Gardening tips from Patrick Swayze and me


I've fallen suspect to the fiddle-leaf fad.           

For months, I envied the many pictures forayed about social media of beautiful fiddle-leaf foliage (Can you tell I don’t exactly keep up with the Kardashians?). I finally purchased a small ficus lyrata, a species of fig, with big ambitions of it taking over a corner in our home. After a year under my care, the fiddle-leaf baby grew only a couple new leaves and lost a few more. The two steps forward, three steps back sort of growth pattern was nothing to share on Instagram.

My grandfather was known in eastern Kentucky for being able to grow grass under a rock. My father keeps a beautiful vegetable garden that feeds our family all year, and my mother can grow flowers worthy of a Southern Living feature porch. Is it possible green thumbs aren’t genetic?

James Underwood Crockett was the author of several gardening books and the original host of PBS’s “The Victory Garden.” According to Mr. Crockett, the phrase “green thumb” originated from those who frequently work with flower pots. Algae grows on the outside of the pots and can stain a person’s hands—thumbs—when handled. It would seem that experience is necessary to gain the coveted designation of having a “green thumb,” …. And that I need to watch some old reruns.  

I’ve been busy bringing the outdoors in, focusing time and energy on other potted plants. African violets, lavender, a variety of herbs, an unknown sort of plant labeled only “tropical 8-inch,” and a weeping fig tree now adorn our various tabletops and counter spaces.

I’ve read some and experimented much with various lighting, water, and soil combinations unique for each of the plants and something happened.

My fiddle-leaf nearly tripled in size, again commanding my attention and adoration. The trick? Maybe it was a year of experience. Perhaps my thumb was stained green by the extra potted plants introduced under our roof, or the coming of warmer weather and the time spent gardening outdoors. Or maybe it was because I moved the fiddle leaf out of the corner, because, well, Patrick Swayze taught me long ago that, “Nobody puts Baby in the corner.”

No matter where you get your gardening tips this year, remember successful gardens—like many of life’s worthy endeavors—don’t happen overnight. I’ll be working on mine, and on that perfect shade of green thumb. Happy gardening!

Neena Gaynor is a Kentucky wife, mother, daughter and beekeeper who does life in Owensboro. She also writes on her blog at and can be reached via email at


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