Horticultural Homicide

I have this habit of killing things. It’s not really intentional, and the only things I routinely kill are of the plant variety, but still, I’m noticing a trend. The trouble is, I actually really love plants. I could get lost for hours in a botanical garden. I dream of putting an actual, fully-operational pond in my backyard (complete with water lilies and goldfish and any number of beautiful aquatic plant life), and it’s almost impossible for me to walk into a plant store without walking out with some healthy, flowering flora that has no idea the trouble it’s in for.

Goldfish Plant

I bought this goldfish plant at a farmer’s market, and it managed to survive for several years despite my unintentional lack of attention. A few weeks ago I decided to repot it and attempt to give it proper care. It has only gone downhill since.

I think my love of plants (and history of killing them) began when I started college in 2000. My college’s greenhouse gave a new cutting to each incoming first-year student, and my little green seedling didn’t even last a month. My sister, who also attended my alma mater, had great success with her first-year plant until she left it in my care. My job was simple: transport the plant home for winter break. For reasons I can’t remember, my sister was already home, and I was just reuniting her with her plant. I put the little guy in the cup holder of my car and started out on the 10-hour drive from Massachusetts to West Virginia. Unfortunately, the cup holder sat right in front of the air vent, and in the cold December temperatures, I scorched the little plant before I even reached the Pennsylvania border. My sister is still recovering from the loss.

When my husband and I got married, we had an outdoor wedding, and instead of a unity candle that would probably not stay lit in the wind, we opted to plant a succulent garden. Well, I chose the succulent garden, and my husband went along with the idea. My mother added a succulent to the potting container, my husband’s mother added a succulent, and my husband and I added a succulent. Our families were symbolically linked through new life and growth—sounds great, right? Well, before we even returned from our honeymoon, the plant representing my husband and me had died. And with less than one month to go until our first anniversary in September, the other two plants are also dead. I’m choosing not to take this as a sign that the marriage is doomed. It’s not. It’s just a sign that my brown thumb continues to get browner despite my best intentions.

I am also attempting to remedy my thumb and coax it toward greenery (if at all possible). As the goldfish plant photo above indicates, I’m off to a bad start, but I will not be defeated. I intend to resurrect my marital succulent garden with three new plants. However, even I have my doubts about this. About a month ago, as I approached a local greenhouse to buy new succulents, I got cold feet and turned around and drove home.

But I am not giving up! Instead, I am trying something new. To ensure success, I bailed on the idea of just replacing the three succulents and opted to research this type of plant first (something I probably should have done to begin with). I also purchased a practice succulent. I am three weeks into this experiment, and the practice succulent still looks relatively unscathed.


My sister named the practice plant Esmeralda.

If all continues to go well, I may venture out and begin replacing my marital succulent garden. However, if I continue to fail despite my new research and careful attention to detail, I may actually admit defeat and officially remove myself from horticulture altogether. But I refuse to let that get me down. I suppose I could learn to like plastic plants, too.

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