Finding My Green Thumb

I come from a family of green thumbs. My nana’s house has always felt just a few steps away from becoming a greenhouse with wispy vines flowing down shelves, succulents covering the window sill, and stalks of bamboo or money trees as table centerpieces. My mom has a love of botany and we frequently planted quite successful gardens with her growing up; gardens of pumpkins, tomatoes, sunflowers, and more. Then even my dad’s side, my papaw always had an ever flowing garden of vegetables, typically gathered by my mamaw, my cousins and myself, following which we’d all snap the green beans together.

My papaw also took special care in the front yard landscaping, artfully planting specific flowers in very specific spots. Truth be told, I only assume his landscaping was this meticulous perhaps it wasn’t and he really just planted whatever wherever – but reflecting on a story no one can seem to forget, yet I don’t have the capacity to remember, his planting all had to have been pretty methodical: evidently when I pulled a tulip out of the ground, Easter of 1998, I practically detonated a bomb in the Smith household.

So not only here is evidence of the purple tulip that nearly ruined Easter and ‘destroyed’ my papaw’s meticulously landscaped yard, but here is evidence of me killing my first (and certainly not last) plant.

I didn’t automatically inherit my family’s green thumb. And truth be told, while this has whole “green thumb” thing has always been talked about like it’s either something you have or you don’t, my adult life has taught me that isn’t really the case. Having a green thumb stems from understanding, receptiveness, and a will to learn. If you have those three traits and simultaneously have a desire for some greenery to take root in your space (pun intended) then you can certainly become equipped with a green thumb.

It’s only been since moving to NY in 2017 when I’ve felt this incessant need to bring an abundance of plants into my home. I also was given the responsibility of “mothering” the plants in our office, which I excitedly took it on. I quickly began boasting that I come from a family of green thumbs, telling people to watch these babies thrive – when suddenly, they all started to die. Everywhere, in rapid succession. In the office I was killing an orchid a month or so on average, succulents were drying up or even getting floppy and it was all just a disaster to be honest. It took one of my colleagues with an exceptional green thumb of giving me some succulent pointers like, “Water only when the soil is completely dry, and when these little leaves fall off stick them back in the soil – they’ll grow.” Then with the orchid, another colleague said to water them with ice cubes only.

These little tips and tricks were working, I was incredibly receptive not only to the advice, but I in turn began understanding those plants a bit more. It was great. But then I became ballsy and got involved with different plants that I would go on to kill (herbs, aloe, and air plants I’ve not synced the vibe with yet.)

But if you’re someone like me who so desperately wants to have green vibes in your space, but you haven’t quite solidified your green thumb enough to be confident in your plant choices… I got you. Below are some ways I’ve greened up my space while managing to minimize my casualties.

Bamboo

I invested in one stalk of bamboo as a trial run this summer. I was shopping with my mom at Home Depot, actually looking for some herbs that I could start growing but then would subsequently kill a month later, when I came across this guy and his brethren.

Why did I buy him?

On his little tag, there was a breakdown of the meaning behind the number of stalks you have and what they bring to your life. It only listed the meaning of up to two stalks: 1 Stalk = good fortune and 2 Stalks = love. But really the more you buy, the more meanings there are behind them, I later discovered.

Your girl just wants some good fortune, and not really in the mood to tempt fate with killing not one but potentially two stalks of bamboo.. so I went with just the one. And it’s been successful! He’s super low maintenance, I just keep him on my window sill, change his water and clean the vase every week or so and he’s golden. Golden, growing, and makes me think I could maybe handle taking care of a fish…

Succulents

Alright, I am well well aware that there are different types of succulents that all thrive in different environments, yadda yadda – but these dudes, whatever they are, I’ve somehow managed to keep alive for like three years.

When I lived in Chinatown, around the period when I was killing plants about as fast as I’d buy more, I invested in this fun monthly box, Succulent Studios, and they would send me 2-3 succulents a month. Which was great, but I kept this subscription for quite a while… totaling in some 20 succulents or so.

And I killed all of them except these two. Honestly I think they’ve been near death a handful of times but I’ve somehow revived them.

The trick is to just simply not overwater, maybe decide on one day a week where it’s watering time and that’s the water they will thrive on, make sure they’re in a spot with decent sunlight too.

You’ll also notice there is an air plant lying on that same platter. I’m pretty sure he’s dead.

Dried & Fake

Whenever I feel the need to buy fresh flowers for myself, I always buy eucalyptus and baby’s-breath. Not only for their refreshing scents and subtle decor, but because they dry really well. If dried in a space with little sun, they’ll even maintain their color perfectly. I’d also like to note, I don’t do anything special for the drying, I keep them in the vase and boom, works great.

I also really love the smell of lavender and I found that you can buy dried lavender from Amazon and it’s awesome – there’s so much and it comes packaged in pretty paper, definitely a great, albeit messy, investment.

Amazon is also a great source for other fake greenery, it’s where I got that ivy you see hanging in the photos and also the eucalyptus mixed with the lavender in the three vases is fake as well (the eucalyptus in the lone black vase is real and dry.)

. . .

Ultimately the biggest piece of advice I can offer you is to understand and accept that every plant can die. While there are no magical plants that simply can’t be killed, there are plants that are just harder to kill. So if you want to dive into the plant world, the green life vibe, but everything you touch dies… take it one step at a time. Get one or two real plants to attempt to keep alive (team bamboo over here) and then buy some fake plants off amazon.

Basically, fake it till you make it.

. . .

Published by

Emily Smith

Core Values: Adaptability, Empathy, Intuition, & Dedication. A creature of habit with a passion for the world, I spend an abnormal amount of time plotting my next vacay on google maps. I often yearn for adventure and to be anywhere other than where I am and with a strong drink in my hand. I currently hail in Brooklyn, but I've spent a greater part of my life in both Indiana and Kentucky and a blip of time living in Caen, France. I have an affinity for exploration and New Age practices, so feel free to reach out to me for travel tips, dream interpreting, mediocre palm reading, or just to have a candid conversation.

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