happy accidents

Recently a blogger who I enjoy reading (Hank Shaw of Hunter Gardener Angler Cook) wrote a post about success and failure in the garden. It's something all gardeners, no matter how experienced, can relate to. Every season there's some crop that does amazingly well right next to something else that's a complete disaster. Whether it's because of the weather, pests, or simply "operator error" it seems that no one is immune from the fate of nature.

This year I've already had my share of disappointments and things not going as planned. A big part of this was due to my wheat-growing experiment which dramatically delayed the planting of most of my summer crops. That caused a domino effect–in order to not fall too far behind I started some seeds (like my beans) inside. Unfortunately they got so mature and root bound before the wheat was done I ended up giving them away to my friend Amy for her garden.

Then I started another batch which didn't germinate well. When I finally was able to harvest the wheat, I planted the new scrawnier bean seedlings but in a few days they were completely decimated by pests (not sure what yet, but my current guess is earwigs.)

Beans have got to be one of the most foolproof crops to grow in the garden (usually my kids are the ones to plant them!) so it's hard to believe that I'm now nursing half-dead plants and hoping for the best. (Also set out beer traps tonight to see if it's earwigs or not.)

But for every mind-boggling disaster there are also many gifts. Sometimes they even come together. Another mishap this season was my zinnias. Again, one of the easiest flowers you can possibly grow but it just goes to show–no matter how experienced you are you can't get cocky with Mother Nature. I started a whole flat of these inside but for some reason none of the seeds germinated (I have no idea why.) By the time I accepted the failure it was really too late to start over, so I resigned myself to not having my annual zinnia patch this year.

Then this past weekend I was out in the garden weeding my gravel pathways (which are getting filled with thistles and other unwanted plants) when I noticed some small familiar leaf shapes among them–was it? Could it be? Yes, zinnias! They had obviously self-sowed from last year. The more I looked, the more I found. I was able to uproot and successfully transplant 32 zinnias from the gravel to the flower beds. Hurrah!

Another happy accident is the photo at the top. All winter I had what I thought was an enormous weed growing right by my front door. I kept letting it grow, partially because I was too lazy to deal with it and also because I was curious to see exactly how big it would get and what it would turn into. Being much more of a vegetable gardener than a floral expert, I had no idea this "weed" was a volunteer Hollyhock! Imagine my surprise and delight when it burst forth with these tall stalks of beautiful yellow flowers. It looks stunning against my brown house and seems like it was intentionally planted. Many thanks to the bird or the breeze that carried the seed.

Of course (as always) I can't help but take the lessons learned in the garden as life lessons as well. I've recently had to deal with some seriously unpleasant "weeds" in my personal life. But who knows, with time maybe these too will turn into beautiful flowers. Or like the zinnias that failed only to have a second chance by seeds from the past. During dark times it's good to remember that we never know what gifts life has yet to give us.

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