Big Brother snuck more plants into my home a few weeks ago. He has been slowly trying to make me more of a plant mom although gardening does not come naturally to me. I just enjoy green and plants that beautify space or become flowers or food. Nobody said I wanted to raise crops.
Nevertheless, he was quietly bent on installing a vegetable container garden, cleverly limiting the selection of seed packets to produce he knows I’m addicted to. Kale, tomatoes, tri-color peppers, cukes.
Also, he bought his special potting soil mix, containers no one else would love but me for when they sprouted enough to transfer, and basically set up small crops in my living room, knowing I’d take ownership.
He is a self-taught master gardener—although he would huff at that title—and I am not sure where it comes from since we only had a wick of grass growing up and no inside plants.
My thumb is only green when it sometimes swells up under my thumb ring in summer.
Big Brother is the opposite of that. In his spare time, he combs nurseries and chats with staff, reads about things like propagation and succession lines and knows Neem oil keeps insects off plants. Did I mention that he is cloning roses?! How can I keep up when I still flip through first-gardening books for children and Google topics like “hardiest plants”?
Generously ignoring my lack of gardening gloves and tendency to use kitchen utensils as faux gardening tools, he began plucking nine little starter pots into a hexagonal flat, filling them with his special soil batter. I poked pinkie-finger holes in the dirt and tentatively dropped in seeds, and asked my sister-in-law—the one who nudged him into gardening—to again tell me the story of how she started smuggling plants into their home over twenty-five years ago. He strained not to laugh when she explained that she liked them, but abandoned them when they got needy and he felt sorry for them, so he learned to garden.
Maybe he is playing this trick on me too.
I swear my house plants perk up when he comes close to them. Because they know it’s not just a hobby with him but a way of life. They can smell the soil on his hands, the years of nurturing seedlings to adults. Some of them probably want to fly home with him, but they don’t know how to say so.
“I’ve killed a lot of plants,” he often says humbly, but I don’t believe him and I want to know the number. Never have I seen one borderline plant in his home. They don’t die, they multiply. I look over to my sister-in-law who doesn’t meet my eyes, so I double don’t believe him.
Me: “If they break ground in a week, I will take care of them.” He flashes me a knowing smile that instantly feels like I drew the short end of the wishbone.
When I am done seeding, he rigs this greenhouse sort of contraption out of Tupperware and magic and I think of that MacGyver TV show we watched in the eighties. Then he plants a snip from a ninety-year old snake plant he has named Annie in a colorful sombrero ceramic pot that reminds me of Cinco de Mayo. I guess I have to take care of that too, so I renamed it José for all the obvious reasons, including it being the Spanish version of his name.
Big Brother: “It’s as easy to water a dozen plants as it is two.”
I recall someone saying something similar about children and I still stuck with the one.
Again, it feels like he is infusing me with power to grow things when what he should do is install a plant-cam to monitor and keep me on track.
When I run into trouble I text him pictures and he predictably concludes that I am either over-watering or under-watering, giving too much sun or too little and I have to figure it out by trying whichever thing it is I am not doing. Predictably, I sigh as if I am breathing out all of the air in me and almost want to challenge him to go write a poem or blog because I know that will be just as daunting for him as what he is saying to me.
I am overthinking it, I know. Afraid to disappoint him by not having the gardening talent that runs through his blood. But when I grumble a little that his faith is misguided, he points out the three plants I have raised; plants that have survived both my accidental neglect and stupidity for years.
Me: I only buy plants that are like me—resilient, ridiculously independent and too stubborn to quit.
His laughter runs hard and free like a waterfall.
Big Brother: “They’ll grow, Sis. If not, just plant some more.”
That, of course, was the best advice of all, although everything did break ground and I was so pleased that it amounted to something that I also crafted a flower box.
So he tricked me into gardening, but it was a good trick.