Hope & Houseplants

Hope & Houseplants | FishwifeWrites |Tyler-Rose Counts

There’s very little plant magic in my family.

Family lore has it that my great-grandmother kept a beautiful garden. If it’s true, she certainly let those skills die with her.

So, I grew up in a house that had no plants in it, with a garden we mostly left to itself. You see, leaving it alone was far safer than endangering its existence by our meddling. Look at it the wrong way and the whole thing was liable to go up in flames.

There was a small bit we carefully pulled the enterprising dandelions out of, but the rest thrived or died as it could without any human interference beyond children’s feet as my brother and I galloped to Narnia on talking horses.

Now and then we’ve attempted a houseplant since then. They mostly lived short, but hopeful lives before pining away for reasons unknown.

My husband, on the other hand, knows about plants. He’s not afraid of them and can actually tell you helpful things like what the numbers on the front of fertilizer bags mean. I’d never hoped to be inducted into such mysteries.

One day on a trip to the local hardware store, he caught me nervously handling a small houseplant–a tiny basil plant, just putting out a few new leaves, bright green and fragrant.

“Why don’t you get it?” he suggested.

“Because I’m cursed! I’ll kill it. I’m just a bad plant parent. It will live a better life here in the store. What if we buy it and then it dies?”

He shrugged. “Then we’ll buy another and you can begin again.”

My basil plant lived a short but glorious life, before succumbing to a fatal basil fungus that–I maintain–was not my fault.

It died and, I found, everything was still alright. I began again with another plant in another window.

It strikes me that artistic works-in-progress and houseplants have something in common:

We start with nothing, just a seed of an idea and we raise it up with care and hope into something beautiful. While we can do our best for them, we can’t always control how they live or die.

They might flourish or just whither suddenly as the spring of inspiration dries up. Maybe they didn’t grow deep enough roots or perhaps they were getting the wrong amount of sunlight or you forgot to water it as much as it wanted to be watered. Perhaps you didn’t do your research or there wasn’t enough plot to support your idea.


No matter how much you loved it, it wasn’t a pet or a child. It wasn’t something irreplaceable. There are more basil plants in the world and you can always write another story. Maybe this one didn’t work out but–with care, hope, and a little love–perhaps the next one will.

So don’t give up.

Instead, rejoice in the forgiveness of the universe and . . . begin again.

10 Replies to “Hope & Houseplants”

  1. Laurel Gentry Counts says: Reply

    Just last night, Mom was showing me all her plants about to bloom. I said, “it’s too bad your mother forced you to pull so many weeds, you didn’t want to garden again until your 70’s, because I never learned plants with you. I learned sewing, knitting, embroidering, cooking, and so many of the crafty arts, but nothing about plants…” And she said, yes, she enjoyed them now but it had taken a loooong time. I’m glad you are reviving plants in the family. Although I also love your the image of them growing undisturbed except by children’s feet on their way to Narnia… that’s lovely.

    1. Maybe if Nic encourages me for a few more years, I’ll actually get good at it 🙂

  2. You have learned a good lesson at a nice young age. I have had so, so many plants come and go now in my 46 ! years of gardening in many different places, and and it took me a long time to realize that there will likely be another spring, summer, and so on, it is natural for plants to die (especially a basil plant, which you’ve pictured, which is typically very tentative), and it’s good to go with the plants that do well with benign neglect. If they are happy where they are growing, they will grow! And if they aren’t happy, it can take way too much effort to figure out why, and try to create a sort of falsely favorable environment, and still watch them die.

    God bless your gardens and every little plant for as long as it lives 🙂 Have fun!

    1. Yes, ‘tentative’ is a perfect way to describe all my attempts at basil plants. I have a sage plant that seems very hardy. Too bad I’ll have to leave it soon. Can’t really take my plants with me to Alaska, can I? :/

  3. Hmmm… that is a good question! People do often carry plants on their journeys. Maybe you could have a special plant like that sage that travels back and forth with you. It would need careful packing such as the mail-order nurseries do, that makes it possible to transport plants with their roots and foliage and a little dirt and/or moss.

    Or it might be more fun to visit a nursery as soon as you get to Alaska and find a plant to nurture there 🙂 as you nurture your plant-love. <3

    1. Yes, there’s a nice nursery in Kodiak that I like to go adopt new plant pets from 🙂

  4. Oh my, I just read a quote for you:

    “If you are not killing plants, you are not really stretching yourself as a gardener.”
    – J. C. Raulston

    hee hee

    1. Oh, I really like that!

  5. Hi 🙂

    1. Hi, Susan-Friend 🙂

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