As I shove my zucchini pasta in my mouth and watch the clouds roll by on my balcony, I can’t help but notice my neighbor’s thriving Basil Plant. Upon further inspection, ALL of her plants were thriving.
“It wasn’t because she loved them,” I reasoned, “no one loved her plants as much as I do. And I’d NEVER seen her talking to them or caressing their leaves.”
The Arugula I’d been so proud of for shooting up so quickly never reached the fat peppery leaf stage, and instead skipped straight to the long and delicate white flower stage. The internet said I could eat the flowers, which I sometimes did while watering, but it never tasted the same as the arugula I bought from Lidl, the one that’s crammed into a plastic tray and then wrapped again in a sheet of plastic. My Tomatoes were forming nicely but the leaves, they seemed to be irritated; not enough water, too much water, bugs. Being a plant mom was somewhat intuitive, but mostly hit or miss.
I bragged about my Wildflowers to friends in the group chat, “guys, you’ll never guess what happened, my babies bloomed overnight!”
I talked to my Peace Lily when she hung her head after a hot day, “it’s ok babe, you thirsty? Let me get you some water,” and apologized to my Monstera when I misjudged the length of my peaceful warrior pose.
Once I ate Mushrooms (yes, those kinds of Mushrooms) alone at my house and spent most of the time watching my plants stretch out their limbs and then shrink back as if dancing to the music, “it’s like they’re putting on a show for me!” I grinned in delight.
So why, why then, did my planties look more punk rock than ivy league? Sure they had personality, but they’d never get asked to pose for Home & Gardens. My plants were happy, content even, but not thriving like my neighbor’s.
Which made me think….love is not enough.
It didn’t matter HOW much I doted on them, dressed them up in sparkly pots, or shared pictures of them on Instagram - until I had a system in place that supported every stage of their life, they’d probably continue to survive, but they’d likely never thrive.
Finally, my curiosity got the best of me and I peeked my head over the partition intended to separate my neighbor’s balcony from mine. Luckily she wasn’t cramming zucchini pasta in her face or watching the clouds roll by like I’d been doing a few moments before (she was from Australia and probably wouldn’t get my Wilson / Tim the Toolman Taylor joke thus making my trespassing even more awkward.) But that’s when I saw her nifty watering device. She had installed a skinny hose into each of her plant beds, which allowed the water to flow easily with a flip of a switch. I wouldn’t be surprised if the flow was also on a timer, making watering her babes that much easier.
At first, I was shocked and outraged, rationalizing that she was somehow cheating. “What kind of plant mother hooks her children up to tubes so that she can easily force-feed them?”
But then, I felt jealous. “How much did that cost? Probably an arm and a leg. I don’t have that kind of money.”
And then a lightbulb went off, if my plants had a system in place that supported their individual needs throughout every stage of their life…if they had proper nurturing, access to resources and mothers with deep pockets, they too, would be fit enough to win competitions, nourish others, and change lives.
Love is not enough
Some plants bode well with minimal care, like the Weeds growing through the cracks of my balcony’s laminate. But what about the Spicy Thai Basil or the Butter Lettuce I dragged home from the plant expo? Would my love be enough to sustain them? Maybe. But if they DID manage to make it past adolescence without getting caught in the criminal justice system, they’d still be statistically less likely to graduate college, buy their own house, and build wealth.