In the fall of 1987, I stopped at a Giant’s Supermarket on Belair Road, in Baltimore, Maryland. I was on my way home from my job in suburban Washington, D.C. I don’t remember any of the items on my shopping list, but I do recall that just inside the door of the supermarket was a display of exotic looking tropical plants. I have never been a gardener with a ‘green thumb’, but my wife always likes to have plants around the house, and these plants were priced appropriately (cheap), so I took a minute out from my shopping trip to take a look.
It was Maryland, and it was November, so the display of puny palms looked almost ludicrous. I inspected several before choosing one. The plastic stick that was stuck between pot and dirt identified the plant as a “Madagascar Palm”. The growing instructions imprinted on the plastic stick said that the Madagascar Palm would grow to 6 feet when potted in a good sized container and with proper care. I had never heard of a Madagascar Palm, but it sounded tropical and since it was unseasonably cold outside, I bought the plant.
When I brought it home, my wife said that the Madagascar Palm was cute, and then she came up with a new name for it – she called it the “Mad Palm”. I confined it to a small yellow pot that we sat on a south facing window of our Baltimore townhouse. For over two years, the Mad Palm sat there, paralyzed.
On Labor Day weekend of 1990, we moved to Virginia to be closer to my job, and we moved ourselves using a rented truck. Along with all of our earthly belongings, we brought the Mad Palm. We rented a house in Northern Virginia that had a nice patio (that faced south), but it was cold in the winter and we soon had to move the Mad Palm indoors. In the spring I moved it out to the patio after the threat of frost was over, but three years after I brought it home from Giants, it still looked small and undernourished and on the verge of death, dropping its leaves every winter, leaving only a spinney dead looking stalk. But I still thought that someday it would come around.
When we finally left Virginia for New Jersey, the Mad Palm came too. I think that it was the only plant that we brought with us. We found a house in northwestern New Jersey, and we moved in with our dog Barney and of course the Mad Palm. Time passed, and the Mad Palm stayed with us, shedding leaves in the winter, and growing new ones in the summer. It grew a bit too, maybe an inch or two a year, but it did not look anything like the tree depicted on the plastic stick.
We lived in New Jersey for eight years. Eventually, we would leave Barney there (he died at home at age 13), and adopt another dog we named Ranger. Then we decided to move to South Florida late in 1998.
The day that we left New Jersey was frantic. This time, a moving company came to our house to pack us up, and we had our car shipped to Ft. Lauderdale. For the drive to Florida, we rented an SUV to haul some of our personal effects and to have more room with Ranger, more room than we would have had in our small Toyota. By sunset on moving day, the packing was suddenly over, the truck was gone, and the sun was going down over Schooley’s Mountain. Before we left the driveway, however, my wife asked about the Mad Palm. I told her that I had forgotten about it and I went back into the garage, where I found it on a workbench, sitting all by itself. I picked up the eleven year old plant and contemplated leaving it there. But I didn’t. I tossed it into the back of the SUV and drove off to Florida.
So the Mad Palm finally made it home, to the tropics. Our house had a screened patio, and after we were settled, I finally got around buying a few Florida plants for accent, and eventually to repotting the Mad Palm. Within a few weeks it was apparent that it had found home.
“You need to repot it,” my wife said to me. “The Mad Palm is really growing and we should put it in a really nice pot.” And so I did.
Some of the so called ‘Florida plants” were not looking so hot, but the Mad Palm was going strong. Over the next year, I would repot it three times. Each time the Mad Palm grew larger. Soon, the Mad Palm had grown to almost four feet, and it stayed about that height for awhile…then we moved again.
We found a house nearby, with a pool and more room for the dogs. Of course the Mad Palm came along. Twice since the move, I have had to repot the Mad Palm, and prior to Hurricane Wilma in 2005, I struggled to move this monster into the house. Now, in 2011, the Mad Palm is still with us, and is about six feet tall – just what that plastic stick that was stuck between the pot and dirt said it would grow to – six feet.
My wife says it needs repotted: