Church of Perpetual Volunteers

wild mint

Field Mint

If my garden and wild fields are my church, then if I were to name it I think it would be:

CHURCH OF PERPETUAL VOLUNTEERS

This is because I don’t try to control my garden that much. For many people gardening is a constant battle against encroaching weeds and disorder. They employ all kinds of tactics to prevent plants from going wild or proliferating too much. If you listen to the language of most gardeners they’re constantly cautioning other gardeners against plants that “take over” or “spread” or “can’t be controlled”. Most of the plants I love the most are notorious re-seeders such as cosmos, parsley, calendula, borage, mint, comfrey, allysum, and yarrow. Any time I tell another gardener how much I love cosmos they feel the need to say something like “Oh, but if you’re not careful that will take over your whole yard!” to which I find myself saying “What could be more wonderful than a yard completely covered in cosmos? LET IT GO MAD!”

I will admit that there are a few plants famous for going rampant that that I don’t want going rampant in my yard. Mostly it’s because I don’t like them, because they do nothing for me personally or are pure evil (such as privet and arum italicum).

My style of gardening is to put up some structured beds and then encourage everything I love to seed freely. I love volunteers. When something pops up that I don’t recognize I always let it get big enough to ID before deciding if it stays or goes. Watching something mysterious pop up in my yard is a joy. I have a volunteer purple aster that started off as a tiny 1″ seedling and is now this:

P1040328

From nothing, I got this beautiful aster that has stuck around for 3 years so far. It’s also growing in the crappiest soil that we’re working on amending. I didn’t buy this plant. Someone probably grew this years ago in this garden or a garden near-by and the seed waited until conditions were perfect and it popped up. Or a bird pooped on my yard and left this gem. If I’d been madly pulling up everything I didn’t plant myself that could potentially be a weed, I’d never have this plant in my life.

Another plant that pops up absolutely all over our garden is sweet alyssum, seen here (the little white ones) with another loved volunteer always welcome in my garden – nasturtiums.

P1040379

What I love about volunteers is how I can let them pop up where they will and then pull the ones that popped up where I don’t want them. My garden is never barren because of these. Should I be laid up for a long time, unable to do anything with my plants, I’ll still have calendula, valerian, alyssum, asters, and California poppies gathering colorful light right outside my house.

I don’t want or need hygienic order in my life. I mean, I could use more cleaning and order inside my house, because I still suck at laundry. I would still rather write than mop my floors. I’d rather watch Miss Marple and daydream than dust the woodwork.

I just realized that my garden is the only place I like to be surprised. Haha!

I’ve planted a cultivated variety of purslane and it’s very happy in the bed we put it in. I just harvest a huge bowl of it. Most of it is trying to flower right now. I cut most of the flowers off yesterday because I didn’t want it to stop producing leaves, but I’m going to let it flower eventually and see if we get a ton of volunteers of it. It’s a pretty rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrto3 <—- that’s what Jasper the ex-feral kitten has to say about purslane.

I’m turning to my garden a lot more lately and thinking about it (and now talking about it) because it’s helping me combat this horrible dark global malaise of human invention. It’s helping my mind focus on good things and hope rather than the dark pit it so often and so easily gets mired in. I’m so tired of everything I write about being from the pit. I’m going to have to focus on the dark enough as it is to write Suicide for Beginners. Rampant purslane and calendula is definitely the antidote.

I know I hit a low point recently when I made a pun and wasn’t even sure it counted as a pun. My only anti-pun ally (and future award winning illustrator/science fiction author) Sonya Craig had to yell at me to shake me free of the encroaching darkness.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *