I have been a member of many clubs in my lifetime. I started with my illustrious and well-noted-in-Kodachrome-photos membership in Brownies, then Camp Fire girls, then back to Girl Scouts for a hot minute. Let’s just say I was heavily motivated by uniforms and badges in my early days.
In high school I was a member of the Spanish Club, despite my lack of proficiency in the language, a failure that hounds me to this day, despite my best efforts to converse a bit better in the beautiful romance dialect.
Fast forward to college, where I fully enjoyed sorority membership and the lifetime friendships that have come from it. I was also a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, at a time when I envisioned myself as a Diane Sawyer of sorts.
As an educator, the list of clubs is a long one. I joined fellow English teachers, curriculum writers, administrators, and communications professionals in beneficial groups. I have been a proud member of service clubs in towns where I have lived and worked.
I am currently a member of the Mom’s Club, the When do the Angsty Teenage Years End Club, the Band Parent Club, and the I Didn’t Learn that in School, Honey, Club. I also belong to the Partially Retired but Still Need to Work, the Didn’t We Just Have That for Dinner Last Week?, the Where Did I Put My Keys?, and the Dang It, I Should Have Gotten Gas Last Night Clubs.
But the one thing I have never belonged to is the Green Thumb Club, and there is a reason. I don’t have one.
It sure isn’t for lack of trying. My failed gardening efforts would fill a book and then some. It would be a sad tale, one where the protagonist only ends up with soil stained fingernails and never gets the victory she so richly deserves.
My family history details that I should be a member of the Green Thumb Club (GTC). My mother in law is the most recent addition to the people in my life who are members of the GTC. At her old home in Des Moines, she had trellises of flowers and a full blown garden that looked like a magazine cover.
She would take a hose with a nozzle that seemed more like a power washer and practically spray the heads off of delicate petunias, and they would still smile back at her and grow way bigger than they were supposed to with the brightest pinks and corals one could imagine.
She had peonies with heads seven or eight inches across. They were so pretty, they looked fake.
Her annual flowers last from April all the way into November when she finally has to take them inside or dispose of them. And she rescues things, also, and brings them back to life.
She brought home a plant from a local discount store that looked like it was dead. Within a week, it could have been a county fair winner. She makes it look easy, and people are amazed at her results.
In her smaller space in Kansas City, she has mastered the hanging basket thing. It is like walking into a floral shop when you hit her front porch. It’s a heavenly flower madness.
My own mom has a green thumb and to say she is good at it is an embarrassing understatement. She has a back yard oasis of every kind of plant you can imagine. She is an artist with a canvas, designing her botanical vision.
She will say,“I think I will put a phlox (I just made that up… I don’t even know what that is…) over there to sort of fill out that corner,” and the next thing I know, she has this lush, but almost ethereal arrangement of plants along her fence line.
She has variegated bloomers of all sizes: things that creep along the edges, things that add height, things that add depth, things with texter, things that bloom in succession. She has the patience to tell me the names of things over and over each year and the energy to maintain her personal nursery, another element potentially missing in my DNA.
And speaking of DNA, apparently my sister’s more closely matches my mom’s in this case, as she is a card carrying GTC member. Her thing is hydrangeas.
These beautiful, big headed florals are living the life in all their violet, pink, white, and dusty blue hues in her back yard. I wish I could say it is the soil at her house, but she has lived multiple places with multiple beautiful gardens. She harvests them and makes breathtaking dried arrangements, too.
These gardening ladies in my life have tried to help me and are willing sponsors of my potential membership into the GTC. My mother in law will suggest a certain fertilizer or watering schedule or say, “That plant looks good!” even about a tiny succulent I am nurturing.
My mom has gone so far as to dig up starters for me and help me get them planted. She walks the perimeter of my house, pointing out good places for a garden bed.
My sis routinely adds her clippings to my presents and decorations and pulls bad stems off my ferns when she stops by. So far their efforts have not rubbed off on me.
My husband knows my GTC longings, and he has also tried to help. He bought me a gift card to a really nice nursery, where the prices rival the cost of a good steak dinner for a four inch starter plant.
His theory was that my money saving efforts have hampered my ability to grow things, that buying cheap plants has produced bad results. I took him with me for my fresh start and because we needed a day date idea and he loves all things gardening, sarcasm fully intended.
We wandered around the site, inhaling the earthy smells, gift card in hand. Carefully placed misters spritzed the plants and the shoppers in their waterproof shoes. Clearly experienced GTC’ers walked directly to the racks to grab new selections. I had arrived!
We intently read labels on Mother Nature’s merchandise. We were looking for a tag that said, “Place this in direct sunlight, or shade, or your car trunk if you forgot you bought it; water frequently or infrequently, dependent on your week’s schedule; don’t worry about pruning it; and wait for it to come up again next year” but alas, there were none.
About an hour in, when my husband’s stomach started to rumble for the deli sandwich I had promised him, and my own non-waterproof shoes were soggy, I picked out a beautiful hosta, something pretty much all GTC members tell me is the best thing to start with, a hearty plant that voluntarily returns each spring, despite its owner’s ineptitude of care.
I shepherded that baby home like a couple with a new born, obediently placing it quickly into the ground with a hole dug to the exact suggested depth and filled with better vitamins than I ever bought for my kid.
For three days it look beautiful. My hopes rose as it spread its beautiful leaves. I picked out a scarf and sunglasses to wear for the picture in the neighborhood newsletter for my honor for Yard of the Week. And then a critter ate it. Right down to the root.
I could almost see the teeth marks from this ferocious predator’s assault on my precious plant. Defeated again, with hardly a start toward my GTC membership.
My neighbor saw me grieving the loss and told me it would grow back. But who wants a plant that looks like it has had a bad home haircut with jagged bangs?
I have shifted my focus and am currently accepting applications for the Green Thumb Envy Club. Surely I am not the only member, but I can finally be president of something.
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