Wednesday, March 5, 2008


Mom is an "indoor" plant person, mostly. When I was a kid, African violets were her main interest. The den connected to her bedroom was filled with shelving and grow lamps for her indulgence. She belonged to an African violet club and would regularly show her best blooming plants. She would coax and cajole as she spent much time watering and caring for them. I loved attending shows with her and seeing all the wonderful color -- plant blossoms intermixed with colorful ribbons. She encouraged us to grow our own violets and other houseplants on the windowsills of our bedrooms so we could learn sensitivity and the responsibility that comes with caring for another living thing. I had a great deal of fun growing and sharing in mom's passion. Today Mom fancies orchids, but she lives in Florida so they are as much outdoor plants as indoor ones. She now belongs to an orchid club and still brings home many colorful ribbons.

A few weeks ago I wrote about Judith Handelsman's book Growing Myself and I discussed my problem with forgetting to water or over-watering. This winter I have made a concerted effort to showcase my plants, talk to them,. move them around the house, and water them properly. Most of them have doubled in size. Their leaves are shiny. I must say that they really look happy. Treating indoor plants like beloved pets has brought me happiness as well.

One thing that I have always known. Houseplants can be fun to photograph. I regard every photograph I take of a plant as a portrait. Every plant has a best side and a unique personality that I hope to bring out in my pictures. (I provide a few samples here.) When you photograph a plant, look for unique angles, lines, and colors. I will usually take ten or more shots of an individual plant before I feel that I've captured its character. I spend time walking around the plant looking through the camera and shooting. When I get the "perfect" shot I usually know it. I get a satisfied feeling that is difficult to explain. I feel as if I have bonded with the plant or blossom and that we understand each other - like we have become good friends.

One of the gardeners that I visited this summer said that gardening to her is like becoming friends with nature. You learn to trust each other and acknowledge a mutual dependence. All plants offer us a piece of nature. It is something special when we can bring nature indoors. That is what a houseplant has to give.

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