by Joyce Kohl

Martha what’s-her-name is on my dislike list along with The Happy Gardener and anyone else who has lovely green plants in and around their homes. The only places I’ve ever seen an abundance of house plants, rose bushes, or beautiful flowers fit to cut for indoor arrangements is in other people’s homes, in magazines, and in seed catalogs.

Easy and Hardy
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve shopped for “easy-to-grow,” “easy-to-care-for” live plants to decorate the inside of my home and to provide the oxygen they give off – which is touted to be beneficial and healthful. I’ve tried small plants, medium plants, and wonderful big (and expensive) foliages of various classes of the hardy philodendrons or any other “easy-for-beginners” the nursery person recommended to me.

With my plant purchases safely stashed in the trunk, on the floors, and on the seats of my car, along with the miscellaneous packages of fertilizer, vitamins, and all the paraphernalia needed for “anyone can grow these” success, I would always drive home knowing that THIS time I couldn’t fail. The anticipation of a bountiful array of plants throughout my house generated, once again, a positive attitude.

Pots and More Pots
Carefully I would transfer the plants from their plastic containers to decorative ceramic or bigger clay pots following the instructions I’d been given which went something like this:

• Put rocks in the bottom to allow the water to drain
• Add the potting soil
• Carefully take the new plant out of it’s plastic pot
• Place the plant into the potting soil, adding more soil around it
• Pat down the soil gently – securing the plant in place
• Water carefully
• Clean off any soil adhering to leaves – very gently
• Carry plant inside house; place in it’s new location
Lots of TLC
Religiously I fertilized; watered; misted; checked for bugs. Like a new mother, I rejoiced to see each new leaf sprout and then open. This time, by golly, I think I’ve got “it.”

Somewhere I heard about talking to plants. No one was around, so I talked to them. I pleaded with them to grow as they would in other homes. I promised to love, honor, and take care of them. I touched them – hey, maybe bonding would help!

When I began playing soft music I actually think I saw the plants relax and maybe even sway a bit. But then my imagination causes some people to think I’m a banana short of a bunch. So what. I was desperate to succeed in changing the color of my thumbs from brown to green.

Green to Yellow and Brown
Yellow mottling and brown tips began to appear on the leaves. Okay, the yellow meant what? Too much water? What was causing the brown tips? Someone said to me: “DON’T touch the tips of the leaves!”

I stopped touching the tips (which, of course, ceased the bonding), I cut back on the amount of water. I bought special watering “thingies” for each potted plant. These were supposed to allow the water to soak slowly into the soil. The yellow remained; it increased; it began to appear on all the leaves. The brown tips went away, but that’s because the entire leaf was turning brown. Some of the leaves began to curl; some became crunchy and definitely became fire hazards. I pulled them off the plants. I cut off some of the sickly looking stems with a pair of sharp scissors – at an angle and at the places where it was supposed to be “safe” to prune.

Last Rites
Soon after the yellowing and browning began to take place, the plants were nothing but little sticks here and there. I think I heard a few leaves cough now and then, but they soon gave up their struggle for life. I carried each potted plant outside for burial – dumping the contents into a garbage bag, promising myself never again to waste money buying real plants.

It was time to admit yet another defeat. It was time to learn to live with my handicap of two brown thumbs and eight brown fingers.

When at first you don’t succeed, buy silk and plastic! These make wonderful dwellings for spiders (ugh!). Once they’re fully webbed, the plants serve another purpose besides realism to live plants. They can be decorated with holiday tinsel. Silk webs are extremely strong; a few bells or small ornaments can be added if desired. The residents don’t mind at all. They simply incorporate it all into their homes.

Spring is arriving quickly here in the Valley of the Sun. I’m seriously thinking of cleaning up all my ceramic pots and asking my husband to take me to the nursery to look around.