January 22, 2020

Volunteer Action Keeps Things Interesting

Cosmos bipinnatus

Janine Pineo Photo | Sometimes the prettiest flowers sprout from self-sown seeds, such as this Cosmos bipinnatus.

• By Janine Pineo •

I revel in these lazy, hazy, and yes, crazy days of summer.

I’ve harvested my first salad fixings, blessing the gorgeous mounds of lettuce and spinach, relishing the bite of the radishes and green onions. I am impatiently awaiting the ripening of my first tomatoes. The Early Girl variety has lots of fruit, and the cherry ones have potential (I keep reminding them to think small). The cucumber plants are a little slow, but the baby peppers are popping out in droves.

The corn is past the knee-high stage and the pole beans are running wild. The peas are doing fine, thank you very much, and so are the carrots.

But what’s this? Yikes, it’s rogue squash all over the place. I don’t even know what kind of squash because we dump the guts — oh, all right, innards — of squash and pumpkins back into the garden, a sort of composting tradition in my family (hey, it’s cheaper than those high-tech thingamabobs that sell for scads of money). It actually is kind of fun to see what will come back the next spring, and, of course, where they will show up.

This year, the rogues sprouted beside the tomatoes, in the cucumber patch, alongside the corn, and — picture this — in the squash patch. Now just how can I tell which are the rogues, you ask. They were growing when I planted the other squash seeds. So there.

On the other side of the vegetable-slash-flower garden, rogues of a different ilk have reared their leafy heads. Cosmos. They’ve done it before, but never quite this much. One is beginning to dwarf the lettuce, and somehow mixed in with the sweet peas, Empress of India nasturtiums and the sunflowers lining the fence, a slew of cosmos has moved in. I have to hand it to them, though, for toughing it out through the winter and then deciding to try it again.

The roses are trying it again, too. This winter killed a half dozen or so; the rest are finally in bloom. Most of my hybrids are a couple of weeks behind schedule, but as always, it was worth the wait. And joy of joys, my great-grandmother Johnson’s rose survived the winter. The plant is still small, but it gave me a sign of things to come if only I’m patient: It blossomed. Granted it was only one rather small, crinkly, pink blossom. That’s enough for me to keep on hoping. Sadly, my great-grandmother Stoddard’s rose didn’t make it through the winter, but a couple of new shoots I got from my grandmother last month seem to be adapting quite well. Patience, patience.

A few days ago, as I was headed to water those very same rose shoots, a vision of loveliness caught my eye. I puzzled over what something that tall and flowering would be doing growing in the midst of wild ferns. I backtracked and there, swaying in the breeze, was a big, bold and beautiful clump of meadow rue.

I stood there dazed for a moment, thinking, “I paid good money for a pot of this last year and here’s a free one hiding in the bushes.” Then I grinned and held upright the stalks laden with wispy flowers. The tallest stalk was nearly 6 feet high, a giant compared to the puny little fellow I planted in the front yard. At least now I know what kind of potential it has.

So when the late afternoon sun ripples through the trees, I glance around the yard, watching dragonflies dissect clouds of bugs and listening for the buzz of the hummingbird headed for its date with the fuchsia. As I drink in the colors of summer — from my hanging pots and flower beds to the wildflowers lining the woods’ edge — I think of all the little discoveries flourishing in unlikely places in my yard. They just go to prove you can never have too many flowers.

First published in the Bangor Daily News in July 1994.