23.6.12

Do cacti need viagra?


Or: Why we keep plants

Drooping cactus in a pot by garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog
Limp cactus is not the name of a punk band, yet...
The garden muses took me to my dad's place today. Going near his crumbling front stoop I noticed this cactus propped up, trying to achieve horticultural turgidity.

I didn't bother asking him why he's keeping and nurturing this guy (it has to be a guy!) as I doubt dear dad sees any irony with the composition.

My father's an interesting fellow, a bit of a well-educated hoarder. Why is he keeping the cactus?  Maybe it could be as simple as not being willing to throw away something living and "perfectly fine." I see variations of this affection among my clients as well: grandma's monster forsythia overtaking the front porch, the row of bridal wreath spiraea last pruned in 1978, the decrepit juniper bought as a baby 1 gallon plant now threatening to block out the second floor windows.

I always ask my customers before pruning if there's any sentiment attached to said-to-be-pruned shrub. New  homeowners who inherit a garden are often perplexed. "Why would we be possibly attached to this overgrown green blob?" is often communicated verbatim. Older garden-owners appreciate the question.

As I get older, I'm starting to understand the reluctance of letting go of objects which have meaning and significance. I need to remind myself that it's easy enough for me to say that "it's only a plant", let's shovel prune it and put something newer and cooler in. A plant can be a symbol of better days and of family and friends no longer here.

By Paul Jung, author of "garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog"
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