Illustration of Derek Powazek by Adam Ellis


Just because I’m an avid gardener doesn’t mean I’m any good at it. Case in point: my Plumeria.

Plumeria as a happy plant and not so happy plant.

On the right, you can see it in happier days. On the left, today. What happened? Spider mites and a moment of terrible frustration.

Heather and I went to Kauai for our 10-year anniversary of meeting, and I brought home several plants (bought for export in the airport). One of the gingers never came up at all. Two others came up but I put them outside before they were ready and nearly killed them. They’re now inside and rebounding.

But the biggest success by far was the Plumeria. I rooted it in perlite, then transferred it to a pot, and it grew like crazy. It thrived. It bloomed. It was awesome. Then it got spider mites.

I tried misting, I tried washing, I tried hippie oils and murderous thoughts, but they kept coming back. They taunted me with their little webs, crawling up and down the leaves like tiny middle fingers. I finally lost it.

I brought the plant outside and sprayed it head to toe with houseplant insecticide. I let it sit for a minute and then rinsed off the plant. Take that, mites!

The good news is I haven’t seen any spider mites since. The bad news is the poor Plumeria dropped all its leaves over the next few days. I’m not sure if I killed it or just shocked it into dormancy. Either way, I won’t be seeing any flowers from this plant for a while.

Lesson learned: Plumerias do not like insecticide and murderous thoughts.

I once had a photography teacher that said it was simple to never take a bad photo again: just stop shooting. If you’re gonna make photos, some will be awful. That’s just how it is.

Being a gardener is like that. You will make mistakes. You will kill beloved plants. So, in my process of getting better at it, I want to make sure I document the failures, too. They’re the lessons I need to remember.

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Hi, I’m Derek. I used to make websites. Now I grow flowers and know things. I’m mostly harmless. More.