Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Barbara vs. the Houseplants

Last week, I was debating the fate of my houseplants: would I banish them from my Third Third? Do houseplants even belong in a Third Third? When I raised the question with friends, I was shocked – shocked! – by their chorus of “I hate houseplants!”

I thought that was just a Tim thing.

Even though I’m the one in our house who “owns” the houseplants, Tim’s the one who waters them. (I still don’t know how I managed that; it’s a miracle.) Nevertheless, I am the one in charge of clipping, tending, re-potting, and de-pesting.

Houseplants made our house a home. They added foliage, warmth, and Nature to the living room. The spider plant in particular was so successful that I’d give teachers gifts of their own spider plants.

Then things started going haywire. It started with a couple of spider plants with little brown dots and sticky goo. I learned it was called “scale,” and I washed the leaves and the problem went away. Then it didn’t. Then I washed them again.

Somehow, the gooey, sticky, scale problem found its way across the living room to the schefflera tree. It got SO sticky that when I sat in the recliner nearby, my hair stuck to the chair from the goo that had dripped onto it. I took a leaf from the schefflera in to Cooperative Extension, where Julie-the-horticulturist told me that was the WORST infestation of scale she’d ever seen in her WHOLE LIFE and the plants just had to be tossed. She saved it as a specimen, and I ran home to toss the tree in the trash.
But I kept washing the spider plants. We had history together; I couldn’t get rid of them. They were a major anchor in the living room landscape. They were a pain in the neck.

Then the new carpet guys showed up. Yes, they did! Months of living like a nomad in our own home with furniture crammed every which way, eagerly awaiting the carpet guys, and they finally made an appearance. So, of course, more furniture had to be moved around in the overnight room-to-room scramble. You can only move crap so many times before you know it as crap. It was the plants’ turn to be de-cluttered.
This spelled doom for the palm tree. For the twisted philodendron that had a weird, unattractive shape. For the plants that just looked old, ugly, and too late into their Third Thirds. The spiders? Like Felix Unger’s linguine, they’re now garbage. I’m not spending my Third Third washing goo and trying to rescue difficult plants! Marie Kondo, I felt joy getting rid of those plants! Every plant in the trash meant a surge of freedom and pleasure.

I was on a roll: get rid of them all! They just take maintenance. Who needs their dirt, their re-potting demands? But then I read NASA’s research about how valuable they are for cleaning indoor air and some have been with me for years, so instead I put them on probation.

Only happy, easy, pretty things get to live in our living room now. It’s survival of the fittest, and only the healthy endure. If they start causing trouble – if they’re not Olympic material – they’re out!

Tim and the carpet guys surveyed the empty living room. Empty except for the ivy that climbs up the walls of the fireplace to the ceiling and the philodendron that climbs up another wall.

“They gotta be moved.”

“No,” I said. “They can’t! They’re attached. They’ll break.”

So that is how I spent time with the carpet guys, holding planters and balancing plants. As they laid carpet around me, I moved a little to the left, a little to the right, a little forward, a little back. I’ll dance with my houseplants now, but I make no promises. We’ll see how this new relationship goes.

1 comment:

  1. I gave up my house plants years ago after an infestation of fluffy white spots.


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