Green Card


I can tell you exactly when my love of plants took hold. I was 17 years old, and it happened while sitting in the theater watching the movie Green Card with my best friend. In the movie, Brontë Parrish, played by Andie MacDowell, agrees to an arranged marriage with Georges Fauré, played by Gérard Depardieu. He is French and in need of American citizenship; Andie is a horticulturalist who wants an apartment with a rooftop garden and greenhouse. If I remember the movie correctly, Andie needed to be married to appease the conservative board members of the building who didn’t approve of a woman living alone. (!!) Chauvinism notwithstanding, the second Andie walked into her dream apartment I thought me, too, please.





True fact: If we had a girl, her name would have been Brontë.

What I noticed about the apartment, aside from the historic greenhouse, antique fountain, and dozens of seed glass windows, was that every room had at least two or three plants.



There were even plants in unexpected areas, like in the shower of windowless bathrooms. Andie Parrish: horticulturalist extraordinaire! That’s the only way I can explain what appears to be an enormous, thriving, blooming bromeliad in her entryway. Not jealous. Nope, not I.


I’m having a plant situation around here. The weather has been unseasonably cold and rainy for weeks and it wreaked havoc on my warm weather plants. My spider plant is dead. So is an Italian topiary, a ficus, and a jade. You guys, I almost killed my philodendron. No one kills a philodendron (lie–I’ve killed at least three).


I like to kill my succulents slowly, like a sadistic madwoman. The spindly creature third from the left has been gasping for weeks.



I have had some successes. My cacti are thriving. No plant does heat and cold like a cactus. I was able to resuscitate my goldfish plant , kept a yellow mushroom situation with my Sansevieria at bay, and forced my first bulbs (amaryllis, and now I’m forcing paperwhites).


We’ll see how these little cypress trees do. I’d like to say they were a well thought out purchase, but Trader Joe’s is a temptress with her plants in pretty pine boxes.

10 Responses to “Green Card”
  1. Erin Frost says:

    I am a horticulturist in Boston. Cypress do not belong inside. They are meant to be a decoration and then when they start to brown from the low humidity in your home and lack of sunlight, you throw them out or compost them. Most plants like more light then they can get through a window, they are used to being outside where the light is unfiltered and 360 degrees (not through the angle of a window). Even a few inches from a window will reduce their light by half. It can take them a long time to die, thus the not producing leaves but not completely dead phase most people confuse with “happiness”. Sometimes they will drop all their leaves and produce new ones so they are better equipped to process the “new light” they receive into food. But they need water and food, sometimes they don’t get enough from the little pot they live in. Other times they will just die. very. slowly. Try to remember anything in a container is temporary, sort of like living in a tent. Do people spend their whole lives in one, maybe somewhere. Is it ideal, a comfortable place to be all the time? Probably not. Eventually they plan to be in a permanent place, outdoors in the soil. Bronte was always repotting, watering, etc. She new what the plants needed and was great at moving them around so they thrived. But it was a lot of work. I guess those scenes were cut from the movie. Good luck.

  2. Two days ago I was at Traders, doing my weekly shopping trip. Fortunately {and you’ll see why}, Sean was able to join me.
    We are walking out of the store after spending about $85.00 more then anticipated and I spot the adorable Christmas pines in cute little boxes! So affordable, too!
    I stop to look, let go of my cart and pick one up and loudly proclaim, “SO CUTE, OH MY GOODNESS, SO CUTE”. It’s at this time I realize that the exit is on a slope and the cart {AND FRANKIE} are rolling towards the parking lot street, her smiling and waving at me the entire time.
    Enter Sean, who caught her before she reached danger.
    All because I had to look at the stupid Trader trees.

    The worst part {besides the fact I almost let my daughter roll helplessly into oncoming suburbans} was the three teenagers that guffawed out loud at my negligence.

