One day, walking down Main Street, in Northampton, MA, I found a rolled up bundle of bills and a deposit slip, right outside one of the town’s banks. So I went in and gave it to the security guard. This was some time ago, when I was in college. The next day a package came to my dorm room with a nice note of appreciation for my honesty, and a “perpetual rose” (the rose was in a jar filled with some kind of fluid; I don’t know if it would have lasted in perpetuity because I didn’t keep it). I hadn’t expected any reward…there had been no question in my mind what to do. So no gift was necessary. However, I did wonder, of all the possible things to give a college student (food comes immediately to mind), why a perpetual rose?
I didn’t like the perpetual rose, but I love receiving plants as gifts. They are living reminders of the person who gave them. I have a rubber tree that my co-workers at Yankee magazine gave me on my birthday. Usually we had cupcakes or bagels to celebrate office birthdays, but that day we were closing early for the Christmas holiday. So some of my friends went out and got me what was then a small plant. I’ve had it for more than 20 years now, and it would be gigantic if not for periodic trims.
Someone once gave my father a ficus tree for his office, and although ficus trees tend to be sensitive, he moved this one to a couple of different offices before giving it to me. I don’t know where the tree was first grown, but it began its “owned” life in New York, went with me to Boston (in three different apartments), then back to New York, and finally to Rhode Island, where it’s had three homes. From time to time it voices displeasure by dropping all its leaves, but it keeps growing back and branching out.
Right now I am looking at a beautiful Clivia, which is about to bloom. About twice a year a sturdy stalk shoots up from the center of the long, deep green leaves, and a cluster of bright orange blossoms open, one by one. The plant grows “offsets” which can be cut off and replanted. My plant was an offset, given to me by a wonderful woman who loved flowers and gardening. She died of cancer in her 50s. I think of her often when I garden, especially when I am ruthlessly digging out a plant I don’t like, or that isn’t growing well—which I learned from her. The Clivia is a perpetual reminder of her, especially when it flowers. So I am happy to have it here, next to me.