The Magic of Plants
Once upon a time, in the world of big corporation and cubical landscapes, there was this small, dry, forgotten palm. It stood only about six inches high and was near death. Its owner had vacated the premises and apparently stuck the plant on the windowsill, which was accelerating its death due to continual bright, direct sun all day long and no water.
I took pity on it and took it home.
Conditions at home were just the opposite. A small apartment that received minimum indirect daylight, as the windows faced east and the shades shut while I was at work. That meant light only came into the room on the weekends.
Miraculously, the plant survived. It must have liked the bigger pot, better soil, and cooler temps. Plus, I was talking to it and watering it regularly. Somewhere, I had read that plants liked being talk to. Something about breathing in our carbon dioxide exhaling breaths. Since it exhaled oxygen, we were a good match.
I lived in that apartment for several years and the plant grew slowly. Surprisingly, the plant blossomed a couple times, despite the darkness.
Then, I moved to a spacious modular, a.k.a. double-wide mobile home.
Spacious with many windows, at the opposite end of the front door was an enormous kitchen and a sliding glass door that led to a small porch that butted up against the trees. Even when the vertical blinds were closed, the kitchen was still filled with light. The plant thrived there.
Other than my watering it regularly, we shared quarters for a year. During that time, I repotted him, giving its roots more room. It blossomed again that year. I began calling him Hank, sometimes Buddy.
Then I moved to small apartment again in another community, but this apartment had a sliding glass door that led to a small cement pad porch. This time, my light came from the northwest, more north than west, but even with the shades drawn, which was most of the time while I was at work, there was ample light.
Even during the winter, if the sun was out, the room captured rays of the setting sun, even more during summer, particularly where Hank was positioned. Additionally, he sat next to maple armoire, which reflected the heat with additional heat seeping through the armoire wall next to Hank, due to the TV and stereo equipment when turned on.
Hank thrived, despite the long days with drawn shades. For the first couple of years, several times each year, the plant produced new fronds and blossomed multiple times. I’d talk to it as I pruned off the lower dead leaves that appeared on occasion, telling him I was doing it for its own good. I sensed that he believed me. Then, he began sprouting new leaves every other month and blossoming even more during the year.
When I got a treadmill, to make room, I slid the plant closer to my writing desk. It wasn’t long before his leaves began to mingle with the leaves of my work, the books, and manuscripts. Anytime I had to move him away from my desk, I sensed that he was unhappy.
So for the bulk of the twelve years I lived in that apartment, he thrived, turning into a blustered four-foot tall palm whose width filled the non-opening side of that sliding glass door.
And then, I’ve moved again. Hank moved into the new apartment, in another new community a month before me. His job was to clean up the air due to new carpet installation, the smell which I was allergic to.
He did his job well. I placed him in the bedroom, where the brightest light appeared despite the closed blinds 24/7. While he was helping me clean the air, I suspect the air was a bit toxic for him, too.
About a month after I moved in, I noticed the lower leaves were turning yellow. I realized, too, that the water was different. Not to mention having moved in the middle of winter.
Lots of changes for a creature that prefers gradual changes rather than lots of sudden to its surroundings.
I think its isolation in the bedroom was a tad depressing, once I moved in. I was out in the living room all day, writing. I could hear him expressing that he wanted to be near me again during the day.
For a while, he sat close to the big window, capturing the sun’s vibrant energy as the blinds are open all day. But now, he’s back near my desk, once again his leaves touching mine.
He’s starting to get new leaves again, so he must be happy. I’ll know it’s true once the blossoms appear again. Today, Hank is easily five-foot tall and wider than ever, almost too big for my 520- square-foot apartment, but I won’t part with it, as he’s part of my family.
Some people have cats, dogs, or birds. I have a plant. I’m a nature person. I need trees and plants around me.
More than one tree, shrub, or plant has communicated with me in my lifetime and more do so every day. Having read The Secret Life of Plants: a Fascinating Account of the Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Relations Between Plants and Man (1989) by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird years ago, I can’t wait to read about The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate Discovers from a Secret World (2016) by Peter Wohlleben and Tim Flannery that comes out this fall. It’s always nice when science proves what I’ve known for some time.
My happily ever after? Hank is thriving, I have a flower bed again, thanks to my daughter and grandson, and I can enjoy the beautiful red maple tree outside my front door.
As the plants thrive, so do I.