By Piper Bayard
This is my orange tree. It owns me.
You may well wonder how I came to be enslaved by a houseplant. It’s a sordid tale because it all goes back to the fact that I’m a killer. I kill things. It’s what I do best.
I don’t mean kill things in the assassin sense, unless you’re a plant, that is. But it’s a fact. My houseplants all want to run away from home. They’ve seen what I’ve done to their friends over the years. . . . The cactuses that died from lack of water, the orchids I’ve drowned, and, worst of all, what I did to Quintilla.
Quintilla started out with five stately stalks, nearly as tall as I am, each with a spray of pointed leaves at the top. This is what’s left of Quintilla after a few years of my
neglect careful ministrations. . . . Not that leafy top on the right, the dead stalk on the left. The one behind the shrinking cactus.
So a few months ago when my son asked for a small orange tree at the hardware store, I warned him that he would have to be responsible for it. Of course, he agreed.
We brought it home, and he happened to notice that the best light in the house was in my office. Okay. It could live there. But he would have to take care of it.
At first, I tried to ignore it, but then I saw that it was looking a bit peaked, its soil dry and crusty, and its leaves unhappy. I took it in the bathroom and gave it a shower.
Before I knew it, I was moving it about from place to place in my office all day to keep it in the sun. I would get up at night to make sure the shade was closed so it wouldn’t get too cold. I even started talking to it now and then, trying to ascertain whether it needed to be turned to the left side or the right side that day.
And then it happened. A tiny new leaf. Within two weeks, that little spark of growth became three branches with several new leaves, and more, buds. The orange tree was going to bloom! I didn’t even know they did that as container plants.
About that time, I started to notice a smell in my office. Fragrant at first. Not too pungent. As the little buds grew, so did the strength of the perfume. Then, yesterday, I was rewarded. . . .
One moment please. The sunlight shifted. . . .
One beautiful blossom. . . .
Oh, my! Her leaves look a bit wilty. Why would that be?
Along with this miracle, I suddenly noticed all that delicious fragrance in my office was giving me a headache. What to do?
Well, there’s only one thing I can do. Go back to the coffee shop to work until she’s finished blooming, of course. Because I can’t give up on the only plant that’s ever shown signs of thriving in my care.
Oh, good. A touch of water perked her right up.
I’m thinking that, if I’m going to be a slave to a houseplant, that plant needs a name. I believe it wants me to call it “Master,” but I have core-deep authority issues that prevent me from pronouncing that word.
So I’m asking you. What’s a good name for the orange tree that owns me? I’m also curious. What plants, animals, or objects own you?
All the best to all of you for a pleasant and fruitful servitude.