Thursday, July 8, 2010


There was a time when I had five dozen thriving houseplants—lacy china doll and ming aralias, fragrant hanging jasmines, glossy, thriving zezes in a frequently dusted, adequately watered, occasionally fertilized and sometimes transplanted jungle.

Now I have a dozen survivors. These are the few, the strong, the mighty—the plants that can get by on twice-a-month watering, once-a-year thinning, and biannual cleaning of dusty leaves.

My favorites were given away before the stresses—more children, more work, more pets, more land, more outdoor gardening, more food growing, more farm tending, and less time—took effect. My least favorites were allowed to fall by the wayside. The rest, the plants not cherished enough to have been given up but not weak enough to have given up themselves . . . these plants stay on. I like them.

I do still enjoy houseplants. I sometimes miss the smells and sights of an indoor tropical forest, and I sometimes wonder if our air quality could use the boost that higher numbers of indoor plants provide. We still have a few, more in some rooms than others, but it is not the same.

It boils down to priorities. I have a lot of lives to look after, and in order of my attention to them I rank them thus:


Practically, this means I might feed the kids, play with the kids, feed the mule, groom the mule, feed the goats, milk the goat, feed the rabbits, pet the rabbits, exercise the rabbits, exercise the mule, feed the dog, pet the dog, groom the dog, feed the cats, play with the cats, feed the chickens, gather the eggs, muck out the paddock, weed the garden, sow seeds, mulch the garden, prune the fruit trees, fertilize the berry bushes, weed the berry bushes, mow the lawn, weed the flower bed, weedwhack the fencelines . . . all this before I water, wash, transplant, thin, or otherwise tend my little indoor forest. It never gets done.

So, to those who can sustain a hundred house plants in glorious health, I salute you. It is a noble undertaking, and the results are breathtaking (breathgiving?). I, for one, satisfy myself with a dozen stoic potted plants, all of whom sustain some neglect without showing visible signs of stress. I salute them, too, and thank them for their greenness, their hardiness, and the CO2 they cast into our bustling, never-quiet house. Good job, plants. You've done well.



  1. I well understand those priorities. I have only a semi green thumb and any plant in my custody has to have fortitude. But a ming aralia! I had one once too.... It was a wedding gift but I wasn't up to the challenge.

  2. Sian, aren't they beautiful? If I had room in my life for a high-maintenance plant, that's what I'd go for.

    I always enjoy your comments, by the way! Thanks for reminding me that I have an audience!



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