I absolutely love gardening.
I love planting seeds and watching fragile little sprouts break out of the soil. I love potting a new plant, watching it flourish and grow. I love the smell of potting and gardening soil. I love eating vegetables that I grew myself. I love the “tsk-tsk-tsk-tsk” sound of a sprinkler system as it sprays over a garden patch, dampening the soil and watering the growing green things. I love adorning the indoor spaces I occupy with potted plants and flowers.
Unfortunately, I also have the absolute worst black thumb of anyone I had ever met.
The longest I have ever kept a plant alive was for a couple months, and it was a mint plant (to my credit, I don't believe I killed it as much as too much rain bogged the poor thing down).
But late last month, I decided I would not be continuing my black-thumbed ways into this new spring — it was time to cure the curse I had put on myself by believing for so long that I was incapable of growing things without killing them.
I was of the opinion that I wasn't killing plants because nature had designed that I should never be able to grow anything, but that instead I kept killing things simply because I lacked the knowledge to provide them with proper care.
Armed with nothing else but a desire to improve — I headed down to the Jefferson Farmer's Market booth after work and purchased two plants: a tiny potted sprig of rosemary and a lithe little English thyme.
I almost felt like apologizing to the plants as I secured them in my care after paying the meager $6 for the two of them; they weren't exactly being placed under the care of a expert master gardener, after all.
The odds were in their favor that they would die, and die quickly.
Trying to remain positive, I brought the plants home, placed them in a clean, terracotta pots, gave them some water and put them in a place of proper lighting.
That night, I read over the little plastic slip that comes with potted plants, poured over expert websites that provide the requirements of both plants, and before I went to bed, my head was full of watering guidelines and lighting necessities.
It's now been almost exactly two weeks since the two plants came under my care — and they haven't died. Sure, it's almost too early to call them survivors, but the rosemary has grown an inch or two taller, and my thyme has now started hanging over the edge of its pot rim.
Due to the fact that both of these plants are hungry for lots of sun, I don't keep them inside, but have given them a nice little patch of full-sun on my porch; I can water them before I head out the door in the mornings and check on them when I get home from work in the evenings.
Aside from the fact that I am learning that my “black” thumb was more of an inexperienced mind than a cursed thumb, I realize with each passing day that we people are an awful lot like houseplants ourselves – albeit a touch more complicated.
Like a houseplant, we need plenty of water and nutrients. if we don't get enough of either of those, we become dry and limp. It becomes hard to grow correctly or fulfill our purpose if we aren't first making sure to feed ourselves well.
Like a houseplant, we need plenty of oxygen and sunlight. An indoor plant will tilt towards the sunlight streaming in through a window and an outdoor plant will grow up, reaching for the sun. Plants aren't the only thing that needs plenty of sunlight – humans do too. If a plant is kept cooped up away from fresh air and the sun, it can't grow properly and neither do we. All too easily, we shutter ourselves up in our offices or homes and don't take every opportunity to soak up plenty of outdoor energy. Like a plant, simply sitting in the sun, relaxing under its warm rays, can help us grow and thrive.
Like a houseplant, we need proper soil. For a plant, the proper soil is needed for the root system to take hold and expand. If a plant needs sandy soil but is given compact dirt, it wont thrive. Much the same, we have to make sure that our soil – our foundation – is the one we need to properly spread out our roots. The environment we plant ourselves in determines the flowers we produce.
Like a houseplant, we need to be cared for. My thyme and rosemary plant can't get their own water or move out of the shade and into the sun. The plants rely on my care to help them. While we aren't planted in pots, we do occasionally need to rely on others to give us love and care. For many people (myself included) we forget that while independence is admirable, so is letting ourselves be vulnerable from time to time. It is okay to be loved, to let yourself occasionally be the one who needs help and care from others.
Like a houseplant, we all have different needs. My thyme and rosemary are like in many ways – but not so alike in others. Some plants need lots of water, and some need far less. Some plants need to sit in the sun all day, and some are happiest in the shade. Like plants, people all have different needs in order to be happy and content. A rose has very different needs from a cactus, both produce beautiful flowers. What one person needs to be healthy and happy could be harmful to the next person. Flowers also bloom at different times – a daffodil shows its bright yellow petals in the spring, while a snowdrop pops out of the ground much later in the year.
And finally, like a houseplant, we require a lot of patience. I remember my mom growing little sprouts inside our kitchen. We planted seeds in the peat pellets and sat the starter tray by the window. No matter how many times a day I checked on the pods, there was no growth. Day after day, it felt like nothing was happening beneath the soil — then one day, after I had almost forgotten about the tray of seeds in the window, little green buds were pushing their way to the surface. I just needed to be patient and learn to let the seedlings grow on their own time. Throughout life, I have been much like those little seeds in my mom's kitchen window. I want to skip the waiting session and get right to the point where I'm growing and productive. But that's not the way plants, life, or people, grow. Like a plant, we need to give ourselves and others the time needed to break out from beneath our soil. All we can do is water each other, put one another in the sun and wait for them to pop out of the ground on their own timing.
There are so many other ways that people can be compared to plants – such as pruning (removing dead or damaging aspects of ourselves), pulling weeds (clearing our environment of things that steal our basic requirements) and repotting (sometimes we outgrow places that used to be comfortable to us, and that's natural and healthy).
So while I will continue to learn and research how to care for the new plants that have come under my care, I'm also going to delve into ways to better care for myself – because after all, it seems to me that I, too, am little more than a complicated houseplant with emotions.
I absolutely love gardening.