Hens and Chickens

About a year ago, I wrote about wanting to get a small plant for my desk but I never got around to it. But then Mother’s Day rolled around and Zeca asked me what I wanted and I said, “A succulent!” So, Luisa took her shopping and when I woke on Mother’s Day, she gave me this:


What she didn’t know is that this particular plant was my mother’s favorite. She called them hens and chickens and I never knew them as anything else. She used to keep them in tall terra cotta pots around her patio and on her deck. When Luisa and I bought our house, my mother brought some from her garden in Kansas to ours in Minneapolis but they didn’t survive the winter.

Needless to say, I was thrilled with this gift, one given by my daughter with love that also reminded me of my own mother. I placed it on my desk where I could see it every day.

And it began to grow! But not as I’d seen them grow in my mother’s garden. In her garden, they would send out shoots with new little chickens attached. They spread. Mine was shooting straight up, growing taller in a Seussian way. At first, I was thrilled that it was growing and then I started to wonder why it was behaving so strangely, so, I googled. Apparently, hens and chickens grow straight up when they are trying to find sun. My plant wasn’t thriving; it was struggling!

I moved it to the file cabinet near my desk where it would get the morning sun. My research said that it wouldn’t return to it’s former shape and that I should trim it back. So, I trimmed it back and hoped for the best.

Then, the cat found it. I was sitting at my desk and heard a rustling and looked over to see Ollie noshing on the misshapen hen. I grabbed Ollie and moved her away. She went back again. And thus began my daily practice moving the plant. I’d move it to the dresser when it was unsupervised and then back into the sun when I was at my desk.

This went on for months.

And then right before we left for Iceland, I looked at my plant and really saw it:


I suspect that while moving it around to protect it from the cat, I might have also forgotten to water it. There comes a time when you have to accept the truth - the plant was a goner. So, I took a deep breath and threw it in the trash.

Now, I think I want a philodendron.