Meant To Live

I’ve wanted a garden so, without my own plot of land in Brooklyn, I’ve tried to grow one indoors. I’ve been through many plants that have thrived and many that were never meant to be inside. A shedding begonia stands out in my memory, managing to last an entire year before Easter rolled around again and it seemed to say are you kidding me? Then it withered away.

The leaves you barely see to the right belong to an angry basil plant that is nitrogen deficient, and I feed it teaspoons of some kind of $20 fish-smelling concoction, such is my dedication to keeping its spindly limbs and flimsy, fragant-less leaves alive.  The plant I’ve cut off on the left is belligerently sparse, never the pink-spotted sprite its supposed to be, because I’ve forced it to grow too long behind its glass jail cell. And then there was oregano, who, when I carefully snipped a few leaves for tomato sauce, seemed flat out offended and refused to bloom again.

But, now I’ve discovered the succulents you see, planted just today, because all the other succulents have done so well around our home. Maybe it’s the desert-like conditions of our top-floor apartment or the south-facing sun-soaked windows. Or maybe it’s the fact that, yes, they are okay to grow indoors but, beyond the African violets, they are the kindest to me.

My grandmother, who also lived in a sauna of an apartment, kept beautiful plants in her home, some, no matter their condition. These were stick-like and yellowed and I’d wonder why she bothered. She’d tell me she was trying a new spot in her home or fresh soil or less water or more and remind me that so much of plant-growing is about trial and error. Often I’d return weeks later and find that they were healthy again.

Despite everything, I grow angry basil each year. I’ve tried oregano three times and will try again. I see a begonia at the farmer’s market and wonder if I should buy another. I guess I always hold on to the hope that, against all odds, something never meant to thrive, will. That, at a new angle, on a new surface, away from this light or that one, it will discover a new way it was meant to live.


7 thoughts on “Meant To Live

  1. I long to have some living green and colorful things at my house. This summer, I planted flowers in the baskets hanging from my porch, but I killed them. Turns out, they need water. 🙂 Your garden looks nice there by the window. I think it's worth the effort. I'll definitely try again.


  2. We don't live in a city, but our house has very few windows that get sunlight, and house plants DIE.

    However, we've had pretty good luck with a hydroponic garden we got out of a catalog. We have grown basil (I don't know if it was angry basil), dill, mint, and parsley. It was the most successful garden we've ever had, including the one we tried to grow outside in the rocky clay we like to call “soil.”


  3. I don't have much luck with either basil (I have a very struggling one this year…this first in half a decade that has managed to survive more than a month in my care) or houseplants. Except one that my girls call “Rapunzel plants,” which seem to spread out over our kitchen no matter how little care I give them! (I wish I knew the actual name…I'll have to do a little research.)


  4. Years ago, someone gave my husband and me two potted plants. Mine barely lasted, but his is still going strong, even after three moves. As long as I stay away from it, it seems to thrive – I have the opposite of a green thumb, I think 🙂


  5. Oh Melissa, I love this! Alas, I am a plant killer, and as such have been banned from having any plants in my house for the next forever, but that kind of hope keeps my children bringing newly planted seeds or tiny sprouts they started at school home. I think we all need to have hope like that. That THIS TIME, things will be better. 🙂


  6. Keep trying! You'll find something that works for your southern exposure! I'm not much for outdoor gardens (I attempted a potted veggie garden on my deck one miserable summer and everything died), but for some reason I can grow indoor plants that are only for show (not for consumption, i.e., spices) like it's nobody's business. And as the proud owner of a spider plant that is almost 20 years old (and has survived several moves), I am with you on holding on to hope for a plant to revive and thrive! Indoor greenery adds so much to the character and comfort of a home, don't you think?


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