Select Page

Dan St. Yves: Not-so-green thumb (of doom)

Dan St. Yves 2005As spring arrives anew each year, temperatures rise, the sun seems to shine a bit more, and fresh greenery “springs” up almost everywhere. Everywhere but our house. Oh, we’ve tried to grow houseplants over the years, but since the very first day I met my wife, it has been clear that she possesses the absolute reverse effect of a Midas touch with plants. She is more of a Grim Reaper for greenery.

My wife can kill a houseplant within a week. Sometimes even quicker than that. Some wilt straight into rigor mortis right on our front stoop, fresh from the local nursery. Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand once sang, “You don’t bring me flowers anymore” and neither will I. It’s the least I can do to help keep the worldwide flower population stable.

There is no rational explanation for this phenomenon, nor any one reason that stands out in the parade of wilted flora cadavers I have attended to over the years. She has watered them faithfully, even given them recommended nutrients. She has placed them in sunny or shady spots, according to directions given by experts. Then, as the days pass, subtly too does the healthy green hue in the leaves. The stalks will inevitably transform from robust trunks reaching skyward, to the general consistency of limp used elastic bands – curling up to sleep for a long, long time. By the end of a week, they will be as deceased as a mackerel on a desert sand dune.

I’ve flushed a fallen fern. I have driven a decomposing dieffenbachia to the dump. I’ve once even had to put a dehydrated cactus out of its misery. No plant form has proven hardy enough to survive the wilds of our home.

Wait, I stand corrected. Just this past summer, I was able to resurrect an L-shaped section of sod around our back patio, back from the brink of death. The grass pieces that the installer fitted around the border of our new patio had started to assume the colour most typical for vegetation around our house, so I sprung into unprecedented emergency action. I bought a little jug of some kind of generic Wal-Mart grass seed and watered it until it had no choice other than to sprout and reach for the sky. While my wife found much amusement in my initial efforts, once my toes were nestled in the resulting thick, lush carpet of lawn that I had nursed back to health, she had to admit that maybe I did conceal a green thumb within my bosom.

Or, it could be that I summoned up the proud heritage of my farmer’s soul. Not that I’ve ever been a farmer, technically – but my dad grew up on a farm, and I’m pretty sure his family tree would have had healthy roots in agriculture. I did own a pair of bib overall jeans for awhile.

I suppose I should confess, this entire train of thought was inspired on a return flight to Canada recently. The in-flight magazine in the plane had an advertisement for a product called the Plant Pal Moisture Meter. Effectively, you put this widget in the flowerpot. The copy for the ad stated “this nifty gizmo, shaped like a frog, detects when soil gets too dry, and gives a croak to let you know it’s time to water.”

In our house, it wouldn’t be the frog in the pot that croaks.

Humour columnist and author Dan St. Yves was licensed with Royal LePage Kelowna for 11 years. Check out his website at  or contact him at [email protected].