By Karen Anderson, Club Humorist
My officemates, working from home for the past year, have formed an online group for showing off plants.
Great! Plants are my thing. I have 48 blueberry bushes, an apple tree, a grapevine, and an immense rhubarb. The wisteria died last fall, but the peonies are perfuming the garden and the hardy geraniums are about to bloom. So bring on the compost! Fertilizer! Soaker hoses! I love to dig in the dirt.
Then I checked my phone, excited to see my co-workers’ plant photos. But they were not what I expected.
The plants were tiny, swaddled in blankets of moss and set in gleaming white ceramic containers. The containers were artfully arranged on rustic wood shelving. The lighting in the photos was clearly professional.
I shuddered and collapsed on a bag of compost. These were house plants. And I have a phobia about house plants.
It probably has roots in the succession of African violet plants that, in my childhood, languished on our kitchen windowsill. They taunted my mother with their limp, yellowing leaves. I can’t remember if she overwatered them or underwatered them, and I don’t think she could either — which was part of the problem. At any rate, the final result was… final. Every month or two the row of sad plants would mysteriously disappear. A few days later Mom would go to the grocery store and bring home a set of fresh victims.
I went off to college at the tail end of the flower power era, a big time for indoor plants (not all of them legal). Junior year I filled my dorm room with hanging plants: Wandering Jew, Swedish ivy, and spider plants (complete with macramé hangers, of course). On the floor were giant pots of ferns, bamboo, and indestructible Sansevieria (a.k.a. snake plant). My parents arrived to bring me home for the summer and discovered I had one suitcase, one box of books, and a botanical garden.
While Mom and I were struggling to fit a six-foot-tall palm tree into the trunk of her Chevy Impala, the college dean strolled by. He raised a distinguished eyebrow.
“My daughter collects plants,” Mom said through gritted teeth.
“It could be worse,” he observed, handing her a bird’s nest fern. “My son collects problems.”
After graduation, the plants came with me to an apartment I shared with three friends and somebody’s kitten. I walked into the living room one afternoon to find the bamboo swaying madly back and forth. On closer observation, I discovered the kitten in the pot, busily burying something stinky. At that point, my interest in house plants wilted.
It was only this year, bowing to social pressure from my colleagues, that I once again added a house plant to my décor. It’s in a fancy basket, it’s swaddled in florist’s moss, and it looks hip, trendy, and extremely healthy in the background on all my Zoom calls. What type of house plant is it, you ask?
My favorite kind: Artificial.