Volunteers

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.

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