The Tale of the Straggly Geranium and How It Won a Reluctant Heart

10/05/2011 in


By Cheryl Cuddeback

Cheryl Cuddeback is a guest blogger. This year’ s Adopt-a-Geranium Day is Wednesday, October 12 between 10 AM and noon in Bowling Green Park.

Last year I was coerced into taking a plant. As I crossed in front of the National Museum of the American Indian in Lower Manhattan on my way to work, I spotted a familiar white-and green-tent. It offered shelter to a green metallic table crowded by potted geraniums. It was the Downtown Alliance’s annual Adopt‐a‐Geranium Day.

Gardeners were handing out the plants that had adorned Bowling Green Park for the last several months. All summer long, the geraniums of Bowling Green sat among new friends while growing in the sun’s rays amid the roar of yellow cabs and buses driving down Broadway.

They mingled among tourists and worker bees from nearby offices. They felt the summer’s rain and humidity together as one. And now our fine leafed friends were literally being farmed out—separated from one another as they were placed into their own green plastic pot and new soil.

I resolutely walked by the makeshift plant orphanage with my wheeler bag in tow. I told myself that I’m not going to take a geranium. My teenage daughter had recently advised me to get rid of a few of my wayward plants. Rows of spider plants and philodendrons had overtaken our apartment’s window ledges and a file cabinet. I could easily qualify for being flora hoarder. I made it into the lobby of my building, and my mind went into office worker mode.

Fast forward eight hours. When I left work, the evening was well under way. The green-and-white tent was gone. I took comfort in believing that all the geraniums were adopted by new and loving families. Yet as my eyes adjusted to the darkness, there appeared a silhouette of not one but two geraniums. They were behind the recently constructed ultra‐modern Bowling Green 4 and 5 subway entrance. No wonder no one wanted them. They looked like two straggly orphans.

The urge to pick up these neglected, soiled souls was strong, but not as prominent as imagining myself walking over to the Whitehall Street R station wheeling my satchel with one arm and hugging two potted plants against my stomach with the other. Not to mention having to deal with my daughter’s disapproving, rolling eyes when I got home.

I kept going. But as I stood on the subway platform, a thought crept into my mind: What if the plants are still there tomorrow? I decided that if they made it through the evening, I would give them a home—at  my office.

The next morning, I anxiously walked over to the Bowling Green subway entrance. It was as if the universe had left a couple of gifts under a Christmas tree. My two lonely orphans had made it through the night. As I reached down to pick them up, I felt a presence behind me. I turned around

“Where you get?” a short and stout older woman asked me. She was dressed in a brilliant turquoise ensemble complete with a satin turban and she spoke with what sounded like a Slavic accent.

“These are from the park.” I replied. “They were repotted and donated, but it looks like these two were left behind. Would you like one?”  She accepted.

Upstairs at my desk, I placed my new plant beside the geranium I picked up from last year’s geranium give‐away. I couldn’t help but think this year’s plant was in shock. When no one was around, I tried to comfort it by introducing both plants to one another. I also informed my new window sill resident that we were just 12 floors up from Bowling Green.

Now a year has gone by, and soon the geranium volunteers will be back with their tent and tables for another round of recycling nature’s gifts. Maybe I should take that day off —to avoid the plant guilt.

Tags: Adopt-A-Geranium Day, Bowling Green Park, Cheryl Cuddeback, Lower Manhattan, National Museum of the American Indian, Whitehall Street

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