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Plant under my care flourishes during winter months

Joyce Walter reflects on her newly found green thumb.
Reflective Moments by Joyce Walter

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, there’s a slight green tone beginning to show on my mostly-black thumb.

It is a well-known fact that my black thumb has managed to kill or at least cause the death of every potted plant that has come into contact with it. Even a cactus plant that I was told didn’t need much water died a shrivelled up death before I remembered that it should at least has its thirst quenched at least once a month or so. That was before Google so how was I to know the exact details of cactus care?

Because my parents were blessed with the ability to grow plants indoors and outdoors, it was assumed that I had the same talent — or at least an interest in horticulture. I enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity to hang out amongst the pea plants and fruit trees, reaping the benefits of those fruits and vegetables. But I was not the boss of them, just a mere helper of parental expertise.

And it was assumed I would be just as interested in helping to look after the abundance of plants that my Mother grew in several rooms of the house. My attention span was short, but then I was a kid with more interest in pursuits that didn’t put me in charge of anything vulnerable to neglect.

Poinsettia plants at Christmas and lilies at Easter have not been immune. When friends bragged about the age of their respective plants, I just kept quiet about my ineptness in the face of their superiority. Mom nurtured her lilies so they bloomed at Christmas and at Easter. 

In the summer I have a bit more luck with green things, probably because even when I forget to water them, the natural moisture of rainfall comes along just in time to salvage the bedding out plants that were healthy when they were stuck in the soil of flower beds and planters.

In the fall though I am usually prompt in disposing of the weather-beaten petunias and begonias and geraniums that have bloomed with determination through whatever Mother Nature and Black-Thumbed Joyce threw their way.

The fall of 2022 was somewhat different. One of my geranium plants bloomed through the required seasons and still was leafy and healthy-looking as the first snowfall loomed earlier than usual.

A conversation with Housemate the Gardener took place regarding the future of this plant: save it or send it along with the other seasonal plants to the horticultural landfill.

I explained that my Mother used to take her geraniums indoors and wintered them in an unused bedroom in the house. I recall her covering them with paper bags and keeping them out of direct sunlight, except for the one she babied in the kitchen window. It bloomed in winter and in the other three seasons and was surely the oldest geranium in the community.

We decided we would try to keep our plant alive over winter for replanting outdoors in the spring. We  re-potted it in the correct soil in a large container and indoors it came. It languished at first until at Housemate’s urging and nagging, I moved it to a spot where it would be in touch with the sun.

Since then it has grown more leaves, looks healthy and then one day I noticed what I thought were more leaves growing at the top of the stem. Upon closer examination I figured out the geranium was going to burst forth in flowers as long as I gave it a weekly drink of life-stretching water.

With some pride in my voice I told Housemate about the potential blossom. He was skeptical but observed the plant with a bit of interest. A few days later I noticed a beautiful pink flower had appeared, with more buds to open.

Housemate was suitably impressed by my dedicated plant care and even nicely failed to point out that the sunlight was responsible for the lovely pink flower. 

He can’t prove the geranium wouldn’t have bloomed if it had been left in the shadows. And I have no proof that it would have bloomed.

Despite this stalemate, we are proud horticultural caretakers of this plant and wonder how it will fare when it goes back outdoors to spend time with those new plants. It will have happy stories to tell them about it was loved and nurtured by the nice people who live in the nearby house.

So yes, there’s a tiny bit of green on my thumb to make up for all the previous deaths I have caused. Sorry plants.

Joyce Walter can be reached at

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication. 

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