By Joan Janzen 

I must admit I am not a gardener, but before all the gardeners gasp and scream “W-h-h-a-a-t!” let me explain. People belonging to the horticultural persuasion may find it highly improbable, none-the-less not everyone enjoys gardening.

However … I’m not completely ignorant regarding all things green. I grew up on a farm, daughter of what some would call a dirt farmer. Some of the dirt was used to plant vegetables, and I, a child destined to grow up in a unique era, was used as child labor.

While shelling peas by the hour, I could barely concentrate on my favorite television sit coms. Finally, I’d reach for the last pea in the bottom of the bucket, when my father would enter the room, swoop one huge hand into my basin of freshly shelled peas, and bull doze a gallon’s worth into his hand. It was enough to bring a kid to tears.

The fruit of all my hard work being consumed in such a small expanse of time was a lesson learned about the true meaning of futility. That is why I am not a gardener.

But the green thumb trait must not be a genetic feature which can be passed down to one’s offspring, because both my sons were born with normal looking thumbs. As children, neither of them ever showed any interest in planting seeds and watching them grow. Until years later, when my youngest son became grafted in marriage to a gardener.

For several years, he watched as his bride weeded into the wee hours, until he finally succumbed to the male dominant gene and declared, “I can grow a better garden than that!” Immediately, he was transformed into the incredible green hulk.

I know, I know … you’re probably wondering what this has to do with my non-gardening status, but be patient. It takes time for gardening words to germinate.

Anyway … the incredible green hulk took over the plot so completely that his wife (aka my daughter-in-law) rarely had to pluck a single weed. It was a win-win scenario … until this spring.

That’s when the second-year apprentice gardener started bedding plants from seed in their home. The tiny seedlings took off with a burst of growth, nurtured by growing lights shining from up above, and nestled upon a heating pad down below. Next to the plants was a note book where each plant’s daily progress was carefully documented. But even his mother, the non-gardener, laughed when he pulled out a plant to check the length of its roots.

I marveled at the entire process and thought it was a wonderful enterprise. But I changed my mind when they decided to go on a four-week excursion and put me in charge of the green hulks’ babies.

Why me? I don’t know. Free babysitting would be my best guess.

Not to fear though, because I received plenty of instructions. The grow lights and heating pad were set on an automatic timer. Distilled water was readily available for watering, along with prepared plant food for early morning feedings.

“And don’t forget the coffee,” my son advised.
“You know me, Son. I always have my coffee!” I laughed. “Not you!” he said. “The plants love coffee.” And he continued

to tell the tale of the lemon tree, a twelve inch tall plant he had acquired from a friend, who had given up on it. Under the tender care of the green hulk, it had doubled its height, all because it had consumed a regular quantity of coffee.

Off the travelers went on their jaunt, sending pictures of far-off places, diving excursions, and historic ruins, to which I responded with awe-filled text messages.

As days turned into weeks, several of the plants refused to respond to my ministrations. Even my verbal affirmations didn’t help, and I was saddened to watch them slowly pass away

Meanwhile, the tourist destination photos continued to appear on my phone, inspiring me to respond in kind. I lined up the green survivors, adjusting each one to display their very best side, applying a fine mist to their leaves until they were primed for their photo opp.

Not to be left out, the lemon tree was next. It was positively glowing from its daily intake of leftover cold coffee, and after a few final touches, I took the perfect shot, and sent the photos off to the world traveler. The accompanying text message read, “You’re right! Coffee really does work!”

It didn’t take long for a response to arrive. “That’s crazy!” my son wrote. About two minutes later – another text, “I think maybe YOU put the lemon there. lol!”

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