Environment Blog

My Place or Yours?

The Delicate Struggle for Propriety with Houseplants in the City

September 13, 2007

When I awoke last night, the ivy was trying to steal my kidneys. It had already gagged the orchids, my most faithful whistle blowers, and thrown a curtain around the self-absorbed purple oxalis – which wouldn’t have noticed anyway, since it closes its wing-shaped leaves every evening once the sun has stopped looking at it. The fern across the room couldn’t have suspected either because a long branch of ivy was drooping down to tickle it under the chin.

Orchids and ferns and clovers are easy to distract. There’s only one plant with a plan in my nursery, and last night it played out months of sketching and calculating to silently uncoil just inches from my open mouth. I wasn’t sure of the ivy’s intention (perhaps it had descended to swipe at a poisonous spider heading to crawl down my throat) until I noticed the pointy finger of another branch hovering just above the computer keyboard. Scanning the black market, no doubt. Looking for a high bid on my guts.

I have always expected a bit of recalcitrance from this one. It’s why I lined the tracks of its searching tendrils with hooks from the ceiling. But there is a fine line between jungle reminiscence and straight out mutiny.

When I turn on the lights for further inspection, I find that over by the window, where it began one summer as a well-mannered houseplant, the ivy has sprouted external roots, fat fingers gluing it to the wall. Terrible leeches, like deformed limbs or obscene organs, but with the power to bring down walls. And when, squealing, I tear it off, a peel of my “twilight rendezvous” wall-paint comes with it.

It’s the final push. The ivy has forgotten who brought it here. Food, water, warmth when I can afford it, and all it has to do is leave a bit of its culture behind.

It’s not what I wanted, but there will be weekly flashlight inspections. Had I been looking for chaos I would have bought kudzu. No. In my home, I decide how wild we get.

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