Abundance is a good thing. It’s always a good thing, It is never NOT a good thing.
I don’t care what the doomsayers claim in just about every garden book ever penned: DO NOT consign your beloved Kentucky Colonel spearmint to life in a pathetic pot. Nor your enthusiastically spreading lemon balm, ajuga, creeping jenny, lambs ear, or moonbeam coreopsis. DO NOT live in fear that your dill will self-sow all over the place. Or the johnny-jump-ups, marigolds, zinnias, cosmos, cleome, morning glory, Italian parsley, or bachelor buttons that you let go to seed last year. For heaven’s sake, DO NOT lose sleep over the myriad heirloom tomato seedlings springing up in little tomato-shaped circles as a result of last August’s “tomato ennui,” in which you were so sick of looking at, let alone eating, tomatoes that you pointedly ignored that entire section of the garden and left tomatoes rotting on the ground. That fermentation on the ground is exactly what made the seeds viable, you know. I’m just saying.
Though you may be literally reaping what you were unaware of having sown, you are not under assault. Rather, your garden is gently insisting that you “let go and let goddess,” or something to that effect. I know I may sound like an insensitive Catholic priest lecturing a mother of 14 about the “gifts from God” with which she has been blessed, but think about it. Really think about it:
Are you trying too hard to keep your cockleshells all in a row? Is it really such a catastrophy if flame marigolds, which can so easily be moved when they are young anyway, come up from seed in a bed devoted to yellow ones this year? How hard is it, really, to pull up annual dill volunteers and eat the little blighters–didn’t you say just yesterday that you needed to eat more fish? And really, if any dirty lady ever said to me “Oy vey, this damned rampant foxglove!” I think I might actually slap her. What I wouldn’t do for enthusiastic foxglove. I would do filthy things in the town square at high noon for enthusiastic foxglove.
My grandmother scattered some cleome seed in her garden in 1936, and she never had to do it again. When she moved to Texas in 1968, that cleome was still punctuating her garden with great pink exclamation marks. And she had an abundance of seed each year to share with her friends–and to bring with her to Texas, just as the pioneer women have done in that region from the 16th century onward. I save cleome seed every year from my own garden that traces its ancestry back to my grandmother’s garden ca. 1936, along with her purple heart, another rampant spreader in the South, given to me by my aunt, who got it from Mamaw’s garden at some point. I have to winter over fresh cuttings of purple heart inside up here in Missouri, but I’d just as soon leave a child outside in the cold as leave Mamaw’s family heirloom purple heart to freeze. Pinched-off cuttings root and spread so fast that, by the end of each growing season, I have abundant splashes of purple covered with lavender flowers in great mounds throughout the garden. That sensual velvety-purple foliage serves as a unifying theme among the pots, the hanging baskets, the herb bed, the perennial boarder, the baby bed, and the area around the big goose boy fountain where nothing else but catnip will grow. Artistic unity: damn, there’s just nothing to match it.
Categorical statement: never, ever have I found myself with too much spearmint. Especially around Derby Day, as I’m sure you can well imagine. The point is, I have to have ample new growth for a prodigious jug of mint syrup by the first Saturday in May and onward through the end of iced tea season, which takes some doing in zone 5. If you are growing herbs as a crop, which is what they are, after all, you do need a lot of each variety.
And for goodness sake, don’t you have any friends? Might they like a big honking fistfull of fresh mint or lemon balm or dill to take home for tonight’s supper or tomorrow afternoon’s iced tea? When was the last time you offered colleagues at work a recycled sixpack of heirloom tomato seedlings, hmmm? Trust me: they’ll take ‘em–and they’ll bless you for a saint for offering ‘em. Tomato six packs are bloody expensive, and you can usually only find about three pathetically tasteless hybrid varieties at the big do it yourself warehouses or (God forbid) Walmart.
If you don’t know Susan McLure’s The Free-Spirited Garden, you need to. I value it so highly that I forgive Ms. McLure for the capitalization error in her title. This book will single-handedly convince you to finally release your need for control and let it float gently downstream in any direction the currents and eddies may choose to take it. Also, embracing this gardening aesthetic will save you about a ba-jillion dollars every year and will win you both friends and influence.
So embrace your fear. Don’t be a wuss. Stare it down. Throw off your clothes and roll in it. Live on the wild side. Self-seeders and spreaders are not weeds. They do not take backhoes, voodoo, and profanity to eradicate. They are not bindweed, after all, they are not smilax. They are hearty little comers that loved being in your garden so much last year that they’ve sent forward the next generation to do it all over again. From Hybrid vs. Heirlooms: “Mr. Ball, of Burpee, recalls a customer telling him about a Brandywine plant that crept into the house through a second-floor window.” Now, THAT’S devotion.
Don’t be a crank-asaur. Rather, be grateful that something, anything is really and truly thriving in your garden. Trust me on this: there will be many a year when nothing else will. Then won’t you be sorry for all the ugly things you said about that “blasted” lunaria and its free-spirited cousins!
- Suncreek Garden Chronicles…Heirloom Tomatoes are the best fruit ever (nolagirlatheart.wordpress.com)
- Hybrids vs. Heirlooms: New York Times Death Match! [Casaubon's Book] (scienceblogs.com)