I do stop and smell the flowers. However, nowadays with the new everlasting hybrids, most flowers do not have a scent. You need to go and stalk people who have been planting for the last 25 years. They have the wonderful originals. Standing around you can actually smell the lilacs when the wind blows. I have tried to keep flowers in my house, but to no avail. Besides aloe plants, everything else either gets too dry or overwatered a.k.a. drowned. So imagine my surprise when I realized that I can actually keep geraniums alive. Yes it’s true. I learned the secret from my mother-in-law. It’s a simple trick and yet I find that it applies to situations in everyday life.
My mother had a green thumb. I am not sure if she always had it, but our house could’ve been a greenhouse. A botanical garden. I recall a wonderful green plant (nope…no idea what it was called…all I know is that she used to use kitchen twine to tie this climbing plant to the spindles of the staircase. Oh yes, this went on for years until my brother and I decided to challenge each other to slide down the bannister. Keep in mind, this plant started from a cutting and ended up being 12 feet long. It wound up the stairs and up to the bedrooms. I will always remember this:
Me: (whispering) No…mama is gonna kill you!
Bro: (whispering) not unless you tell her!
Me: It’s a long way down. You’ll fall!
Bro: Don’t tell…
NOTE: This dangerous endeavour was even more high faluting as our mother was sitting precariously around the corner in the family room watching tv. Daredevils? Idiots? You decide.
And then he began his slide. He started at the top of the stairs. He straddled the bannister and launched himself down. Suddenly, his leg got caught on the foliage halfway down and then he flipped over and fell down onto the ceramic floor. The only thing that saved his hide was that he had a frickin’ nose bleed! Otherwise our mother would’ve whipped his butt! The important thing was to fix him up and make him well…before she could beat him. Oh…European upbringing…so logical. The worst thing on my part was that, not only had I predicted the fall, but I couldn’t help laughing when he fell. Yes, I was a good big sister.
I recall seeing the Giant Beanstalk strewn on the floor. Not sure what happened afterward. The fact that little bro lived AND did not receive any punishment that I can recall made this evergreen moment memorable. The other floral memories I have are African violets. My mother was obsessed with them. We had them all over the house. She prided herself on having these plants thrive and having family and friends comment on how she could make them live and grow exponentially when others could only condemn them to death. My mother had a gift.
I myself thought repeated drownings were important in order for flowers to survive. Yes I killed everything until I purchased geraniums. Beautiful flowers. Many colours and yet Wiseguy’s favourite were the bright ruby red ones. Not pink or white. The red ones were the ones that his mother always loved. Her reason for loving geraniums was simple…they bloom all summer long and into fall. A little chilly weather and they still bloom and thrive. So, after being a mass floral murderer I tempted fate and extended my interest into the daring flora. I bought and took care of the bright red geranium.
I bought fancy pots. I purchased the good soil. I hoarded and applied “miracle grow” to ensure that they would thrive. I carefully planted these beautiful flowers and watched them bloom and grow. (Reminds me of “Sound of Music”…”bloom and grow forever…”) Then something strange happened. My beautiful flowers started drying up and blowing away. Did I do something wrong? What happened? I felt like a failure. I slaughtered a living green being. I felt horrible. I didn’t know what to do. My hubby’s favourite flower and I was killing it.
I finally came to the conclusion that I couldn’t keep any plant life alive. One weekend we ended up visiting the in-laws. We arrived and walked into the backyard. My mother-in-law was beside a geranium and was bending branches off the geraniums. The flowers were already drying out. I asked her what she was doing. She replied, “In order for the new flowers to bloom you need to cut off the dried flowers. You don’t want to keep wasting nutrients on the dead flowers when you can feed the new blooms.” I wasn’t sure what she meant. “See,” she pinched the stem of the dried petals and pulled it off. “Now, the new blossoms can bloom beautifully because the nutrients are going where they are supposed to go.” I went home and I gently bent and tore away the dried stems. It was time to feed the blossoming blooms.
I compare my life to the blooming geranium. Sometimes you need to cut off the dead blooms. The dried out blooms being negative people. They won’t feed you any wisdom, kindness, or goodness. It is best to just let them go. Learn how to handle things that grow. That includes children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, family, friends. We are always learning and growing. So instead of drowning those in order to save them, perhaps it is best to let them go. It is up to them if they want to survive and move on. For those newfound petals that are blossoming, be there for them. They are vibrant, excited, and usually happy. Those are the flowers you want in your garden because together you can make a happier life. This is how I view my beautiful geraniums…mysteries leading to life lessons. Happy growing!