    {But I love house plants also, which hopefully you’ll see this week.}

  3. Ailsa says:

    Oh, I loved that movie too Jules! I loved the apartment and plants, and also the extreme opposite nature of those two characters: precise, delicate, feminine Bronte and oafish, oversized, clumsy (but strangely irresistible) Georges. It was magic.
    As for plants in homes (not to mention that movie ‘home’), Erin’s certainly right about plants in little pots being merchandised that way (cute!) and not expected to survive for long in those conditions: low light (especially in northern climates when the days are shorter and sun lower in the sky), hot air — not to mention a natural ‘rest’ period for most plants. I have also bought those little cypress as lovely Christmas decorations but in our hot air indoors they are truly doomed! Sometimes they go into what I think of as ‘suspended animation’, looking green and alive but in reality crispy and dead, dead, dead :c(
    We have done several things to help keep plants alive in the winter indoors, but none of them are particularly romantic. One, put some that are struggling under lights on a three-tier light table in a spare bedroom (the trick is not to forget about them!); two, use automatic waterers from Lee Valley ( — this is what has kept my myrtle topiary alive; and three, ensure that they are outdoors during the summer months and fertilized (I use organic fertilizer). Ideally, I should also turn the heat down religiously every night, but I often don’t, since we keep the temperature in the 60s anyway.
    Good luck reviving yours! I’m sure once the philodendron is away from the cold, it will be ok.

  4. Trader Joe’s is quite the temptress with all the flowers and plants lining their entry. I can’t keep a plant alive to save my life – so I’ll just live vicariously through your plant adventures :)

  5. Sarah B. says:

    I can’t keep potted plants alive EVER. Put it in the ground, and I’m good – put it in a pot, and it will die within a week. My rosemary may make it till Christmas, but I doubt it’ll make it all the way to spring.

  6. Zakary says:

    You crack me up, the end.

  7. Jenn says:

    I loved Green Card, it was concurrent with my obsession with Architectural Digest. I wanted that apartment, and have measured every home against it, and still think about putting some french doors into the back of the house, and having a beautiful atrium back there. Ah, me, sigh…lovely.
    I’m not a plant killer. I have a philodendron cutting from a plant my mom had in the 70s, and have managed to keep that thing alive in a cup of water for decades before finally planting earlier this year. But the kitten we recently adopted has terrorized and killed almost all of my little greenies. She also knocked off 14 leaves from my fiddlehead fig. I was so worried about allergies, never even gave an ounce of thought to the destruction of other life forms. :)

  8. Monica says:

    One by one house plants have had a bit of a renaissance in our home. I use to have quite a few while we we lived in the States. Which really makes no sense, small New York apartment vs. single family house here. We actually took (smuggled) a cuttimg from a golden pothos/devil’s ivy, that we had from my Husband’s grandmother, with us in our luggage and it is still doing well. At the moment, I have a thriving fiddle leaf fig and am slowly killimg a maidenhair fern.

  9. Monica says:

    One by one house plants have had a bit of a renaissance in our home. I use to have quite a few while we we lived in the States. Which really makes no sense, small New York apartment vs. single family house here. We actually took (smuggled) a cuttimg from a devil’s ivy, that we had from my Husband’s grandmother, with us in our luggage and it is still doing well. At the moment, I have a thriving fiddle leaf fig and am slowly killimg a maidenhair fern.

  10. Barbara says:

    I remember that movie and loving that apartment too! But, I thought Gerard Depardieu was so ugly that it kind of ruined the movie for me. I’m tempted to buy plants too but really only have one good plant window. I’m thinking of getting a snake plant since I’ve heard you can’t kill them!

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Hi! I’m Jules.

I used to be an attorney, but it made me grumpy. Now I write about life, sweet and savory, as a wife and mother to two small boys. My knowledge of dinosaurs knows no bounds.

You can read more, including the meaning behind the name Pancakes and French Fries here. And, yes, I really am phenomenally indecisive.