I’m not very good with house plants. I have an uncanny knack of killing them off, sooner or later. Only a small cactus and an (unflowering) orchid have survived my care.
So when I collected the large white pot with its papery desiccated bulb in long dried out compost from my dad’s flat, I’m not sure why I took it home rather than threw it in the bin.
My parents were keen gardeners and my mother had inherited my grandmother’s love of house plants. The latter’s room in the house I grew up in had every surface covered in spider plants and African Violets that she propagated herself. My mother filled the window sills of their little flat with similar and masses of indoor bulbs.
But after she died, my father’s increasing dementia stopped him remembering to water any of the pots. Poor mobility reduced his number of trips to the kitchen anyway and his carers’ duties didn’t include plant care. Over the three years since her death, all my mother’s house plants died.
This pot was the last. With little hope, I gave the earth a good soak and left it by the bathroom window. I would allow it a month or two and then throw it out, planning to recycle the pot outdoors in the garden.
Then a small miracle began to happen.
The tiniest of triangles, only a millimetre or two high, of lime green appeared near the apex of the bulb. Lifting the pot carefully to the sink tap to water it regularly now, whenever the compost felt dry, I watched it increase in size until the triangle became an actual shoot. It seemed to grow daily, a stalk thicker than my thumb. Each day, the top reaches towards the frosted light from outside, so each day, I turn the pot 180 degrees to keep the plant straight. It’s taller than the main window pane now, over 2 feet high, stretching up as if trying to escape through the ventilator.
A pregnant bud has formed and is gradually pulling apart to reveal what’s inside. At first it seemed to be in two parts, today it’s three. I wonder if that’s three different parts of the flower or three different blooms. Please don’t tell me if you know – I want to be surprised.
I could have waited for the flower to appear before I wrote this but that would have been a post about a different blessing.
What excites me about this plant isn’t just the gratitude that I haven’t killed it. There’s something about it that speaks to me of promise, of hope, of growth, that are valuable, essential even, in themselves.
My Enneagram personality type is a perfectionist. That can be a good thing in terms of striving towards high ideals but it too easily leads to inflexibility and judgementalism. It’s more helpful for me to think and define things in terms of growth than black or white, right or wrong. The recent Resilience training I did similarly advocated an approach of considering development instead of absolutes.
This plant reminds me of these truths. It is a sign of hope for my own growth and development. In this Easter season, it’s a sign of resurrection. And it’s a reminder of my mother and the legacy she has left me.
You see, this year will be the first time it’s bloomed since she died.