mulberryshoots

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: money tree

when less is (truly) more . . .

. . . the tree in recovery today

. . . the tree in recovery today


Some of you readers have heard me talk quite a bit about ways in which less is more. How simplifying by getting rid of things creates more space for energy to move around. For preparing less food at meals, cutting down from four (protein, starch, vegetables, salad) types of food to only two (vegetable and salad; or rice and vegetable; or fish and salad) reducing serving size at the same time. With less to eat, it tastes like more to savor somehow.

On the other side of the coin, though, I confess here to gigantic overdoing it when it comes to our money plant tree. It started out as a six inch plant on our kitchen sink.

. . . plant starting out on the kitchen counter years ago

. . . plant starting out on the kitchen counter years ago


Over time, it grew. And grew and grew until the top had hit the ceiling and I moved it to the one place that had room for it to keep growing higher. That turned out to be a big mistake. Here’s what happened. There was way more direct sun. If sunlight is good, then more sunlight should be better, right? I also thought the pot looked a little bare so I topped off the soil with some that was in a bag downstairs in the basement. More soil to grow with, I thought, naively. Last of all, water~! More water, I thought with all that additional sunlight and soil would make it grow faster and taller, right?

Well, it did grow fast with leaflets pushing up against the skylight. But it also dropped leaves that turned brown almost as fast as they grew in size. We had found a nest of cobwebby spider mites at the top and trimmed it off. After that, I was paranoid the plant was still infested with them and responsible for the leaves dropping like rain. In desperation, I wrote to a horticultural help line and a very nice man wrote back that this plant did not really like that much direct sunlight; that the photos I sent looked like natural secretions and that it might be a good idea to remove the soil that I had placed on top. Moreover, he said, the plant likes the soil to become dry before watering.

. . . money plant at its prime three years ago

. . . money plant at its prime three years ago


. . . tree dropping leaves on May 6th

. . . tree dropping leaves on May 6th


I was stubborn in thinking more was more in this case. But finally, we lopped off two feet off the top so that we could move it back to where it was before. The tree expert said it sometimes took three weeks for a plant to re-acclimate itself to a change in growing environment. So, I left it alone. It had indirect sunlight, the soil was still wet and I put it by our singing canary to keep it company.

Three weeks went by and still the soil was wet to the touch, much to my amazement. Finally, it was dry enough to the touch for me to water it with spring, not tap water as the expert had suggested. The leaves stopped dropping. The plant looked happy and happier as time went by because I wasn’t doing anything to it. For once, less really was way more in restoring this living thing to more optimal health: less sun, less soil, less water.

Now it seems happy. And so, dear reader, am I. In case you are a helicopter parent like me on occasion, you might also take heed of this little plant story. More is not always better. Sometimes, less is more. In fact, with almost anything these days, less is becoming more as a way of life.

Here’s a look at the tiny sprout that emerged from the cut top just yesterday!

. . . money tree with tiny sproutlet on top

. . . money tree with tiny sproutlet on top

Postscript Photos: About two months ago, we cut about two feet off the top of the tree. I was reluctant to throw it away so I stuck it into a bottle of water out on the back deck. In the meantime, there’s been a lot of rain. I don’t know if that made a difference but was astonished to find small leaf growths all over it when I went out to water the amaryllis the other day. So here’s a photo of this embarrassment of riches!

. . . tiny leaves sprouting on cut stalk

. . . tiny leaves sprouting on cut stalk


At the same time, the little sproutlet that emerged where the top was cut off shown above in this post last week has been growing an inch a day. I kid you not! It now has three leaflets on about ten inches of growth.
. . . new growth where the tree was cut

. . . new growth where the tree was cut

a standstill gives way. . .

sunrise at thacher island, cape ann -- photo, a. dalton


There are periods of time when everything seems to come to a standstill. Last year was one of those times. From the autumn through the end of the year, family misunderstandings abounded. Then they took a turn for the worse. During that time, my three canaries went through their yearly moult. Silent as stones, they sat lethargically in their cages for weeks. Tiny feathers littered the floor and down floated in the air. I gave them egg food to supplement their diet; then gradually added back their usual song food. Often, it took awhile before the birds would sing again as their feathers grew back in. During this standstill, no sounds were heard at all, not even little peeps.

Two years ago, somebody gave us a good-luck money plant. It was about four inches high and sat on our kitchen windowsill. Since then, it’s had a couple of intense growth spurts. I repotted it twice and moved it into the other room as it got taller. In November, as I adjusted the support stake, the thin trunk doubled over and almost broke in half. We bandaged it with a splint taped around it, but the plant looked like it was not going to make it. Distraught, I started misting the wound where it had cracked open, four feet midway to the top, hoping that the added moisture would reach the tiny leaves above. The lower leaves began to discolor and fall off, one by one every other day.

The winter solstice arrived on December 22nd and the days began to lengthen and brighten up a little. As I cleaned the house in preparation for the holidays, I came across an old string of prayer beads made out of fossilized coral. Not knowing where to put it, I impulsively wound it around the old bronze Buddha which sat on the maple chest under the skylight. A day later, I found another string of prayer beads made of fossilized bone that I looped three times around a second Buddha, the silk tassel dangling like a pendant on the gilt statue’s chest.

One snowy day in January, I heard soft chirping noises. Short snippets of song followed. Soon, even the bird that hardly sang at all was joining the other two in song. After four months of eerie silence, a cacophony of canary song filled our rooms. Nothing had changed except the passage of time and the quality of light coming in the windows. The maidenhair fern made a comeback too. As for the money plant, we counted twelve new shoots appearing over the course of three days in the same week that the birds started singing again. As I watered the plants along the west side of the room, I also noticed that the Trader Joe orchid plants had branches of new growth with flower buds on every plant. We couldn’t believe all this was happening at once.

According to the I-Ching, a period of stagnation will eventually turn into its opposite. Change is the only thing that does not change according to this ancient book. Although I have had my share of ups and downs, it is still hard during a time of despair to have faith that things will improve again. It is human nature to worry that perhaps this time, the dark will stay forever, even though we know from experience that it is darkest before the dawn.

This dawn arrived, ushered in by a chorus of birdsong, a multitude of new leaflets on the money tree and a dozen orchid buds ready to open.

I am thankful and filled with awe. Hallelujah!