Houseplants

With an acknowledgment that I’m far from the world’s best gardener (okay, I admit it, I’m not even a competent gardener – that’s a shout-out to Lynette), I do alright with houseplants.

Our home has a room off the great room that we refer to as the sunroom. It’s not really a sunroom in the classic sense, but it does have expansive south-facing windows, and is a source of warmth on sunny days, winter & summer. (It’s also a royal pain for day-time television watching, because the glare hits the television screen directly, but I digress …)

We’ve got a dozen or so houseplants in our sunroom. Yes, Don & I water them (Don’s a more frequent, but quite stingy, waterer; I really douse them, but not often). They seem to thrive. And as they thrive, they provide good feelings about friends, past & present – most have links of one kind or another to friends.

Perhaps the oldest is from a friend in Wisconsin, with whom (sadly) I’m in only infrequent touch. Margaret and her then-husband had a wonderful plant called a wax plant (hoya carnosa). It’s a wonderfully apt name, as the leaves are tough with a waxy feel, and the flowers stiff and almost fake looking – it’s as if they’d been dipped in wax. From a tiny cutting I got from Margeret nearly 30 years (and at least 7 moves) ago, my wax plant is now thriving, climbing up a wall, and across near the ceiling. It occasionally blooms, and the smell is wonderful. A progeny of Margaret’s original cutting is now at work for the enjoyment of others. I like our wax plant so much that in October I picked up another at our church fair – this one of a variegated variety.

Another old Wisconsin friend connection plant is my schefflera. Jane had one, and I fell in love with it. It’s not susceptible to easy cutting, so I bought my own, a little one, about 20 years ago. It’s now large, and in wonderful shape, straining southward toward the sun. We’re now cultivating a 2nd, variegated schefflera, the sole remaining plant from a combination pot given to us as a housewarming present nearly 5 years ago.

And then there’s the Son of the Son of Sam. (It’s probably more accurate at this point to say the Great-great-great Grandson of Sam, as we’re probably into the 4th or 5th generation by now, but we’ll stick with Son of Sam.) The Son of Sam is an aloe vera plant, a gift from a good Baltimore friend (and contributor here), Michael, and his wife Kim. I’ve nearly lost Son of Sam several times (leaving it outside too far into the fall, forgetting to water it in the height of the summer), but it always comes back to sooth our latest cooking or sun burns.

Other plants have histories – one was given to me when I was laid up for several weeks with my broken leg; another a reminder of an old friend of my mother’s who had a magnificent Christmas cactus, magnificent because it was decades old, and I wanted to grow one just like it (it still has a l-o-n-g way to go to match Pearl’s!).

Years ago, I took cuttings and rooted several plants to give to my daughter as a housewarming gift – she’d just moved out of the dorm into her first truly independent living situation. My guess is that the plants lasted about 3 weeks ( perhaps longer for the ones that didn’t need any water). It didn’t sit well with me then, but I think I understand now. At age 18 or 19, she didn’t need the connection to the past – hers or mine. Were I to do it again, the results might be different.

So I sit here on a bright winter morning, looking out at the white outside, and the green inside, and think of my friends, past and present, Mike & Kim, Margaret, Jane, Myrtle, Pearl, Lynette, Lynn and so many others who’ve shared their greenery and knowledge with me. Thanks, friends, for these green reminders of all you’ve given me.

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