It’s no mystery that I dig a potted plant (or 20). My most prized plant is my “Granny Ivy”. I spoke about it in length here, but in a nutshell, it’s a plant from a cutting of my Granny’s gigantic ivy. I’ve had it since 1999, so it’s stuck with me through good times and bad. Let’s be honest here, I’ve neglected the heck out of this thing for almost the entire time I’ve owned it. How’d it survive the better part of 20 years that way? My mother’s green thumb.
For the past several years, I’ve given my ivy a lot of TLC. When we lived in Texas, my husband started collecting rainwater for it and it started to THRIVE. I’ve pampered this plant. My mom’s ivy from the same cutting always flourished. It was beautifully full and had great legs. I wanted my ivy to look more like hers, so I employed her help a lot. Shortly before we moved to New Mexico, I asked for her help one last time.
“Mom, can you help me with my ivy? It’s dwindling again.”
Mom’s answer this time was to repot it. My dad graciously dug up some dirt from the yard (ha! Yes.) and we plopped it into a pot. When my mom saw what we’d done, she was insistent. “Jaelan, no. You cannot repot the plant with dirt from the yard. You need actual potting soil.” My dad probably rolled his eyes, but I wasn’t fussed as long as mom did it for me.
When I came back some time later, mom was finishing up with my ivy on the back patio. “Look-y here! All done with fresh potting soil. I bet it’ll do great now,” she said.
I thanked her for the help and later loaded up my precious plant into the car to make the long drive across Texas and half of New Mexico. My ivy did thrive! It got much more full and it started to sprout legs that hung off the sides. When my mom died a few short months after the move, it became even more special to me that my mom’s hands lovingly repotted my prized ivy last. I never wanted to repot it, so I didn’t… for about a year and a half.
This spring, I started to notice that my ivy was starting to dwindle again. It lost a leaf here and there, and overall it just looked sad and tired. I tried watering it, hoping it would perk back up as it always does (Devil’s Ivy really is a saint of a plant for people who are kind of crap at remembering to water). It didn’t. I did this a few times, fruitlessly.
One weekend, I said to my husband, “I think I’m going to have to repot my ivy, but I don’t want to. Mom potted it last, but it’s sad.”
He typically leaves the plant stuff to me, but I’m grateful that for whatever reason, he decided to help me this time. I took the ivy out to the backyard on a sunny Saturday morning, and with his help, I carefully removed it from the plastic nursery pot my mom put it in 18 months earlier.
I flipped the root ball up and there I saw it: a large piece of broken terracotta pot, my mom’s signature when it came to plants. She always kept fragments of broken pots lying around for potting purposes. She’d lay the broken piece over the drainage hole so that water could escape, but soil couldn’t. It’s genius, really.
As I removed the terracotta piece from the grip of the roots, I started to cry. I was so grateful for this simple reminder that my mom existed, and so sad that she wasn’t around for me to call on her. Grief is funny in that way; the most minimal things can send the wheel spinning. For me, this time it was a potted plant.