Fairview, North Carolina, is close enough to the nearest real city—Asheville—to be within easy driving range, yet far enough away to still feel a bit like the country. There’s an unfortunate side effect from being so country-close. Many city dwellers who tire of their pets think the way to get rid of them is to drive out to the nearest rural area—i.e. Fairview—throw old Fido or Fluffy out the door, then turn around and lay rubber for home. So three or four times a year, a recently abandoned cat or dog will show up at your doorstep, howling from hunger, and creating a problem you never asked for but can’t wish away.
What do you do? Knock it over the head with the backside of an axe (my neighbor’s solution)? Put it on death row down at the local animal shelter? Try to pawn it off on someone else? (Good luck!) Or take it in and be stuck with another four-legged freeloader?
You see the dilemma.
Now, I’m telling you this not because I’ve got a new dog you’re just going to love—but in case you’re considering giving a gardening friend a houseplant for Christmas. Believe me, if potted plants could roll, whining for Miracle-Gro, up to the doorway, all gardeners would keep shotguns stuffed with herbicide. They’d have guard cacti posted on the porch. “Alright, Fuchsia, get a move on, or I’ll sic my Prickly Pears on you!’
We’re not trying to be cruel. It’s just that we have enough trouble keeping our own houseplants alive without struggling to coddle some finicky foliage we didn’t even ask for. “Mist several times daily,” the guidebook says offhandedly. Oh, why, of course, your Royal Fernness. “Make sure the soil stays moist, but not soggy.” Absolutely, Prince Prayer Plant. “Keep warm at all times.” We are trying, Great King Bromeliad, but you see, there’s this thing called Winter …
Let’s face it. Houseplants are wonderful—but they’re a wonder that should be entirely self-inflicted. I can starve my own African violets, dehydrate my own Boston ferns, and defoliate my own poinsettias just fine without mistreating any needy greenery you drop off.
So give me some vegetable-print boxer shorts. A Christmas wreath made of fresh poison ivy vines. A mating-call whistle for attracting slugs to flowerbeds. But please, please, not (shudder) another houseplant.
I’m perfectly fine with my new stray dog, thank you very much! ❖