Monday, August 18, 2014

I know where I’ll be planted, but what about my plants…

I don’t have the green thumb that my mother had – Liz was a complete and utter plant lady. But I don’t have a gangrenous black thumb, either. If I had to characterize my thumb, I’d say it’s grayish-green. Or greenish gray.

While I was plant-free for quite a long while, I now have several plants that seem to be thriving on the kitchen windowsill.

Two are them were sent to me shortly after my husband died, the other – an oxalis – I had at the church where Jim’s memorial service was held. That was right after St. Patrick’s Day, and an oxalis looks like a shamrock, only a bit jacked up, so the florist recommended it when I asked for a shamrock.

The oxalis is the one plant I’d really like to hang on to, but if it goes, it goes.

And if when I go, and the oxalis is still with us, well, I actually haven’t given much thought to who gets it. Make that any thought. If it ends up in the trash, well, so be it. (I’ll probably stick to my guns on this. Unless, that is, we find out that plants have some level of sentience that has so far gone undiscovered. In that case, I guess I’ll have to make provisions. Afer all, I’ve grown rather fond of that oxalis in an inanimate, no exchange of emotion kind of way.)

Some folks, however, have developed true relationships with their fine potted friends.

Pittsburgh’s Ronna Scoratow – une dame d’un certain age, i.e., mine – is one of them.

She’s had her dearly beloved plant for over 40 years, even longer than I had my dearly beloved husband. Her plant is a 7-foot-tall lacy tree philodendron.

Ms. Scoratow has no children. Her siblings don't share her enthusiasm for indoor greenery. So last year she put a provision in her will granting $5,000 for a friend to use in caring for the plant. "It was interesting," her lawyer, James Wood, said when asked about that provision. "I've done provisions for pets but never a plant." (Source: WSJ Online)

As plants go, I do get how one could grow attached to a philodendron, since they have a tendency to get attached to whatever they’re around, twirling their tendrils around.

Personally, I’d rather have the more contained coleus or sansevieria. You get your greenery, and you don’t have to worry about it wrapping its metaphorical arm around you and getting you in a chokehold, as I can imagine a philodendron might be tempted to do. Especially if, in fact, plants are as sentient as we may well find out they are.

Whether they’re proven to be sentient or not, many plants apparently do know something we don’t.

Some plants live for centuries. A giant cycad has thrived in London's Kew Gardens for nearly 240 years….Bonsai trees are famous for lasting centuries. The National Arboretum has one more than 400 years old.

So while your plant I not likely to survive to infinity and beyond, it may well outlive you, as Ms. Scoratow believes that hers will.

The money set aside in her will isn’t the only amount that she has spent on her plant. In addition to its regular care and feeding – a bit of water, an occasional sprinkle of plant food, the odd re-potting event – she paid movers $370 to move her plant when she changed locations last year.

Would I have moved a plant?


If it were going to set me back $370?

Well, maybe not.

By the way, Ms. Scoratow’s posthumous plant caring doesn’t extend beyond the philodendron.

She hasn't made long-term provisions for her other plants. "I don't have the same love with them. I don't know how to explain it. I don't want to be cold or anything." The others are smaller and easier to move, so she hopes someone will take them when the time comes. Her philodendron is special, Ms. Scoratow says, because "I've had that one the longest."

Even if her concern is limited to her one special plant friend, Scoratow is not alone. A Maryland couple interviewed in the article has a ponytail palm that they’re rather fond of.

They call it Gordon, after a friend who swapped it to Ms. [Karen] Upton 37 years ago for a Porsche steering wheel…Eventually, though, the Uptons may grow too frail to care for the palm. Mr. [Christopher] Upton, 62, said their exit strategy might be to take Gordon down to Florida and "set him free" outdoors..


I seem to be detecting a pattern. An understandable pattern.

As the old memento mori starts to click in when you’re in your sixties, and folks start giving some thought to where they’ll be planted, it’s no surprise that they start thinking about what’s going to happen to the things they’ll leave behind. Plants included.

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