I am a notorious killer of plants.

My body amazed and awed me by growing a baby inside itself and then birthing him out, yet I have never quite managed to keep a plant alive. Even cactuses would wither and die under my fierce neglect. I took my very non-green thumb as a mark of shame, and eventually gave up trying.

Until Mother’s Day this year, when my dear friends and beloved houseguests J and C gave me a gorgeous hibiscus. Upon the hibiscus plant they artfully hung pictures of Sami and me, and left me a note that read, “You’re an amazing mother. If this plant dies, it’s OK because you were busy focusing on your child.”

The card touched my heart, and I couldn’t bear the thought of killing this hibiscus - which boasts a single red blossom so fiery, so saucy, pure attitude with its boldness and flair.  Then, not long after, I accompanied Sami and his pre-school class to the National Botanical Garden, and I saw how fascinated by plants and flowers he was. He took delight in every blossom and asked me over and over, “Mama, what’s this one called?” I dutifully read him the Latin botanical names off of tiny signs.

After the trip the Botanical Garden, I decided to take a plunge into completely unknown territory and to create a container garden on my deck. This necessitated a few trips to Home Depot and other plant/garden stores (some trips resisted and some acquiesced to by my child) and we procured several large terracotta pots, a very funky half-barrel, some potting soil for the flowers and some organic potting soil for a soon to be herb-garden. We chose locally-grown petunias of a hot pink hue, pink and red zinnias, a hanging basket of many different kinds of flowers, don’t ask me what, and some orange and yellow flowers with fat, rubbery leaves. A Sunday morning trip to the farmer’s market yielded some large-leafed, fragrant mint, a tiny but tenacious rosemary plant, purple and green basil, red and yellow cherry tomatoes, and peppers.

When the new hibiscus flower emerges (it just dropped off), I will post pictures.

To my surprise, I haven’t killed anything yet. So far all off my plants have survived the transplanting. Rain has been plentiful this early summer in my city, too.

I marvel at the feel of my gloved hands working in the soil, the loamy richness of the smell when it has just been watered, the weight of the giant, sloshing watering can in my hands. Sami loves to help, too, so it’s fun for us both.

In addition to the saucy hibiscus blossom, I adore the strength and delicacy of my twin hot-pink petunia plants, reaching out their leaves and flowers with confidence and trust. My entire back deck feels like a different place. It’s not just a deck now, it’s kind of a sanctuary. I completely missed why people garden.

Gardening types have always been an alien species to me. In fact, I was kind of annoyed with them, and their crazed love for their gardens and their pruning shears and those foam mats they use to protect their knees. Now I am kinda one of them, almost.

I find that the cycles of the hibiscus bud mirror the human experience - it opens fully to great the sun in full glory and folds sleepily in on itself in the night, for the duration of its life. And then another one opens to take its place. It’s a  beautiful thing to witness. 

Tending to this fledgling garden reminds me to tend to the parts of myself that need water, sunlight, and care. I turn inward and remind myself to open to the sun and grow towards it. To honor the cycles of darkness and light. To open to the fullest expression of my life.