By Kristen Ace Nevarez, Senior Staff Columnist
Gardens don’t have a great reputation. The Garden of Eden. The Garden of Gethsemane. The New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Is it me, or do bad things happen whenever someone goes into a garden?
I’ve never had green thumbs. In that department I am less Martha Stewart and more Bruce Banner. I don’t have any personal vendetta against them, but plants have never been my thing. I barely passed seventh grade biology. I was almost certain if I started a rock garden, they’d still die. Heck, I killed a plastic flower once. Let’s just say the silk rose and “I will love you till the last rose dies” Valentine lost its charm after the breakup.
Then I met Andrew and Cody, roommates who are obsessed with gardening. When I say obsessed, I am not exaggerating for the sake of humor. No. These two have literally imprinted on the Kingdom Plantae. Yes. I needed a “Twilight” reference to get this point across. It’s that strong.
I speak about an orchid and vegetable Amazon. If you go in their backyard, you are on safari. If I found a rhino hiding behind their hibiscus I would not be surprised.
I used to make fun of their early morning watering routine and citrus-journal reading material. Then they made a caprese salad fresh from their garden’s Cherokee purples. From that day forward, I was a garden believer.
Now there is no question in my mind we live in the times of Disneyland’s “Innoventions”: We’re sending spacecraft to Saturn’s moon and you can have emotionally invested cyber relationships with strangers across the country without leaving your bedroom. Today’s youngsters have battery-powered lollipop spinners. Anything is possible. Despite all this, if you want a decent tomato you have to grow it yourself.
The combination of my appreciation for worthy foods and undiluted competitive streak led me to a decision: I was going to keep a plant alive. With every good intention, I journeyed to The Home Depot and bought a Mammillaria thornberi.
It’s a cactus.
Now, in my own defense, I had intended to buy a tomato plant to outdo Cody and Andrew, but looking at the display, all that vulnerable roughage scared me. Call me Pontius Pilate — I didn’t want innocent plant blood on my hands. I chickened out, threw in the trowel (get it? get it?) and decided to start with a cactus.
Quick tangent: I asked the orange-aproned clad kid in the gardening department if he thought I’d be OK taking care of my cactus without any experience. He just looked confused and said he could ask his manager for me. Honestly, I am not sure if “Hi I’m Ken, I put customers first” should be trusted caring for all those plants. Is that something the EPA should look into? Back to my story …
I brought the $3.99 cactus to my bedroom, put him on my desk and named him Jean-Paul Sartre. He didn’t complain. Actually he’s been pretty quiet all around. Maybe I should have named him Zeno.
I did extensive research to make sure I was addressing all gardeners’ due diligence. By this I mean I Google-searched “cactus.” I found cactiguide.com, a “great place to share and learn with other cactus enthusiasts.” I’m not kidding. The introduction began: “Perhaps it was the Golden Guide on cacti that I used to flip through as a kid …” and couldn’t take it any more. At that point Sartre and I agreed I could just figure out how to care for him the way all parents rear their eldest child: good ole trial and error.
Some people talk to their plants. I yell at mine. Sartre will probably grow up to be insecure and have validation issues, but America needs more of that. Either way, it has been 10 days and he is still alive.
I suppose that makes me about as nurturing as a desert.
— Kristen Ace Nevarez is a theatre arts senior. Jealous?
— This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Daily Aztec.