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Welcome to the (Domestic and Quite Tranquil) Jungle

Mar. 31, 2022 at 12:30PM

[Editor’s note: This article was original published Mar 14, 2018]

Parents have a way of making anything seem unappealing. They do it by saying you have to do it. As a child and especially as a young adult, there is a burning rebellion within you that fights this. This is why, until recently, I was not interested in growing things. I have memories of summer in Michigan waking up excited for the day with plans of exploring the creek with friends, drinking Kool-Aid until the corners of my lips were stained red, and playing street hockey in the cul-de-sac. All hopes and dreams for the day were interrupted by the proclamation today would be THE day for weeding the strawberry bed. Thanks Oh Father the Great Fun Killer.

I’ve since gotten over my penchant for refusing to do anything my parents want me to do. I’ve hopped aboard the plant train, primarily because I moved back to Wisconsin from the South, where plants actually grow year round. I could not give up the green for five months of the year again after having a taste of flowering bushes saturated with fuchsia blooms in the middle of January in North Carolina. I first got a gigantic bowl of assorted succulents with chick and hens, various echeveria, and some unknown succulent that bloomed with what looked like mini daisies. Then, I found a desert rose, which looks like a plant I would come across if I was inside a parallel universe. I’m happy to report, that desert rose is still kicking it on my window sill as we speak. It’s yet to bloom, but I have high hopes.

Succulents at Bayside Garden Center
Succulents at Bayside Garden Center

My tastes for plantlife expanded to cacti. I have one named Dale who sits in a ceramic pot my best friend gave me a few years ago. Little Baby Dale. Do you name your plants? I do because how do you address them otherwise when you talk to them? I got a rubber plant a few years back that has required transplantation multiple times due to its epic growth patterns. I have even propagated it four times, which I’m probably more proud of than a lot of things I’ve done. There’s something beautiful about being able to grow something and see it’s progress over time. I counted my plants this morning and I can report I have approximately 46+ of them throughout my apartment. I’m not sure how to count the ones I’m propagating because they are within one vessel, but there are many of them. So a lot. I have a lot of plants.

It’s necessary to seek out new plants because nobody has a 100% success rate with the plants they endeavor to grow. The sadness you feel when you see one of your plants start to take a nosedive to dirty reincarnation is strong. In talking to other plant aficionados, I’ve observed everybody has a nemesis plant they just cannot grow no matter how much love and attention they put into it. Mine is aloe, which is unfortunate because it’s a plant with a lot of utility. In my plant shop wanderings I’ve heard many times, “aloe is the easiest plant to grow”. Hey, Cheryl, maybe for you. I will murder aloe every. Single. Time. We also had a bummer of a time with a gardenia. They are not for the faint of heart. It died. Slowly. Over a couple months time, withering away to brambles. I even tested the soil pH and nutrients and tried to rehab it to no avail.

I’m always looking to add more and I have visions of a greenhouse I can work out of some day. I’ve managed to keep many varieties alive. I have two sansevieria in my bedroom. I have neon pothos. There are multiple varieties of philodendron on my counter. I have an orchid that is currently blooming again after a period of rest. I have a fiddle leaf fig. Kalanchoe times two. English Ivy. Jade. ZZ plant. My African violet just sent a few blooms skyward that opened yesterday in all their deep violet glory. Christmas Cactus. And on and on and on. I am a collector.

Some Jasmine at Bayside Garden Center
Some Jasmine at Bayside Garden Center

This weekend we went to my favorite plant store, which is a set of greenhouses up in Bayside. I find the selection to be the most extensive and I love, LOVE wandering through the greenhouse that contains the myriad of succulents, cacti, and houseplants. This weekend we bought a common jasmine because it’s sweet, fragrant blooms were filling the space with the most wonderful aroma. It’s 10 times better than sniffing jasmine essential oil, I promise. It’s been in our apartment all weekend and I swear it’s making everybody feel more relaxed. Even the pug, who I’ve recently started calling Bulldozer Jane, if that tells you anything about her energy level. Plants really are some sort of magic.

So if you find yourself jonesing to embrace your green thumb or just expand your current collection proceed as follows: for an overall solid selection of plants with an even better selection of pots/plant receptacles that are actually amenable to home decorating, check out Mod Gen. For the most unique varieties at the best prices, go to the Bayside Garden Center. They have a wonderful section of prehistoric big houseplants so you can invest in a plant that seriously adds depth to your room. For the most pleasing and tranquil storefront to visit while plant hunting, take yourself to Form. Bonus: their candles are bonkers delicious. If you are looking for plants with a strong southwestern vibe, check out Ursa. They also carry some fantastic personal beauty products with minimal ingredients so you can make it a two-fer.

If you know of any other gems, let me know. We can enable each other to expand our plant collections and marvel in how fucking awesome it is to grow things. Plants provide tangible results that are otherwise unobtainable or slow to come from other parts of existence and for that reason they are life-sustaining. When it comes to plants, the only option is more until I entomb myself inside a jungle.

About the author

Caitlin Knudsen

Propagator of succulents, hobbyist baker, healthcare by day, pug wrangler always.