Spring, the season of new growth, is upon us. I really hope this is the year my beloved houseplant decides to thrive.

For many years, I did not own any plants, primarily because I have a spotty history with things that grow in dirt.

For example, I get no respect from grass. Every year, I mow the lawn and those defiant blades grow right back in a matter of weeks.

And then there was my disastrous foray into the world of gardening. When my sons were young, some of the parents of their friends were very much into gardening. Since they were quite competitive about the activity, I got sucked into planting a garden one spring. I had no doubt I could create the largest, most beautiful plot in the neighborhood.

Unfortunately, before long, I learned gardening was buggy and dirty; and when you got done, all you had to show for your suffering were vegetables, which I really don’t like. My effort to maintain the garden lasted four grueling days, and then I waved the white flag and returned to my own version of vegetable consumption, which consists of candy corn, potato chips and carrot cake.

While I didn’t like the effort of gardening or the end product, I did like the idea of a living, growing plant in the house photosynthesizing and purifying the air. It crossed my mind that, as an added bonus, a plant might end up serving as my botanical buddy, giving me company on those lonely nights on the homestead.

One day I was at work and noticed a beautiful, healthy-looking plant on a friend’s desk. When I commented on my co-worker’s obvious green thumb, she said the plant was extremely low-maintenance. The woman proceeded to cut off a piece of the shrub and give it to me. “Just water it and watch it grow!” she said. That was seven years ago. While I didn’t expect Jack and the Beanstalk magic bean “reach to the clouds” results, I thought the plant might gain some visible size and expand slightly. However, I’m still waiting for the dang thing to grow.

I feel like I’ve done my part to be a nurturing plant owner. I gave my green-leafed guest the name Fern, put her in soil in a nice clay holder, and cleared a spot on the mantle for her to sit. She has plenty of sunlight and I water her regularly. But Fern remains aloof and has never really taken to being my roommate.

A couple years ago, I had to go away for five weeks on a business trip. I asked my son, Matt, to watch the house. When I returned, Fern hung over the side of her pot, completely shriveled and limp. I was convinced her distress was due to the fact she missed me. Matt explained it was more likely she missed hydration, since he forgot to water her the entire time I was gone.

After profusely apologizing to my green friend, flooding her pot with H2O, and bringing her back to life, I was determined to find a way to help Fern flourish.

Recently, it occurred to me I might have an unhappy plant. Perhaps she needed more human interaction. I started a campaign of doing something with Fern every day. I took her for walks around the house and gave her rides in the car when I ran errands. We even watched movies together. I told Fern my problems and offered to listen to hers. Still no growth.

I decided to consult a website called Gardenista.com for pointers on making houseplants happy. The first suggestion was to give your plant plenty of sunshine, which I was already doing. Suggestion two was to mist your plant. I mist my plant when I was on my trip, and this didn’t seem to make her happy or experience a growth spurt. The third suggestion was unique and worth a try. It recommended you bathe your houseplant. So, I took Fern in the shower with me. I’m not going to lie to you, it was a bit awkward at first. Fortunately, I found a good-sized piece of iceberg lettuce which I strategically affixed to a certain area of my lower torso to maintain modesty. Still no plant growth.

The final tip Gardenista.com offered was to play music for your plant. I went through my CD collection and found what I felt was appropriate music for Fern. I played some Robert Plant, the Raspberries, Blind Melon, Black-eyed Peas, and the Roots. Despite the tunes, no changes in my roommate were noted.

I haven’t given up yet. I’m thinking of putting Fern in the back of my refrigerator for a while. That seems to be the place where stuff likes to grow …

Mark S. Albury lives in Northfield Falls.

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