Here There Be Dragons.

005On my way home the other day I noticed this cluster of snapdragons. They’ve always been one of my favorite flowers because of the way you can squeeze the sides and make them open like little mouths. When I was four years old and staying in the hospital my grandfather, who had a huge bed of flowers next to his house, brought me a bouquet of multi-colored snapdragons. I woul d say this was the source of my fascination with carnivorous plants and my love of the film Little Shop Of Horrors, but, come on, carnivorous plants are just cool, and a plant that screams “Feed me!” is just hilarious. It’s even better when it sings. (Check out this amazing collection of carnivorous plant photos.)

My grandfather didn’t just have a green thumb. He had two green thumbs attached to green hands and I’m pretty sure his arms were green at least up to the elbows. He built a greenhouse where he grew several types of orchids, and once grew a pineapple from the top of a whole pineapple he’d brought back with him from Hawaii.

I think I inherited some of his ability. A few years ago I built up a pretty good collection of carnivorous plants even though most—including venus flytraps, pitcher plants, and sundews—like lots of humidity and lots of sun, two things our house is short on. Coaxed with fluorescent lights and trays of distilled water—don’t give your carnivorous plants regular tap water, kids!—several varieties took up a whole window. Sadly the whole collection was wiped out by a double hit of aphids and whitefly and I just haven’t had the heart to rebuild it.

Maybe I should plant some snapdragons. In the meantime…feed the plants.

15 Comments

  1. Gina W.

    My son’s class is growing a venus flytrap. He thinks it’s unbelievably cool (and so do I actually). Too bad you lost your awesome collection of carnivorous plants. I would have put my son on a bus and sent him to your house for the weekend (I’d tell you he was coming of course– duh). Maybe you can restart the collection and my 7you can take his first solo road trip.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      They really are cool plants and I’ve thought about restarting it. If I do I’m going to keep it much smaller–maybe just a few plants. One I’ll definitely get again is a Cape sundew which is really nice and also one of the easiest plants to grow. It’s even easier than a Venus flytrap.

      Reply
  2. Gilly Maddison

    While I can of course appreciate beautiful plants and flowers (and weeds which I always feel sorry for because they are so hated!), I do not have green fingers. My parents have a beautiful garden, maintained by my green-fingered sister who inherited the gene. Shame about the aphids – little buggers got respec’ innit!

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      My wife does the gardening around the home but between the shade, the dogs, and the chipmunks and squirrels it’s hard to maintain a really nice garden. I envy anyone who even tries. And chipmunks are even worse than aphids. Not only did they tear up the potted plants I set outside but they chew through the wiring of our cars.

      Reply
  3. kdcol

    When I was little, I believed there were some carnivores plants out there that could trap and eat a person. Maybe the reason I’ve never been fond of Little Shop of Horrors, don’t know. Oh and I am definitely lacking in green anything – plants, thumbs, limbs.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I still meet adults who really believe there are man-eating plants that grow in Africa or some remote part of Asia. And there are pitcher plants that get pretty big, but nothing big enough to swallow a person, and even if you did fall in one you could just climb out again.
      And one of the things I enjoyed about some of the plants was they were very small and very pretty and didn’t take a lot of effort. Pretty much all they needed was light and water and they put up lots of flowers like tiny orchids, like this one.

      Reply
  4. Library Heather

    Sadly, although I love plants, I have a black thumb. I had a Venus flytrap when I was young, but it died. So did the beautiful red shamrock plant that a friend gave me as a gift. The only plants I haven’t managed to kill are the hosta and daylilies in my yard.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Hostas and daylilies are great because they’re so resilient and don’t mind shade, which we have a lot of. And I wonder if it’s the person or if it’s just whatever microclimate they live in. Maybe it’s not your black thumb but just bad luck. Some plants are so specialized they just won’t grow no matter what kind of care you give them. I’ve learned to love weeds.

      Reply
  5. Shawna

    I love when fond memories coincide with things that are loved:) I should let my oldest daughter watch Little Shop tonight. I bet she’d love it.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      The original or the musical? They’re both fun for different reasons. The original was made when someone bet Roger Corman he couldn’t make a movie in twenty-four hours. So it’s kinda clunky. The problem with the musical is they tacked on a happy ending. The YouTube clip I included is the original ending and the one I wish they’d gone with. The happy ending undermines the whole point of the story which is don’t feed the plants.

      Reply
  6. Sandra

    Over and above everything I love about your writing, I love the lovely image you painted of your grandfather with green arms bringing a bouquet of snap dragons to his young grandson. In case I don’t tell you enough, I could read you over and over again.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      And I could hear it over and over again because I really need the confidence boost. And the older I get the more I realize confidence is the cornerstone of success. Writing–or any art–is a compulsion. We’d do it even if we never showed it to anyone else, but knowing my work touches you and others gives me the strength to keep sharing.

      Reply
      1. Sandra

        Well then wwe’ll get along just fine because complimenting someone clearly gifted with words and a voice as clear as yours is one of my favourite things to do. I love reading your work (and I’m so impressed at how often you do post!)

        Reply
  7. Ann Koplow

    I am green with envy about your plant-growing and your post-writing capabilities.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’ve always wondered why envy always makes anyone green, but perhaps that greenness can be turned toward cultivating your office plants.

      Reply

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