I am one of those chicks who talks to plants. I cajole, compliment and cheer them along when I want them to grow. I say I’m sorry and ask for forgiveness when I uproot them. I express my sorrow and offer appreciation for a job well done if their time in our garden comes to an end (weeds being the exception).
Towards a few of our plants, I feel downright parental. Big Papa and I have been nursing a Kapok tree indoors since its infancy. When its leaf tips turned brown recently, I worried about whether I was adequately meeting its needs. Was I giving it too much water or not enough? Was the humidity too low or could it be pot-bound? Last summer, we decided to put the Kapok outside and give its wispy trunk a chance to blow in the breezes and toughen up a bit. Those first few nights I was decidedly concerned. Was it old enough to withstand the spring rain and more extreme fluctuations in temperature?
Big Papa transported our little sprout to Seattle when he moved here from Santa Barbara. It’s possible that ours is the only Kapok in Seattle (they are native to South America where they can reach heights of 200 feet), so I feel a certain obligation to make sure the little guy thrives. Of course, one day, he might reach the top of our ceiling and then it will be time to take our chances with planting him permanently outdoors or, alternatively, find a suitable home for him. When that day comes, even though I’ll feel good about the role I played in rearing him to maturity, I know I’ll shed a tear or two when I have to say good bye.
This past weekend, Big Papa and I “birthed” a few dozen babies. Spring has arrived in Seattle with unbridled enthusiasm, and with the raised planter beds we built for the back yard of the Urban Cabin, we now have garden ‘real estate.’ We were able to provide new homes to a sizable number of herbs, vegetables, flowers and shrubs.
As I carefully tucked each plant into its place, I anchored it with a firm press. Stakes and trellises were sunk into the rich earth to bolster the plants when they need it down the road. I planted flowers for color in the middle of one of the beds and added an obelisk to the center of another.
It was great fun to decorate the kids’ “rooms” and see them happily nestled into a few of the nine cubic yards of soil we had delivered to our driveway a week ago. I keep peering out the window to make sure they’re settling in alright. For the first day or two, they always seem to be a bit shocked and tired from their tumultuous move. I’m sure they’ll rally soon enough, and when they do, I can’t wait to watch those babies grow.
Mothering my plants is a source of immense pleasure for me. Working the earth and nurturing our garden is one of the most soul satisfying things I do. Even when my back aches from lifting shovel after shovel of soil or my skin bleeds from cuts I received when I tackled the rose bush, I finish the day with pride.
My love of caring for plants is one of the things that helped me decide I might enjoy being a mom. True, they don’t scream for hours on end or argue with me that they’d rather be in the southwest corner of the yard. I don’t have to rise at 3:00 a.m. to change their diapers.
But for all my faults (and I have plenty), I’ll go to the ends of the earth to protect those I care for. I make sure there’s water by the side of the bed and something good to fill a hungry tummy. I try to be creative and find unexpected ways to shine a little sunshine down. I dole out compliments, offer insights and praise good qualities. And even when my arms are tired, I always have at least one good hug left in me.