I read a great piece recently which described some of the oldest living things on the planet. The bristlecone pine lives for 5000 years! Watering my house plants today, I realized I didn’t know anything at all about their life span or growing habits.
Some vigorous calculation informs me that the oldest of them is 25 years old. I should more accurately say the same type of plant’s been in the same pot, but maybe what’s their today is offspring. Still, I’ve had that plant with me for the span of a human generation.
All of my plants have life stories. They’ve followed me through several moves, surely the most egregious indignity you can visit on a plant, and still thrive. If they can remember, they can recall friends I’ve had whom no one else can remember.
Because I never really bothered to look it up, their life cycles are pretty mysterious. I’m sure there’s ways to make them flower, and that would be amazing, but I love them just the way they are. I seem to want to share the same ecosystem with them, rather than introducing artifice to their life cycle.
My oldest one started as two undistinguished fronds, and stayed that way for several reflective years: hearty but unchanging. Then shoots started and now the pot’s bursting.
A troublesome house mate left behind the spider plant 8 years ago. It also consisted only of two unchanging fronds for many years; stunted no doubt by her difficult personality, then quite suddenly it just went mad. Now, magically it seems, there’re trellises of fronds falling like fountains.
Two of my plants are pots of some viny broad-leafed thing that seems to survive, no matter how cruelly ignored. There are metres of coiled vine with no leaf at all, a testament to neglect, and then lots of lush spreading foliage. I inherited them from my mother when we cleaned out her apartment at her death 15 years ago. She always used to say she didn’t have a green thumb, and I would have to agree with her about that, but she always kept trying, and she always had something going. It makes me happy that plants of hers are still alive.
The adorable soft fuzzy red thing is some kind of geranium, a gift from a client with a passion for gardening. It’s the canary in the coal mine; its leaves are the first to show signs of needing water, but it’s also resilient. Resilience is an essential trait for any plants living with me.
All my plants live together in my treatment room, on two adjoining wracks that I think are meant for baking. The effect is 3 semi-circular wire shelves. With two or three unforgettable exceptions, it’s a lot more stable than it sounds.
One time? I pulled too hard while trying to untangle a vine, and brought the whole thing crashing down around me in a forest of overturned pots, outraged plants, and well-distributed potting soil. In an unparalleled act of friendship, the buddy who was helping me move ran up the stairs, took in the situation at a glance, and endeared himself to me eternally by saying “first thing’s first,” and coming over to hugg me.
Plants have come and gone of course; I actually mourn a few. Once, I had a three foot ficus stolen from my front porch the day after a move. The pot was huge; it had to weigh 15 pounds all in, and awkward to carry. I was 90% furious and 10% curious. Who steels a really heavy and awkward house plant? And why?
I left a beloved jade plant with my former partner when I moved out. Our parting was amicable, and the plant was a kind of metaphor to me. Its death last year was an unwelcome surprise.
If it isn’t obvious, I’m kind of fond of my plants. They are life that I’ve sustained through thick and thin, and through lots of different times and places in my life. My latest interest is plants that clean and filter the air. I’ve already got two spider plants, and I’m thinking about going to the local plant emporium with a list. I don’t miss gardening, but I’m glad to have done it with dedication in the past. Ideas like The Secret Life of Plants, and phytoremediation are so exciting to me that I’ve learned not to choose anything about them for bedtime reading. Pets have gone the way of gardening for me, a nice but completed part of my past. If I ever give up on house plants though, something will be truly arigh in my world.