I always see homes filled with plants on Instagram and renovation shows and sigh longingly. My mom is a great gardener (my dad, too) so I grew up surrounded by indoor plants and a lush backyard garden.
As for me? I kill succulents. I either give them too much attention, or not enough. Nick is in charge of the few remaining survivors who now live outside on our balcony.
This summer my best friend and I took a trip to Asheville and spent a day at the Biltmore. My favorite part was the conservatory.
If you’ve ever played the board game Clue you know this is the place where all the indoor plants live. At the Biltmore there is a model train running around the tall glass structure and through the thick vegetation.
Standing there in a real life conservatory reminded me of another moment I had amidst the plants years ago.
When I was in college I helped lead a group of students to Costa Rica for a service learning trip. One night our host took us on a hike through the rainforest. We were each equipped with a flashlight and pointed out various frogs, insects and many, many plants to one another. Eventually we got deep into the forest and he had us turn off our lights and our mouths and just listen.
The air around us was thick with life we could no longer see. Plants and creatures rustled and breathed and I was overwhelmed with wonder at creation.
Too soon we turned our lights back on and tramped our way out of the forest and into an open field where we turned off our lights again and gazed at the stars.
There is something so peaceful about being in nature.
I may never have a conservatory or a team of gardeners the way the Biltmore does, and I may never again get to stand in a pitch black rainforest just listening, but I can learn to care for a few plants and cultivate more life and joy and peace within my home. So I am.
I learned a new word yesterday: verdant. “Green with grass or other rich vegetation.”
Nick used it to describe our kitchen which is where my new plants live.
Al, the aloe plant Nick has had for years (he has carried it back and forth across the country during numerous moves) put off two pups which I repotted and named Allie and…well, now that I think about it, I only named one. (Any suggestions of names for the other?) So far, they are doing well in my care.
A couple of Saturdays ago Nick and I spent the afternoon at nurseries around town. (I am in fact turning into my parents—I used to HATE spending Saturdays looking at plants, now I just feel happy and nostalgic taking up one of their favorite past times.)
I wanted ferns. We researched as we browsed to find varieties that aren’t poisonous to dogs (Britt loves to taste plants—we’ve already been to the emergency vet because of this habit too many times in her short life).
Eventually we found my perfect match: two praying plants, and a fern.
I also found three pots made of a grayish clay and had to have those too.
These new additions of our family live in the kitchen and they are thriving.
I’m having a really good time paying attention to their soil and leaves and adjusting my care regiment.
I got good instructions from the gardeners where we bought them and am getting to know what my particular plants need in their new environment. Each type of plant requires something different from me.
And they are paying me back tenfold. I feel so calm and happy when I glance up at them while chopping veggies or when I nestle my laptop amongst their leaves and answer emails from their shelf.
The prayer plants are especially fun to watch. This colloquial name actually comes from their tendency to fold up and down throughout the day like hands in prayer; they move a lot.
I’ve always felt close to God in nature and caring for these plants, and enjoying them as I do, reminds me of the ways God cares for and enjoys me.
I also like the way they move throughout the day, adjusting to the sun.
Isn’t that our invitation, too? To turn toward God throughout the day? I think so.
Watching them reminds me to take a few breaths and turn my attention toward the one who created (and is actually sustaining) my new little plants.