Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Legacy of the Palm Plant

The year was 1994.  We were at the MN State Fair a few days after we had returned from our honeymoon.

Just for fun we decided to buy a stick-like thing at the Bazaar that would grow into a palm plant.  "Just put the non-painted end in water for a few weeks and then plant it in soil," they told us, pointing to the palms around in the booth at various stages of growth.  Since I'm not a green thumb, I thought anything that easy would at least be worth a try.

So, we went home and put it in water.  I was thinking it would immediately grow leaves like the plants I had seen in the Bazaar booth, but after three weeks it still looked like a stick to me.  My spouse, however, pointed out the two or three tiny green buds beginning to sprout from the sides of the stalk.

So, we planted it.  A year later it was a couple feet tall.  Another year and it was halfway to our ceiling.  We bought bigger and bigger pots.  Soon it had two spindly stalks reaching up to the ceiling of our house.

Every so often, right around Thanksgiving, the palm would bloom and grow blossoms of tiny white flowers that sent a nice fragrance throughout the house for about two weeks.  One time the scent was so strong we had to put the plant in the bathroom because our company had inhalant allergies!

Palm Plant 2009

Fragrant white flowers

The palm did well for many years.  The problem was that it wasn't strong enough to stand up on its own.  It was using the wall as a support, and if we pulled it away from the wall it would probably topple over.  We tried turning the plant gradually so that it would maybe lean the other way, but the plant started curling downward towards the sunlight.  It lost a lot of its leaves, and the greenest part at the top developed a very distinctive kink.

In 2011 I'd had enough.  It was a tough decision but I performed "surgery" on the palm.  (Yes, I take full responsibility for decimating the plant, the palm we had bought a week after our wedding.)  I chopped it into the two different stalks, aerated the soil, and planted the green top by itself in a different pot.  I was hoping the two stalks would start over and grow again but they didn't.  I didn't expect the small green top to survive, but it did.  It did more than survive; it thrived! 

Palm - July 2011

July 2011

New Growth - July 2011

The new growth at the base of the trunk grew up under the crooked piece and actually supported it.  I thought of the plant as a metaphor for my life at that time:  My life can get bent out of shape sometimes; God prunes away the dead leaves to make room for new growth and supports the core of what he intends to remain.

By October the plant was flourishing again and looked very healthy.

This lasted for another two years, and then, for some reason, the plant started looking really sickly again.  All its leaves turned brown and hung limp.  We figured it was because the roots of the plant had wound around themselves and couldn't really grow any further.  And I'm sure there was some root rot.

Was this the end of our palm?  We thought about getting a new plant; instead we decided to trim everything away and start over, breaking up the soil around the root ball and planting new soil around it so it could hopefully expand once again.

This is our palm today.  Pretty pathetic looking...

...but on closer inspection, new tiny green buds are visible.  The plant lives on... and the story continues!

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