Saturday, February 20, 2010

My Black Thumb

Sometime in the early nineties, my parents left for England for three weeks. My sister was in Atlanta I think, or somewhere, and I was still in high school. I had the house to myself - just me, a big house, cable, and - LOTS of plants.

Mom had left me some instructions, but let's just say I wasn't the poster child for responsible teen. After about a week, all these plants started looking a little wilty and dry, so I decided I should act soon. Rather than reading the instructions, I just watered the hell out of them. My rule of thumb was to hold the hose in the pot until water ran out of the bottom. After half an hour of finding all the plants and watering them, I felt that I had accomplished something and likely returned to reading a book or playing video games.

A week later they were looking wilty again. So I repeated. And repeated just about every day until about five days before my parents returned to England. During that five days, about half the plants died.

After my parents somewhat recovered from the deaths of so many of their green pets, I decided I would learn to take care of a few. I really have no idea why I wanted to, I just did. So Mom got me a cactus and a few jade plants. I killed them. Then I decided I would try to take care of just one, and got a Venus Flytrap - I managed to kill it in less than three weeks. Then I tried spider plants. And I tried more Jade plants. And I got a Money Tree. Dead, dead, and dead. At this point I pretty much resigned to the fact that I am Grim Reaper of all Flora. I tried, really tried to take care of them, but it never ended well. With each one it was either too much water, too little water, not the right light...maybe it was moved too much, or it got some kind of fungus, or maybe it just caught a glimpse of me and lost the will to go on - I don't know. I just know that I kill plants, whether I want to or not.

Fast forward to 2000, and I'm working at Middleton Inn, a small hotel adjacent to Middleton Plantation. Among my other duties as a "concierge" (there is no other word - this was kind of the catch-all guest services position) was the responsibility of the plants in the lodge and lake house, and 55 Philodendrons - one in each guest room.

Fortunately the housekeeper took over plant duties, since she was probably concerned that they were losing their color and slooping in their pots. Apparently I was giving them too much water, though a measurement was given to me. I followed directions to the letter. I'm telling you, I am Death Of Plants.

Fast forward to last weekend. I'm house sitting for my Mom while she's in Australia and I look for a permanent place in Charleston. It had been two days since she left. I had just closed the door to the washer and stepped on something crispy and flaky. It was a leaf. I looked up and saw a dry, decaying greenish-brown thing that used to be a thriving plant hanging from the bay window in the kitchen. Then I noticed another plant on the breakfast table. And a cluster of them by the back door. As I scanned the room around me, I kept finding more plants. And you know, I think they saw me too. I could hear the theme to Psycho and the room seemed to turn red around me.

I was determined not to commit mass murder this time, so I began watering them. A few were already getting wrinkly at the edges of their leaves. The one in the window couldn't be rescued, but I think one of them is now beginning to bloom. Don't ask me what they are, if I learn their names it just hurts worse when they die. They're green. Sometimes they get bigger of you get them wet - that's my horticultural knowledge base in a nutshell.

Anyway, a few days later I was leaving for work. There's some clutter in the garage, and I generally don't pay much attention to what I'm walking around. I also have the habit of "zoning out" when I'm doing mundane things, especially if there are other things weighing on me - so I didn't notice I was walking past two hulky plants in the garage the whole time. These guys are huge. And they were dying. So I ran back into the house and filled up a pitcher of water. I've been watering them and watering them, but the soil feels dry as a bone even now. They're like two "Audrey-2's" (from Little Shop of Horrors) and they're not going to get better until I give them a sacrifice. I can almost hear them growling in the garage now as I type. Is it possible they want one of the other plants? Maybe that's why Mom has so many. Hmmm...

So the other plants are looking a little greener, and as I said, one is blooming. Maybe I've broken the curse of my black thumb. Or maybe it's just Stockholm Syndrome. Either way, wish me (and them) luck.


Mandy said...

Hilarious post, Will...really good. And, those plants in the garage? They are very old...have lived a very long time...DON'T kill them.

Good luck!

Evil Twin's Wife said...

Haha! Do you have any Miracle Gro on hand? That can really help resuscitate a plant in distress.

Jay said...

A few years ago I was house and dog sitting for my sister and her husband while they were on vacation. I completely forgot about two of the plants that they had and never watered them. The day before they were coming home is when I saw them looking really bad.

So, when my sister called I decided I should prepare her for the plants' death. I asked her "would you rather a couple of plants, or your dog be dead?" She immediately answered "THE PLANTS!" So I said "Well, you won't be disappointed then!"

Also, ETW is right. Miracle Gro. It does save some plants that are on the verge of dying.

Doc said...

At least we know that you aren't the mastermind of a huge pot growing operation... LOL

(btw- the word verification on this post is 'wines' - It seems your blog knows you Will)

Mrs Soup said...

Good luck with those plants! I, too have black thumb and have managed to kill even plastic plants. So I hear you...I look forward to hearing a success story!