Posted in Confessions, Friendship, Nature

I Kill Plants

I Kill Plants
by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Bless me, Mother Nature, for I have sinned.

I kill plants.

No matter the species, I can strangle any root system or poison any shoot system in the modern botanical nomenclature.

I do enjoy plants, especially herbs like mint and basil and flowers such as magnolias and azaleas. I have tried for decades to keep small cacti and large-leafed friends alive, yet like a demented serial killer I can destroy what I admire.

Relatives and friends have tried over the years to break the curse of my plant murders. Just last year Cousin Claudia, who can work magic in any yard with her easy-going optimism, gave me a “condo warming” gift: an air plant. “You can’t kill it,” she said as she set it atop my great-grandma’s pie safe where it gasped its final breath thirteen days later.

Master Gardener Cynthia

I have a knack for overwatering or under-watering green things. In 2018 when we planned to sell our house, I needed indoor and outdoor plants to help give our place a welcoming vibe, so my Master Gardener friend Cynthia showed up to help. She is a modern day Artemis who is in tune with nature’s trees and flowers as well as the woodland creatures. She chose hearty plants from Home Depot for us and wrote detailed directions for their care before she left me alone with the blooming babies. Cynthia also got me a teen-aged ficus for staging the place for prospective buyers. She decluttered our home and had chrysanthemum “pops of color” for the front yard. My place was as neat and clean as a young private awaiting her first morning inspection from a hard-nosed drill sergeant.

Thankfully, our house sold in less than a week, and Cynthia swooped in to rescue the nervous yet brave plants from my clutches because she’s known me for many years and has witnessed my starving, drowning, or burning of healthy plants. Even if she believes the deaths were caused by neglect and not premeditated crimes, I wonder if she’d let me off with involuntary manslaughter if she were a juror at my trial for killing more plants than a low-grade natural disaster. Against her better judgement, Cynthia entrusted me with the ficus after she ran out of room in her Nissan Cube when she packed up the staging plants to offer them a safer home .  

Cynthia’s Own Garden

That spunky ficus managed to stay alive for eighteen months. When this year’s February snow surprised Texas, I brought the plant inside, hoping it had more life to live. Yet in days its leaves developed black spots as it shriveled in the corner of our guest bedroom/office and bid adieu to the cold, cruel world. I soon discovered I had horribly over-watered it when after the snow had melted, I hauled it outside and heard water sloshing around in the heavy planter it was set inside.

I used to feel guilty about dismembering, suffocating, maiming, and torturing innocent plants that came under my care. So many people love digging in the dirt, planting seeds, and tending their flowers and vegetables so that they later enjoy the beauty and bounty of their gardens. 

In 1970 my favorite movie was Barbra Streisand’s On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. Her Daisy Gamble character coaxed flowers from the soil by singing to them. The movie’s opening begins with “Hey, buds below! Up is where to grow!” as Barbra sings, skips, and swirls around an expansive rose garden while hundreds of flowers bloom with the help of the camera’s time-lapse magic. I loved that song (“Hurry, It’s Lovely Up Here”) almost as much as I loved the  66 groovy outfits that costume designer Cecil Beacon had Barbra changing into during the movie. Her flowered babydoll p.j.s matched her flowered sheets which matched the flowered wallpaper of her bedroom!

“Hurry, It’s Lovely Up Here” from On a Clear Day You Can See Forever

I digress.

Drowning or starving plants is not the worst confession I could make. It’s not like I throw every curse word I have ever heard at my cat when she meows incessantly at three a.m. for food. Or I fear newborn babies because they look like fragile, unpredictable aliens. I’m not a monster!

Crystal and her Orange Tree

And to be honest, I have not killed every plant I have ever owned. I still have a weak ivy Cynthia left behind when she staged my house. A perky good luck bamboo from Crystal lives on my kitchen window sill. Crystal follows the law of averages rule when it comes to plants. She once told me, “I plant so many plants, trees, and vegetables, something is bound to survive!” 

Crystal’s Law of Averages Yard (and Ripley)

So my murder rate is close to 87% if I consider all the plants I have ever known. 

Does a lawn count? The front yard of the home we sold had more St. Augustine grass than bald, brown patches two years ago. Also, the backyard had winter rye grass whose soft green blades stayed alive long enough for us to close the deal on the house. However, my son Evan was responsible for readying the backyard and planting those grass seeds. He even called to remind me to water the yard regularly until the tiny green shoots poked out of the dirt as if Barbra Streisand’s voice beckoned them to a world of promise.

Author:

I grew up as a crooked girl who dealt with a mild case of cerebral palsy. In a small Cajun town during the 1960s, I relied on my little sisters' support and energy to give me confidence and our grandma's movie theater to help me escape when life's "pas bon" moments overwhelmed me.

12 thoughts on “I Kill Plants

  1. I think, as long as you haven’t intentionally been using salt in the soil, it’s technically just neglect leading to poor health. If you’re looking for a plant that can’t be overwatered – try a Marimo moss ball. They stay fully submerged in a cup of water. Just change the water once a week or so (maybe more, maybe less – it doesn’t often matter). Water Plants may be even easier than Air Plants!
    Good luck on all your gardening endeavors!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Scott, for reading and giving me an excellent idea! I’ve never heard of a moss ball. Also, I love your blog – such a wealth of information, and it’s clearly organized. I will send the link to my better gardening friends.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Love your story! I too am a plant killer. My Dad brought me a cactus one time and told me I couldn’t kill it! Well I managed to prove him wrong. So needless to say, I don’t do plants at all!🏇💜

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for reading and connecting with me. I feel like the plants know I’m unsure about caring for them – the way dogs can sense a person’s fear of them.

      Like

  3. Ginger, my wife suffers from the same syndrome. And, her friends keep gifting her with plants! After the first week I take over the care and feeding before they wither and die.

    P.S.-We also have a cat who yowls in the middle of the night for food. 🐈

    Liked by 1 person

  4. John, that’s so funny that your wife’s friends also give her plants to care for. It’s cool that you take over and rescue the plants. Gary, unfortunately, knows less about plants than I do.
    I love how you and your wife balance each other out when it comes to gardening. When it comes to our crying cat, Gary is very sweet to her when she gets on my last nerve.

    Like

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