James Brown – The Godfather of Soil

James Brown – The Godfather of Soil by Chris Green

Susanna and I were having a lunchtime glass of Chardonnay at Café Rouge. She had called me earlier at work. She had sounded a little distraught, so I had rearranged my diary for us to meet up. She suspected Charlie was seeing a younger woman. Over the first glass or two, we had examined the evidence, his late nights at the office, the restaurant receipts in the MG, his increased interest in personal grooming, and the dropping off of his libido, this despite the Agent Provocateur lingerie she had purchased. Most distressing were the graphic photos she had discovered on his mobile phone. We had discussed the possible avenues of retribution open to her, clearing out the joint bank account, an affair with a younger man, bromide in his morning tea, or divorce papers. Towards the end of the bottle, Susanna decided to lighten the conversation.

‘Did you know, Amanda, that playing music to plants aids their growth?’ she said.

‘Is that right?’ I said. I was naturally a little dubious about such a claim. It had a Life on Mars ring to it. Susanna was prone to fanciful ideas at times.

‘I read it in an article by a Chinese botanist in a magazine I picked up at the dentist,’ she said.

I believe Susanna has a fairly upmarket dentist, mine only has months-old copies of ‘Hello’ magazine in the waiting room. Hello doesn’t usually have significant science content.

‘Interesting,’ I said, hoping not to show my disinterest.

‘You have a good stock of plants around the house,’ she said. ‘Why don’t you give it a try?’

‘What kind of music do you think they would like to hear,’ I asked. I did after all have a large CD collection, made up mostly of those that Nick had left when he moved out to live with that tramp, Chloe. Chloe, for some reason, did not seem to care for music, so Nick had never been back for them. It had been six months now.

‘All types of music, I imagine,’ Susanna said. ‘I suppose you will need to experiment.’

I didn’t get on to it right away, but after a couple of grey early summer months, during which my indoor plants, particularly the bromeliads, began to look a little sad, I decided that it would do no harm. I started in a conservative way, playing them Chopin and Einaudi, then Bach and Handel, chosen on the basis that soothing music would be more likely to be therapeutic. Gradually I introduced them to The Beatles, The Beach Boys and REM.

In late July, Susanna phoned. As soon as I heard her voice, I could tell that something was wrong. Over lunch at Le Petit Blanc, once the business of Charlie’s latest indiscretions were out of the way (their joint bank account balance had plummeted, he had brought the other woman to the house), I reported back to her. Some plants, I explained, had responded marginally better than others to different types of music, but overall there seemed to be very little difference in their growth patterns, although I was almost sure that Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young had killed my cyclamen, Young mostly I suspected. I asked her if she had been back to the dentist recently.

‘No,’ she said. Her teeth were tickety-boo since she had been using the interdentals and the organic toothpaste that Mr Ondaatje had recommended. And the composite filling was holding up well, despite her fondness for Belgian chocolate.

‘You don’t remember anything else about the plant article,’ I asked.

‘I do seem to recall that it concluded that it is all to do with vibrations. Perhaps your little darlings need something a little more up-tempo or a little bass.’

Over the next few days, I tried out Bob Marley, Michael Jackson, and Prince. So far as I could tell, the lemon tree in the conservatory responded favourably to Bob Marley. The yucca seemed to perk up to Michael Jackson, while the palms preferred Prince. It was difficult to keep track from day to day which music had what effect on which plants, so I set up a spreadsheet on the computer, and prepared special playlists, based on genre. I took to leaving music on while I went to work. One day Pop, one day Jazz, one day Rock, one day Soul, etc.

Remarkably, all the plants seemed to favour Funk, in particular James Brown. My curiosity raised by this, I found a forum on the internet on the subject of playing music for plants. I had not imagined that there would be such a forum, but I discovered that there were several. While there was by no means universal agreement on which music stimulated growth, many subscribers to the forums arrived at the same conclusion. Funk was the key to happy houseplants. The repetitive riffs and bass lines promote rapid growth said sexmachine69. The badder the better said suepbadgroover. Turn the volume right up. James Brown is the Godfather of Soil said funkyycat911.

I got onto it straight away. It appeared to work. Everything shot up. I now play James Brown to my houseplants eight hours a day. I have set up speakers all around the house. I put Live at the Apollo or Sex Machine on at eight before I leave for work and set the player to repeat. My croton which has never flowered before has produced a bloom, my orchids are colossal, and my Swiss Cheese plant has taken over the spare room.

I see the Englebys next door have a For Sale sign outside.

© Chris Green 2021: All rights reserved


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