Can houseplants make you happy? We think so. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Can houseplants make you happy? We think so. (Jennifer Bardsley)

A love letter to houseplants during a long and lonely pandemic

A year of social-distancing is like living in a hothouse, but at least her plants provide good company.

Dear houseplants, I water you ever Monday, and buy you special fertilizer, but that’s not enough to express my sincere admiration. The pandemic has made my world small, but at least I have your presence to enliven me.

First, there’s my teenager’s aloe, brought home from Ikea as a wee-bitty thing several years ago, and now a mammoth presence in the living room that nobody is allowed to tend to except for my son, who has studied your watering needs extensively. You are sharp, prickly and bite my ankles when I attempt to vacuum around you. Kind of like teenagers, come to think of it.

Next is my husband’s Christmas cactus, who refuses to bloom on principle. I understand that you formerly lived at my husband’s office building, but you’re in my living room now. I’m sorry the sunlight situation is so poor, but that’s not my fault. Stop pouting and bloom already.

Maybe the cactus could take a lesson from my peace lily, who blooms in the darkest of weather. Not only do you live in an ugly 1980s bathroom, but you rely on light filtering through ancient mini-blinds which I usually forget to open. Your zest for living inspires me. It must help that your friend, the philodendron, hangs above you, trailing down a vine like an arm around your shoulder. Together, you make the 1980s heart-shaped bathroom tile look slightly less awful.

Should I mention it? That bold and daring thing I did at the beginning of the pandemic? I ordered a bulb-of-the-month club from Harry & David. It was the same day I canceled our New Year’s cruise. The bulb-of-the-month club was a consolation prize, something to look forward to each month until the pandemic (hopefully) ended.

But oh you bulb-of-the-month gardens, your friendship is fleeting. Now you’re here, then you aren’t. You arrive and depart with each page turned on the calendar. Paperwhites, amaryllises, hyacinths, daffodils and tulips — who knows? By the time the lilies arrive, every person I know might have been vaccinated, including me. That’s something to look forward to.

In the meantime, I’ve hooked my daughter on houseplants. It started innocently enough, with a jade plant in autumn. Before I knew what had happened, a cohort of succulents had assembled on her windowsill. They multiply overnight, seemingly like Gremlins. A spider plant creeps from the ceiling, bursting with progeny. Every time I buy groceries, my daughter reaches for her allowance and suggests a quick visit to the floral section. Instead of her classmates whom she used to see in-person, she has 28 plants staring back at her.

I’m thankful for you, dear ones. A full year of social-distancing is like living in a hothouse, but at least you provide good company.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at teachingmybabytoread@gmail.com.

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