Back in Vermont after a splendid Christmas with our assembled descendants, bags unpacked, dogs retrieved from their Club Med week at the Halfling B&B, I am now on the long annual slide towards spring.
Every year, as soon as Christmas is over, things take on a different look. A spring look. The day is a couple of minutes longer, a difference, my husband insists, that no one could possibly notice. But I do. I notice and take action, which means that at about this time, every year, I buy a houseplant.
This Christmas I received an amaryllis bulb, and yesterday, before even unpacking my bags, I opened the package from the nursery, read the directions, moistened the growing medium, nestled the giant bulb in it, and placed the pot by a south-facing window next to a zonal geranium that, as excited as I by the lengthening days (and by the sun reflecting on the Christmas snow) has put out a bright red bloom.
That amaryllis is getting a lot of attention. Whenever I walk by it, I cannot help thrusting a finger into the growing medium to check for moisture, or giving the pot a quarter turn so every side gets equal exposure to light, or spritzing it with water.
This is the halcyon season for my houseplants, when, in the throes of gardening frustration, I coddle them and chat with them and give them baths in the kitchen sink. And every year, I add to the collection.
Today in the grocery store, despite the pregnant amaryllis bulb waiting at home, I couldn't resist a sprightly, bright-green little fern. I also bought a miniature orchid that fits exactly on the windowsill above the sink, where it will never lack for moisture.
In March, as soon as I plant my spinach seeds in the snow, all my senses will turn towards the outdoors, and my interest in houseplants will begin to wane. By June, when harvesting and weeding begin in earnest, I will wonder what possessed me to burden my life with houseplants that, after all, possess no edible parts.
But right now those little houseplants, as needy and useless and absurd as teacup poodles, are keeping me sane, hopeful, and focused on that long slide towards spring.