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the occasions lady and

the office garden club
by Audrey Poff, illustration by Brittney Guest

Earlier this spring, I stopped by the annual plant sale at Jonesboro Public School’s Health & Wellness School. Formerly South School, it is the neighborhood elementary school that my two oldest children and many of their friends attended before the magnet school system was put in place. It still holds lots of fond memories for our family.

After looking around for a few minutes, I decided to purchase a small plant for each Occasions staff member. I had recently managed to salvage our office “press time peace lily,” and it had become sort of an office pet as it sprouted new growth for the first time in months. On a whim, I decided to purchase a single alpine strawberry plant for each person, partially because they weren’t commonly grown so we would all be on equal ground, and partially because they were just cute.

As we divvied up the plants, I explained that we would award two prizes for the contest – one for most growth in a month’s time and one for the first plant to bear fruit. I was surprised to see so much enthusiasm, and even more surprised to see how quickly each container was decorated and personalized. (Don’t judge us; it’s what we do.)

During the next month, the plants were nurtured. Most were taken outside during the day and brought inside at night. Weather forecasts were consulted. Some plants were repotted into larger containers and some were fertilized, but at the end of the month, one plant dwarfed all others. For the most part, Occasions staffer Emily Merrell had kept her miniature strawberry plant on her desk under a small but rather powerful lamp. Two months later, all other plants still pale in comparison. Even worse, some unknown pest is now eating holes in most of the plants that have spent time on the back porch.

After a couple months of participating in our unofficial Occasions Garden Club, we learned a little about a plant with which none of us were very familiar, and we enjoyed a friendly competition to see who had the greenest thumb. Who knows? Maybe someday one of our plants will even manage to bear fruit, but that may have been a little optimistic for our first effort. A category for most sparkly container or the plant with the best bling might be more appropriate for our next attempt. We might not be able to get a plant to bear fruit, but I bet we can bedazzle it like nobody’s business.