On a moonless and stormy evening last week, close to midnight, I decided to hide the body. Under the cover of darkness, I hoisted the corpse over my shoulder and scooted out the front door. I zipped across the street, around the corner, and went a further two blocks before ducking into an alley. There was a skip bin. That’s where I ditched the remains of my ficus – the third houseplant to die on my watch this year.
All my plants are bought with the intention that we will grow old together. Sadly, many die before their first birthdays. Yet I continue to replace them. Why? Because at some point in the past decade it became mandatory for homes to look like architectural greenhouses. Plantcare, formerly a hobby reserved for the retired or obnoxiously bohemian, is now a decorating prerequisite.
We have become slaves to designer flora. We breed tiny succulents along every available windowsill. We tend to micro-herbs, which rest in micro-smugness on their vertical garden beds. We gently mist our ferns, who are so fussy and delicate they demand that we water the air around them. We speak Latin: Monstera deliciosa, Philodendron gloriosum and Rhipsalis baccifera. It’s all a bit Dead Poets Society for my taste.
I’m growing weary of our botanical overlords. Well, I’m mostly weary of feeling like everything I touch is destined for a slow demise. But there’s also the financial burden of being a plant murderer. Ficuses don’t come cheap, and that’s before you account for the accoutrements: handmade ceramic planters in pastel hues, fresh from the artist’s market; the boutique copper watering can with an impractical gooseneck spout; and the plant stands – various overpriced contraptions that serve to elevate houseplants.
Anyway, a few days after desecrating my ficus I was back at my local nursery browsing the greenery. My eyes locked onto a friendly rubber plant – Ficus elastica – that looked like a tiny purple coat rack. Maybe this time will be different, I thought.