How To Be A Plant’s Best Friend

There are five small African violet pots, pretty white ones, with five smallish African violet leaves and a bit of stem partially embedded in their soil, all waiting by the window for the signal to go: bang! It seems the starter is having some trouble locating the caps for his gun, as they don’t appear to be stirring a great deal. But that’s the thing with plants – patience is essential and you often don’t get much of a signal that something is about to happen. It just does one day. It wouldn’t have done if the conditions were wrong, but nobody could be aware that nothing had happened until nothing happened (like when the coroner declares someone dead, based on the probability that he or she would have been discovered somewhere by now). It’s almost like the age-old and mustily hilarious question: “How long is a piece of string?” A plant didn’t grow, because it hasn’t grown; but how do you know it’s not about to? Well, if it’s black and the leaves have fallen off the signs aren’t good. Other than that we’re talking about the gardener’s experience to some degree.

I had a fuschia that had been rescued from the bargain section of a nursery. In hindsight I did quite a number of things to make its last weeks problematic. Like vigorously pruning it. And watering it too much. It was probably going to die anyway, sometimes they do, you accept that, but it was not given the best chance possible of survival. It was almost like the life support machine was being turned off for a couple of minutes each day – and there’s no future in that sort of scenario.

Patience is key. I hadn’t thought there was a problem for me in that regard. Impatient people were other people. But they aren’t. They’re me too. This is something to struggle with. It is as if the attention and care we give a plant is almost like bestowing a kind of affection on it. (I have been known to go and spend some time with bushes, shrubs, and flowers I’m looking after, to sit with them, perhaps also with radio footy commentary in my ears and a glass of wine, but the “quality time” theme is still prominent on these occasions.) Less care, less effort means that the hug is somehow smaller. To put that rather porrly made point a different way, it seems to some of us, that we have to do more, to show the plant we’re a fan and it’s doing well, and from this it follows: “Oh, haven’t you done well. Have another drinkie”. Not just infantile, this can be counter-productive. Care is perhaps the watchword. Be more like a GP or any doctor for that matter. Look at symptoms and if everything seems fine, that’s it, clean bill of health and come back to see me if there are any more problems. Do not intervene if it isn’t necessary. If you can, leave it.

Published in: on May 4, 2010 at 8:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

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