The confessions of a plant parent

Yes, my husband and I are plant parents (I discovered this word very recently. Needless to say, I loved it! For starters, plant parents are people who grow houseplants. Anyone’s guess of course! :)).

Yes, I am also a potaholic whose eyes are always on the lookout for pretty or quirky pots for my plants whenever I step out – from garden centres to home ware shops to second hand shops.  (Shhhh… the second hand shops have the best collection of pots and rare books – but pot stories are for another day).

If you are looking for more confessions –

I buy cups from crockery shops in the hope that one day I can convert them into cute little homes for my plants.

I am that person who can sit in the library for ages, soaking up images of how the plants and pots are arranged in the ‘home and garden’ books.

I go to my General Practitioner and end up sitting too engrossed in some of the garden books there, the GP’s wife once ended up gifting me the book I couldn’t part with lol.

It all started after we got married, and started living in an apartment in suburban Sydney. For someone who had grown practically nothing all my life, living in the first floor of an apartment complex meant I was missing something – some greenery around me, and that too the tropical one. I had no idea where to get the plants or pots. The only three shops in the walkable distance were a grocery shop, a second hand shop and a dollar shop – and that’s where my hunt for living greens began.

My Buddha meditating underneath a jade plant in a distressed pot

Slowly but surely, flowering cyclamens, marigolds, chrysanthemums and ice plants in whites, yellows, oranges and pinks adorned our balcony first. Several confusing discussions later, Gee and I made out something –  he liked leafy foliage plants whereas I liked flowering plants. You might think it is not a big deal; but funny as, it took us sometime to slowly grow to appreciate each other’s liking!! But gradually we did, and there was no looking back. Growing these plants – at home and in the backyard was something that brought in so much of positivity to our living space; and taught us lessons in patience and perseverance too.  

Pink Chrysanthemums

Learning the process of growing a living thing was not that easy. The first days, I put the brilliantly flowering marigolds in the cold corners of the unit; and left the tender peperomias in full sun; and killed them both!! We tried a lot of fancy stuff in the beginning – including terrariums and bonsais. Needless to say, I ended up killing everything, but there was no way I would give up; as being in the patch of greenery was something I couldn’t just live without. That’s when we happened to be invited to visit one of our acquaintances; and we were in for a surprise – she had succulents in all shapes, sizes and colours there – more than 200 of them.

Always reliant on books 🙂

She walked me around her backyard garden where she knew the name of every single plant of hers. I was so impressed that she even kept an account of when each of the pups were born in a succulent (succulent shoots are called pups). Most interesting of all was that she was a very busy academician – this reinforced within me that there is no way I can say that I don’t have time to do what I wanted to. At the end of the visit, I knew that I was ready to go ahead and give it a go once again; of course, with a few different kinds of succulent pups that she gifted me with. And I must say that I still have the grandchildren of some of her plants from about 14 years back.

Pot has broken, but the succulent is such a joy to behold

Growing succulents doesn’t require much expertise. It’s easy stuff for any aspiring gardener. After being the proud parents of a few succulents, I realised that it is time to go back to the real leafy plants once again. What followed was wiping out a couple of peace lilies that I bought from a gardening shop. Seeing my frustration, a friend gifted me a Zanzibar plant for my birthday. She said to me that it is so hardy that I will have to try really hard to kill this one. I looked up my ‘how to grow a houseplant book’ (lol) and it said that I can leave this plant without water for a long time; and that neglect is the best care I can give to this one.

Zanzibar plant that travelled with us for the last 11 years

True it was – this plant has been a loyal companion of mine for such a long time. Survived moving two houses, my experimentation with low and well-lit corners, and what not. And inspired with this confidence, I successfully grew a few other houseplants as well.

After we had kids, and they started munching on the leaves of houseplants – as part of their exploration, we realised that it is time to shift them outside. Knowing nothing about how to care for the indoor plants outdoors, we ended up disappointing them again! ☹

That’s when the idea struck. Why not try outdoor plants – and lo and behold, we thus made out that all these years of trials and tribulations have made us into semi-green thumbs! With the right combo of sunlight, fertilizer, water and care, out fruit trees gave us joy – the story of oranges that I have written here –

The indoor plants slowly came back in, with every passing birthdays of our children; and they are now surviving happily even amidst those incidental indoor cricket sessions!

Monstera that has been surviving some indoor cricket sessions 🙂

Apart from giving us the pleasure of coming back to some indoor life everyday, this idea of being plant parents helped us the most when the world closed down to be confined within our 4 walls. With work and life and school all bundled within one space; our plant children provided us all a lot of solace – and an opportunity to switch off. I could be a happy, full-time stay-at-home parent of our little plants once again, checking every now and then if they are hungry or thirsty. And needless to say, as social restrictions are being relaxed these days and we are slowly going out more and more, we are quite thankful that we managed to survive the stay at home times without over fertilising and over-watering them. The proof of the pudding is that they are still happy and alive.

And thus with a few years of perseverance, we finally mastered the art of growing houseplants. And earned the badge of proud plant parents!! 😀

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