Friday, May 19, 2023
Another weekend is upon us, during which I don’t get pancakes. I’ve been grooving along healthily for a bit over a month now, drinking my disgusting protein shakes and just saying no to buttered biscuits.
Today I yoga’ed, walked two and a half hours on my treadmill, biked 5 miles, and instead of having the delicious sesame chicken I made for dinner, ate the leftover chicken chili instead. Because one is soaked in honey and soy sauce and the other is chicken chili.
But it’s Friday night, I’ve cleaned up everything in the kitchen, and it’s time to chill and write.
And what I want to write about is plants.
Because it was the first thing that caught my interest today after a grueling yoga session during which I lamented the months I failed to do a single worthwhile exercise and so lost my ability to stand on one leg without falling into the wall.
Also because plants can be generally related to food, which always pleases me.
A couple of weeks ago, my friend Jennifer gave me a tiny sprout of a tomato plant that she had planted from a seed from a tomato she had grown in her own garden. It was so sweet, and also held so much promise of deliciousness, that it made me very happy.
My first thought when she handed me the pot was I love it!
My second thought was I’m definitely going to kill it.
Today I wanted to send my brother David a picture of my nascent tomato plant while it’s still alive. We’ve been chatting about food and gardening lately. He sent me a picture of the mint that exploded in the planter on the deck in Mahopac and I felt a little pang of envy.
So much glorious mint!
Sadly, I killed mine.
I mentioned that I recently bought two plants from the Farmer’s Market: one basil and one mint. Then I forgot that I bought two plants from the Farmer’s Market and left them in a corner until the day I was dusting before Jennifer visited and there they were.
The basil that I forgot to water looked great until I actually watered it, at which point it promptly died. And the mint that I forgot to water died, but I watered it anyway and it came back to life like a mint zombie.
The good thing about mint is that it keeps coming back, in sheer defiance of belonging to someone who is such a bad plant parent.
As I snapped a photo of my tomato plant to send to David, I took a peek at the dead basil and the undead mint. And thus my story was born.
My story is this: I kill plants. The end.
I mean, I don’t TRY to, I am just so terribly inept at growing things that I’m merely grateful my murderous streak ends at greenery and isn’t some form of a malevolent Midas touch.
I seem to do best with plants that aren’t simply easy to keep alive, but seemingly refuse to die. Mint refuses to die. This isn’t the first time I’ve killed a mint plant, it’s just the latest. I had a giant pot of it last year that shriveled up into twigs, and then exploded again once I began watering it. Ditto for the mint the year before that… and the year before that.
My longest plant relationship has been with Alice and her numerous clones. Alice played a starring role in a prior post, but she deserves another mention for being so impressive. She came from a cutting from a plant my mother still has, the OG Alice, that she gave to me when I got married. That was 26 years ago.
But Alice and I have an understanding. I’m a bad plant parent, then she gets cranky and sheds leaves everywhere, then I coo and coddle her and cut off a few dying branches to root and she perks back up into proud cascades of leaves.
Over the years I’ve learned that Alice is fairly comfortable with being forgotten for a while, but she most definitely does not like to be moved. And Alice has been moved a lot. She went from our apartment in New Jersey to our condo, to Mahopac, to Brigantine, to Franklin, Tennessee. With each move she wailed and gnashed her teeth a bit, lost half a dozen stems, and required much coddling and cooing and eating of cookies before she settled in and began making new leaves again.
When we put up our bar shelves recently, I moved her from one wall to another. Even this was too much.
She hemorrhaged leaves for about a month until I read her many bedtime stories and reassured her that as much as I like a good bourbon, it would never compare to how much I love her.
This seemed to console her and she is now happily unfurling again.
During these periods of rebellion I have to cut off the leggy vines and root them in water. Currently, I have Alice, Alice Clone, Alice III, Alice IV, and two new Alices in jars. Apparently, being a bad parent also has its rewards.
My second longest plant relationship was with a rubber tree that landed in my kindergarten classroom one year. Somehow, I ended up adopting it over summer vacation and keeping it, though it wasn’t so much a rubber tree as a rubber leaf stuck to the end of a tall trunk.
I practically willed that thing to die, it was so unsightly. But that leaf hung on for quite some time until I swallowed my guilt and tossed it in the dumpster.
Every African Violet, every ivy vine, every Peace Lily I have ever owned has gone to that big green nursery in the sky. I’ve loved them all but that mattered not a whit.
At any rate, I’m hoping I can keep the tomato plant alive long enough to eat it.
If all goes well, I’ll be enjoying a summer tomato salad with fresh zombie mint.
Photo: my growing tomato plant and zombie mint, with a background of Alice relocated to her favorite wall amidst the bottles. She is quite content there.