Nothing Says Home Like Some Plants

A few months ago, Lindsay, a dear friend from Baltimore, posted a hilarious entry about a dying houseplant on her blog. I remember reading it, looking around, and realizing that I didn’t share her same brand of perfectionism.  Or really any brand of perfectionism. Many of the plants that I adored and bought with enthusiasm were in varying stages of death. I mostly blamed their demise on my poor, perfect housekeeper, and I kept on loving the ones that survived. To further emphasize how far removed I am from perfectionism, you should know that I didn’t move or hide the dying plants. They just stayed among their living friends for many weeks and months.

Then, on the day that I learned to bike with Ricki perched on my back seat, I brought her home to swim in my pool. When she saw my apartment for the first time in several months, she was a bit dismayed by the number of dead things that I was just co-existing with.  She thought, perhaps, I should do something about it. I could kind of see her point. So, my solution was to move all but the heaviest of the dead plants’ pots to the little service balcony off of my bedroom and draw the curtains to hide them. Perfect. Problem mostly solved. There were a few other plants still on the dying but not dead yet list that I allowed to stay in the living room and main balcony.  In total, I had 7 dead or dying plants. Oops. Remember though that I owned somewhere around 15. So about half were still definitely on the alive side of the dead/alive continuum.

Then, when the semester ended, I did some pretty hardcore nesting for the 2 days that I was waiting for Kate. I wanted to get my air conditioning units cleaned, hang some pictures up on my walls, organize my office, etc. However, the biggest part of this nesting involved dealing with the plant situation. After my eye doctor appointment on Saturday morning, I made the trek to my trusty plant stall armed with these photos of the dead and dying:


I used to be a beautiful green color with vibrant pinkish-red flowers.


I used to be green with yellow flecks.


I was stunning with purple undersides to my leaves and a cool heart patterned design on the top.


I was purple and funky.


Some of my branches don’t have those leaf things that the others do.


I stopped smelling delightful after all my leaves and little white blossoms fell off.


I used to be tall and less yellow. All attempts to trim me back and give me a new start aren’t going well.


I should be fuller and have pretty red flowers.

My goal was to somehow communicate that these plants were dead (the pictures got that across quickly) and that I wanted one of the dear men from the shop to deliver new plants and repot them at my house. Luckily our usual charades and mutual delight in each other prevailed, and this was indeed the message that was received. I picked out 7 plants to replace the dead ones. If you are a better counter than me, you will realize that actually there are 8 critical patients. I didn’t, so the trimmed back yellowing guy gets another shot at life. In addition to those seven plants, I also fell in love with some new pots that the store had just received, so I had to find 4 more plants to fill the pots that I couldn’t leave behind. Then, they wanted to give me a free poinsettia to say Happy Christmas.  Why would I turn that down? So I brought home 5 new potted plants, 7 replacement plants, some potting soil, and a gardener.  Success!

However, potting plants is a messy endeavor. While the mess doesn’t matter much on the sidewalk, inside the apartment, it wasn’t super ideal. I was pretty sure that Trang might want to kill me for messing up her clean floors and adding new plants to the watering detail that she had responsibly undertaken.


Like it or not, I have full pots again. Or did. As I was rearranging some things, I realized that the while plant on the tv stand which looked incredibly healthy since the first day I bought plants was actually doubling as a home for some ants. I had to dump him. This means the new little purple/heart patterned guy got to move onto the tv stand.


And a super messy floor.

As I was mopping up after the plant man left, the handymen that I had hired to clean my air conditioners and hang my pictures arrived. I apologized for the mess and sent them to work in the bedrooms while I finished mopping. Clare and Alex had tried to explain what it is the men did to clean the air conditioners, but I hadn’t understood. I just knew that everyone does it to prevent mold which has the tendency to rear its ugly head in this damp climate. The process was a joy to watch, and I will be thrilled to have it happen again in a few months. The men hooked up a hose to whichever toilet was closer to the unit and then rigged up an elaborate plastic trough before spraying out the dust and scrubbing away any unhealthiness. It was so fascinating.  They were spraying water inside my house, but nothing (except the air conditioner) got wet.  Magic.


Handyman Nguyen and his assistant clean in the living room

Maybe this doesn’t sound like the perfect way to spend my weekend before Kate arrived, but it was pretty great to have time to make the apartment feel a little more like a home for her. After all this though, Shelley and I figured that we deserved a pretty great dinner for making it through our first semester. We celebrated at The Refinery downtown and managed to find the Christmas gifts she needed before her flight back to Texas. A pretty great day and night if you ask me.

I will have to take some more plant photos once I decide how to arrange them. Right now, my Christmas tree set-up is throwing things off a little bit, and there is one pot that I wish wasn’t so heavy that it is almost impossible to move. For now, rest assured that I am mostly surrounded by living things even though I don’t have an ounce of perfectionism in me.


All but the solid blue pot are new. Also, it seems funny to need so many fans when Christmas decorations are out.


Some of the new pictures are up on the wall, and all the plants in this shot have been living here for awhile.

You can see all of this in person and prompt another nesting spree if you come visit.  I will try to have Kate write a testimonial soon about wonders of my home and the hospitality of my new city.

Also, Merry Christmas Eve!  I will start writing about my adventures with Kate soon!







  1. Dear, Sweet Santa!! Jodi Fetterolf, didn’t I ever have you in Greenhouse Production class? I remember pictures of you and Kate in the Greenhouse; were you they just to visit the “pretty flowers”? You need to learn how much water and sunlight each plant prefers. Before they die, check the soil. If it’s wet and they are not doing well, you’re probably giving them too much water. The same goes for the opposite. Also, plants need sunlight to photosynthesize (I know that you know what this means, even as an English teacher). Some require direct, while others indirect sun. If they aren’t doing well in one spot, move them to another, hopefully before they die!. At this rate, you’re going to spend a large amount money on plants to decorate your apartment. They are a great addition, but stop and take care of them for 3-5 minutes each day PLEASE. I’m so very glad that you have company for Christmas and hope you have had a very merry one. I also hope that you didn’t get a pet for Christmas 🙂 Cindy


    • I really should remember more from Greenhouse Production. I must not have been a good student; likely Kate and I were just there to commune with pretty things. I will be more proactive with these plants, and we will all live happily together.

      It is funny that you mentioned a pet because I did really fancy a dog at a coconut farm that we went to on Christmas Eve. Phuc said I could have a puppy, but I remembered in time that I am too irresponsible for that, and it wasn’t even true love like I had with Frankie in Phu Quoc.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s