I picked up an amaryllis bulb from the grocery store the other day. You know, one of those grow it yourself kits you always find around the holidays? I have never actually grown one myself, although I have seen it done a number of times.
You see, my grandmother has been a green thumb all her life. Along with expansive outdoor gardens, I remember she also kept her house filled with plants as well. Since she has moved into a nursing home, I have taken up residence in the small two bedroom “granny suite” she and my grandfather had lived in during my childhood.
In the last twenty years or so, her plant collection had dwindled. Arthritis in her hands and knees made it difficult for her to tend to them as diligently as they required. One of the last plants she had kept was a peace lily. We (my brother and I) had bought it for her as a gift. Maybe her birthday or Mother’s Day. Even in her waning ability to care for plants the way she used to, this thing flourished. It outgrew several pots. When she moved into the nursing home, it was as if the peace lily knew she was gone. Nothing I could do was making this thing happy. We ended up putting it out of its misery. The apartment was void of green.
I tried a couple of times to bring green back into the house– I’ve always been the type to bring in fresh cut flowers, and I even attempted (foolishly) a maiden hair fern. It wasn’t until I adopted my mother’s neon pothos that I really took an inkling to keeping a collection of house plants myself.
The larger my collection grows, the more I think I take after my grandmother. I find myself saying a lot of the things I was used to hearing her say as she pottered around the house. I figure I’ve inherited the green thumb trait from her too. As we near Christmas time, I wanted to do something with my plant keeping that she would be proud of, and growing a flower from a bulb always seemed so impressive to me whenever she did it.
When I visit her at the nursing home I always make a point to whip out my phone and scroll through Instagram, showing her all the plants I have and how they look in the space I now inhabit. She tells me stories about the Hoyas she kept in the sunroom and how their blooms smelled delicious. She talks about the maranta she got from the neighbour down the road. The two of us try remember what kind of plant she had hanging in the kitchen over the sink, because I can’t seem to get anything to thrive in that small north facing window.
The home she’s in has a “horticulture club” where a bunch of the residents get together and care for the houseplants in the conservatory. They do stuff like repotting and starting new plants from seeds etc. Grandma can’t do much of it, she just doesn’t have the dexterity, but she loves going to the get together and talking with the other ladies about the plants she kept in her day (she’s particularly proud of her African violets– she had over a dozen at one point).
The next time I visit, at Christmas, I will be able to bring her a part of my indoor garden, assuming I succeed in my amaryllis endeavour. We’ll have a good chat about what all is going on in my jungle and she’ll tell me more about her own favourite plants, which will probably inspire me to go out and get some more, to better emulate the way she had kept this house as green as she did.
I’m proud that I’ve inherited this trait from her, and the more that I think about it, the more I know that I’ve cultivated this trait because I want to be more like her. She was a lady of many talents, not least of which was her plant parenting… And grand-parenting, for that matter.