blog description

Old women talk about old things: history, myth, magic and their
checkered pasts, about what changes and what does not.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Indoor Plant Conundrum

This is the time of year when I repot my indoor plants, getting them ready for winter and the tougher, dryer, darker conditions of house living. I've had a plant called a Hoya since the summer of 1969 when we moved into our first house, a ramshackle money-pit of a farmhouse set in the middle of a Connecticut cornfield. The Hoya was given to me by the seller as a few cuttings stuck in a pot of dirt. This plant liked light, I was told, and it would create flowers once a year that had a "lovely" scent. Best place to hang it up = the bathroom. So, as a new homeowner, young housewife and would-be plant person, I followed directions. I watered the Hoya regularly and fed it, because that was how my mother-in-law took care of her plants. (As a sidebar, hers, on a steady diet of Miracle Grow(c) had grown to be Little Shop of Horrors sized monsters.)

The Hoya grew, the tough vines and rubbery leaves multiplying. The following spring, it bloomed, a white compound S/F type bloom, each single five-starred floret brightened by a red dot in the middle. Soon I realized the flowers were oozing and dripping sap all over the linoleum, sap which took some effort to scrub away. You could smell it at night, too, as promised, a heavy, sweet, rather sickening smell. ("Lovely" it was not.) Then, one by one, the florets dried. One by one they fell, scattering their little sticky brown selves all over the laundry, or whatever happened to be underneath. Every 3-4 years, the Hoya needed a complete repot, because it had filled the container  with a rock-hard root-ball, in the same way spider plants do. I dumped it out, took a few starter vines + rubbery leaves and began all over again.

This plant has lived in Connecticut (10 years), in Tennessee (4 years) and in Hershey (31 years), transported as a cutting in pots rowed up in the back of a VW bug. I have followed the life cycle, fed, watered, cleaned-up after and re-potted the Hoya many, many times.

Autumn draws on apace, and the Hoya sits on the back patio, waiting. I've stared at it many times during the last month, in those last warm days of October wondering when it would reach the top of the to-do list. Then, recently, sitting at the picnic table with Bob keeping me company (lying atop the magazine I had been reading), the Hoya caught my eye once more. Now, I have many things to tend this autumn, what with writing and all the crap that goes with it, volunteerism, meetings, pets, a husband, a house I haven't cleaned thoroughly since spring, and two gardens, neither of which I've put to bed as yet.  

I ruminated on the Hoya as the leaves of the old sugar maple drifted past. The plant sat there, pot-bound and not looking too happy at being left for so long out-of-doors in the wind and chill. Why did I go on keeping it? Simply because I had kept it for so long? Return to paragraph two, kind reader, and you will see the hard facts, the reality of owning a Hoya, which I had, for the first time, finally taken the time to inventory.

This may just be the year I get over my inability to let things go and just say the hell with it.

Juliet Waldron
See All my historical novels



  1. Letting go is hard to do! For me, that comes under the heading of that dreaded word, Change. Maybe you should take a small cutting and give the rest to friends, or enemies.

  2. thanks, Judith! Sometimes, it feels like freedom to let go of things with diminishing returns.
    Have a wise crone celebratory weekend with the spirits!

  3. The relationship with plants - a responsiblity, a friend, a custodian, and then one day it is just a plant again. I don't know how that happens, but it has for me. You describe it so simply and capture it perfectly. And the freedom we feel after letting go? Like a clearing of the air, the opening of a space. It is good, too. As always - I so enjoy your writing.

  4. I had a Hoya plant many moons ago, but I obviously didn't keep up with it because I don't have a clue what ever became of it. Oh dear, I never was very good with house bad.

  5. Never had a Hoya, but we've had this one Swedish ivy plant for about 30 years, although I can't remember if the current potted job is the original or the one from cuttings. I've often pondered letting it stay out on the porch...kind of a survival of the fittest test in our harsh CT winters, but compassion always wins out, even as it's gotten huge and space in the big picture window with the southern exposure has become premium real estate.

    As always, I love your "stuff" :-)