Sunday, April 13, 2014

Champignons de Paris

Those of you who have been following me have probably figured out by now that I most emphatically do not have a green thumb (but even if I did, it would still have no prints). That used to be a source of deep personal anxiety, as I had once heard somewhere that if you can keep from killing your houseplants, then you can move on to domestic animals; if you can keep from killing them, then you can go ahead and procreate. Well, in the big Pass/Fail that is gardening, I have so far scored a big fat F. I’ve owned all manner of plants, and have managed to over or under water/heat/love virtually all of them into oblivion, but that certainly did not stop me from having a baby and HE is perfect, thank you very much (crazy parents notwithstanding).

So about those plants. After the death of our cactus, we decided to replace it with a Pachira Aquatica, which Wikipedia says is a “tropical wetland tree native to Central and South America, where it grows in swamps.” What it was doing at our local Ikea is beyond me, but we bought it—primarily because it’s fun-looking, which is as good a reason as any.

See? Fun.

I somehow managed to knock a good third of its foliage off between the store and the car, but we got it home in one piece (sort of) and it seemed to be happy enough in our living room for a few weeks. But then it started to look a bit sad, so I gave it extra water and put it out on the balcony to get some sunlight (just like a South American swamp! Right? Right?). However, that turned out to be too much for it, so I took it back inside and figured to hell with the sunlight—I’d just stick to watering. Then, the other day, I was bending over to pick something off the floor next to the tree, when I noticed that an entire colony of mushrooms had spontaneously sprouted out of its pot. Beyond what that says about my ability to care for plant life, it begs the question: why do mushrooms seem to follow me from one apartment to the next?

Like this, only way less cute.

Because they do follow me, you know. My first Paris apartment, which was a 1-bedroom dive (albeit a “big” 1-bedroom dive) in the northern 18ème arrondissement, had this funky bathroom that I painted yellow. And repainted yellow. And repainted yellow again—all in a vain attempt to cover up the scary black mold spots that kept materializing on the walls every few months. One day I went into the yellow bathroom to take a shower and found a full-sized mushroom growing straight out of the caulking around the shower door. I took a photo and sent it to my parents—you know, to reassure them about my life abroad. Then there were our infamous ceiling fungus issues in the 15ème arrondissement, which I shant get into here, namely because I’ve moved on with my life, but in case you’re interested, I wrote all about it here and here.

And now this family of ‘shrooms in an otherwise hot, dry environment. Maybe they’re a desert subspecies. Interestingly, they are different from my old shower mushrooms, which indicates that interior fungi are surprisingly diverse here! But in all seriousness, what’s the deal with the mushrooms in Paris, or rather, in my Paris? Is this a karmic thing? Is it metaphorical? And if so, what does it mean that I have champignons growing in what is otherwise known as a “Money Tree”? Maybe it’s the universe telling me to leave gardening to the bees and embrace the wide world of fake plants (thereby saving mucho Euro-dollars by not having to replace them all every six months).

Come to think of it, why stop at fake plants?

The timing is actually pretty good, as this weekend I was intending to go buy a bunch of spring flowers for the balcony. Do you suppose fake geraniums exist? Actually, about the only plant of ours that seems to be thriving IS a geranium—a real one—that was lobbed at our balcony in the middle of the night about a month after we moved in (no doubt a token of friendship from our new neighbors). In an illustration of the well-known adage, “When life chucks a geranium at you, plant it,” we did, and now it’s blooming away. Maybe there’s hope for me yet.