what a plant needs

There are two florist shops in my neighborhood. One is on my block and I can see it from the living room window. The young guy who opened it last fall, just after I moved in, is Jehovah’s Witness or something like that. Whenever I buy anything from him, he asks God to bless me, and once I went inside and he was in the back playing a guitar. “You’re a musician?” I asked, and he said no, he only played to praise the Lord. Lately he has taken to scrawling bible verses in the center of the shop window overlooking the street.

When I bought the yellow tulips from him, he said to put them outside on the ledge at night. “They need the cold air. It stiffens them up, keeps them from wilting. They’ll live longer that way,” he explained. I felt bad putting them out in the cold, but I did what he said and it worked. It kept them strong and lovely for a long time.

There is another florist shop that is hidden. I only found it because it is across the street from the nearest post office, a block up, a block across, and half a block down. But it has been there for seventeen years. The woman who runs it is so gentle and kind. Her hands have dirt on them, in them. It is the kind of dirt that is rubbed deep into the fine lines of her calluses and I bet even if she scrubbed it with a brush it wouldn’t come away. The dirt is a part of her. She explains everything to me, slowly and generously, and I feel like I could stay all day in the warehouse she and the man who is there with her – her business partner? – have turned into what feels like a botanical garden.

I bought a small terracotta vase with a bulb about to bloom and asked her if she thought she could get me a papyrus, and how I would care for it. She showed me special planters with water level gauges. “You don’t want to water the plant when the level gets low right away. You should wait a day or two.”

“I’ve heard that before,” I said. “A friend of mine says a plant has got to suffer a little.”

She smiled and nodded. “Your friend is correct. A plant needs a crisis. After a crisis it becomes more beautiful.”

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About Jennifer

I'm a freelance translator and American expat. I live in Northern Italy with my two young sons.
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5 Responses to what a plant needs

  1. Hilary says:

    I loved this post!!!!! You are a lovely storyteller!

  2. simplyjen says:

    I love the way you write. There is always a little something lingering with me after reading yr posts, a reminder of courage, an appreciation of life & simplicity, a little inspiration or encouragement. Or sometimes, it just brings a smile after a hard day at work:)

  3. Marge says:

    I agree with all the others. Jennifer, you have a wonderful way of honing in on what life is about. Your posts really strike at the core.

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