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By Chris Rogers, editor, Winona Post


I used to treat houseplants like inanimate decorations. I had mild appreciation when others had them around and general disinterest in their lives or in having them myself. Now that plants are proliferating at home — mostly thanks to my better half, Andrea — and some at my desk, I find myself growing fond of all of these fronds, like my dad reluctantly falling in love with the puppy he argued against getting.

As a houseplant caretaker, however, I leave a little bit to be desired. I want to water my houseplants too much. They need water, right? Watering them is, essentially, the one thing I bring to the table as a caregiver. It’s the one thing I can do for them. But, when it comes to watering houseplants, there’s definitely such a thing as too much love. In fact, it seems like a leading cause of death for my houseplants. So I’ve developed a much more hands-off approach to plant parenting. They’ll wilt when they need me.

When I worked on a vegetable farm in Western Pennsylvania, I had a bit more of a green thumb, maybe thanks to the farmer’s oversight. Checking in on the little seedlings in the greenhouse was part of my daily routine. I saw their first slender leaves, called cotyledons, push up out of the soil, like a baby chick breaking its egg, and day-by-day watched their first true leaves unfold. Once they were large enough, we’d take them out of their incubator and plant them in the field to grow tall and strong and bear lots of fruit or leaves or roots, as the case might be. It might sound a little hippie-dippie — and I was at that time — but there was something reassuring about being intimately involved in the lifecycle of a different organism. It reminded me that humans aren’t alone in our desire to thrive.

A seed catalog came in the mail last weekend. It was in the single digits and my own frozen digits were starting to shoot sharp little daggers of pain up my arm as I fumbled with the keys trying to get inside when I noticed tropical streaks of purple, red, yellow, and green jutting out from my mailbox — eggplants and peppers on the catalog cover. No one orders catalogs, of course. They just show up. But the right catalog can be just as entertaining as any magazine. Here an image of summer’s ripeness and goals to daydream about showed up unannounced. I endured a second more of the cold to snatch up the seed mailer and bring it inside. Now, I’m pouring over the possibilities at the breakfast table — tomatoes in the garden and herbs in the kitchen window — and imagining how great I’ll be at watering all of them.