As someone who’s a huge fan of parallels and metaphors, I have found significant irony in the journey of my Zebra plant “Maggie” these last few months. Named after the great Dame Maggie Smith, she reached her full growth capacity this past summer. At least that’s what all of the plant forums told me after I expressed concern that she had started to resemble an odd miniature palm tree. Apparently Zebra plants, by nature, are not intended to grow past a certain height, but trimmed and harvested in order to branch out and create many more little green-leafed zebras. In other words, Maggie had reached the point where she was now supposed to become a garden.
So, how to harvest Maggie? Thank God for YouTube. I clipped a couple of stems and placed them in a jar of water so that they could grow news roots before replanting. I then cut the mother plant down to its main stem to re-bloom in its own time. I watched the cuttings like a hawk for days. But after almost a week, there were no signs of new roots. I went back to Google. Has anyone ever heard of “Root Hormone”? The idea sounded absurd. But we’ve been through a lot, Maggie and I. So to save her life and invest in her future, I shelled out the $10 and tried root hormone. But all that this not-so-magical dip did was speed up the withering process. The leaves of the cuttings went limp and brown. And if that wasn’t bad enough, back at home in the pot of what two weeks before had been “Maggie: my tall and beautiful Zebra plant” now sat “Maggie: my poor brown stump.”
It appeared that all of her beautiful green and her tremendous height were gone forever. I was devastated, I mourned, I couldn’t fathom it. I thought I had done everything right. I heeded advice from experts and watched the appropriate videos educating myself. I gave her light, put her near music speakers, watered her and placed her in the window for fresh air. I even invested in Root Hormone for God’s sake. What was the point? I asked my disappointing little stump. Over the last two and a half years, there had been moments when I looked at Maggie and felt so proud… but what did I have to show for it now?
The idea of just throwing her away was so painful. But looking at what was left, what else was there to do? And then, I remembered something… it was a song lyric I heard years ago talking about growth and green. It’s a song called “Wick” from The Secret Garden, and it says that just because a plant is brown and leafless on the outside and seems that it’s no longer going to grow doesn’t mean it’s at the end of the line… but merely going through a temporary phase. There’s still green inside, and “hiding down below, a spark’s asleep inside it/ waiting for the right time to be seen” again. So with love and hope, I gave Maggie the benefit of the doubt and continued to care for her as I’d done before. I gave my little stump water and light and played Pandora and did every other little thing I usually did for her so that if she did decide to bloom again, she’d have all of the elements helping her along. And then, after a while, this…
And just a few short months later, this….
Maggie continues to thrive (albeit in a new way), and I find myself taking note of the fact that putting so much faith and trust in outside sources only got me so far. What mattered in the end were my own perseverance, hope and patience, showing tender love and care, and the magic inspired by a song. I am sure that one day, Maggie will eventually become the garden that she’s meant to be. But for the moment, I’m just grateful that she’s got her color back. And now that she’s been through the ringer a little bit, even before her next achievement, I’ve started to recognize that she’s actually quite lovely in any phase. And in the New Year, I intend to find some reason, big or small, to be proud of her every day.
Wishing you and yours a very wonderful and happy New Year,