There are many things I am good at: crochet, cribbage, snarky asides, baking banana bread – the list is long and varied. However, there are also a few (just a few, mind you) things that I’m not so good at. Origami and cake decorating spring to mind.
And really, I can live without accomplishment in either of those areas. I may not know how to fold paper cranes or decorate birthday cakes so they look like Hello Kitty, but that’s okay. I can still find a way to live myself, despite those short comings.
But there is one area where I do wish I excelled, and that is gardening.
Actually, that sounds a little too ambitious. All I really want is the ability to keep a house plant alive. I don’t really want to be a gardener. I just want to stop killing plants.
Maybe the problem is that plants are too low key. The cat, the dog, the kids – they all compete for my attention, and quite loudly, thank you very much. They make their wants and needs known, and I respond appropriately. Meanwhile the plants languish silently in the background, dying a slow and needless death.
I simply don’t notice them.
Unlike me, my mother has the proverbial green thumb. She can pick up a wasted piece of vine and stick in the earth, and within moments it looks a little perkier. When you return a month later, a lush vineyard, replete with produce, will have replaced the dried twig. She knows how to coax life from the driest desert. She knows what to plant, and when. She knows how to tend all manner of plants, and what to do if bugs attack or hungry rodents threaten. When it comes to gardening, she is a walking, talking resource of knowledge both common and arcane.
Conversely, my knowledge of plants can be summed up as follows:
1) Plants need water. (But sometimes I forget to give it to them.)
2) Plants need sun. (But sometimes I forget to open the curtains.)
That’s it. That’s what I know.
Over the years, my mother’s visits have offered succor to my plants, both indoors and out. She waters dry soil, pulls the deadheads off my languishing landscape, and generally gives my plants all the loving triage she can deliver in a week’s time. She would love to share her knowledge with me, but I’m afraid I’m not a very good student.
Thankfully, there is a glimmer of hope for my unfortunate plants. For while I haven’t grown up to walk in my mother’s muddy green footsteps, my daughter seems to have inherited the gardening gene. It is she who waters my houseplants, and during the summer she pulls the weeds from the row of flowers in the landscaping beds. Earlier this year, she plucked a seed from the sidewalk and planted it in a small pot. It immediately began to sprout. It’s now a small maple tree. So…I’m struggling to keep a cactus alive and my daughter is planning her own arboretum.
I can only suppose this is the sort of talent that skips a generation.