We’ve been together for, what, three years now, some of us? You are therefore probably aware that while I’m great with animals, anything that photosynthesizes is doomed to a tragic and baffling end if left in my care.
If you’re new, or were not otherwise aware… well, yeah. I kill plants.
Yes, even grass.*
I lucked into a beautiful garden when we bought this house, and our neighbors have watched, with slowly dawning horror, as it decays rapidly despite my best efforts. In fact, it seems to do better the less time I spend out there touching things.
I swear, I once killed a plant just by choosing it at the garden center.
So you understand why it was that, one spring day a year and a half ago, when I was having an acknowledged terrible day – seriously, everyone agreed this was probably the worst it could get, and I needed some serious bucking up – answering the door to find that one of my favorite couples was on my doorstep with a gift wasn’t especially good news. The gift, you see, that they marched so carefully past the brown spots on my lawn** was a plant.
Not just any plant: an orchid. Very pretty, but notoriously difficult to please. People build entire goddamned rooms to make orchids happy, and still maybe end up with zero living, blooming orchids.
So I smiled, and thanked them, and wondered privately just what the hell they were thinking, and tried to ignore the tiny plant screams of this beautiful flowering thing as it begged not to be left alone with a woman who had already murdered great patches of lawn, for fuck’s sake.
Then I brought it inside and called the friend who has known me the longest and, while eyeballing this thing on my desk suspiciously, told her what had happened
ME: I know, right?
ALEXIS: Do they know you? I mean, have they met you?
ALEXIS: I mean, if it’d been a puppy…
ME: You know how I feel about giving pets as gifts.
ALEXIS: Yeah, but still… or a turtle, maybe?
ME: I’ve always wanted a turtle. But still.
ALEXIS: Poor thing. How long do you think it’s got?
ME: Hard to say. They’re kind of famous for dying, right?
ME: So… hours, maybe? I’ll look online.
So I quickly named it Clara, in the hopes that it wouldn’t die before I had a chance to learn all the things I’d end up doing that would kill it.
Things orchids need:
- Water. Tons of it
- But not too much, you know?
- You’ve got to keep the roots moist. This will be an interesting project, because it’s going to continue to grow roots above and below the “ground”
- A nice, humid environment. Basically, the opposite of my house, where I keep a dehumidifier running year-round and have a whole-house system besides. And still occasionally have a fire going, to dry things out for me, because I am a desert breed.
- Sunlight, lots of it
- Oh, but not direct sunlight. Whatever the fuck that means.
- Oh, and only specific types. You really should invest in a light meter to keep your orchid happy.
- Actually, there’s an optimal range, with the amount of light never peaking over a certain reading, and they need that consistently for many hours every day. So, no winter. Please remember that I live in the Great Frozen North.
- Special Orchid Food.
- Special little pots
- Special growing medium, because they can’t handle dirt.
- I am not kidding. It’s a plant that doesn’t like dirt.
- Special orchid clips, for holding the stalks up. Because this plant evolved too precious to stand up on its own. Yet another thing I am not making up – wild orchids live their whole lives propped up against trees and bigger plants. Or they just lay down and look sad. The internet was unclear, since apparently even in the wild orchids don’t do so good.
- If you want it to flower again, you may need to get some gross white goo that basically convinces the plant it just had sex. I don’t know, a botanist explained it to me and I still don’t get it, but it was really gross.
Here’s the thing: ordinarily, when a plant enters my sphere of influence, I accept that it will probably die even as I do my very best for it. Because, you know, windmills. But this was a gift from two really good-hearted people who wanted only to make one of the worst days of my life a little brighter, and as I researched and asked questions of my non-plant-killing friends (who all said “good luck!”) it dawned on me that if anything happened to Clara, it would basically send the message that I don’t care about the lovely gift these two people gave me and, by extension, that I don’t care about them.
Yeah, I’ve got some emotional baggage surrounding gifts. But still!
So I became frantic, and ran out and bought only the best things for Clara, and read about them, and borrowed a botanist’s light meter so I could find the ideal spot in my house for her to sit in her little bin.
Yes, bin. We quickly discovered that she was getting “strangled” (seriously, fucking orchids) in her original pot and needed a new home. So I ran out and bought her something bigger, and better, and you know what?
She’s still with me, wonder of wonders.
This thing has to be misted daily in the winter, when she moves to her Winter Home above a heating vent in the breakfast room (otherwise she gets all sad and droopy) but only once or twice a week the rest of the year… because apparently she likes it as dry as I do? And she’s thriving.
I’ve got an Impossible Orchid.
Wow, that was a 957 word backstory. Still with me? Good, because there’s a penis ahead, and I’d hate for you to miss it.
ME: Honey, look at this new little vine.
HIM: Yeah… is that going to be a new stalk?
ME: No, that’s a vine. They’re her roots. She puts them on top of the ground, remember?
HIM: Fine… what about it?
ME: Doesn’t it look like a penis?
HIM: (glares) NO.
ME: I mean –
HIM: If you think that looks like a penis –
ME: Not to scale, obviously!
HIM: (shakes head) If you think that’s what a penis looks like, we need to take you upstairs and sort you out.
ME: N – well, okay, yeah, but… seriously!
HIM: (taking my hand) come on…
Now, I could have waited until you were available for confirmation, but I’m not known for my patience, am I? So, naturally, I waited until the next day, when Offspring was available for consultation.
ME: Offspring, come here
OFFSPRING: (put-upon sigh) What?
ME: (pointing) Look at that. What does that look like to you?
OFFSPRING: Besides a tiny penis?
ME: (triumphant glare at Husband)
See? All I need out of life is to be constantly proven – and acknowledged – right.
That, and your eternal adoration.
* Seriously, there was a picture of a dandelion on the bottle. To me that says “hey, spray this shit on your dandelions to get rid of them!”
** You know what? I’m not going to talk about them again. Seriously, you make one tiny mistake and people keep bringing it up!