There are so many analogies I’ve been drawing between gardening and personal growth and now team leadership. When I used to go on meetups for work, I would bring back a plant memento. Tiny cuttings give me something to nurture, collaborate with, and look back on. They are specific to a time and place, but end up in wonderful new places. They bring challenges that I don’t foresee, but make me a better gardener when I take them on. Outcomes good and bad bring learning and reward.
Not only that, mother nature brings us back to reality. It’s both humbling and restorative to work on things that simply refuse to move at a breakneck speed, and are largely outside of our control. I’ve found this aspect of gardening to be very good at cultivating my own resilience, patience, trust, and open-mindedness.
It’s also kind of thrilling to sneak them in my relatively-tiny luggage. On the last trip I took since being grounded, I literally grabbed a cutting on my way to the airport shuttle. I had to sit there next to my colleagues trying to hide the fact that I had roughly fifty spines on my hand.
Without further ado–here are my friends from June 2019, when the Automattic Design team held its inaugural meetup in a really gorgeous desert setting out in Arizona. These plants were all about 1-2″ big when I put them in my backpack–no one knew or noticed 😀.
This thing is huge. The mother plant I got it from was taller than me, so I’m super excited. Fairly fragile though, but so long as the root is healthy, it’ll grow back. You’ll never know how it’ll branch out between its growth spurts and lulls. Definitely a statement plant, you either love it or hate it.
This little one broke off of the main cutting in transit, wanting to venture on its own:
I pulled out one, and its sister wanted to come along too. They’re over a foot wide now, and I’m really excited to see if they will flower in the winter. They hit the ground running fast and generally make everything better.
Tiny and ferocious. Recently decided to remove it from a succulent bowl and bring it inside and broke it. It’s already re-rooted, and two little pups have sprung up in its place in the old bowl. A self-starter and a force-multiplier!
Purple Prickly Pear
I have a special place in my heart for anything opuntia because we joke that [Mexicans] are born with a nopal on our forehead. Prickly pear is unimpressive, or unattractive to many and sure, dangerous–but it’s so resilient, resourceful, powerful, and forever. It figures out how to thrive away from home. It can literally grow on trash. When you support it in its natural surroundings, it is drop-dead gorgeous and becomes the focal point of any space.
I brought home two pads of this one (hence enduring the fifty tiny arrows on my body for the next few days) knowing it was going to be tricky to get these to grow in my garden. Zone 8B, where I live, is home to plenty of cacti, but you need the intensity of the desert sunshine and its dryness to get this species to turn its signature shade of purple. If it’s too wet, as it will suddenly get here, it rots. If it’s too shady (Austin is full of trees) it stays a seafoam shade of green.
The thinner of the two rotted and died. The other survived in its pot, dormant, for an entire year. Planting it in a pot instead of the ground was intentional–it let me mess with its soil and sun exposure as I continued to fiddle with the rest of my garden layout.
I was about to call it quits, and then, suddenly, it started showing bits of purple. And last month, it welcomed a little one:
Some things take time and lots of listening. I am not looking at this as the straggler or weak one of the haul. Nope. Someday, this one’s going to steal the show.