Unexpectedly Awesome

May 20, 2012

When I was a kid, my grandma had a rose bush in her yard. It had scruffy little blooms that only lasted a few weeks every spring. But boy, did it smell fantastic.

A few years ago my sister planted a rooted cutting from Grandmoo’s rosebush in her own yard. Thus we found out something my grandmother must have known when she planted that bush in the shade: given fertile soil and sunshine, it turned into a monster. It took over entire flower beds. Cutting it back severely, we learned that it had wicked long thorns and a vicious will to live. We named it Lucille, after my grandmother, who we considered had some characteristics in common with the plant.

In my experience, people outside the American south don’t understand about sharing plants. To wit: when I lived in L.A.,  the British receptionist of the law firm where I worked decorated her desk with a vase of roses from home. Her husband was the gardener in the family, which meant that he was in charge of the hispanic dudes who did the actual gardening. I admired the roses in the vase and asked her if she’d bring me a fresh cutting. I didn’t know if I could successfully root the plant, but that wasn’t the whole point; mostly it was an act of friendship.

I thought she’d be happy to share the fruit of her husband’s hobby, but in fact she wrinkled up her face in an expression that roughly translated as: what is this dog shit on my shoe? and proceeded to brush me off. I suspect she was one of those people who, having once been poor, frowns on anything that smacks of poverty.

Back home in North Carolina, gardeners still bond over shared plants. When I admired a pretty cactus in (yet another) sister’s living room, she immediately went searching for a butter knife and a ziploc bag. More tasty cuttings were offered, and I left delighted with bits from three different house plants, like a tiny package of potential in my suitcase.

Of course, I’d recently got rid of the extra plant pots taking up space in my apartment. But I unearthed 3 miniature clay pots lurking in an obscure corner. I cut a bit of old pantyhose for the bottoms of the tiny pots, added potting soil, cuttings, and gravel. There were no tiny saucers, but I had an old desert plate handy, big enough for all of them.  The effect was oddly magical.

Usually, I think too much about how things look, until small projects become huge. I consider my options, change my mind a lot, and make special trips to the plant/fabric/yarn store. But this little thing couldn’t have turned out better if I’d planned it. Hrm. Thinking on the implications.

Clockwise from top left: 1) offspring of a plant I gave my sister for a birthday, 2) the cactus in question, originally given to my sister by a friend 3) a goofy succulent originally shared by our aunt.