Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2018 - 64
singing in the
My fake plants died because I did not pretend to water them.
Text and art by Ginny Neil
The word "houseplant" meant something
green and plastic that required no care
until the day I met my new college roommate. I staggered into the room bearing
heavy boxes of posters and school supplies. She came in bearing heavy boxes of
potted plants. In fact, she had to set down
a philodendron, a spider plant and an African
violet before we could shake hands. When we parted
ways, two years later, she gave me one of each. She assured me that they were fail-proof. I took them home,
treated them like plastic plants, and they died.
Failure is a great motivator. That fall, I bought new
spider plants and philodendrons and hung them in my
north facing dorm windows. I watered them every day.
They turned forty different shades of yellow and died. I
bought more, put them in the same dirt as the old ones,
and watered them weekly. They lived but they were so
puny that I hid them when friends came over.
My senior year I learned to push my finger into
the dirt down to my first knuckle. If it was dry down
there, it was time to water. I learned to feed my plants
monthly and to prune them to encourage fuller growth.
My dorm room disappeared in a sea of green leaves and
vines. In an effort to stem the tide, I started my own
ring-and-run plant delivery service. It involved skulking
around in the dark and leaving plants on the doormats
Then, I graduated, moved to the mountains and got
married. My husband and I renovated an old farmhouse,
and I brought in my plants. They all picked up their
roots and bolted. My house, built by pioneers, was perfect for cold winters. The north facing windows didn't
admit enough light and the south facing windows were
like Mini Bake Ovens. To top it all off, a house heated
with a woodstove is a virtual desert for humidity-loving
I gave up on indoor plants until the winter a student
gave me a Christmas cactus. It was very forgiving. I put
it in my north-facing bedroom window and it rewarded
me with a cascade of pink blooms the following year.
Then, a friend gave me a snake plant. It didn't care that