Tag Archives: flower

Check out my mom’s fingers — they’re all green

Ever wonder where the term “green thumb” originated? One of the more plausible answers originated with the Brits, whose version, “green fingers”, actually makes more sense because how many gardeners do you know who use just their thumbs?

What I discovered is that just before and during World War II, one of the most popular programs on BBC radio in Britain was called “In Your Garden,” the host of which was a Mr. C.H. Middleton. A well-known etymologist, Eric Partridge, suggested that this program might have popularized both phrases, and that “green thumb” was actually a reference to the very old English proverb “An honest miller has a golden thumb.” Millers, merchants who grind corn for farmers, used to judge the quality of their product, corn flour, by rubbing a bit between the palm and thumb. But millers were often suspected of cheating their customers, and “golden thumb” was often used sarcastically, including by Chaucer, to mean a talent for duplicity. In any case, the proverb was sufficiently well known in Britain in the mid-20th century to make the “golden thumb” and “green thumb” connection plausible, and would explain why the thumb in particular is found in the most common form of the phrase.

What prompted this interest in green thumbs? My 89-year-old mother — a shining example of green fingers. When she moved from her condo to an apartment in an independent living facility, she gave up a lot — her piano, many antiques, family heirlooms, furniture, etc.

But she insisted on taking along many of her indoor plants (and some outdoor ones). After all, she’d nurtured many of these potted bulbs for years, letting them lie dormant until it was time for them to bloom. In fact, she has so many I worried that she would trip over them. She solved that problem by acquiring a second storage space in her building — this one just for her plants.

This is the scene in her living room right now — most of the plants are placed in front of her large patio doors where they get what little winter light is available.

Every winter, she babies her amaryllis bulbs (she has three pots) watering and staking them carefully to be sure they are productive. And they are, indeed, productive. So much so that my husband is green with envy. He’s attempted this several years, with limited success.

Last week, one of Mother’s amaryllis plants had produced seven (yep) blooms. By the time I took this photo, it was reduced to four. But no matter. Trust me. On a gloomy day, just take a look at this beauty and you’ll find your spirits quickly lifted.

The curse of the Mother’s Day plant

Last Sunday, the rain let up just enough that I decided it was time to do some planting. Despite a hankering for a new high-rise raised bed, I’d decided instead to do mostly container gardening. Having done this successfully several years ago, and bolstered by an article posted on the Stratton Greenhouses Facebook page, I headed out to the playhouse.

Okay,technically this is no longer a playhouse, but since I like to play in the garden, we still call it that. My dad built this A-frame “cottage” about 18 years ago, intending it as a playhouse for the girls. He told me we’d be lucky if it lasted for two years, but since my dad never did anything halfway or shoddy, it still stands.

Anyway, the toys housed inside have been replaced by gardening tools and equipment, pots of all sizes, bags of potting soil, and assorted spiders and bugs. So…Sunday, I shoved aside the spiders standing guard at the door and grabbed four big clay pots and a bag of potting soil.

This was to be an early planting of succession crops (I made that up to sound like I know what I’m talking about). In one pot went mesclun (a “gourmet” blend of greens, and in another pot I planted spinach. Then because I wanted to compare the success of basil grown in a pot versus that grown in my herb garden, I plopped some basil seed in the third pot. In the fourth pot, I mixed a handful of year-old buttercrunch with spinach.

Container garden pre-squirrel attack

Despite the fact that it was likely to rain within a few hours, I dutifully sprinkled water over the four pots. In the back of mind, a niggling voice festered. “Maybe you should put screens over the pots….just in case.” Since I’m so good at ignoring little voices I took some pictures of my pots and pleased as punch, went into the house to announce the start of my 2011 garden.

The next day, I was talking to my youngest daughter on the cell phone as I walked home from work. As I approached the patio, I excitedly told her about the plantings. My happiness suddenly turned to howls as I realized one of those wretched squirrels had decided to feed on my newly planted seed.

Her response? “Mom, it’s the curse of the Mother’s Day plant. Remember?”

Pot post-squirrel attack

Oh, how I remember. Long ago, when she was about six years old, she’d planted a flower in a tiny pot at school and brought it home to give me for Mother’s Day. She and her dad had hidden it in the garage, locked the door, and forbade me to enter the garage. They forgot to tell that to the furry creature hidden somewhere in the dark recesses of the garage.

The next morning, the two of them sneaked out to the garage. There was a loud scream, followed by angry cries of frustration. Somehow, they’d unknowingly locked a raccoon inside the garage and he seemed to think that flower was his breakfast.

I honestly think if the raccoon had hung around, Anne would have grabbed the nearest shovel and smacked it.

It was Anne’s version of Judith Viorst’s “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day.” A Mother’s Day I’ve never forgotten.

Twenty years later, she’s obviously still hanging on to her memory of that day, but with a humorous twist. And so…there you have it…the curse of the Mother’s Day plant. Guess I’ll have to wait until after Mother’s Day to re-plant.