Phyllis McGuire | View from the Village: All thumbs in the houseplant department - neither green

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WILLIAMSTOWN — "What happened to your plant?" a neighbor asked as she looked at the mixed greenery plant my daughter, Jennifer, gave me a couple of months ago.

"I started taking care of it," I said

Sadly that plant is about to suffer the same fate as all the houseplants I have owned: an untimely death.

The lovely Easter lily plant my granddaughter Alyssa, and her husband, Steve, gave me lasted less than three weeks. And the purple mum plant Jennifer gave me for Easter is in its death throes. With its demise, the number of houseplants I have killed within the last 10 months will total five.

Care instructions that came with my houseplants as well as information I garnered online were useless. For instance, water when dry but don't saturate; keep moist; expose to direct sunlight four hours daily.

More explicit watering instructions would have been helpful and easy to follow: Pour a glass of water on the plant every other day.

As for sunlight four hours every day, that won't happen up here in this corner of the world.

I loved the peace lily that was a gift from a family member, and was alarmed when the leaves began to turn yellow. Online, a peace lily expert fell short of my expectations, stating "Yellowing leaves are a sign of a water problem, either overwatering or underwatering."

"Thanks a lot," I thought.

Perhaps an autopsy would have revealed whether my peace lily plant succumbed to overwatering or underwatering.

When I follow a common recommendation and stick my finger into a plant to find out if it is time to water it, all I end up with is a fingernail that needs to be scrubbed more than once to make it clean.

My fingers are not equipped to measure soil water content and then display on their knuckles "thirsty" or "satisfied."

Certain flowering houseplants thrive in temperatures of 60 to 65 degrees, but dry up in heated rooms," according to a gardening website.

For me to be comfortable, the temperature in a room must be above 65 degrees. I am happy to say I have not dried up but I do use a skin moisturizer.

Perhaps if I had applied skin moisturizer to the leaves of my flowering houseplants, they would not have shriveled and dropped off.

On the first Mother's Day I celebrated in Williamstown, Jennifer presented me with a rose bush. "I'll plant it next to your patio," she said.

A poem Jennifer wrote for the occasion read in part: " I always remember how you took care of the rose bushes in the back (garden of our home in New York) the roses were so beautiful — you really had a knack."

The framed poem is hanging on a wall in my bedroom, but I returned the rose bush to Jennifer to plant in her garden.

I explained that the rules of the condominium where I live, prohibit owners and renters from planting flowers, etc. on condo grounds. Everything is kept uniform, with a landscape service planting and maintaining what is selected by the trustees.

I cannot boast of being solely responsible for the beauty of our rose bushes in New York. Mother Nature compensated for my mistakes, providing rain when I underwatered the rose bushes and providing sun and heat when I overwatered them.

Thus, the bushes did not die of thirst or by drowning, but produced pretty pink, red, and yellow roses in the 20 years we lived in our house. Houseplants are also aesthetically pleasing when they are healthy.

Because I lack the skill to keep houseplants healthy, a friend suggested I tell my family that I prefer artificial plants to live plants.

I would only need to dust artificial plants and would do them no harm if I dusted them more often than necessary or not enough.

Phyllis McGuire writes from her home in Williamstown. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.


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