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I heard plants are like people. They must be spoken to in a gentle manner. I took elocution lessons from Ms. Manners. I enunciated every syllable. And what did I get for my effort?

Rotten roots, sagging stems and flaky foliage. My surviving plants don't look great either.

I have spent a fortune on plants plus food for the plants and aspirin for me.  Too much sun, not enough sun, over watering or under watering — whatever the reason, many plants passed on.

A relative left me a rubber plant, a Ficus Decora, in our family for three generations and was known as "the strongest of the Ficus,"

36 hours after it arrived in my home, it left for the rubber plantation in the sky. Perhaps it’s because one day in earshot of the Ficus I muttered, "Geez, another mouth to feed."

Could it have sensed my resentment?

Another time my Dieffenbachia wet the coffee table and I admit I got angry and said a few choice words that required me to wash my mouth out with Tequila. Sure enough, the thing wilted and died.

Then the Philodendron formed a fungus and was soon on its last leaf.  Life, as you can see, was not a bed of roses.  Next, the Creeping Charlie went, though slowly, and the Evergreen — now Puce — did not look well.

I’m embarrassed to tell you what I did.  But I was desperate. I poured chicken soup in the soil. The plant seemed to rally. It said, "Oye! Oye!" And then it was gone.

I bought more plants.

This time, I decided on complete honesty. I quoted Bronowski and said, "Nature is not mastered by force but by understanding." I told them this worked both ways. I told them sometimes I would not feel like talking and they should respect that — I think I heard applause.

I felt much better after our chat. The pressure was off of me to be sweet and light all the time. They were understanding — except for the delicate Fern.

Once, after a particularly festive night and finding that my one silk plant had aphids, I let forth an expletive, Fern got the vapors and expired.

As for the few left, they love me for who I am — a kind, gentle, loving person. With our therapy sessions at Lowes, the rest now keep their opinions to themselves.

Jan Marshall

Jan Marshall is an author, humor columnist, certified clinical hypnotherapist and motivational speaker.

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