Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Tending a Christmas garden

Grandma Shelby's garden was always beautiful. Full of flowers. Roses. Always roses. No matter if she lived in the city or at the beach, everywhere she lived, she tended her garden.

When I was young, Mama assigned each of us a corner of the yard to garden. I learned which plants were weeds and which were not. But as I've grown older, I've come to learn that growing plants takes a lot more than making sure they don't get choked out by the weeds.

Houseplants have been a bit of a challenge. Water too much and they wilt and yellow. Don't water enough and they wilt and brown. I've killed off a number of houseplants for lack of knowledge and attention. 

Four and half years ago, I became the caretaker of the office plants when I started working at the firm. Some way, some how, nothing has died . . . yet (knock on wood). There have been touch-and-go moments with a few of the plants, including a wayward palm tree in a room with low ceiling clearance (it was starting to look like a jungle before I "accidentally" broke a few limbs). But so far, I've managed to keep everything growing, if feebly. I even took my own African violet into the office and managed to get it to bloom with a regular regimen of food and water.    

For the last four Decembers, I have been the recipient of half a dozen poinsettias. December in a family law firm is either really busy or really slow depending upon the day. Either people can't stand the idea of another holiday with their family, or they try to tough it out until January. You never know what the day will bring. But in December, on top of my other legal duties, I must tend to the poinsettias, and figure out a way to keep them alive until Christmas Day. 

They arrive wrapped in plastic. I unwrap them and marvel at their splendor. They are large. They come each year, two by two, red, white and pink. It is the one time of the year the office is full of color. I arrange them everywhere. All six of them. It feels like a floral shop (or maybe a funeral home). Flowers are everywhere in the small office. 

After they arrive, I head to the back room and pull out the Christmas tree. It's artificial, and I spend a good 20 minutes wrestling it to get it to stand up straight. I fluff and arrange the branches, as best as the old tree will let me. Then I spend another 20 minutes hanging ornaments while Bing sings "White Christmas" over Pandora radio. I end up placing at least two plants under the tree in place of presents. And clients ask if the flowers are for them. 

Inevitably, after a day or two the flowers lose their petals, their leaves, and I am left trying to resuscitate them in a cold water soak in the bathroom down the hall. So far, it's always worked. But they never look as splendid and as full as the day I unwrapped them. Every year I vow to do better. 

My six matching poinsettias arrived yesterday. Everywhere I turn, I see them in their gold foil wrapped pots. My fingers are crossed that I can balance their watering just right. It's not an easy task, keeping plants alive. But come Christmas Day when my bosses take the flowers home for their families to enjoy, I know it's all worth it. 

Have you ever been tasked with keeping poinsettias alive? Got any tried and true tips for me? 


  1. So pretty Miz Shelby! Please come to my house and help me decorate. I could use your special care :)

    1. If I head over the mountain, I'll certainly let you know!