Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I killed a mum and I liked it

Ok, I didn't like the actual killing, but I really did like the mum I accidentally murdered -- a purple, $7 plant from Home Depot billed as hardy until it had the great misfortune to fall into my less-than-green hands.

Yes, that's right. I killed a hardy mum. HARDY. As in, HARD TO KILL.

I don't know where I went wrong. Did I break the roots while repotting? Was it in too much sunlight? Was it when I forgot to water it (for a whole week)((oops))? Wasn't my love enough to sustain it???

No matter the cause, the effect is the same: botanical homicide. I should draw a chalk outline around the pot where the brown corpse sits right outside our front door. (Subtext for visitors: Welcome to Julia's house -- you're all gonna die!)

This horrific outcome is anathema to my earth mother heart. I want everything I touch to flourish. Be it child, friend, plant, or tasty side dish, I want to know that my being a part of this object's life makes a little stronger, a little brighter.

But, as the mum used to be able to can attest, it doesn't always work out that way. And I especially lose confidence with Roomie J around to build confidence. He needs only to look at a seed and it bursts into full bloom.

So I ask, mum so scary, quite contrary, how will my green thumb grow? Let's look at the growth chart so far:

1. Grade school Julia makes a terrarium. Correction: Grade school Julia's mother makes a terrarium, grade school Julia brings it into the school. Terrarium soon molds.

2. High school Julia accidentally runs over the landscaping in her car at her parents' home. Expected outcome for planting beds along the driveway edges.

3. College Julia doesn't grow anything in Syracuse. In fact, NOTHING grows in Syracuse. Ever. Except apples.

4. First job Julia wins an heirloom tomato contest at work. (Try Brandywines -- they're amazing.) The success is legitimate and hard-won. Previous plant deaths conveniently forgotten, first job Julia assumes she is master of God's green earth.

5. DC Julia kills a mum.

Hmm. This does not look promising.

Still, I have hope. Gardening is a learned behavior, so like any good student I will set out to learn it. After all, Andrea of Andrea's Recipes (whom I had the pleasure of meeting just last week at BlogHer) admitted to The Washington Post -- the POST -- that she's "inadvertently killed hundreds of plants in my quest to grow our own herbs, vegetables and fruits."

And now she's famous with a yummy blog and lots of culinary/herbal/grow your own street cred. That DOES look promising.

Yes, I know hope and wishes and regret and dedication won't bring my falsely advertised mum back from the dead. But if these same good intentions can keep future plants from similar fates, then I'm already one step further on the road to horticultural salvation.

In the meantime, the mum will have in death what it never had in life: recognition as household decoration. That's because we're covering it with spiderwebs for Halloween. I think it's appropriate.

Strange epilogue: I wanted to take a picture of the emaciated mum for you, but it's very late right now, and you wouldn't see it anyway, and it's cold. So I didn't. But I did take a whole 15 seconds to try to find a picture of a dead mum plant online. What I got was a series of disturbing references to deceased mothers (human and animal alike) and one of Robert Plant keeping mum. And that, children, is why there are no pictures in this post.


  1. Funny post! I feel your pain. I bought four mums this year and two of them look like they are on the verge of death. No idea why I can't keep flowers alive, except for bulbs. Bulbs work for me, anything else is sketchy.

  2. I have had five, that's right FIVE, pots of mums in my possession this year. Three died horrible deaths within a week and a half of me bringing them home from Trader Joe's. That's OK, at least I have two mums left, I thought. One here and one here and its perfectly proportional, I thought. Then this weekend one mysteriously disappeared from my porch. Yesterday, I came home from work to find the second one snagged as well. My only two non-dead mums, STOLEN. WHO STEALS MUMS OF OF PEOPLE'S PORCHES? I don't know. But I demand justice.

  3. Anonymous5:52 PM

    Mums have a short pot life because their potters have learned of planned obselescence. The potting soil is mostly tree bark,peat moss and a little soil plus enough nitrogen to keep them alive for a few weeks. They must be watered often to get the nutrients from the nitrogen. This type potting soil does not hold moisture very well. I think you should plead not guilty to murder, but to being victim of one of the latest rip-offs.

  4. Anonymous10:03 PM

    Oooh. I like anonymous. Makes me feel much less responsilble for all the botanical carnage i've experienced over my many years of attempted gardening! Have faith, Julia, once in a while something catches and is a thing of beauty. I guess we wouldn't appreciate the successes if everything flourished equally.
    Love, Mom