Saturday, September 5, 2009

Green is the New Black Thumb

I have a black thumb. I have killed every plant I've ever owned. This mostly means I don't bring plants into my household. Being an avid decorator though, I long for the harmonic feng shui some living shrubbery would bring to my home. So every now and then I've tried.

A rather unsuspecting friend gave me two beautiful Christmas Cacti a few months ago when she was moving out of town. I didn't have the heart to tell her she should bid them adieu since she'd never again see such full, expectant, beautiful green plants. If she expected me to video-phone her the plants to see how they were faring, she had another thing coming. But then I had a strange turn of luck. They were too big to be inside, and she had kept them on her balcony, so I put them on mine. (Editor's note: January's balcony is actually the stoop outside her front door. She doesn't have a balcony.) Suddenly they were blossoming their beautiful hot-pink flowers. How did I fare before such creations of beauty grew outside my door?? I felt suddenly confident. Perhaps I could learn to grow plants like a professional. Perhaps green is the new black!

And then one of them started wilting.

I don't know what happened. I watered them equally and not too often. The one stayed large and in charge. But the other one... well, it became pitiful.

One morning I went out to water them and upon touching the soil, realized they had already been watered. What?!?! Someone else was watering my plants?! Oh my God, someone was committing planticide -- they were being over-watered! This was very distressing to me. I thought about it, starting with the most obvious suspect: the old foreign semi-crazy lady across the courtyard. I'll call her Babushka. Babushka stores her mops in the flowerbed under her window and keeps various chairs outside her stoop depending on what she's discovered on the curb that week. She also regularly leaves an abandoned shopping cart in the courtyard after a particularly fruitful shopping trip and I always wait until dark and push it out to the sidewalk in front of the neighbor's building. Anyway, I asked Babushka's son one day (she doesn't speak English) if by chance she'd been watering my plants and if so could she stop. Her shrieks informed me it was not her.

My next probable suspect was the landscaping guys. They come weekly and though I hadn't seen it happen myself, I did note that my plants' dirt was moist on Mondays... So one day when a guy was out cutting the grass, I spoke with him, asking if he'd watered my plants. Bingo!! He said yes, they were dry. I said, they're cactuses idiot, they're suppose to be dry. Well no, I didn't say that. I would have said cacti. But actually I said thanks, but please don't anymore since I'm watering them. He smiled and answered that he wouldn't.

Last week my struggling cactus seemed to be perking up! Until after Monday, and then she wilted again. Her soil again was damp. Grrr... Now I'm thinking either that man is not the same one who always comes and/or there is a language issue going on since he and the other guys primarily speak Spanish. I am desperate to save my cactus! And I'm worried that the healthy one may go too. So I am taking the toro by the horns!! I have made signs to put up by my plants in English and Spanish. So help me Dios, this had better work. Mis plantas need an intervention here, and soon. Wish me luck.

(The editor wishes to include mention of January's third plant, evidently the stepchild, since she left it out. January and her mother went shopping for it when her parents were visiting. It is a Camellia Japonica Purity and it loves shade - perhaps the real issue with January's cacti. January named it "Cathy" after her mother. She's therefore holding very high hopes that she doesn't kill it.)

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