I’M EXPECTING a plant for Valentine’s Day. My Prince does not bring me cut flowers; he finds their inevitable droop depressing.
And so, he will get something from the fancy local garden shop (as opposed to the hardware store’s flower section). I hope it’s not another Stephanotis, a plant I love but have received for the past two, maybe three, years.
My Prince doesn’t do cards, but he’ll cut a very gently used envelope into a heart shape and write “I ♥ U” on it, leaving the message next to the coffee pot in the kitchen, where I’m certain to find it in the morning. The plant will come later, after he remembers to shop for it.
In return, I will cook dinner. Since I do this every night* but Saturday, when we have our weekly date, it will be something splendid and complex, like cioppino—or at least something only he likes, like mussels. In the latter case, I will make myself a grilled cheese sandwich, which is one of my three favorite food groups, the other two being fried chicken and roast beef. I will eat with a brave expression combined with a martyred air. A win-win impact is what I call that.
I do receive flowering plants throughout the year, but these are apology plants, as in: Whenever he does something really bad I get a plant. I am not the judge of what’s really bad, he is. It has to do, I think, with something having happened that there is no way in which I could have been responsible.
Like, if the kitchen ceiling fixture falls on my head. This hasn’t happened, yet, but if it does it would warrant a plant, as the only thing I have to do with lighting and electricity is flipping switches. I’m not even sure about changing bulbs.
Over the years My Prince has given me many plants to say “I’m sorry.” Unusual ones that he picks out because he likes the color or the plant person told him it would be difficult for me to kill. This does not often translate into anything I would want.
There was once a red-and-white Christmas cactus, botanically known as Schlumbergera or Zygocactus (should you wish to look like you know what you’re talking about). These are not my cuppa, particularly when their flowers fade into a mucusy flab.
And what was once a little bush is now an immense red-and-white Rose of Sharon billowing in a corner of the garden next to the back porch This has a jolly yacht-in-the-south-of-France air about it, so I overlook the fact that it reminds me of someone I’d really prefer to forget.
Then there was the mandevilla vine, also red-and-white-striped, that he picked out for me while we were on a testy Sunday walk. At $30, it was far more than I would usually spend, particularly for a plant that has repeatedly failed me (though it grows like a weed in every third garden in the neighborhood). So I let him do penance with it. As predicted, the plant is long since gone . . .
Interestingly, I might point out as an irrelevant aside, you might notice the distinctly red-and-white-striped motif to these apologies? Would it be fair to call this a passive-aggressive reminder of how, 38 years ago I lost my red-and-white bikini, an act that he (still!) insists was deliberate?
My latest apology plant, to return to the subject at hand, is a clivia miniata, which has strapping green leaves and a single flaming orange flower of many frills erupting from the center. It flowers in the winter. Which is handy.
I don’t know what he did wrong for me to deserve this one—it’s been a month. Many things have happened in that time that I consider worth a grovel. Let’s consider this a general “I’m sorry, darling.”
One unfortunate aspect of these plants is that they frequently turn into something that I am expected to apologize for.
I am reminded of this because The Prince just interrupted my computer game (it hones my brain), wandering into my office waggling a sheaf of Very Important Looking papers, stopping at my shoulder and glancing out into the solarium.
“The Plant is dying,” he said with a hopeless air.
“Which one?” I asked, “There’s a jungle out there.”
“The orange one I bought you. Look at the flower, it’s falling off.”
“Flowers die. It’s normal,” I said, reassuringly.
“You didn’t water it,” he said and huffed away.
If I don’t get a plant for Valentine’s Day I’ll let you know. Then we’ll see what I get as an apology.
*Do you know how many dinners that is? In my case, after 36 years of really cooking, not doing takeout, about 127,000, give or take a dinner party or vacation. If we add in breakfasts . . .
LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” knows a good garden apology when she gets one.