One morning in late summer, I went to my garden to snip some zinnias for a bouquet for a friend. On my way back to the house, I stopped by another garden area and did some end-of-year pruning. I love these moments when I combine some maintenance and daydreaming about the next season and what’s in store.
One rose bush had an exceptional growing season and had encroached on my salvia. I had already made a plan for splitting it next spring, but now I saw the need to move two whole plants to keep everything from crowding each other out.
This was the first lesson the morning taught: when planting, remember plants will expand and fill in the space. Gardeners must allow growing room—kind of like parents who check for the thumb’s width of space in a growing child’s next pair of shoes.
The salvia had performed really well since planting them three summers ago. The rose bushes—not so much. I have a place to transplant the salvia to allow the rose bush more room to shine. I like thinking back to this first area of my garden I tackled when I had no idea what I was doing. It was an early practice at living with uncertainty that didn’t feel so overwhelming or upsetting.
I surveyed the area and was pleased by what just a few minutes’ work accomplished. I gathered my scissors and bouquet and walked over to the next raised bed to survey it. This is where lesson two struck me.
What I first noticed was how big and floppy my oregano and mountain mint had become and what a joy it was to see that space filled in so well. Then I did a double take: underneath the canopy of towering mountain mint were big leaves and pops of yellow blossoms. The squash seeds I had planted when I ran out of room in the other bed were finally producing a crop! I couldn’t believe it and was overjoyed. My garden teaches me this lesson over and over again in a variety of ways. The seeds sprouted earlier this summer, but didn’t take off as well as the seeds in the sunnier location.
I’ve been tempted to pull out plants that aren’t faring as well but always talk myself out of it. Why would I do that? Who cares if it doesn’t produce a crop? It’s exciting enough to see that the seed I planted did as Mother Nature designed.
Deeper than that, this late blooming squash plant reminds me to not discount plants—or people—who move or grow at a slower pace. I am coming into my own in so many ways later than my peers. But really what I’m learning is that what I viewed as late was really right on time for me. I needed the right combination of things to help me come into my own: therapy, honest reflection, friendships, divorce, more therapy, and boundaries.
The surprise squash needed more sun and it got it in smaller doses for a longer amount of time. Either way, we both found our way eventually. The garden never ceases to amaze me.