As summer began I realized I wasn’t up for going to the garden store, as I usually do, for annual flowers to fill the pots on the deck. Back in January when I ordered seeds for my tomatoes and tall zinnias and taller cosmos, I had no idea that this would be an issue. Many of the pots had perennials in them – mints for instance. You really want to put mints in a pot. I did have seeds for a variety of basils with leaves ranging from purple to chartreuse; that might work.

But when I finally went out to inspect the flowerpots, I found them sprouting volunteers. Marigolds, yes, those often reseed themselves; what were these other leaves? They looked like petunias. I couldn’t recall having petunias reseed volunteersthemselves before, but this had been a generous spring for horticulture, if not for human health.

An unexpected plant is so often an unwanted plant. Sometimes it’s competing too ferociously with the deliberate plants; sometimes it’s esthetically displeasing – that is, ugly; sometimes it’s just in the wrong place. So I wasn’t going to count on these things turning out to be petunias when they might be some rank weed, sneaking in under cover of their petunia-like foliage. Time would tell.

petuniasAnd time did. Petunias happened spontaneously among the marigolds, with no input from the gardener. Last year’s petunias were one group of black and one group of very pale yellow. The photos show how they organized themselves for their comeback. According to Burpee, “petunias are sensitive to high temperatures and may change color or produce a stripe when they too warm.” The next surprise will be to see if they change to last year’s colors when the weather cools.

So here’s my reminder to myself: when something unexpected comes up, don’t assume it’s no good and trash it. Inauspicious beginnings do not dictate ruinous ends. Give them time.

Solvable Problems

It’s so lovely to have a garden to work in when the world gets crazy. With no one but Doug anywhere nearby I can be outside without a mask for hours and hours, making a difference to the plants in my yard if nowhere else. The garden has problems you can solve.

One of the problems was my autumn clematis. It took me years to establish it, trying to keep its roots cool but its head in the sun, which I finally achieved by planting oregano all around its base. The oregano thickened up nicely, spreading into a nice mat without taking over unauthorized territory. The clematis responded with vigor. And more vigor. Until, even though I cut it back in May, it climbed the five feet of its bamboo and cedar stakes with insouciance and by last week was looking for trellissomewhere else to go. It found the innocently growing ferns of the asparagus patch, and swamped them.

This wouldn’t do. Clearly, I needed a taller trellis over the clematis so it would leave the asparagus alone. Doug was consulted, went into his workshop, and came back with an eight-foot tower. I said, won’t we have to wait till I cut it back again? No, he said, this will go on right over the whole thing. And it did.

You can see the fine lines of the once-captive asparagus ferns in front of the clematis.

No telling how long it will take the clematis to reach the top this time, but that is a problem for another day.