I fuss like a new mamma over my newly potted plants each spring. I cannot leave the house without watering and feeding them, fretting over any sign of trouble. If I could check in by phone during the day, I would. Plants are no different than pets. When you first bring them home they are cute little things — tender new shoots with the promise of young buds, staying picturesquely tucked into their clay plots. They are the equivalent of large-eyed kittens or tumbling puppies. Without the poop.
As the weeks wear on, of course you learn they won’t stay that way forever, and no matter what your hopes and dreams are for them they will go their own ways. For one thing, the world is a dangerous place. This year’s long and wet and cold spring was too much for the lobelia and begonia — two of my last hopes for flowering plants on a balcony that is increasingly shady (I am not an impatiens fan). I had to say goodbye. It was a simple ceremony by the dumpsters. I find my own way to come to terms with these things.
Others go wild or disappoint in a variety of ways. Case in point: the cherry tomato plants. They were growing like crazy, giving off fabulous showy foliage, but where were the blossoms? My experiment with Dusty Miller failed miserably. I gave myself over to coleus and vines to replace the drama that the flowers could not deliver. My herbs were true as ever, they never fail me.
By now, it is no longer cute-puppy time. My litter has become sensitive, brooding and demanding. They pout when, God forbid, I miss a morning watering. They’re messy, leaving stray leaves and dead blossoms all over the place. They’re still beautiful, some in a kind of sprawling, geeky way, and I still love them. But they require more patience. I must have faith that it will all be worth it. The cherry tomato plants are the worst, refusing to go where they’re told and instead wandering off to awkward places where I’ll never be able to reach their fruit — which, yes, has finally started coming forth (raging hormones — you know).
We’ll see how it works out. Soon, the tomatoes will ripen and sweet potato vine will mature lushly. Already, the basil is starting to look a little weary. Everyone’s roots are outgrowing their pots. I suppose there is a metaphor about going off to college somewhere about now. I’ll refrain. It’s just that — I saw a pile of leaves in the gutter on my walk today. Summer is on the wane. I’m getting wistful.
You know, it’s really OK that I have to sweep up after them now and then. It’ll seem so quiet and dull when they’re gone.