Love thrives

By Mir
March 11, 2010

Up until just a few years ago, my black thumb was legendary. You name the plant, I could kill it. Not intentionally—never intentionally—yet somehow my efforts to nurture growing things were met with grim, black death. (I have killed cacti, people. Do you know how difficult it is to kill a cactus? It’s a gift, I guess.)

My record these days is much more favorable; I garden with some measure of success, I keep houseplants alive and occasionally nurture a wilting plant back to health from the brink of neglect (whoops). I’m no longer the blight upon plant-kind that I once was, is my point.

Buoyed by these experiences, I now often forget that my touch hasn’t always been so stellar. Ahem. And I acquire plants, because plants are Nice, and they seem like Nice Things To Have.

When Otto and I first made the trek to our somewhat-local Ikea, I bought some bamboo.

Because that—along with eating meatballs, apparently—is what you DO when you go to Ikea. You buy a bunch of plastic kitchen stuff, and some furniture made of fine Swedish pressboard, and then you pick up some bamboo on the way out.

Except, of course, that they have all sorts of handy signs posted explaining the various Chinese lore and Feng Shui and numerology rules and stuff about what various combination of bamboo MEAN. The bamboo is just about the last thing in the (huge) store, so by the time we got there, Otto was ready to leave, and I suddenly turned into a contestant on “Let’s Make a Deal,” ala “I think we should get two stalks. No, wait. Three. Yes, definitely three. Hang on. Maybe just one? Wait, what if we get four and pot them separately….”

I continued talking through the possibilities while Otto writhed on the floor, pretending to be dying from old age and boredom. It was cute.

In the end, I settled on three stalks—said to represent happiness and prosperity. We brought them home and set them in a bowl with some rocks, filled it with water, and put it in the corner of the dining room. I them commenced wondering if they were actually alive, because for a long time they looked exactly the same as when we’d brought them home.

And then, one day, the middle stalk turned yellow on the top. First one leaf, then another, and then a third. Over the course of a few weeks, half the stalk had turned yellow, and when it started to shrivel I had to take action—I pulled the dying stalk and repositioned the other two and pretended I’d meant to have two all along.

Since then, the two remaining stalks have grown like crazy. It turns out that two bamboo stalks represent “double luck” and—above all—love.

So maybe we don’t get happiness and prosperity, or we don’t get it all the time, anyway. But I suppose it’s a much more accurate depiction of our household to have that little reminder in the corner that we always, always have love.

Happy Love Thursday, everyone.


  1. Dawn

    Darned tootin’! And may it always be that way.

  2. Ironic Mom

    Happy Love Thursday, back to you. I too kill plants. But as a child who grew up on a large wheat and canola farm, I can grow a crop. But individually I find plants to finicky, unless they’re in vases.

  3. Megan

    And also? They represent alien antenna. Really! I would have spent several happy minutes forcing my family to scootch down juuuuust right so they could have sproingy bamboo antennae coming out of their heads and I could take pictures.

    Oh and I? Kill cactus too. Overwatered the darn thing. It’s the only plant ever I’ve remembered to water (except for Gossamer which was the Plant That Would Not Die) and natch it turned all black and icky and rotted on me. It’s more than a gift – it’s a frickin’ talent baby!

  4. txelz

    I had 3 bamboo gifted to me about 3 years ago. They grew to about 2 1/2 feet, then slowly started getting the yellow death disease. I tried ignoring it since killing bamboo plants has to be some kimnd of terrible harbinger of luck…well, I’m down to my last bamboo and it is all shrively now. I can’t throw it away because that would be admitting that I killed my luck. That is not good. Also, the bowl of water kind of stinks if I get close enough… On the up side, yea for you Mir!

    I’m sticking with plants in the garden, those seem to be doing much better. Plus, you can blame their untimely demise on all sorts of things-sun, no sun, rain, too much rain, aphids, cats, definitely NOT my black thumb!

  5. Kelly

    It was your gardening that inspired me to have lots of home grown tomatoes last year – so can’t wait to see what you do this year (and I have to decide what I will do this year too.)

    Bamboo is pretty in small quantities – good luck indeed!

  6. Kate @ And Then I Was a Mom

    Eh. Threesomes are gross, anyway. Or so I’ve heard.

