I talk to my plants. I actually do. When I plant them, I welcome them to the garden, and say things like “I hope you’ll be very happy here!” I say encouraging words about their growth, apologize when a stem gets bent or broken, and reassure them that they’re going to be ok. My neighbors likely think I’m nuts. They’re probably right. How did I get here?
It all started with a Christmas cactus. I got it as a gift, and while I thought it was pretty, I was also sure that the poor thing had won the murder lottery by being gifted to me. Every plant that entered my home met an untimely, sad death. My mom (a crazy plant lady) had in the past given me little plants, and through some combination of neglect, over-watering, and likely poor lighting (or general anti-plant vibes), they all died in short order. Somehow, against all odds, this little cactus hung on. It even bloomed occasionally! It made it for about 7 years, before either a toddler or the dog (maybe a combination?) dumped it on the carpet and it was destroyed. But that little cactus broke the spell. Plants started to live–and even thrive–in our house.
By then, I had started dabbling in outdoor gardening. My mom, ever my gardening mentor, encouraged me to start with just a couple of shrubs and a few perennials just to add a little curb appeal to the first house my husband and I lived in. We chose some hearty shrubs, tall phlox, creeping phlox, and daylilies. I added a couple of annuals in that straggled along (too much shade), but the perennials took hold and did beautifully. After a year or two, we expanded that garden. By the time we moved, I was ready for a new gardening project. The next house we moved to had extensive gardens that were all majorly overgrown. Mom and I tackled them, creating some beautiful improvements. We nurtured the good stuff that was there, ripped out the weeds, filled them with plants she had split from her gardens, and added in some color.
The 2nd house was also where I really began to encounter some gardening struggles. I *might* have gone a little overboard and dug a big vegetable garden, with dreams of urban homesteading. The rabbits promptly took care of that dream, by mowing off every single sprout, except the zucchini. Here I learned that rabbits can get through/under/around most yard fences. Then came the chipmunks. Those little stripy looters would dig up every new annual I planted- in the ground and in pots- and flip the little plant upside down, exposing the roots to the hot summer sun, ensuring a quick death if I didn’t catch it in time to replant. Together with the squirrels, they dug, planted nuts and seeds, ate roots, chewed flowers, and decimated any tulip bulbs I planted. In spite of this, I started gaining some confidence as a novice gardener.
Two years later, we moved to the third house. It was a new build, which meant a blank slate for gardens! That spring I got to work, digging out fairly extensive gardens. By the next year, they had expanded even further, going all the way around the house and under the deck. Sun plants thrived with no tree cover, and the hostas loved their lives under the deck. Bonus: no squirrels or chipmunks to contend with! My status as Crazy Plant Lady was officially realized at this house, as I was digging out sod by hand, hauling and dumping it, and hauling in loads of compost in the hot sun, 5-6 months pregnant with our third boy. The neighbors watched me sweat and work with a combination of shock, intrigue, and a little concern. But boy, were those gardens worth it! They were beautiful!
Last year, we moved again (this is the life of a realtor’s spouse) to another new build, which meant starting gardens all over again. However, I had learned a thing or two and planned accordingly. The year before we left, I split a bunch of my plants to “hold” for a year in the gardens of friends and relatives, so when we moved I could transplant them into my new gardens. At the new house, we didn’t mess around with laying sod, then digging it back out for gardens. We laid out extensive gardens all the way around the house right out of the gate, before the sod was in. Of course, my plant lovelies had new threats to contend with at this house: a family of 6 deer who trot through our yard every morning and every night, and regularly tried to treat my gardens as their own personal buffet. Liquid Fence has become my new best friend.
Having brand new gardens to fill and tend was such a blessing in 2020. With life effectively being put on pause for the year, having these gardens to work in was amazing. When the cold weather hit, I brought a bunch of plants into the house to experiment with overwintering, and added a bunch of new houseplant friends to the mix as well. At one point, I think I counted 26 separate houseplants. You see? Crazy Plant Lady.
Over the years, gardening has become a family event. My mom (who I can thank for the Crazy Plant Lady blood in me), has taught me literally everything I know about plants and gardening, and I am so grateful. Every year on Mother’s Day weekend, we go to Houston’s Greenhouses out in Kasson, and pretty much clean the place out. It’s one of my favorite traditions. We make a beeline for the yard to look at plants at each other’s houses every time we see each other. We talk about plants, pull weeds, split and move things around, and marvel at whatever new finds we picked up at a plant sale that year.
Our gardens are also full of living history. Dozens of the plants in my garden are splits from Mom’s own extensive gardens. My aunt (Mom’s sister- another Crazy Plant Lady) brought down a load of plants from the family farm up North to help stock my newest gardens. The irises were my late Grandma’s, and she always said they bloomed on Grandpa’s birthday. The asters are splits from an original plant of my great-grandma’s, that she got from someone else. Best we can figure, it is upwards of 130 years old! We all have split and planted these asters at every house we’ve lived in. From my aunt came the maltese cross, daisies, upright phlox, beebalm, and cornflowers. I have detura and hostas from my mom’s best friend. Astilbe, bleeding heart, hostas, coral bells, seedum, coreopsis, and coneflowers from my mother-in-law. I’ve given splits of my own plants to friends, my sister, sister-in-law, and back to my mom when they moved last. How lovely is that?
Gardening has brought me so much joy, and taught me so much. It has taught me to see the joy and satisfaction in planting something and watching it grow. Where I used to just see “green,” I now see dozens of shades of green, texture, and variation. It’s given me a deep appreciation for the wonders of nature. It’s teaching me patience with the slow-growers and the strugglers. I’ve battled all sorts of garden threats: deer, rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, voles, beetles, slugs, aphids, and mold. There’s been weeks of flooding and weeks of drought-like conditions. There’s too much sun, and too much shade. The dirt here is basically solid clay, so I’ve hauled countless loads of compost to try to remedy it, and make it more hospitable for plants. It’s been a creative outlet; I am constantly trying new combinations of plants, adding color or texture here and there, and seasonal variation. Like the changing seasons, when spring hits, I’m full of energy ready to put in extensive hours working in the gardens. By the time the season winds down in the fall, I’m ready to let them rest.
So yes, I talk to my plants. From spring to fall, you can find me puttering around outside–usually barefoot–pulling weeds and staring at my plants with that heart-eye-emoji look on my face, watching them grow. I’m a Crazy Plant Lady, and proud of it.