When I was little, my mother had plants everywhere. They were your standard variety houseplants – like spider plants – but she always had a lot of success with them. At one point she bought a Venus fly trap because they fascinated me, but that was really her plant. I was too young at the time to do anything with it except beg her to let me drop little bits of raw hamburger into it now and then, which she likely allowed me to do with too frequently.
The first plant I really remember having that was truly mine was a cactus when I was about five years old. I don’t know why a cactus. Maybe my mother thought they were so easy to care for that it would make a perfect first plant. She was wrong. That cactus began my lifelong pattern of killing plants through either too much love or too much neglect. The cactus died from too much love. I watered it constantly. Three, four, sometimes five or six times a day. That poor little cactus really needed to learn how to swim, because I drowned it, day in and day out. Eventually – longer than you’d expect, in fact – it succumbed to my overbearing efforts and rotted and died. That was when I realized I was no good with plants.
In high school I realized that it was houseplants I was bad with; garden plants were a different story. When I was about sixteen, we lived in a house that had a circular planting area in the middle of the driveway. I begged my mother to let me have that circle for an herb garden. I carefully transplanted the rose bushes I browbeat her into moving from another house a few years earlier and set about collecting as many herb plants as I could. It turns out that herbs, and even roses, benefit from a little benign neglect and that herb garden flourished. It was such a delight for me and I got a thrill the first time my mother went out to cut fresh herbs for dinner*.
Now that I have a space of my own and can plan a new herb garden, I often think of the first one and how much I loved those plants. I managed to collect some interesting plants at a time when herbs other than rosemary, thyme, etc. were much harder to come by than they are now. The new garden, when it comes into being, will owe a lot to that first one, the one that taught me to love herbs.
*She ended up cutting lavender instead of rosemary, which made for a good but unexpected pairing with that night’s chicken.
A writing prompt from You Grow Girl.