When I arrived home from the hospital after giving birth to my first child, I was greeted by a slew of new house plants sent by well-wishing friends. While I loved the plants for their color and life, I was overwhelmed by the obligation to keep them alive. I could remember to feed the baby…wasn’t that enough? The thought of more than Aaron depending solely on me for survival almost sent me into a panic attack. I still maintain that giving a new mother one more thing to feed and care for is borderline sadistic. Balloons are equally cheery, require no water, and no one is appalled when they wilt after three days. Just sayin’…
My grandmother would water my plants for me each week when she came to stay with us, and would frequently ask if I had thought to water them while she was gone. I would stammer my response and duck my head. For Christmas that year she gave me a silk African violet plant. Silk…because, in her words, that was the only kind that stood a chance at my house.
When Victoria was born, Aunt Maxine gave me a beautiful pink hydrangea. Now, I’m a Louisiana girl who regularly subscribes to Southern Living magazine and would love nothing more than to duplicate the “fresh-cut hydrangea bouquet” look for my dining room table. I love hydrangeas like no other flower. But here I was, a new mom again, and the hydrangea sat in a pot in the front flower bed for more than a few months. The tiny pink petals faded to cream, and then to gray (ugh!) and I feared that Aunt Maxine would see what a terrible plant mom I was after I had sworn to help it thrive in honor of both her and my daughter. As Aunt Maxine struggled with cancer I could have kicked myself for not keeping that plant alive. After she passed away, I believed she would know my shameful secret . I whispered an “I’m sorry” into the heavens and vowed to someday have a pink hydrangea in my yard dedicated to her memory. This week I bought and planted two pink hydrangeas: one for Aunt Maxine and one for Victoria.
In the Spring of 2011 I dragged my Mom shopping with me at local nurseries where I bought about $400 worth of beautiful plants for my newly re-designed flower beds. Gardenias, hydrangea, hostas, ligustrum, begonias, an angel trumpet, azaleas and canas, not to mention geraniums, gerbera daisies and lilies. As [my] luck would have it, 2011 was the year that we had a drought combined with 110-degree days. I remembered to water some of my plants, but truth be told, it was a pain to go outside and move the sprinkler around. Plus, I would often forget to turn off the water. Having the sprinkler run all night long does horrendous things to one’s water bill, and I eventually stopped turning it on altogether. I lost all but four of the twenty or so plants that I had purchased. As the year drew to a close and Dom and I were deciding to build a new house I insisted that whatever we did, I had to have a sprinkler system. With a timer.
I did manage, for two years or so, to host a vegetable and herb garden in my backyard. It actually thrived — except for my tomatoes, whose 14 plants yielded only about 14 tomatoes all season. I don’t know where I went wrong there, but I know it wasn’t entirely a reflection of my ability since everything else seemed to grow with gusto.
I genuinely love plants now, and Spring lights a fire inside me like nothing else. I spent Easter weekend getting dirty in my new flower beds. I brought a few plants from the old house when we moved: the Angel Trumpet, various herbs and my lemon tree. But heirloom plants are the best, in my opinion. So far I have a yaupon holly and Indian hawthorn from my mother; cannas, lillies and irises from Dom’s Aunt Pam (the irises came from Dom’s Grandma Zern – many thanks to Uncle Harold for digging them up and loading them into my van!); daylily bulbs from my mother-in-law; pineapple guava plants, a peach tree and two fig trees from one of my Dad’s co-workers; and boxwoods and a tulip tree from Dom’s Aunt Bobbie. (Aunt Bobbie supplied us with lots of great plants at the old house at a time when I was finally taking an interest in my landscaping.) And the pièce de résistance, my palm tree: 12 feet tall and gorgeous, my builder hooked me up with this one in January. I only had to pay for the landscaping crew to bring it to me and plant it wherever I pointed. As my grandmother would say, “You can’t beat that with a stick!!”
Future plans include a vegetable garden in the new backyard, as well as a butterfly garden where I want to grow jasmine and honeysuckle and maybe some knock-out roses just outside of Victoria’s bedroom window. And I’m also going to attempt to keep a terrarium in my large fish tank on the patio. (Wish me luck!) All in good time, I know. To garden is to practice patience, and we all know I could use the practice.