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Lifestyle Stories

Old plants don't die - they just resurface

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Published:   |   Updated: March 23, 2013 at 09:58 AM

I am not a patient gardener when it comes to starting plants.

I don't do seeds, seedlings or bulbs. Ever. A cutting might get a chance if it's a gift from a fellow gardener or from something I simply can't find at a nursery. But mostly I like my plants to have a solid start before I put them in a pot or in the ground.

On the other end of the life cycle, though, I am all about waiting and seeing. If a beloved plant starts to sputter, I'll medicate and amputate and do everything to resuscitate it before giving in. I'm like those poor interns on TV shows, who keep pumping and shocking and yelling at their flat-lining patients ("Don't you die on me!") even as the monitor goes from beeps to buzz.

Call it!

No!

Call it!

No, I can save this succulent, I know it!

And yet, something tells me I've been premature in pulling the plug on certain plants in my garden. Because suddenly, remarkably, they keep showing up, reborn, in old pots around the yard.

Here's my confession (gasp if you must): When I yank a seemingly dead plant from its pot, I get as much of the root out as I can, but I don't throw away the soil. Most of the time, I just add some compost from my bin and put in a new plant.

I'm sure there is some gardening rule that says this is wrong. Lazy. Unacceptable.

It's also kind of fun. Because in recent weeks, I have discovered:

• a baby Alocasia amazonica poking up, happy and healthy, in a pot now occupied by a dragonwing begonia;

• a sweet potato vine that is exponentially more robust than the new vine I planted in its place;

• an elephant ear peeping out from beneath a fading gayfeather;

• and a tiger lily that seemingly coded weeks ago but is now pushing out past the ornamental pepper that took over its former digs.

Unlike the drooling and foot-dragging resurrected pets and zombies found in Stephen King novels, these tenacious tubers are all better versions of their former selves. High-spirited. Defiant.

I can't help feeling oddly envious.

And I'm just a little bit tempted to throw my broken jewelry, dead cell phones and, some days, myself, onto that compost pile.

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