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.