I’m a gardener. That’s what I do. Gardening is how I have earned enough money to keep the children in food, clothes, cinema tickets, Jack Wills and/or Hollister hoodies (usually and), followed later on by the inevitable laptop (“Durr Mother … I need it for school.” “Does this mean your grades will improve?” I ask in response, and am promptly granted a withering look) and of course, mobile phones (“Double Durr Mother… In case we’re abducted by some axe-wielding madman” … Hmmm, best not answer that one). Most eloquent, my children.
Gardening is what I love to do. Transforming bland areas into a places of beauty with a few seeds, cuttings and a whole lot of hard graft. Total therapy …. mindfulness to the nth degree and even better when it’s not accompanied by horizontal rain and gale force winds. There’s nothing worse than cold water seeping in through your collar, working it’s way down your back and finally reaching your knickers. I really do dislike a cold, soggy bottom, but then I am a soft southerner.
However, indoor plants are quite simply not my thing. I may have RHS qualifications and experience coming out of every orifice, but indoor plants … no. Indoor plants require attention … they are needy, demanding. Only room for one individual with those traits in this house (no prizes for guessing who).
I underwater them, I over-compensate and then overwater them. Over, under, over, under. I forget about them on their windowsills. I forget about them in sitting room, the kitchen and they hate my inconsistencies. They become flaccid and droop, yellow from chlorosis, turn up their toes and die, invariably then finding their way, with a helping hand from yours truly, to the compost bins….. Never having flowered, produced seeds and and therefore never even having been allowed an attempt at reproducing. Imagine going to the grave, never having had sex …. A life badly lived.
Now, I mentioned a few weeks ago that a friend of mine had very kindly given me a box containing an Amaryllis, complete with plastic pot and appropriate compost, and yet my heart sank. Oh God, the pressure to keep it alive! To make matters worse, she is a neighbour who often pops in for coffee, a chatter, a natter and a general putting of the world to rights. Would I have to hide the evidence of one flaccid Amaryllis and it’s impending doom? Should I not allow her into the sitting room perhaps? She was bound to ask … And I am supposed to be The Gardener. She who knows all. Clearly not the case after all.
So, I made a decision. I would treat this plant as I am now treating myself. I would nurture it. I would nurture it with love, consistency, routine and structure (and a teensy bit of Baby Bio if things got bad). I would water it as per the instructions and not deviate. I would feed it also, as per the instructions. I would take my orders and do exactly as I was told. For those of you who are beginning to get to know me, you’ll know that this is not my forte, however, this is the new me and I’m really, really trying.
If it died, then the penalty would be to go and purchase a brand spanking, shiny new one, complete with flowers and pot and costing about the same as two packets of cigarettes or two bottles of wine. And finally, I would have to confess all to my friend. Ha! The deal has been struck and hands have been metaphorically shaken. I have a job to do.
Weeks have now passed. And as I sit here in the warmth of the sitting room with the January sunlight streaming though the windows, I glance over to the table where a tiny miracle of nature has taken place. An Amaryllis standing proudly with rich and succulent green leaves is just, just starting to flower. The swollen buds are no longer tightly closed, but instead are unfurling, opening gently and slowly, revealing the luminous purity of the beautiful white petals within.
A sense of peace and pride is washing over me as I realise that everything needs nurturing, but more importantly, nurturing with consistency. We need it, our relationships need it, our children and even, a silly old plant.