Thursday, June 17, 2010

Absolving my guilt, one gardenia blossom at a time

So my family has this nice tradition of planting things in honor of loved ones who've passed away. My mom's yard and grandparents' farm are full of them. This kind of symbolism really speaks to me ... where someone once lived, something else can live on in their honor. Touching and symbolic and loving and productive all at once. However, there's a big 'what if' involved with the decision to plant something in honor of a person.

What if you can't keep your honorary plant alive?!?!

As you've probably gathered by now, I've found myself in a bit of a predicament the past few months regarding a gardenia bush in my patio garden. Gardenias are one of my absolute favorite flowers, and I thought it'd be a beautiful choice to honor T's grandmother Barbara, who passed away a few months ago. It's a dwarf gardenia, actually - remember I'm doing container gardening out there, so it fits the setting. Here's the gardenia in the early days of the garden, in the lower right:

This plant was... troubled, from the start, really. The wind kept mangling it, and it didn't seem to get enough water no matter how often I watered it. For weeks, I was calling my mom in a panic about Barbara's gardenia dying.

And in a way, it's funny, right? A plant has a simple job, and you've given that simple job a lot of importance, so why the hell can't it buck up and do what it's supposed to do since it is living for someone else and all? But nooooo, the plant wants to make life difficult, and by taking its time to consider whether or not it will save your ass when you've already gone ahead and told everyone that it's Barbara's gardenia, it is pissing you the hell off. Which probably isn't the best way to nurture a plant to blossom, but whatever.

So when the Plant Whisperer arrived a couple of weeks ago, her priority was to mix some color into my herb and veggie bonanza, but my priority was for her to give the gardenia a thorough checkup. By that time, it had grown (although it's still comically misshapen) and had hard buds, but no blossoms. Of course, my mom and I both knew that her own huge gardenia bushes had been filling the air with their gorgeous scent for weeks now. My mom pronounced the plant in fair condition, and decided it might just need more room, so we switched it out for a bigger pot. Nothing really seemed different, though - the plant had done nothing for months, and my hopes were pretty dim.

Imagine me pre-coffee and pre-meds this morning (which means bleary-eyed, coughing, and sniffling), holding the watering can out on my patio and spilling some of the water while I sneezed. Post-sneeze, I open my eyes, dodge a cat jumping at a butterfly, and wonder if I am hallucinating. Because.... those aren't.... BLOSSOMS?!

Barbara's gardenia is alive and blooming?!

 It is!

So I'm thrilled over here, even more so because the plant is now covered in soft buds ready to open. And whew, I'm no longer accidentally cursing out of negligence a wonderful woman I wish I'd had more time with, nor am I a cursed granddaughter-in-law because of it. My relief is palpable. No more guilt, no more furious dwarf gardenia googling, no more desperate calls to the Plant Whisperer.

And one day soon, when my head isn't full of slime, I might even be able to smell these wondrous flowers!

Live on, Bar. And to the rest of you, please don't do this to yourself.


  1. Aww. Hooray!! That is exciting!

  2. Go Barbara, Go! (Or perhaps "Grow Barbara, Grow!)

    My aunt J - who, like me, is NOT a green-thumber - adopted my great-grandmother's ficus after she passed. MUCH angst has been felt over Gram's ficus, who we now just refer to as "Gram"... If J was out of town and a cold front came through, frantic calls to GET GRAM OUT OF THE COLD were made, etc, etc.

    A good 14 years later, Gram is still trucking along!

  3. Thank goodness for the plant whisperer! I think she needs to come over the mountain and see me and my new yard (along with her daughter of course). We can eat Benton's bacon, go look at folk art and letterpress, and play in my mama's studio. Pick wild blackberries and blueberries and make cobblers. . . Am I enticing you yet?

  4. my brother-in-law once planted a bush and named it after me. it was supposed to turn bright red (i have reddish hair). except that it died within, like, a month.

    i'm still not over it. (hello! he killed me!)

    but your gardenias look nice!

  5. There's nothing quite like the smell of a gardenia...

  6. Ok, so when is the plant whisperer coming to town? Next time we totally need to bring her over to my place so she can take a look at my roses and butterfly bush. Both are in need of some serious help!

  7. I don't know about my daughter, but sign me up. Mention the words folk art and gardening and I am there! Bacon and cobbler just add to the enticement.

    The Plant Whisper (AKA MOM, SUSAN)

  8. I name plants in honor of people or events as well, though I've killed every single last one of them. Except the cactus! God love the indestructible plants of the desert! By the way your container garden is gorgeous and I'm beyond jealous!

  9. JUST NOW I was looking for info on why gardenia blossoms would come out the size of a fifty cent piece like mine are and after reading this lovely article I might try transplanting it into a bigger container like the plant whisperer said...and no, I'm afraid to name if after anyone...


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