Animals might make you feel good, but plants take you everywhere


OK… just open Facebook and take on board endless films of fluffy things, doing fluffy stuff. We all love it. I have owned fluffy things in my time, and one cat loved above all others, but plants take me somewhere else… plants take me everywhere… across the world and back again.

Today I am tending two clivia plants, which are both producing flowers. They will soon be magnificent. They came from two seeds that I took from the garden of Anna in Bondeno, near Ferrara in the Emiglia Romagna. Her lovely garden is wild and overgrown and full of leafy plants and ferns and hungry mosquitos and buddleia and heat. I put the two seeds in a soap bag and forgot about them, and when I unexpectedly discovered them, they were sad and shrivelled and dry, and looked unloved. So I potted them, and now they are massive and spectacular, and some experts might say they are big enough to split, but I say leave them and let them flower and flourish because they are magnificent.

Every plant has a story, particularly the ones that were given as gifts. The rubber plant seems a touch naughty. It was originally a gift from my sister, some 20 years ago. It got tall and taller like Jack’s beanstalk and I felt uncertain believing I couldn’t looking after it properly, so I gave it to a friend, and as she manoeuvred it out of the door, a branch fell off. I kept that branch and put it in water and it grew roots. Despite the apparent suitability of my friend’s conservatory, the original giant died, but the broken branch flourished. I trained it to grow up the walls of the bathroom, where it now dominates that space in glory, and sometimes has to be trimmed down when it gets too big for its boots, from time to time.

And what about the money plant, given to me as a teeny weeny thing many years ago, by the fabulous Carol Kirkwood? It is now vast and fine with the promise of living a very long life, and deserves to do so. It’s a succulent, and comes from the KwaZululu-Natal and Eastern Cape province of South Africa, and not from the far East, as I thought. The money or jade plant is everywhere, and popular everywhere, but when I look hard at it, I see it flourishing in the doorways of Chinese restaurants from here to Chinatown but I can also still see its modest and charming origins. There it is… growing in hot dusty lands, shining green and glorious amidst the golds and browns of dry foliage and parched earth…. There is no doubt… plants take you everywhere…

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