Sometime in the last few years, I realized that gardening provided me with living creatures to take care of, help grow, sing at and talk to that will not judge my health developments or ask me to go hiking. I knew this as a child, before farming club or failing science or PSAT's, but I forgot for a while. I think Adler, my basically!husband, bringing home a plant and reminding me I love to garden is one of the ways he has loved me best.
On really bad days where talking to people sounds like a wall I could never climb and pain is laying a siege that makes it seem like I'm just a burden, my plants are what get me out of bed. They are why I avoid saying mean things in my living room and why I turn on sun lamps when I just want to lay in the dark. Taking care of plants is love as a verb. They can't tell you what they need. They can't tell you what they want. But they give hints when they're not doing well and they flourish when attention is paid to them in a way that suits them. Gardening has also been good practice in learning to document things about the soil aliens and myself that help us succeed as well as forgiving myself when things don't work out. Sometimes I take care of a plant to the best of my ability, with the recommendations of the nursery, and it still dies. This is important compassion practice. I've made it most of my life with decent closure on things. It is important to know that sometimes things just fade. When I can't give people closure it is not necessarily a moral failing and when others haven't been able to give me closure, maybe they were just too cold or rootbound or tired. It's not a lesson I enjoy or wish I had to learn, or anyone else had to learn. But, I suppose it is important and the plants love me by teaching me.
I don't know why the small study-motivating aloe that inspired my tattoo died. I cried off and on for days over it, but he lived a good life and took good care of me. I passed a lot of tests because that plant led me to my desk and helped me stay calm. I suspect it was maybe rootbound. Both for myself and plants, figuring out when a situation has gotten too small is a weakpoint for me. Mona the fuzzy got a form of worm and mildew that killed her. Using some diluted cactus pestkiller and a sunlamp, I was able to save the other plants nearby. I have also learned a good lesson about catching growth that doesn't match that sort of plant before it gets too big.
None of headquarter's foodbearing plants survived the winter. The last of the italian basil, which I think was just at the end of its life, went into four batches of chicken foot stock, one pot of chicken chili, and its stems went into lamb stock. The tuscan rosemary which died due to underwatering during a particularly bad anxiety bout got turned into a tasty simple syrup that goes well in either hot chocolate or lemonade. Its death helped inspire me to ask for more gifted-specific trauma resources, in a very roundabout way. The orange bergamot was largely split between ciders and offerings. The jalapeno plant lived a long life for its time outside, and the last of its peppers went into tacos.
The large aloe plant that my wife, Myriad, carried home for me in her pocket--that woman knows every path to my heart--is doing very well, very prickly. I don't know the specific species, but I'm trying to see if I can figure it out without the nursery's help. The feeling of the spines on my fingertips reminds me of what missouri river bed smells like in the healthy spaces. Adler has a bamboo I got him for Valentine's that either just hit its first or second birthday? Our shared spider plant (I think their name is Harold?) is doing better after Myriad's other partner, TeaBadger, pruned them a few weeks ago. The spider plant may not be branching out more because it is too cold or because it needs fertilizer. I'll consult with Adler, but if it doesn't get better after going under the sunlamp I think fertilizer is the next way to go. We got a fig tree for solstice from the fablab (our godkiddo and their parents' household). It's ill, however, and I'm not sure what to do. I think I will do some research on that for Tuesday.
Cartoonist boyfriend, who will henceforth be referred to as Cardigan on here because our adorable dinner party gay friends demand it, has not identified as a gardener in some time. However, Cardigan likes having plants around and having me around, and sometime in there realized/was bowled over by how much I adore plants. Similar to having noiseblockers over at his apartment, this makes me feel really really adored. More plants=more home. Cardigan's son had a mystery succulent and he let me help revive it. I suspect its a sort of graptopetalum, maybe a leatherpetal hybrid? Or its just a ghost plant and we need to trim it down so it stops being topheavy. I haven't gotten a name from it yet, but it seems happy anyway. It's using a chopstick and a bread-bag clip as a climbing post and doing pretty well. It seems to like dry soil and having its petals dried frequently to avoid mildew near the window. I can't tell if the violet on its tips is natural for this species or a form of coldblush so I may try to see if I can find a cheap sunlamp and offer it up to Cardigan.
Cardigan discivered that he had another succulent (no idea what, green with no buds, waxy and leggy stem, droopy leaves) that was OUT OF THE POT. Despite skepticism, on the 13th we went to the nursery, he bought cactus soil, and he repotted it. Despite the ice storm, it doesn't seem to have scarring or blushing, and has even gotten taller. I'm experiencing a mix of glee and awe.
Sometime around then, we bought an aeonium (either green bay or lindleyi, I think). It has 3 branches. I want to make sure the leaf scarring is normal and that its not top-heaviness causing strain. Either way, the stems seem strong, it doesn't appear crushed, and the petals are evolving as I'd expect. Stlll no name. If the top heaviness is because this plant is supposed to be groundcover, that means we get to trim and...
Propogate! Plant children!
The spoon jade we got from Ikea is four times as big as it was when we got it, and looks like a swarm of shrek ears. I will need to prune it this week and propogate into an new pot. The airplants in my room from over a year ago are alive, still growing on top of a fossil, very cheery, and may be sprouting out new plants soon. I want to add gardening to my date days once a month with Adler. I'M SO EXCITED.
I adopted Cardigan a rabbit's foot fern and its doing really well in the humid climate of his home. I'm trying my hand at ferns for the first time since childhood, so now headquarter's living room has a storybook-style asparagus fern. It seems sort of out of place in the midst of all of the drought-loving plants, but it gives me another plant to mist every day and seems to lighten the room up a bit. There's some sort of poem about how magical it was to step from the biggest snow storm in over 30 years with only four colors outside hand in hand with my love into a tropical nursery full of more colors than my overstimulated brain can handle without sitting down, but for now you'll just have to believe me that I couldn't have been happier if I was a sunflower in indian summer.
Next month, I can start eggplant, kale, leek, onions, peppers, and tomatoes inside. In March, okra and peas! Next season, I definitely want to grow garlic sprouts, lemon balm, pineapple mint, chocolate mint, orange bergamot,and some sort of squash. However, it's too early in our planting calendar.I'm not sure whether I want to start with seed or seedlings. Do any of you have experience?
Emotionally, I feel like I'm sprouting into little bundles, needing pruning in places, sometimes more space, and sometimes more light. I'm fertilizing in poetry and studies about alternate education, and staying away from anything too sharp or too cold. I'm learning that my prickliness is what keeps me safe and becoming less startled by creatures that have no intention to bite me. And I finally believe, slowly, that I'll be able to stretch my branches and produce some fruitful work that might make somebody's day. At least during the spring. Nothing blooms all year. I don't know if I'm a wild plant or being nurtured by the people who love me or the gods who watch. Maybe its a bit of both.