My grandmother loves plants. No, seriously loves them, like talks-to-them kind of love. When I was a small child growing up in Lima, Peru, I would always watch my grandmother watering her garden, cleaning up the dead leaves from her rosebushes and caressing her orchids gingerly.
One summer, on her annual trip to New York, she bought me a hydrangea pot filled with beautiful white flowers. They resembled cotton balls and their aroma was fragrant and reassuring. My grandmother taught me to treat them with love and respect. She said if you talk to them, it perks them up and they grow nice and tall. I gave her a reluctant look and glided right over the statement, dismissing the suggestion. She told me not to overwater, but please do water them for god sakes. I was very enthusiastic about the plant – for about a week. My grandmother took over for me once my interest dwindled. After she went back home to Lima I tried my best, but I sensed the hydrangeas suspected my grandmother’s absence. I also feared they did not appreciate my lack of conversation. They started to dry out and by the time summer came to an end they turned into a translucent, stiff version of their former splendor. I was too embarrassed to tell my grandmother but I resolved to try harder the following summer.
A couple of summers came and went and I always resolved to be more proactive in the garden. However, between work and school and life there was always something to keep me from my gardening goals. Last year, I decided to start small and bought a small plant that didn’t require much maintenance. It was absolutely perfect for me – indoor plant, pot the size of a Dixie cup, it was a done deal! I watered it daily- or almost daily – and made sure the dead leaves were out of the way. I didn’t see much action for a couple of weeks. Then one day, I noticed more flowers were growing and blossoming. I was so happy I started saying, “good going, plant. You’re looking beautiful today!” I’m not sure if it was my daily compliments or what, but soon it grew into triple its size. It grew so big I had to transfer it into a different pot so it had more room to grow. The rewarding feeling that this gave me was unexpected and immeasurable.
I finally had the experience my grandmother wanted me to have all along. My younger self might have naively thought that taking care of a plant was a hobby and something to please the aesthetic eye. However, gardening is so much more than that; it’s about respect for living things, responsibility, understanding the fragile but immense strength that one single seed can have, connecting to nature and to yourself, nurturing and nourishing something and reaping the rewards.
If you live in a crowded city, or if you have a big sprawling back yard, give a plant a home, talk to it and watch it grow.