around to planting trees other than symbolically. I had never devoted time to caring for plants on a long-term basis and didn’t know much about gardening and the associated tasks either.
I had simply taken the easy and selfish route of enjoying the greenery, shade and produce of plants grown by others!
It all changed one day when I was gifted a pot of pothos, which I then knew only as ‘money plant’. I desperately wanted to keep the plant alive but at the time, all I knew about plants was that I need to water it daily, it should get sunlight and that it needs to be in the soil to absorb nutrients. That’s kindergarten science but as I get to know the plants more, I am astounded at the unique personalities the different species possess. I was hooked and was slowly transforming into a plarent — parent to a plant.
I watered my pothos daily and the poor thing didn’t seem to grow much but I was happy that it was at least surviving in my plant-illiterate company. Soon I got to know that there are many types of pothos or money plants-Neon, Golden, Marble queen …. and that these plants need very less water when planted in soil ... my journey as a ‘plarent’ was going to be a long one!
That my pothos was surviving gave me the confidence to acquire more potted plants. The peace lily with its leaf shaped white flowers standing tall at the nursery just blew me away and I escorted her home.
As I inquired about how I should keep her happy I was told rather sternly by the salesman that I should NOT water it much. That was indeed news to me! I had always believed that the key to growing healthy plants was to water often!
‘NO’ the salesman once again warned me, ‘ONLY half a litre water in a week’! I nodded feebly standing not so peacefully next to the peace lily.
I did learn that most plants cannot survive overwatering but have a higher threshold against under-watering!
The peace lily was in full bloom at the nursery but soon all the flowers withered away at home. As I waited impatiently for it to bloom again and fill my home with grandeur, the peace lily stayed obstinate and that’s when I realised I needed support.
I took my sob story to another nursery and this chap seemed pleasant and chatty. He gave me a patient listening ear and immediately pointed out the issue secretively. I should have bought the peace lily originating from another country and the one I had bought apparently didn’t have a good lineage. Talk of racism in the plant kingdom!
Desperate that I was, I bought one more peace lily from him, of royal lineage, in full bloom but the same sad story unfolded again. I needed more support!
I joined many of the plant support groups on social media and that, my friends, is what I term as a turning point in my journey as a ‘plarent’.
I learnt that the peace lily is the ‘drama queen’ of the plant kingdom and actually sulks when she doesn’t get enough of everything. To make her bloom I was told that I can try giving her banana infused water or onion peel water. I tried that but other than helping a few millipedes and other insects to grow peacefully in her pot, no blooms came forth.
I looked at these two rivals at my home often and sought consolation in the fact that both had beautiful foliage. I forgot about the flowers and rejoiced at the unfurling of every tiny, tender new leaf.
And then one morning I thought I glimpsed a bit of white amid the lush green leaves and I shrieked with delight. I called in all the members of the family to validate my finding, who didn’t seem as excited as I was.
Lo and behold, in a matter of days the plant had produced the tallest flower yet. When you stop chasing happiness and start enjoying what’s already there, I believe we do find great joy.
With this success I was emboldened to get more plants and also try out a few experiments with cuttings and seeds.
Every new leaf and every new life brought immense joy and every plant that couldn’t make it saddened me! It’s fine if plants didn’t bloom as I soon realised that plants and people bloom in their own time.
I learnt to hold on and be patient if seeds took time to germinate or for the plant to grow from tiny saplings and I also learnt to hang in there even if there was the slimmest hope for a plant to survive.
I am a newbie to growing plants and like every ‘plarent’ I worry about the well-being of the plants. The first thing I do every morning after I wake up and the last thing before hitting the bed is to check on the plants.
I did have successes and failures but my experiences with the green spaces in my life have enriched me beyond words.
Annie Mathew is an educator and writer based in Dubai