Growing Green Thumbs in Paris

Monday, July 28, 2014

Growing Green Thumbs in Paris

Eat it, LeNotre...
I’ve never had a green thumb. Let alone two. But being in Paris has a way of convincing me that I should be in charge of another life form, be it ivy or hydrangea. And apparently my thumbs are starting to ripen with age.

If AndrĂ© Le Notre could do it, why couldn’t Bryan Pirolli?

I have a little courtyard in my building that neighbors pass through, with a bit of sun, and a neighbor with a tangle of vines and plants in front of her flat. Convinced that I, too, could create my own tangle, I took the few plants that I inherited from the previous tenant – a mangled geranium and some green spiky things (the technical name) and I began tilling the soil.

Pretty soon, the weeds were gone and the soil was fertilized. I found myself at Truffaut, Paris’s Walmart of plants, where I was asking about flowers that would survive best with little direct sunlight. I was becoming obsessed. At the market, the flower guy – now my flower guy – would give me tips on how to water and where to position certain plants. We say hello like old friends, even when I'm just not buying anything.


It became easier and easier to forget that I have a thesis to write as I spend my afternoons cutting away dead foliage and fighting garden pests.

But the results have been rewarding. That puny geranium is now gargantuan. The green spikes have begun having their own babies that I am nursing to adolescence. And neighbors stop to literally smell the roses – or at least the lupines – as they come home from work, smiling to themselves, unaware that I am watching them from the window like some sort of manic concierge.

Please don’t touch the plants…

Drink, little one, drink...

Now I am filling my fridge with plum stones and other seeds, hoping to send them into dormancy to then sprout them next spring. Aware that I need a life, I still get excited for Sundays (Fertilizing Day) and take any chance I can get to give the babies a cool spritz of water on a hot afternoon.

Like most obsessions, this one could fade as I take up basket weaving or maybe candle-making – anything to distract me from actually working – but for the moment, my desire to visit the gardens of Versailles is dwarfed by my desire to look out my window.

It's a little bit bobo, I'll admit...

Now I have to go outside and spray diluted dishwashing liquid on my Japanese Andromeda. You know how  those pesky aphids can be…

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