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Green Acre #88: The Prince and the Fern

This fake ficus–or fauxcus, Stephanie Gardens suggests–is healthier than her Boston ferns, which she claims are suffering from Princely neglect. That’s a spectacular elephant ear peeking around from behind the “tree,” on the left. / Photo by Stephanie Cavanaugh.

PRINCES ARE great as long as they do what they’re told.

You have to keep an eye on them lest they get distracted and gallop off to play elsewhere. This frequently happens when you ask them to do something they’re not particularly enthusiastic about, like watering, oh, maybe 120 potted plants. A project that takes, oh, maybe 60 trips back and forth to the bathroom to fill the watering can.

I do believe that is how we lost the two gorgeous Boston ferns that normally hang outside from the back porch roof but had been taken into the minute greenhouse off my second-floor office for the duration; something more alluring than watering must have caught the Prince’s eye.

That said, Boston ferns are not a fun thing to care for in the winter. They’re not much fun to care for in the summer either, come to think of it, but worth it for their lush greenness. Just give them an endless stream of water morning and night (and a semi-shady spot) and they’ll erupt in a poof of leaves that spreads and flounces like a gorgeous green tutu.

Troublesome as they are, requiring a shower in the bathroom at least once a week, Boston ferns are wonderful in the sunroom, dangling from the ceiling so the eye is forced to move around the space most luxuriously (and hiding a few, shall we say flaws, in the  meantime).

Our two are now a sad frizzle. Touch one and the brittle leaves strew themselves across the floor, fly down the stairs, turn to powder underfoot and will no doubt blow about the dining room on their sad march out of the house.

Meanwhile, sniff, he insists he watered them. “I stuck my finger in but can’t feel anything,” he says, holding up one shabby fern.

“Bring that here,” I tell him, and he crunches over to where I am ensconced on the bed, nestled in a pile of pillows.* Sticking my finger down through the tight web of branches I feel nothing. “I feel nothing,” I tell him.

“But look,” he says, pointing to a single frond emerging green and pliant from the mess of dried-out, shedding thatch. “I think it’s coming back.”

“Mmmpf,”  I say.

“Maybe I should give it a trim and see what happens,” he says, swishing at the dried mess and sending a flurry of dead stuffs across my lap.

“Fine,” I say, brushing them off.

So he scurries away and clips and snips and clips and snips some more until what is left is as pathetic as a shorn sheepdog with ringworm.

Now, remember that 6-foot-tall fake ficus—or shall we say fauxcus—he found last week lying curbside in front of an office building on Pennsylvania Avenue? Here is where it might just come in handy.

While the ferns are in recovery—and without blocking the light from healthier plants that are pressed against the sunny window—I’ll just plonk that fauxcus in front and . . . man, is that thing ever healthy-looking.

Et voilà! 

Mmmm. Or maybe not.

—Stephanie Cavanaugh

* I had a tiny setback with my new hip, drat it, and have been packed in ice much of the day. I am getting very fat, sigh.

LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” writes about gardening and hip replacements and other things every Thursday.

One thought on “Green Acre #88: The Prince and the Fern

  1. Jean Gordon says:

    Oh my goodness….fake hips…fake plants what next???
    Faux stuff needs to be cleaned they get dusty and musty I can just picture Prince schlepping the ficus into the bathroom for a shower, after that watering plants will be easy…remind him
    he was the one that found the tree. Hope your ferns recover….oh, and YOU TOO.

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