Crazy Plant Lady

Move over, Cat Lady. There's a new spinster in town.

I don't know when it started. Maybe it was all those years ago, when I was a true homeowner with a yard of my own and my mother in law offered up some of her hostas. They were moving, and our yard was painfully empty of anything decorative. It was all grass, bushes and trees and was crying out for some ornamental greenery. I accepted my mother in law's hand-me-down hostas, not aware that they were the gateway plants.

Next up was a bunch of ancient peonies from a sister in law's house. They were soon joined by some sedum a friend was digging up, a couple of butterfly bushes from a neighbor who was doing some landscaping and a tiny maple tree sapling we saved from imminent death-by-mower.

This tree was 4 inches tall when we found it. The kid with the hose is now 20 and the tree, which still resides at our old house, is now about 40 feet tall. The kid is 6'4".

They say one man's trash is another man's treasure...in my case it was several women's plants becoming my horticultural bounty.

When the kids and I had to flee from that yard and that house, I dug up what I could, and with the blessings of our sweet landlord I planted a little bit of our old life into the earth of our new one. You can't take it with you, that's for sure, but I proved you can bring a lot of it along for the ride.

And then I started in with the potted plants. The summertime annuals. There was a deep built-in planter by our new front door, and a large wooden deck at the back which was seemingly custom-made for a colorful suburban jungle. The perennials gave me great joy, for sure, every spring their unfurling leaves and resplendent blossoms served as a reminder that while some aspects of life were painfully unpredictable, there were a few that could be counted on year after year.

But those annuals- talk about a clean slate. All those pots and planters were essentially blank canvases ready for their flowery masterpieces. As soon as the garden centers started popping up, I began to dream of what that summer's deck display would look like.

There was just one problem: those garden centers weren't giving these things away. Sure, annuals are cheap but they add up and a mom on a tight budget can't exactly go crazy with something as frivolous as flowers.

I do one little splurge, and that's for our school Plant Sale. It's a fundraiser held every spring, and I allow myself to indulge. Just a little bit. I choose new flowers, new colors, new shapes. A beloved coworker once told me the secret to a pretty pot was "one filler, one spiller, and one thriller" and so I pore over the flyers every March in search of the perfect trios.

That's my one extravagance every year, and it fills up a bunch of spaces. There's always more room, though and that's when my thrifty, bargain-hunting skills come into play. I've learned that if you wait just long enough, those garden centers start to do markdowns. Wait a bit longer, and they practically give them away.

And so I wait. And then I bring home all of those Charlie Brown plants. The bedraggled remains of the garden centers...the tired, the poor, the bent-stemmed, dried up masses yearning to be bedded and watered. It's usually a glorious Saturday afternoon endeavor, and at the end of the day I walk around with my dirty fingernails, sore back and sweaty t-shirt and admire the castoffs in their new homes.

It doesn't end there, though. I also do plant rescue, if you will. Take, for instance, the Office Poinsettia. A parent brought it into the school office, and it added some holiday cheer to our school headquarters. After the season ended, the poinsettia was losing leaves and looking grim. Someone said "We need to throw that thing out" and my heart hurt a little. Poor poinsettia! So I googled a little bit, discovered they really can be a year round plant and brought it home, which was now starting to look like the island of misfit plants.

So it continued. Secretaries get LOTS of plants, you guys. Did you know some secretaries don't keep them??? I do. I keep all of them. And sometimes I'll take the rejects from the other secretaries.

I think rock bottom for me was the time I found a single succulent leaf in the hallway. I picked it up, brought it home and plunked it into some dirt. Guess what?


Here's where it gets weird, my friends. You know how the seasons change, and all the pretty green stuff dies and winter begins and we are plunged into a world void of light and sense and joy? Most people accept this change and go along with it. God's plan and all that jazz, am I right?

I can't. At least, this year I can't. It started to get cooler here in Minnesota. Meaning, one week we had a tropical 90 degree stretch of days and the next week it was 40 with a chance of flurries. This is the time when we are supposed to bid adieu to summer and all of the non-hardy lovelies which adorned it.

This was the time I broke. I was looking out the sliding glass doors that lead to the deck one night, and a very grief-like feeling settled into my bones. I'd already taken in the succulents, those guys get a "get out of jail free" card every year. Just because. But that night, I looked at all of those bargain basement babies and something not quite sane bucked up within me. And so I went out and picked a few to save.

I couldn't bear to see them die. So I saved them.

And that's why I have a poinsettia bush on my kitchen table and some clematis in the tchotchke nook (this is the goofy section of house between the living room and the sliding glass doors). I meant to plant the poinsettia during the hottest days of summer, but I forgot. So it stays with me one more year. None of it makes sense. None. Of. It.

Being the navel gazer that I am, I searched for meaning in this odd display of white knighting. Is it a symbolic gesture? My babies are all grown and I need something to nurture? My own mortality is looming and I want to cheat death? Or am I just batshit crazy?

I don't know. All I know for sure is I have a begonia to water. And a sweet potato vine that needs some attention, too.

*I've decided to challenge myself and do the NaBloPoMo, National Blog Posting Month, and write a blog post every single day of November. I figure it's the kick in the ass I need to get writing again. I've made this one with about 2 1/2 hours left of November 3rd, so you can see how well it's going so far. 

Stay tuned. And thank you for being here.


  1. You're such a nurturer!! I have houseplants to pass on. I have too many and I tend to neglect them. Are you interested?

  2. I love my plants, too, inside and out. I'm looking sadly out the window at my empty vegetable garden, covered with leaves that need to be raked.


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