the wilkie chronicles

I kill plants.  Not on purpose, mind you.  I talk to them sweetly and put them in the sunshine and water them on a regular basis, but something about my presence makes most common houseplants drop their leaves and shrivel.  I’ve avoided purchasing plants because I name them and get attached and then have this weird emotional mini-meltdown when they die.

Sigh.  I am a plant murderer.

But I refuse to wave the white flag regarding all things green.  (You see what I did there?)  This is Wilkie.  He’s named after Wilkie Collins, my favorite Victorian novelist. I bought Wilkie (the plant, not the writer) from the 99-cent store about a year ago.  He was sad and small and withering in the dreadful Texas heat.  He was ashamed of his cheap plastic pot and his low-rent lodgings on a metal cart outside a borderline-skeevy discount store along Westheimer.  His wee leaves trembled with excitement and anticipation when I carried him to the cashier inside.  I am still haunted by the disappointed way the leaves of his comrades drooped, but I am a woman of limited resources.  I cannot rescue every sad 99-cent-store plant in Houston.  But Wilkie, I decided — Wilkie I must have.  He has charisma! Lilian told me that he is an umbrella plant, which seems very Edward Lear-ian.

I am proud to report that since Wilkie’s homecoming he has grown exponentially.  He was only two or three inches tall at time of purchase, and now he is a Shaq in the plant world.  Or maybe a Yao Ming, since he’s Houstonian.  The reasons for Wilkie’s upward climb I cannot fathom.  I suppose he’s so happy to be rid of the stigma of 99-cent-store plant that he decided to thrive, despite my black thumb.  Perhaps he enjoys his colorful pot.  For your reference, I made Danny stand next to Wilkie to demonstrate his impressive height.  He enlisted Toby’s help:


Unfortunately, of late Wilkie has been — well — not looking his best.  His bottom leaves have turned a little yellow and droopy, and he just hasn’t seemed his cheerful self.  This is a crisis.  Today Danny and I repotted him in some fresh, nutrient-rich soil, and I bought some houseplant food at Target.

I also gave him a pep talk.  I informed him that his namesake was a man with a forehead so large and bulbous that some biographers call it disfigured.  And yet despite this seemingly insurmountable obstacle, Collins managed to woo a lot of ladies, write a lot of fantastic sensation fiction, and pal around with literary luminaries such as Charles Dickens.  I tried to explain that this minor yellowishness?  Nothing compared to the Wilkie Collins five-head.  So really, this minor setback in his upward growth is peanuts in the grand scheme of things.

I think the forehead reference worked.   He’s much perkier this afternoon.


5 thoughts on “the wilkie chronicles

  1. i have been plant-sitting a plant for a friend who moved “temporarily” to san francisco since february. her return date has now been pushed back, and i am freaking out bc this plant looks more and more pathetic each day! i tried putting coffee grounds in the pot, but that doesn’t seem to do anything. now, after reading your blog, i plan on telling planty about wilkie in order to boost his self-esteem. clearly this tactic has worked for you, as wilkie is looking good. fingers crossed!

    • Plant-sitting is so stressful. Maybe if it dies you can buy her a substitute and she wouldn’t notice. What? OF COURSE this lemon tree is the plant you left me with.

  2. Glad you saved one of the wilting. Such turn around stories should be shared and act as motivation for others to save th 99cent plants of the world. If for some reason fails you (which there is no reason to believe he will especially with such vibrant peop talks) you may want to try bamboo – heard it lives through anything!

    • I had a bamboo plant and it died! Although Danny currently has three that are doing quite well. The latest addition in from Ikea, and the previous two are from Wal-Mart. I think a Wal-Mart plant probably has the same issues as a 99-cent-store plant.

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