Plants’ virtues make up for gardener’s vices

10/04/2013 12:00 AM

10/03/2013 11:45 PM

I’m not always a patient person. Impatiens, in fact, should probably be my signature flower.

If I’m in a hurry – and, unfortunately, it seems I usually am – I tend to pull a hose hard without regard for any tender plants it may be crushing in the process, or any pot it may be tipping over.

If I’m pulling arms full of shopping bags toward the front door and a branch of coleus is in my way, it better move. Often it will break instead.

So it is that several branches have come off my coleuses this summer, even though a big reason for that is that they grew so rambunctiously that they outgrew the space I gave them.

But it was never a big deal to the plants, no crushing blow, just a little less lushness. And one of the fallen stems has rewarded me for my carelessness.

I also tend to throw the debris here and there, not being very neat. Compost happens. One day as I was going in the front door I noticed several fresh new coleus plants where one of the tossed stems had landed atop some mulch. The stem had rooted down along its length, and it was all kindness and forgiveness in return for my callousness.

What a gift. What a lesson.

It’s not the only one for this ingrate. This is the first in-ground year for a mum that some friends gave me in a pot last fall and that I planted in the ground after it bloomed. After it greened up this spring, I pinched it back once or twice before July 4, and it went from skimpy to huge over the summer. Not only that, but despite my imperfect pinching, it created a perfect bowl.

Then it was time for me to clean out my in-ground birdbath alongside the mum. Instead of going to the front of the mum to carefully work the birdbath out of its hole, I lazily reached around the mum and tipped the bowl, not seeing that I was breaking several stems off the mum and marring its perfect shape.

It was, again, by no means a disaster, and I kind of smirked at the plant anyway – when we make a mistake, we tend to put the blame somewhere else, don’t we? – because I wasn’t sure the mum was even putting on buds. Was this the case of a plant that was all foliage and no fruit or flower? Maybe it wasn’t getting enough sun?

A few days later, tiny stars of yellow started breaking out at the ends of some of the mums’ stems. The once-perfect plant was going to bear flowers, all right. It wouldn’t be in a perfect bowl, but it would be gorgeous. This is nature, after all. Giving, forgiving, miraculous, even when I step in and step on.

Virtues worth pursuing for this human nature.

About Annie Calovich

Annie writes about home and garden, including her Bit of Earth column on Saturdays. She has been at The Eagle since 1985, working as a copy editor, a nation/world editor and a reporter. She’s a KU graduate who started out at The Coffeyville Journal.

Contact Annie at 316-268-6596 or

Follow Annie on Twitter: @AnnieCalovich

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