Gardenia 2.0

We’re going to try again, gardenia 2.0 and I. By “we” of course I mean “I”, since gardenia 1.0, the original small tree that came up to my waist, a lovely housewarming present from a lovely person, is no longer on the premises.

I like to think gardenia 1.0 went to a better place, after we parted ways in the recycling room in the basement of my building. A better place where its petrified brown leaves and brittle branches regained juice and color and where it bloomed intoxicating white flowers again. For my part, I had to accept that I had ran out of ways to keep it alive that did not involve me actually doing something.

I blame winter. Winter and winter’s incompatibility with tropical plants. Winter and winter’s incompatibility with tropical plants whose owners don’t want to bring them inside for the winter because the plants bring in tiny flying insects with them.

Initially I had done the humane thing. I had brought gardenia 1.0 inside as soon as real winter began. But then, my floors, I worried about moisture on my floors. And then, these tiny black flying things. And then, gardenia 1.0 began to age, I swear. That’s how it looked to me. Gray fuzz in all its cracks, gossamer grays on its leaves. Internet later confirmed it as fungus. Ew.

So back out to the balcony went gardenia 1.0 for the rest of winter. I told myself that it would come alive again come spring (like those tender shoots that come up without anyone’s help in post apocalyptic landscapes). It’s ok. Everything is supposed to look dead in winter.

When Spring came. Life didn’t. And didn’t and didn’t.

So in came gardenia 1.0. All the way in to my bathroom. Now we were sharing. Tucked between the sink and the toilet, I hoped the humidity would recall its tropical homeland and I’d begin to see signs of green. Every time I thought I did, it would turn out to be a trick of the light. Gardenia 1.0 stayed as brown as the girl in the mirror next to it. What’s that, a subtle softness in the leaves?Nope. Leaves still as crumbly as the outer corners of brown girl’s eyes in the morning after a night of particularly sappy dreaming.

Did I mention this wasn’t gardenia 1.0’s first stay in my bathroom? Early on, while it was summer, it had started to go all yellow in all the leaves, I’d consulted with the local nursery and was told it was dehydrated, and just needed to spend a night soaked to the rim of the pot in water. Which I did, in the shower stall. Worked like magic. Proud moment for me.

Its second trip to the shower was in that hopeful time a few months later when I’d brought it inside for the winter. I gave it a good long shower, with the handheld, thinking that should drown any and all life forms (and fungi…or are fungi also life forms?) before it took up a spot in my living space. Nope.

So back to gardenia 1.0’s third stay in my shower, this time hoping to bring it back from to-all-appearances-deadness after winter. After several weeks of fighting for space so I can use the toilet without getting scratched or coming away with dead leaves stuck in my hair (can the dead still be vengeful?), someone had to call it. So I called it. Time of death: sometime in April 2021. Out of respect for our long struggle to make it work, and just in case of a miracle, I left gardenia 1.0 back out on the balcony for a few more weeks. No changes were detected. So after making a quick call to front desk to see if a plant qualifies for abandonment in the recycling room (good resident that I am), I left it between a mattress and a printer. Not a bad place to await the next chapter of its life, better than between a rock and a hard place, or between a sink and a toilet, or between a girl’s delusions and denials.

Maybe I’m just a cut flowers type of girl, I thought. Carnations, roses. There’s a certain meditative peace in the several times a week ritual of snipping the stems, rinsing them, throwing out the water, cleaning the vase, refilling it with fresh water, rearranging the stems, one by one, in a tastefully irregular circle, enjoying how the effect of the arrangement evolves as the stems get shorter over the weeks (I get every cent of my $8 worth) from starburst to tight bouquet…😇

But Summer 2021 said try again. Off I went to the nursery, asked for a gardenia specifically. Opted for a short little one instead of a tree. Now it lives on the corner of my desk, right by the window. I’m told it wants to be outside, in direct sunlight. But if I do that it’s going to make friends with yucky bugs and whatever else again. And come winter who’s gonna have to learn to manage that? Not this girl. I’m supposed to be a tropical creature too. We all adjust.

Welcome, gardenia 2.0. Now bloom. See below so you have an idea of my expectations, one of your ancestor gardenia 1.0’s best works. No pressure!


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