It was an unprepossessing little set of scraggly leaves in a plastic pot, a gift from my mom. My mother, raised on a dirt road halfway around the world, chickens and grapevines out back, loves all things bargain, even of the plant variety. She can take a wilted annual that’s given up its last hopes and turn it into a glossy, showy, tropical beauty that comes back year after year with the right amount of love, voodoo and indoor overwintering.
So she buys plants off the sale rack, usually.
Not expecting big things from the humble pile of leaves she gifted me, I placed it without much care next to the house in a patch that wasn’t quite wild but also not quite tended. It minded its own business, took to the spot but didn’t flower. Then the rains came.
And the plant ate my house.
When I went to check on it, I was shocked at its rate of growth. It had gone from little set of shoots to green, house-devouring monsoon. I looked at the label again. Wisteria, it said, with a picture of lovely clusters of lavender blooms, like the kind of thing you’d see on a bucolic plantation. It twined up my downspout, nearly reaching my roof by the time I noticed it. It shot out, green and strong, in all directions, begging for a garden arch. I trimmed it back, wrangling it all summer.
The next year, I was prepared. I hacked it nearly to the ground. It seemed to love this. It grew twice as fast as the year before.
For ten years we’ve been in this wrestling match, ample leafy beauty but no flowers. I’ve tried it all: cutting its roots, fertilizing it for bloom, everything that Google has to offer. Nothing. It’s been the subject of much consternation and horticultural consultation.
And yet I’ve come to love its rampant enthusiasm, so last year, when it found my storm door leading to my back yard off my kitchen, I let it. It twined itself lovingly around the wrought iron, creating a shield of green between me and the world. My rational brain told me I should put an end to it, but my artist’s mind fell in love with the look of it. I trimmed it carefully at the top of the door so as to keep it from holding me prisoner. Then I let it stay.
Now in the mornings, I make my way to the kitchen and put on a pot of tea. I open the back door and let the green-filtered light suffuse the room with health and life and beauty, lighting it up with an earthy glow. This year, the ravenous wench even decided to finally bloom.
Home experts would probably know a thousand good reasons why letting the plant grow on the storm door is a bad idea, but, for now, I can think of one reason it’s a great idea: it’s beautiful. It makes me happy. It makes me feel like nature is giving us a hug.
If you stop hearing from me, you’ll know it’s because Suddenly Seymour finally cut off our access to the outside world. Until then, I’ll be in my kitchen watching the world through my wisteria-leaf-colored glasses.