My brother is a horticulturist. From where nobody knows. We are a family of merchants, shopkeepers, purveyors of service; none of us is concerned with growth. But my brother keeps two hundred healthy plants on our porch, and they respond to his tending as if he’d come from farmers. On that porch, in heavy clay pots stacked so close as to become walls, hanging in curtains from glinting hooks screwed into the ceiling, on shelves and windowsills and perched upon the edges of upturned orange crates, grow plants with names enough to provide an entire generation identity.

I too have had some small success with growing things. A sensible variety of cacti grow along my south window; not lovely, but strong, stubborn plants, requiring little care, going dormant during cold months. I cannot share my brother’s enthusiasm for quantity. Certainly plants are decorative and it is pleasing to see them grow, to observe a change in shape or be surprised by a bloom. I therefore keep a few beneath my window to enjoy. My brother’s skill with his collection, his ability to nurture magnificent specimens of so many varieties, is too much related to his desire to possess so many. There has not been a week in the past four years when he’s not come breathing up our front steps with a tenderly wrapped addition in his arms. I have dreams about their weight causing the floors to fall in.