I awoke yesterday morning to find my Basil plant (yes Mum, it really is basil this time) a shadow of its former glamour. Ravaged by snails, twiggy and bare, the thing’s still living, but what for?
I’ve had plants die on me before. There’s a point at which no plant can return from, no matter how mighty its most recent yield, no matter the quality of the soil it sits in, nor the water it drinks.
A basil plant can surprise. It can come back from the dead without any direct action, as if revitalised by paid leave to once again give back.
But a basil plant, too, can crash and burn from a defect or parasite within the very garden it calls home.
You can dig it out and re-pot it; fertilise it to the hilt and soak it in the finest dirt; but the chances are that you’ll either shock it into total collapse, or spend more money and time on flogging a dead horse. A dead horse, figuratively speaking, (there are few to no stables in Glebe) that could very easily, tidily, expectedly, and prudently, be replaced.
But we’re sentimental, us horticultural enthusiasts. We’re romantic, even narcissistic, treating the failures of our investments as indictments on our ability to make decisions and carry out the plans that they spur.
Together, my housemates and I gave this plant his life, because we were sick of ending up with completely different basil strains every time we went to plan our meals.
And sure we argued, Tom for oregano, Veerle for thyme, Pat’s a tomato man, and Elliot said the garden needed to be burned down and the soil salted like Carthage.
But we ended up with a plant that burst into life so loud and so proud that it brought with it a certain denialism — a degree of cognitive dissonance compelling a broad, engineered ignorance towards the signs of encroaching bugs. And so we neglected its health, until just now.
Nevertheless, the other plants have been shuffled, relocated, watered, and mollycoddled, and the sun-blocking vines pruned back a touch. Now, all we can do is wait and see.
If he comes good in the next week he’ll be feeding us for the next six months. It’s impossible to know exactly how it’ll play out.
The one thing of which we can, however, be sure is that Bunnings is only around the corner and basil plants are a dime a dozen.
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