House plants are so hot right now. Just look at the plantfluencers propagating Instagram complete with #monsteramonday (#flytrapfriday still isn’t a thing).
We’ve got this 1970’s return-to-nature vibe going on and it’s not hard to see why. Millennials renting inner-city flats you can’t swing a cat in; the terrifying deforestation of the earth leading to mass extinction (thanks to David A. for that little wake-up call).
If that’s not enough to make someone go out and buy a philodendron, I don’t know what is.
Which is exactly what I did.
I didn’t have any existential motivations, I just wanted to be a person who could keep a plant alive. Which I have not succeeded in thus far.
I impulse-bought a tiny succulent at Bunnings once (#YOLO) for the bathroom and was convinced it would stay alive from ‘shower steam’.
So the philodendron came home with a freshly minted determination to keep it alive. It hangs in its little black pot from the kitchen curtain rail overlooking the garden.
I love this plant so much, I don’t know why. It’s a climber. I envisage it creeping up its support wires and around the curtain rail, framing the window in lush green tendrils.
I water and watch it every day, silently willing it to grow.
I bought a home compost system which not only allows me to feel smug about composting, it also provides a viscous yellow liquid on tap which the philodendron absolutely loves (‘compost wee’, I call it).
I used to think of plants as just decorative. I’d do the bare minimum to keep them alive and it was kind of a drag.
But since Covid-lockdown started years ago in March, I’ve had the time and the energy to invest in plants.
Every day, I examine them. A little growth; a spot on a leaf. Nothing that can’t be solved by Dr Google.
My house feels more like a home; a port my family can pull into every night to rest. No longer a place which is just a stopover on the way to somewhere more interesting.
It’s a place to grow and flourish. I even bought an electric diffuser which emits redolent eucalyptus (because, aromatherapy, you guys).
Home is a living organism which I cultivate, not an incidental space I inhabit.
Cultivating a plant reminds us that cultivating anything takes not only time but our attention: relationships, self-development, faith and education.
As John Lennon said, ‘love is like a precious plant. You can’t just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it’s going to get on by itself. You’ve got to keep watering it. Your attention and nurture towards it determine whether it survives and thrives or dies. Plants show us how to be, how to treat ourselves and how to treat others.’
A plant compels us to pay attention; in the ruckus of modern life in which our attention is bought and sold by faceless corporations. It’s the remedy to instant-fix everything, which forces us to slow down and be patient.
With the cacophony of terrible news rumbling in from every corner of the globe, my philodendron sits quietly, patiently, waiting to be fed.
As I silently will it to grow, grow.
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