Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of stories about Linda Beck’s garden at her house, which was built in 2002.According to the Internet, the definition of “overpotting” is growing a plant in a pot that is too large for its root system, presumably in the hope that it will not be necessary to transplant. This is botanic terminology, and the word is not in my trusty old 1969 dictionary.
There were approximately 120 words that were prefixed with “over” and I knew the definition of all of them without reading even one. But I thought “overpotting” must be a new word that I invented one morning while working in my yard.
My definition is different. Allow me to share how I “overpotted” at my little potting station. I love to pot plants, I like to use my bare hands even though it ruins my fingernails. If I think a plant is becoming root-bound, I transplant it, usually in the next size pot I have on hand, but sometimes I go ahead and put the plant in a big pot, I guess “in the hope that it will not be necessary to transplant.”
I don’t know as much as I used to, but generally I have an idea how big a plant will become if treated with sun, water, fertilizer and a little tender loving care. Last year I bought three beautiful pots of caladiums for which I have plenty of tender loving care. At the end of the season, I removed the bulbs from the dirt and stored them in nylon hose hanging over my dryer.
When I potted them in the spring, I evidently planted the red ones deeper than the other colors. The green and white ones came up fairly fast and are growing nicely. The red ones did not. I’ve failed to label things and, after some time, I forgot in which pot I had planted the reds.
A short time ago, I noticed some petunias had volunteered in a pot. (I didn’t realize they would do that, but I knew the petunias I had bought were in a hanging basket.) They started blooming but were not thriving because the soil had become like mud from my overwatering. Oh, and I learned a valuable lesson about woods dirt vs. bagged potting soil.
I dumped the pot and put in some fresh potting soil. Since I was using my bare hands, I immediately felt some good-sized lumps.
Surprise, surprise. There were the red caladium bulbs that I had assumed had either rotted or been thrown away by mistake. Amazingly enough, they had not rotted. In fact, the little shoots were trying to push out. I took my special little jewels and placed them just under the surface of the fresh potting soil. So you see, that’s when overpotting something with two different plants came to my mind and I thought I had coined a new word … well, a new definition, anyway.
It was a delightful morning of playing in the dirt in the shade with a gentle breeze blowing wonderful memories around me. I am so delighted at finding the missing bulbs and anxiously wait to see if they mature and are as beautiful as they were last year.
I bought a pot of red caladiums just a few days before I found these but they are not as lovely as those were last year. I fell in love with caladiums before my husband died, when we started raising and selling them in the greenhouse we built together. The beauty of the plants from last year brought back so many colorful memories of Joe.
I was telling my friend, Debbie, about all this on the phone and she was talking to her cat. I asked her if her cat talks back. She said, “Of course. Why?”
I said, “Well, I’ve always thought plants are healthier if we talk to them but I’m concerned because mine are starting to talk back.”
We started giggling as she asked, “What are your plants saying?”
I told her how this small pot of ornamental grass has been here a year with no new growth and a lot of dead portions. I was riding by on my scooter and something said, “Stop!” I heard that plant cry, “HELP.” I picked it up and went to the potting station. I studied and prayed over it a bit, then I dumped it out.
I grabbed my scissors to make the first surgical cut as the plant cried, “Hurry, please release me.” The poor baby was so dry and root-bound, and I tried to remember how Joe would have solved this problem.
An hour and a half later, one root-bound Mama plant had given birth to 21 babies. I said to the plants, “I sure hope someone besides me likes ornamental grass.”
I could swear one little plant said, “Trade me.” I was reminded of the old barter system and my brain left the scene. I felt a story writing itself as my day outdoors ended and I realized my mind was writing stories, my hands were still yearning to garden, and my heart wanted to go in and color cards for the soldiers in Iraq. But as the day ended, the multiple sclerosis in my body screamed, “slow down.”
Linda Beck has her house and garden in Woodleaf. Contact her at lindainthe