When most of us have attempted our luck with potted plants once too often, we tend to conclude that these plants are not what the shops would have us believe, nor what the books say about them. They have a will of their own with a determination to make or break your green thumb’s confidence at their whim. If you were ever led to believe that plants may be cosseted into doing what you fancy… think again. You need plenty of patience and time, a good handful of steady resolution and plenty of free space in which to store empty pots.
Let us consider the rose. Most people get given one in a pot at odd events during their lifetime. The dainty version sells most – a tiny affair in the tiniest pot imaginable but it boasts a firm and pretty soft pink rosebud beneath its fancy wrapper. You place it on a windowsill in some sun as the card attached to it recommends. And you water it just so, and pray the rosebud will blossom . It does nothing of the sort but proceeds to simply fall off. The rest of the plant withers within a few days and you are torn between telling whoever gave it to you that it died on you or silently burying it along with its wrapper.
It happens. You buy a new ‘delicate’ plant, treat it like it’s a newborn babe, and diligently ask all the right questions – where to sleep it, what to feed it, when to change its pot? You get sold a few odd items to help it on its way – some proper potting compost for when it’s outgrown its present nest, and some feed to nourish it and kept its blooms in place. You’re tempted into buying a little brother for it, as the man at the shop does seem to insist these plants enjoy growing up in little communities, but you resist the urge and politely ignore the advice.
And you introduce it into your home, cuddling and coddling it and showing it off. Each day you wake up and check it out dutifully. And then it starts reacting. The first leaf that falls off is blamed on the change of location. The second one? Perhaps you shouldn’t have watered it again. You allow the compost to run dry and by the fourth day you find it not only shed another two leaves… it seems to be vaguely off colour. Day five and it’s very visibly wilting. Perhaps it’s because you placed it next to the succulents. It’s not a succulent… move it out of the sun and give it some shade. You try, you hope and pray. By day six it sheds a bloom. Day seven – it sheds another and you call the nursery. They advise feeding it. You do. In a week’s time it’s burnt out and in serious trouble. By the end of the month it’s ailing miserably and you’ve already moved it from the garden to the courtyard to your front patio and back on a balcony. It’s been moved around so often that it’s lost its homing instinct and decides to disown you. By week eight you have a plastic pot of bare earth staring back at you and beseeching you to stack it up with the rest of your had-been trophies. You’ve run the whole gamut and are back to square one, frustrated and just a tat poorer at that.
If you’re not a green-finger person, you should be happy with plants which can be left to get on with life of their own accord and behave pretty well in the meantime. The trick is to stock up on whatever thrives with or without a green thumb, is practically idiot-proof and made to bear the odd knock on the head. Leave the pots in their saucers in summer and let them stand out of them in winter. Do not to feed as much as the bottle says you should and expect the unexpected. Armies of fledgling caterpillars are likely to trample a new stock of basil plantlets on your kitchen sill. If anything, it proves the basil is tasty enough to eat.
Allow your plants to warm to their little corner of the world and they will keep their promise to flower punctually each and every year. Resist the urge to move things around just to make your collection seem ‘prettier’. Plants would have roots in the ground if there wasn’t the pot to retain them in. You wouldn’t uproot shrubs or trees just to re-organise your garden every other week would you?
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