Monday, August 14, 2017

Clyde: An Allegory?

I have had a plant named Clyde for over a decade. He was a gift from my mother, and is a cutting of a plant given to her at his namesake's (my grandfather's) funeral. I think we all like the idea of his memorial living on, embarking on transcontinental travel, and botanically connecting the entire family.

What I should have, but did not anticipate when I first assumed care of a Clyde plant, was that I would inevitably kill one through a combination of neglect and drought. Horticulture has not been my primary focus at any point in my life, and if memory serves, at some point in medical school or graduate school I had to obtain another cutting from my mother and vowed to be more careful. Unfortunately, Clyde proved no match for the Midwestern summer sun through the rear windshield of the car we drove from Michigan to San Francisco. I felt terrible as I looked at the hard, baked dirt and shriveled brown stems and roots of my previously beautiful plant. Suffice it to say I was able to move on, and my mother dutifully provided me with another cutting to cultivate. I think Clyde traveled by USPS in a plastic baggy.

Throughout residency Clyde always seemed on the edge of perishing. My erstwhile watering patterns were sufficient for my succulents, but in no way resembled the summer rains in Michigan. He was reduced to just a few leaves that wavered from green to brown over the course of four years. Despite this, Clyde survived, and was loaded into the car for yet another long drive. Suffice it to say that if the summer heat across Wyoming was a bit daunting four years ago, the Mojave was a whole new level of hot. Clyde baked in the sun even inside his protective cardboard box, wilting to almost nothing.

When we unpacked the car, I placed Clyde's pot on the back porch, a sad memorial to a nice memorial. I informed my mother that I might be in need of yet another cutting. Still holding out a small amount of hope, I watered the sad, brown, exposed roots and stems in the pot, and allowed the North Carolina rain to soak the soil in a minimally draining pot that was never really meant for plants. Much to my surprise, Clyde is coming back!

Clyde shows an tiny sign of life...

The little leaves grow...

Starting to look like a real plant again!

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