Misadventures in gardening


I think of myself as being such a maternal person.

I show love for others through food, like your stereotypical Italian woman. I love animals so much, I gave up eating them. I practically beg to pet-sit for my friends: the network of kitties I call upon spans across East Van.

Going by my ability to care for plants though, you’d think I was dead inside.

I had a bustling forest of succulents at my old apartment. They died off under my watch, one-by-one. My caring touch and careful pruning couldn’t save them. The cactuses slowly lost their few blooms; the Haworthia fasciata wilted; the terrarium my partner gave me grew mouldy and died.


By the time I was ready to move apartments, it was a blessing—a chance to start with a blank slate. I gave my pathetic plants an improper burial by the side of my old apartment building. I vowed to do better in my future gardening pursuits.

“Next time will be different.” 

“Next time I’ll choose less temperamental plants.”

“Next time I’ll set notifications for watering.”

In my defence, I suspect fortune was not on my side. My old apartment’s windows weren’t correctly sealed, and desert flowers don’t fare so well in the cold. I shuffled about in sweaters and thick wool socks, but there were no such layers for my poor plants. Outside the leaves turned vibrants shades of red and orange, and inside my cactuses began to shrivel. Puffs of my breath floated for a hazy moment in my chilly bedroom, and the plants were doomed.




Some of my other gardening misadventures are purely my fault, though.

Most recently, I ventured into the realm of herbs. I thought I could handle it. I had been taking care of a spider plant I named Gertrude, with no incident. I was ready for more gardening. I was ready for cocktails with freshly muddled mint. Tacos flavoured with cilantro from the garden. Basil chopped up to garnish big bowls of pasta.

One sunny evening, I carried home four plants in a cardboard box. I was still a little tipsy from the pint of cider I’d enjoyed on a patio, when I lovingly potted my new prize plants. I sat down with my partner and we named our new roommates. The cilantro was named Cilvia Plath; basil was named Basil of Baker Street; the mint was called Marcia; and our yellow moon cactus was named Blondie. I even Instagrammed them, and threw eight hashtags on the post.

But Cilvia Plath, Marcia, and Basil of Baker Street were not long for this world. I first noticed that the mint seemed a wee bit wilted. I thought they needed more sunlight and fresh air, so I brought them outside to perk up. From there, it went downhill fast. The basil and cilantro quickly followed, becoming limp even as I moved them into more direct sunlight and watered them regularly.

Then I went to Tofino for a weekend. When I returned, I came home to pots full of dry, dead leaves. Where once there were my prize plants, now there was nary a mint leaf for a mojito.

To be honest, this abject failure can be quickly traced to my use of cactus potting soil. It was the dirt I had on hand, and a (very cursory) Google search made me think it wouldn’t be totally disastrous. I was wrong.

Blondie is still going strong, as is Gertrude. I’ve bought two air plants, which are also thriving. I have yet to name them though—it’s just too soon.

Gardening has been a good lesson in humility and tenacity. I’ve been wildly unsuccessful in my gardening adventures thus far. It doesn’t make me want to stop trying, though. I will master gardening, some day. It might take notifications, careful studying, and easing my way up from foolproof plants. Mark my words, though: as god is my witness, I will have fresh mint for my mojitos.

Do you struggle with gardening? What are your tips for a successful garden? 

Header image via Death to Stock

Image two by Daria, via StockSnap

Image three by Paul Filitchkin, via StockSnap

Image four by Chelsea Francis, via StockSnap

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