At Home with Growing Wild

I should probably be gathering numbers right now to give to my tax accountant, aka my husband. But today I am gathering thoughts instead, thoughts on the copious household dependents the IRS doesn’t care about: our potted plants.


Every autumn before the first bite of frost, my green-thumbed husband hauls and corrals an enormous horde of houseplants into our little house like a shepherd tending his flock. And moves them back outside on the deck when Spring blooms. Some of his ‘pets’ are quite large and heavy. They include a subset collection of homegrown bonsai with more complex needs. He takes on the back-ache of it all for the love of living side-by-side with living, changing things.


All year long, a motley collection of tiny vases and glass bottles stands in a row along our kitchen window, holding the roots of baby spider plants. And if but a single leaf of a jade plant falls to the floor, my husband will come to its rescue and place it gently on a protected surface until its air-roots appear and it can graduate into yet another pot or bowl of soil. Or terra cotta shard of soil. Or broken coffee mug of soil. I tease him, but I am charmed beyond measure by our mismatched sanctuary of small green worlds which host the small rocks from the tops of mountains I climb.



Houseplants offer us mutually-beneficial relationships. We give them sunshine and water, they clean our air and lift our mood—it’s a pretty good deal. Apparently jade plants are widely celebrated by Feng Shui practitioners for their positive vibes. And they bring good luck and prosperity to businesses. Hmm… well, if the propagation of plants, books, art supplies, and hiking gear is more of an indication than tax returns, I must be doing well.


I’ve taken the very existence of potted plants for granted, it seems. Many ancient civilizations put plants in pots, usually to adorn the courtyards of the rich and powerful. And then those pesky, enterprising Europeans sailed around the world taking all they could get, including a wealth of botanical specimens. In 17th century England, an agricultural expert by the name of Sir Hugh Platt wrote about the idea of indoor plant cultivation in his book The Garden of Eden. And lo, greenhouses and conservatories were born, to those who could afford them.


The blooming of our multi-billion dollar houseplant industry didn’t happen until the 20th century, thanks to home heating and lighting technologies. Houseplants need heat and sunlight of course since they are native to hot and sunny lands. Spider plants and jades came from southern Africa, aloes from the Arabian Peninsula, and Christmas cacti hail from Brazil, to name just a few.



I feel like a potted plant myself these days. Housebound and sitting by a window in winter, nursing a leg injury. A couple of weeks ago my friend and I braved the cold on the local trails to test out our gear overnight, part of our preparation for a Wyoming wilderness trek in September. It was an unseasonably warm day, but hammering tent stakes into frozen ground, let alone sleeping on it, was no joke. Neither was spraining my calf muscle due to overly-enthusiastic stomping on branches for firewood. I am forever learning from mistakes.


So here I am, planted, leg up, and mind wandering. Surrounded by various shades of wandering green. It occurs to me that just like with the jades, when pieces of me—aka my creative work—‘fall off’ my original vision, they just end up multiplying into a whole nursery of open-mouthed babies all vying for attention. Which compels me to give each of them a chance to make something of themselves. Composting any one of them just doesn’t feel like an option. Not yet. Not until they have actually died. My point is, maybe this is ok. Maybe while I scoff at myself for cultivating too many ideas, I can also choose to accept that this wild, unruly garden is what I might need, or at least appreciate while I walk, or limp, in its midst.


Climate science gives me pause with regard to my own stuff, alive or not, old and new. I feel responsible for all that has landed or grown in my home. Is it overly invasive and worth weeding out? Can I give it away responsibly, discard it, or welcome it onto our Island of Misfit Toys? As a maker, am I adding to the pile or changing the shape of the pile? Talk about sweating the small stuff. But if I am making it, I do. Is it the right stuff? Will it or should it last? Will it pay a little something forward, somehow? It feels right to ask these questions, but wrong to let this stop me from making anything at all. The journey, like the jungle I live in, sprouts and grows on.


Oh, and if anyone out there would like to adopt a well-loved, low-maintenance, lucky jade plant, PLEASE feel free to contact me.


More to come around the bend…

8 Responses to “At Home with Growing Wild

  • I can close my eyes and imagine myself in that lovely indoor jungle of yours. As many times as I have been in your home, something different always catches may eye – jade teardrop that has morphed into a mini tree or a painting I hadn’t noticed. I love the mystery! Your writing is as beautiful as you – inside and out! Xoxo BFF

    • Thank you for this very beautiful comment which means so much to me. Yay for mystery and noticing things! ??xoxox

  • I remember a forest of giant trees planted in Redwood Park, Surrey, BC, Canada, by twin brothers in 1893. We walked into this little forest and were immediately enveloped in wondrous silence. All extraneous sounds were absorbed by the giants. It was at times like then that I wished I could live for a couple of hundred years in order to witness the growth of trees like these! May you live as long as you wish. May the World last as long!

    • Ohh. YES. You are describing my feelings exactly when we took that hike among the giants of Northern California last year. Took my breath clear away… and words, too. I have yet to find enough of them to do the experience justice. Thanks for sharing yours. Hope for our world springs eternal in those silent spaces so rich with life. May enough of us learn that our future rests on our reverence for them.

  • A very enjoyable read! I will never take your “forest” of indoor plants for granted ever again! I didn’t realize that they moved in and out every year! I look forward to “around the bend…”

  • Anonymous
    4 years ago

    Another wonderful trek through your thoughtfully worded blog, providing nourishment for us all. Your house plants are well loved and cared for….no wonder they flourish and thrive! Thank you for sharing your insights, photos, and fascinating history of many of these plants. Immense love and gratitude from your Toronto family ??

    • Immense gratitude to you for the nourishment of your evergreen love and support. xox


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