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How My Plants Moved to Paradise

by Paul Elsen

One of the saddest part of moving across the country was having to find a new home for all the plants we have collected over the years. Some of them track the history of our relationship and the history of the places in which we have lived. It is impossible to choose a favorite, but one becomes accustomed, over a decade, to be surrounded by the same plants – they help to make a house a home.

For example:

We had plants we received as housewarming gifts in our first apartment together over 10 years ago; plants that grew up on our coffee table starting at 2” that grew to 5’ monsters which we cut and repotted so there were generations of the same plant growing up together.

Plants that moved with us many times around California, one in particular had to be re-groomed as it had spread to fill the 10’ vaulted ceilings, and we curled its branches down and around in our next apartment that lacked the same clearance.

Perhaps the ones that meant the most were plants we had given to loved ones and had regained after their passing.

Recently, we moved from California to Wisconsin and it wasn't possible to bring our plant collection with us. Though parting with our plant family was not easy, moving is a positive time! Exploring new beginnings and a new adventure together.

We drove our 30+ plants three hours, from Oakland to Paradise, California, to give them to a family member who had repeatedly expressed love for our plants and was happy to care for them. seeing family enjoy our plants is wonderful, and eases the process of letting go.

When we settled in Madison, Wisconsin the first piece of mail we received in our new apartment was a letter from a local nursery saying “Welcome to Madison” with a gift card from our family, so we could restart our plant collection that will represent the new chapter of our life – the native plants of Wisconsin!

Paul Elsen is a 2016 David H. Smith Conservation Fellow working on habitat and species protection under climate change.


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