What colour is your thumb?

Things are greening up. Ever notice Prince Albert’s trees when you drive into town from the north, crossing the bridge? Trees all over the place, up-up-up along the hillside around Second Avenue West. And the green season is just beginning. With front lawns, back gardens, balcony and patio planters, hope sprouts in the hearts of gardeners like perennials in the yard of a vintage home.

            The greenhouse merchants have put up pieces of paradise in the paved parking lots (apologies to Joni Mitchell). Begonias. Marigolds. Some flower called bougainvillea. “Look at those adorable pansy faces! Love the scent of petunias… mmm! I must buy a couple or three. Or eight. What the heck, give me a dozen!”

            That’s not me talking, it’s the ladies I came to the greenhouse with. I’m just pushing the cart, thank you very much. It’s my thumb, you see. Weed killer or soil sterilant must have landed on it, because any greenish tinge it once had seems to have turned brown. And that’s without the age spots. I envy the green thumb people. Stick the seeds in soil, water them, add some fertilizer, pull a few weeds, and presto! Vegetables. Flowers. Fruit trees, even!

            If only.

            During the pandemic, with grocery shopping a strange game, I rustled up a few plant containers, bought some dirt, and typed “vegetable seeds” into Google. Well, that brought up a few gazillion places to order from. Once the packets arrived I set to planting, following all instructions religiously. But things were slow, slow, slow to grow. The cucumbers eventually managed some cute little sprouts. The peas never did come up. The carrots grew best, mainly their lush green tops. Maybe the seeds weren’t good. Perhaps I planted them too deep. Or they didn’t get enough sun. Or water. Or maybe too much water. Ack!  As a Saskatchewan farmer’s daughter the crop failure cut deeply. I scored exactly one meal of very skinny (but extremely tasty – I was hungry) carrots.

            There have been some successes over the years, though. I raised a thriving umbrella plant once. Until it got mites or something.  An “expert” cure involving dish detergent mixed with water finished the poor thing off. Not to be deterred, I took on a philodendron, basically a vine that never blooms, and thrives on neglect. Bingo! It was un-killable, and happily accompanied me through several moves to Saskatoon and back. I even named it: Louisa May Plant.  Louisa wound herself around the living room at least twice, was inherited by the next occupant, and may well be still putting out new shoots.

            Then there was the grafted cactus. It stayed small, but amazingly, it bloomed! For what  seemed like months, not unlike a peachy-pink rose in the big south window. Sadly, it was destined to shrivel and die eventually, possibly aided by curiosity from Herman the cat. Still, fond memories….

            As things turned out, the ladies at the greenhouse influenced me to buy geraniums already in baskets to take home and set inside big pots. And if the containers are pretty enough, what’s growing in them is really secondary. I now have a lovely collection of pots in lime green, turquoise and purple. They’re perennials, destined to re-appear and brighten the landscape year after year.

            The arrangement feels so right that I’m thinking of naming the purple one Violet. Lorna Blakeney is an avid writer who enjoys photography, history, travel, and genealogy. She was born and raised in Prince Albert, earned a B.A. from the University of Saskatchewan, likes to walk, and loves coffee shops. Her column appears the first Friday of every month.