I could hardly wait to see how my gardens were going to look when we returned from a trip to Minnesota. The vegetable garden on the east side of the 4′ high woven metal fence was doing great–tomatoes, peppers, and several kinds of greens for salads were all small, but thriving. Squash plants were pushing through the ground. Many of the 90 onion sets had begun to grow a little. That done, just a day or two before we left, I had planted a whole garden of zinnia seeds on the east side of the fence, and watered it well. The packets said they would germinate in 10-12 days. Then we left.
My last two posts have been about the sorry showing of zinnias–only a few here and there, and more weeds than flowers. None of the ones in the flower bed were more than about 4″ high, and certainly none of them was boasting a bloom. The weeds had to go.
But about 5′ over, on the east side of the fence, smack dab in the middle of a row of onions, was a lovely, tall, robustly healthy, BLOOMING zinnia! I certainly didn’t plant one there, and zinnias are annuals, so a seed should not have survived over the winter out there. Where did it come from? I don’t know.
I tackled the unwanted weeds. The salad garden was beautiful–a row of leaf lettuce, a row of mixed greens with kale, a row of Bibb, a row of black seed. Cauliflower and broccoli. Quite a variety! But there were some strangers in the rows, too–volunteer tomato plants that had sprouted from unharvested fruit last year. I’m very sympathetic to volunteers in any context, so I let them grow. Now they have virtually taken over the salad garden.
So is my blooming zinnia in the onion row a weed? Are the tomato plants in the lettuce bed weeds? Nope. They are good things–a zinnia and tomato plants–in unusual places. I must make the choices about them, like in the rest of my life. Sometimes something is fine when it is where it is expected to be, and fits in properly. There’s nothing jarring about its presence. Habits, things we believe, even friends are like that. But that same something might be quite surprising and appear completely out of place and inappropriate in an unexpected setting. Does that made it a “weed”? I don’t think so. Just like in my garden, it’s up to me to make choices. I have the responsibility to tend the “garden,” whether it is composed of dirt or life.
This summer, I appreciate the beauty of the zinnia blooming in the onion row more than I value having a “perfect” row. And I’m looking forward to harvesting unexpected tomatoes from where they volunteered to grow long after the summer heat has made the lettuces too bitter to eat. There will be more to share than I even planned! Next year, however, I may opt for symmetry, beauty, and only intentionally planted flowers and veggies. I need to be willing to make the choices for my garden and my life, and accept that what’s best for me and for my garden this June might be quite different next June–and that will be just fine. God put some spontaneity in nature to remind us not to get too set in our ways.