Green Thumb, Black Thumb

A couple of years ago, The Martian film made botanist hearts soar as fictional astronaut Mark Watney, stranded on Mars with slim odds of survival, said defiantly in the face of starvation: “I don’t want to come off as arrogant here, but I’m the greatest botanist on this planet.”

My husband, the resident rocket scientist, who of course read the book, was mildly annoyed. “Of course Hollywood would overemphasize the botanist thing. He wouldn’t have survived if he were only a botanist; he was an engineer too.” Did I mention Jonathan is also an engineer?

Oh, botany, the science of plants. I have a love-hate relationship with green, growing things. They are lovely and loveable, and in my own experience, easy to kill. I so desperately want to cultivate our little plot of land (we live in L.A., we’re lucky to have even a little green space), but it’s just so hard. And time-consuming. And dirty.

Our fixer upper’s yard, also came to us in fixer-upper condition. When I think of its state when we moved in, three years ago, improvements have been made. Slowly and not without failures. We’ve planted things (practically an orchard of baby fruit trees, a some-day hedge of Italian cypresses, grass), we’ve cut things down (several “weed” trees which just don’t give up easily), and accidentally killed more than our fair share (although I’m proud to say our very first investments, an olive tree and a pomegranate tree, are alive and well to this day, knock on wood). It’s just such a disappointment to pour time and energy and resources into something and see it inexplicably succumb to brown crunchy leaves, shriveling to nothing.

But hey, patience and perseverance, right? Practice makes perfect, and all that. I’m not going to give up!


Eddie got a package of sunflower seeds from our local library’s summer reading program, and I was excited to make a science project of watching them grow. Unfortunately, we made the mistake of planting them in the high heat of summer, no rain in sight here in SoCal, and left for a week on vacation. Needless to say they didn’t sprout. Eddie kind of forgot that we’d planted them.

Fast forward two months, I was watering the trees in the backyard and saw a large green plant growing alongside our under-construction storage shed. What a weed, I thought, and I meant to pull it up, but got distracted. Jonathan commented later that it he thought a sunflower was growing by the shed. Huh? We’d planted them by the fence, almost 10 feet from the shed. We left it alone and it kept growing! While we didn’t get the benefit of a science experiment, carefully observing sprouts become stems and leaves and the like, Eddie was pretty impressed that one of his seeds traveled across the yard and was now taller than him!

Yay! We successfully (accidentally) grew a sunflower! (Please ignore the very dead apple tree in the background. It was doing so well, until suddenly it wasn’t. *Sigh*)

Maybe next time we’ll get to study the process, make it a proper botany lesson. As it is, I’m just glad to see the interest, the wonder, in Eddie’s reaction to the scientific miracle of plant growth. Who knows, maybe this is the humble beginnings of a botanist-engineer-astronaut and the future of space colonization.  



2 thoughts on “Green Thumb, Black Thumb

  1. Pingback: Hands On Spring Science – Launching Rocket Babies

  2. Pingback: Spring Science Update – Launching Rocket Babies

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s