My not-so-green thumb

Published 9:41 pm Friday, January 28, 2011

In the 4 or 5 years since I’ve had him, I’ve never considered giving up on him until this week. We’d been through a lot together, but when he started losing limbs I decided it must be the end. That, and his green leaves were turning brown and brittle at an alarming rate.

I am, of course, referring to my first plant.

I had grown up around amateur indoor gardeners. My mother packed our house with crawling vines and spider plants that constantly sprouted baby spider plants. Several peace lilies and a plenty of cacti completed the mix.

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I remember my grandmother had a way with African violets. My mother was always incredulous that my grandmother’s crop consistently bloomed while my mother’s refused.

You could say that I have gardening in my genes and I should have a green thumb.

So when my college roommates handed me a get-well present a few years ago, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself the new owner of my very first houseplant. Procured from the grocery store across the street from the college, the plant had deep green waxy leaves and an abundance of tiny orange flowers.

After deciding the plant was a “he” and dubbing him “Bob,” I immediately left him in the dorm room during our monthlong winter break.

Upon our return, I discovered an emaciated Bob, sitting on the couch where I left him, surrounded by shriveled brown leaves. But his original limbs were still a bright shiny green and, after dunking him in a water bath, I hoped he would recover.

Surprisingly, he did. In fact, a few days after my return, he was sprouting flowers all over the place.

After a little research, I discovered that Bob was a kalanchoe, a plant that could survive a long time without water. In fact, what I had done was close to a process by which professional gardeners will trick a plant into blooming. My experiment went a little far, but Bob seemed to survive it well enough.

So, I renamed Bob “Phoenix,” after a mythical creature with seemingly unlimited lives, and got to work bringing him back to life.

I even went so far as to take him with me to visit my dad for spring break. Which is where I left him, again, when I returned to college.

Apparently I am not as good with plants as my family history might suggest.

Luckily, my dad has a bit of a green thumb and brought Phoenix back to me, bigger than ever and blooming.

So it was with sadness that, after moving Phoenix off the dining room table recently, I watched several of his limbs fall off.

Phoenix had been with me through late-night study sessions and last-minute paper writing. He saw me through graduation, my first real job and then being laid off. He lasted through several moves and many weeks where I’d forget to water him.

He’d been through a lot, but apparently not even Phoenix could survive my new busy life. Or my not-so-green thumb.