Like most things, it started from the smallest seed. When we got it, it was like a tiny puppy of a plant: young and fresh.
You need to water it more, said my grandma. My kids watered it twice a day, until it was soaked.
I hovered somewhere between forgetting and saving the plant, occasionally emptying out the extra water and sometimes filling its pot with more.
A jungle was my goal, though I didn’t really think my living room would ever get there. But the plant grew and grew. From a smallish Ikea purchase, it morphed into a gorgeous palm tree, taking up space unapologetically. It seemed to grow both horizontally and vertically, producing new leaves daily. Our living room started to look too small and there was nothing “Ikea” about it anymore. It was pure jungle.
It needed to be moved to a new spot when the walls got too close in its original corner. Then it needed to be moved again, because it was blocking our entrance. The kids walked through it to reach the door using their hands to clear the way. Eventually, I rearranged the furniture to accommodate it, giving the palm tree the very best location in the entire apartment: prime real estate. It had tamed us successfully into catering to its needs.
The palm tree thanked me by producing even more leaves. Greener and greener, the leaves were perfection, one after another. And then one day, a mushroom appeared! A tropical, orange one. I googled it and it appeared to have shipped with the palm tree from somewhere warm and lush. The rainforest mushroom was surely poisonous, and I pulled it out before my kids could see it.
The next morning I peered at the soil at the base of the tree during my breakfast. I was sure a mushroom never grows alone and I needed to be on the lookout for more.
None came. Only tiny orange pearls appeared, and I had no idea how to even start googling them. I had no name for the pearls and just buried them back into the soil.
The palm tree was beautiful and, almost expecting monkeys next, I enjoyed its company during my plentiful days working from home. But after a while, I noticed my tree was looking lonely, not enjoying the company as much. It was too grand, in a room so bland. Maybe it needed friends.
I managed to persuade my driver, aka hubby, to visit a plant shop with me. I found some very pretty pots and plants, green ones that looked like they, too, had originated from warmer places than our local Ikea. They were probably grown in a greenhouse nearby, but I liked to imagine someone handpicking them in a jungle and flying them here (my mind was busy placing them on a business seat, seatbelt tight, a glass of wine residing on the folding table). What was the joy in growing a jungle if you could not let your imagination for a stroll in it?
But no, these smaller plants didn’t like our home. They grew mouldy and started getting black and white spots on their leaves. I tried watering them less and less, and then even less, until I never watered them at all, but still the soil remained wet. Eventually I threw them away, because mould isn’t nice in a space where you spend 24 hours a day.
Fortunately, our jungle tree was not all alone. We also had some older indoors palm trees. They were not spectacular, but they were the reliable type. Loyally, they stayed with us year after year, growing at a manageable pace, not demanding too much admiration but doing their job well, nonetheless.
One such palm tree was on our balcony and I had another dilemma to dig into. I wanted to move it inside for the winter, but spiders loved it. I suspected they had nested in the plant’s soil and I didn’t want to bring them into our living room. Spiders are my worst animal-related phobia. I remember seeing large, hairy ones in my childhood home in Australia, and though the ones over here were smaller, less venomous, and definitely much less hairy, I couldn’t bare to look at them.
We could co-exist in peace as long as they stayed on the balcony. So far, they’d done just that. They usually kept out of sight, too – only the ever-growing cobwebs told of their presence.
I decided to leave that plant where it was. Maybe it would adapt and turn our balcony into a winter jungle. I was half hoping so, but again not really thinking it feasible.
But who knows? Nature is full of surprises. Sometimes, when you water something, it really grows. Water is magic and a plant knows what to do with it.
Meanwhile, the plants in the living room seem to be having a growing contest. It’s almost as if they are competing for sunlight.