Probably like most of you, when COVID-19 arrived on our shores, I assumed it would be a couple of months of inconvenience and life would then return to normal. But as we all know, life has been anything but normal. I heard one woman say that while confined at home she spent her mornings fighting mold, mildew and dust. By afternoon she found herself staring out the windows at the squirrels and sipping tequila. I can so identify with her except for the tequila. My drug of choice is definitely chocolate.
One can only clean so much. Besides, all those cleaning materials are toxic, and I am pretty sure that excessive use can cause brain damage. And who needs that? Which is why I have limited my own exposure to only a few hours a day. Initially, I found a wonderful outlet in my kitchen, baking bread, muffins, pies and cakes. I decided I was baking for my neighbors. Unfortunately, as I began parceling out my baked goods, it was one for them, two for me. Soon, even the sweatpants began to chafe. Get a grip, girl, or bigger pants.
I made the decision to look beyond my kitchen for some satisfying activity that was not fattening. Then it occurred to me that I had always wanted to garden more, but never had the time. That was it; my outlet, something satisfying, nurturing new life. Besides, plants can’t talk. If I killed them, who would know?
With mask in place, I donned my latex gloves for a visit to the garden center. It had been so long since I had been out in public, I was almost giddy. I grabbed a huge rolling cart at the front door and stacked it high with herbs, bedding plants and exotics. I was going to create something of beauty right in my own yard.
First, as a future gardener, there are some basic facts that you need to know. Those beautiful, lush, healthy plants don’t really like to leave the garden center. It is their happy place. The people who work there know what fertilizer they prefer, how much sun or shade they need, and how they feel about watering. No one tells you any of this. They take your cash or credit card, smile and think to themselves, “There goes another idiot.”
In my world, plants were supposed to stay just like you bought them, only get bigger and more beautiful. This never happened. In the case of my garden center shopping spree, my eyes were clearly bigger than my capacity to dig holes, haul potting soil and nurture those little beauties. I discovered that they can just drop dead for no reason at all. And just because you are a person who loves to water plants does not mean that they like or need great quantities of water, in which case they punish you by drowning. That happened a lot. And no, there is no such thing as CPR for plants.
Don’t think that my gardening experiment has all been negative. I have had a few surprising successes. For the benefit of the gardening novices out there, I have compiled a list of plants that no matter how badly you treat them, they will still thrive. It is a short list. First, think cactus, not the friendliest of plants, but you can completely ignore them and they like it that way. Pothos ivy is nearly indestructible. I’m not saying I never killed one, but most have survived. Mint will change your life. Actually, it will take over your life, your home, your neighbors’ home. Leave it at the garden center no matter how pretty it looks.
And when the helpful clerk at the garden center shows you a plant and says, “You can’t kill it”, just tell them Diane begs to differ.