I don’t know if it’s the constant reminder of our collective mortality, the onslaught of another glorious New Orleans spring, or some weird freaky DNA thing where my grandfather is calling to me through the spiritual realm, but I’m really into plants these days. It’s a relatively new thing for me: most of my life I’ve considered myself squarely in the “black thumb” camp, one of those people who couldn’t seem to keep anything alive. Looking back, it seems so flaky and lazy to live such a way: plant care, after all, is hardly rocket science.
If I could offer one bit of unsolicited life advice, it would be to start with one plant and work on it, if you’re not already so inclined. It’s a cheap indulgence. A modest pothos can set you back about 10 to $20 and doesn’t require much more than weekly or bi-weekly watering and a little bit of sunlight. There’s also my current personal favorite, the “wandering Jew,” which as I type looks on in clustered purple-and-green-leaved brilliance. A good nursery will help those intimidated by the process. Harold’s in the Bywater is popular and a good resource, but for the more adventurous, I highly recommend Rose Garden Center in Marrero, just past the Harvey Tunnel. They happily answer my tons of questions and their stock is always vibrant and interesting.
A plant will tell you everything you need to know about your immediate environment, as well as offer practical parallels in your own human life. Plant not getting what it needs? Move it around, take it outside, prune the dead parts. No matter what your current life’s circumstances are, a well-tended plant can speak to you from the clutter—emotionally and physically—and say, hey: things are okay. I’m still growing. Conversely, a sickly plant is the proverbial canary in your own coal mine, a warning that your habitat is not healthy.
A plant is also a pet that you can tend to more sporadically. I talk to mine all the time, asking how they’re doing, sticking my finger in the soil to test the moisture, primping the leaves, and occasionally taking them on field trips to the backyard at the outset of a rainstorm to give them a good, heavenly soak. A little woo-woo for sure, but in these times when communing with nature can be regarded as suspect behavior, consider me a first-degree tree-hugging felon.
This issue heralds in the growing season and I hope you’ll find a good amount of sustenance in these pages (printed, yes, ironically on former trees). We’re all just walking plants, some of us well-fed and watered, strutting around; some of us slouching, malnourished, in need of a little TLC. The question for this month is: what do you need to thrive?