Who knew repotting this sucker would be such an adventure?
There was a reason this house plant never seemed to drip, droop or drop its leaves…
The plant has lived with us for many years. Maybe even before we bought our first house. It’s just always been there. First it was off to the side of the main window in the living room, then it was by the patio door. It spent some time on a stair landing as well as in the corner of the dining room. Like the dogs and cats it was just there. I would see my wife Beverley with one of those plastic pails that ice cream comes in, half full of water, caring for the plant. It was a good plant. It didn’t smell bad or drop leaves or drip sap. It just sat there, wherever it was put, just like a good plant should.
On occasion Beverley has remarked that the plant could use a new container and that the one it was in was too small and not very nice looking. I didn’t pay much attention until one day, while reading the paper, I noticed an ad saying that if you brought in a plant and bought a new container, they would transplant it for you—free of charge.
I waited for my chance when my wife was out of the house. I wrestled that plant into the back of the minivan. Let me tell you, it was a fight. The plant, although picked out the perfect lightbeige coloured pot. I would have said that she “helped” me choose a pot, but you know how it went. It looked great and I was surprised at my good taste.
I explained my physical limitations and a young man was sent to get the plant from my vehicle. I am honour-bound to tell you that he had no trouble not only taking it out of the van but also carrying it inside and putting it up on a workbench. I could tell he’d
it was only four feet high, was heavy! It took every ounce of my strength to get the job done. But I did it.
At the garden centre I looked around and finally asked for help in choosing a new pot. A very nice lady— I learned later that only nice ladies are allowed to work in garden centres—
done this before. He then grabbed the base of the stem of the plant, and, with what seemed to be Herculean strength, pulled the thing out of the pot. I was certain he must have pulled the stem off the roots and destroyed my wife’s favourite plant, not to mention how she was going to feel about her favourite husband. The confrontation was too horrendous to contemplate. Thankfully, it was not to be. The plant came cleanly out, still firmly attached to its gleaming white, tightly compacted ball of root material. I marvelled at how smooth and white it had become while jammed into the space it had. It was like plastic or paraffin. The young man seemed to enjoy his work and seemed to be on the verge of laughter. Between the inhaled sounds of stifled chuckles, he confirmed that I did indeed want the plant to be repotted in the new container. He called over the nice lady, who, with a very large but nice smile, suggested how he could accomplish this task so that it would look nice.
With practiced hands, he completed the job quickly and efficiently, and it looked better than it ever had before with fresh soil and some decorative stones. Reloaded into the van, I waved goodbye to the
two of them as they stood in the parking lot with an aura of great glee as they returned my cheery wave. What nice people. Back home, the problem was just beginning. How was I ever going to get the bigger potted and much heavier plant into the house? This was a puzzler— until God answered my unspoken prayer and delivered unto me my neighbour and his two teenage sons. No more need be said.
When my wife arrived home, I met her at the door with what I believe has been described as a “cheese-eating” grin.
“What have you done?” No “Hello” or “Hi dear.” No “Hi, sweetheart, how’s your day been?” Nothing. Just, “What have you done?”
“Well,” I said with a cheerful voice, “come and see.”
On that note, I took her by the hand and led her into the living room and proudly showed her the results of my not inconsiderable efforts. I excitedly explained that now that the rhododendron was no longer root-bound, it would have ample opportunity to grow and prosper and perhaps even flower.
Suddenly and without warning, my wife burst out in the loudest and most raucous laughter I had ever heard from her or any other member of her sex. It scared me badly! It went on and on and on. When she finally regained some limited control of herself, she carefully explained as best she could to her poor bewildered husband, while still being racked with hoots and chuckles, that first of all, the plant was not a rhododendron but was called an umbrella plant, and secondly—and here comes the kicker— it is made of rubber. Yes, an artificial umbrella plant—probably made in China.
“But, but...” I sputtered, “I’ve seen you with a pail of water, watering it.”
In a voice that she would use while explaining something to a small child if it weren’t for the laugh bombs still being dropped, she said, “No, dear. You’ve seen me washing the dust off its big rubber leaves.” More gales of laughter and she was gone.
No wonder the darn thing never smelled, dripped or dropped any leaves. I just thought it was one tough rhododendron. ■