#280, Sow some seeds
I like to start plants from seed, but no matter how I have babied the seedlings over the years, nursery plants are always stronger. One year I went a little nuts and decided I was going to start 1000 plants from seed. I had little peat pots all over the house. I tented them with plastic bags secured with rubber bands and shuttled them around the house following the light.
I envisioned an eden. I had hollyhocks, nasturtiums, delphiniums, shirley poppies, zinnias, shasta daisies, cosmos, marigolds, and many, many others. I added bulbs to the back of the border including dahlias, cannas, gladiolus, freesias, anemones, and ranunculus.
I brought the plants out gingerly, treating them like infants. I exposed them first to indirect sunlight and then I gradually exposed them to full sunlight, adding an hour a day until they were stable. When they were about four inches tall, I decided it was time to transplant them. It took me two full days. I planted them carefully so their transplant shock would be minimal.
I watered them by hand for the first few days unsure that the sprinklers would reach all of them. By the third day, they were starting to look as though they were settling in to their new homes.
I envisioned setting a table for a ladies tea against the backdrop of the border. In my mind, the ladies would nibble scones and strawberry jam, while a soft rose-scented breeze would scatter petals across the lawn. Little nosegays would adorn the tables and I would make finger sandwiches with the nasturtium leaves. Hummingbirds would buzz around the delphiniums and Vivaldi would stream from the house. It would be lovely. I couldn’t wait.
On the fourth day, I noticed a few snails had taken out two of the plants. I went to the nursery and bought eco-friendly snail killer, safe for cats and dogs, but deadly for snails. I sprinkled it liberally around the plants and mourned the loss of the two hollyhocks. I felt bad for the little plants because they had started with such promise, eagerly arching their bright green leaves to the warm rays that had shone through the windows. They were singles, my favorite, none of that ruffly showy business, just old-fashioned “country romance” in a variety of colors.
On the morning of the fifth day, I went outside to water the plants, but they were gone.
They were all gone.
From the looks of the prints in the soil, a rabbit family reunion had taken place. They didn’t leave a plant standing. I had never seen one rabbit on our property before, much less the greedy family that had likely intruded the day before. After weeks of my mixing the soil, planting the seeds, making colorful markers, babying the plants, planning the border, and fixing all my flowery hopes- they were just gone.
Many of the bulbs were also disturbed, save for a few freesias and an anemic anemone– only the gladiolus stood strong.
Gladiolus are not my favorite flower. Not by a long shot. But I had found a huge assortment of bulbs at the 99 cent store and couldn’t pass them up. I thought their height would be useful in the garden to make the back of the border interesting. I never thought they would be the garden.
I developed a kindred compassion for farmers everywhere. Though the scale of my effort was minuscule, I felt I had an inkling of understanding of the vulnerable state in which they operate.
I haven’t planted seeds in the ground since. Not only do my seedlings look weak and fragile compared to their hot house counterparts, but also, I felt I had lost my passion for it. The disappointment still felt fresh.
So, putting “sow some seeds” on The List, was not just a fun spring thing to do, it was also a reminder to myself of how much I love watching little sprouts unfurl from the soil, of how much I love seeing the beginning of their lives- so earnest and pure.
But, I wasn’t going to be precious about it. Not this time.
This time I bought seed packets from the hardware store, not from earmarked rare seed catalogs. I poked holes in the dirt in my herb garden, without any ceremony whatsoever, and I dropped the seeds in and covered them with a handful of dirt. There were no rulers for measuring distance between the seeds, no attention to size or color, no thought to the quality of soil.
I just planted them.
Now a few days later, they have popped up in the garden looking strong and green and happy. They don’t seem to have any complaints about their thoughtless beginning- they are just thrilled to be here.
Perhaps the snails will come. Perhaps the rabbits will come. Perhaps there will be too much sun and not enough water. Perhaps the soil will not be nutritious.
But here’s the thing… it’s important to dig a hole, put in your work and your hope, and stand back and wait for the miracle. You might find yourself staring at nothing but the muddy footprints of overfed invaders, but the fear of them should never stop you from imagining the eden.
We get so attached to our disappointments, we cleave to them and let them define us and direct us. It might only be the dashed dream of a beautiful garden, or it might be something far more profound, but either way- we have to move beyond our setbacks and our feelings about them. We have to let them go and begin again.
We have to be like those fearless little seeds and push through to the sunlight, stretch our leaves out into the world and then be grateful for the miracle.
It’s the only way we can grow to our full potential.
It’s the only way we can really bloom.
225 days to go!