    Not that it sounds like you need many tips these days, but if I may: Name your plants. I find it a lot more difficult to kill them when they have identities. My fern Steve has now survived seven years. My bamboo plant, named Bamboo Plant, kicked it after one.

  7. Randi

    Ha, I can’t grow anything, and I still have no faith that I ever will be able to :)

  8. dad

    You, and your readers, are a hoot.
    Hi Steve.
    I’m going home to assign language units to all the plants by which they will henceforth be known.. The ones I intend to kill will get names like Jezebel, Hitler or Belzibob. That way I won’t have to feel so guilty when they fail.

  9. Katie in MA

    Huh. Imagine that – your plants all started thriving and being all happy and such the same time that you and Otto and the kids came together as a family and started doing the same. Weird how love works out like that. (Or maybe not.)

    Happy Love Thursday!

  10. Karen

    What IS it with IKEA and the meatballs? Have to admit, I have not tried them yet. When I walk into that warehouse, oddly, apparently, it’s not meatballs I’m thinking about or craving, you know? And yet everyone talks about them. Are they THAT good?

  11. My Kids Mom

    Well, I thought I was good with plants, but my bamboo is dying. And cactus? I think I melted one once, or so it seemed. Not so easy to care for as you’d think.

  12. Kirsty

    I’m so thrilled to discover that others have succeeded in killing cacti too! I say they’re reputation as being “plants you hardly ever need to water” (and thus ideal for cauliflower brains like me who forget to water plants) is much over-hyped. I was given a window box of cacti for my birthday in May 2008 and they all dehydrated to death by my following birthday.
    I now have a sort of palm tree thing (no idea what it is, but it’s about 1 meter high) that I got last birthday (these people who give me plants obviously don’t know me and my black thumb very well I would say) and it is still alive, but distinctly miserable-looking. I predict its demise before my next birthday.
    So thanks, Mir (and your commentors) for making me feel less alone, and giving me a brilliant excuse to go to IKEA that doens’t involve their 2 euro kids’ menu – I’ve never tried to kill bamboo before!
    Happy Love Thursday!

  13. Heather

    lol..I have a fence line covered in bamboo, that I have been trying to kill for years. Maybe that explains my luck!

  14. Brigitte

    I had a teeny cactus for about 20 years that always looked utterly the same. I suspect it was already dead, but fossilized.

  15. Nicki

    Awww. I so needed this post yesterday, but I was in such a bad place I forgot it was Thursday. Great message, as always. And as timely today as it was on the actual Love Thursday.

    Enjoy Ikea and Trader Joe’s, Mir. (Try the chocolate croissants. Seriously. You’ll thank me.)

  16. Scottsdale Girl

    IKEA meatballs = salt lick. Yum!

  17. Sharon

    We have a ton of bamboo in our yard that we’ve been trying to kill for 6 years!

  18. jwg

    The best thing at IKEA is the smoked salmon pate in a tube. It’s in the take-out food department near the exit. A little cream cheese, a cracker, heaven! Or you can avoid the carbs and just suck it out of the tube.

  19. Mary @ Holy Mackerel

    All of my bamboo died. I don’t think that bodes well for me. Maybe that’s why I’ve had such an awful time of it these past few years. Hmmmm…..

  20. Joseph

    When we first got married (33 years and counting!) we got a potted rubber plant with seven leaves. We put it in a corner of our town home and faithfully watered it. After a while, a leaf turned yellow and dropped off. Then another and another. At last we were down to one leaf. We had a very small patio off the family room with a patch of dirt about three feet deep and ten feet wide. In desperation, I planted the rubber plant outside. That thing took off like someone had spiked its water with one of those illegal substances! We lived there another four years, and by the end of that time, it was ten feet high! Some five years after we moved, I drove by, just to see, and the thing was now all the way to the roof of a two-story town home! But that said, mostly, like you, I am pretty much the Angel of Death when it comes to plants!

  21. Tara

    Stumbled upon this blog. We have those exact three sticks of finicky bamboo in a vase with some seashells and one’s beginning to yellow. Except they are really bamboo at all but dracena. killed a flourishing false-bamboo that lived on top of the fridge in my mother’s house, because I thought it needed sunlight and put it by a window. They don’t like sunlight at all apparently.

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