It’s a Jungle Out There!

I thought this week’s blog post was going to be about sweet peas. Pretty little flowers. Popeye and Olive Oyl’s cute little cartoon baby. The fragrant little plant that makes a great veggie. We have some peas… and I dunno if they are sweet peas or not… but I have them growing in our urban garden. I like them… they grow well and we’ve had some great harvests. I was going to tell you about how I went out to tame them with some clips and string and bamboo skewers and how proud I was of them. But that is not how this muse went.

I went out to discover the garden has become a virtual jungle. The great rains we’ve had in the last few days have turned the place into a labyrinth of green! Okay, I admit it. Perhaps I am not as diligent at weeding as I should be… but these are not just weeds… the actual veggies have exploded! Currently, we have some zucchini plants and some cucumbers which are holding their own and doing their “normal” spread. They are behaving. The peas and beans are now quite ladened down with heavy vines and I am not sure how to separate them. They have no more space to expand to, so they are growing into each other. Even my strawberries are shooting out tendrils!

Yet, my biggest “expander” (and I say this with a little excitement) is our pumpkin vine! The youngest wanted to try it this year, so we simply threw a few seeds in a space near the end of the garden before the sunflower patch. Well… as they say, if you plant it … it just might grow! Our pumpkin has now weaved it’s way through the sunflowers, down the fence and reaching up along the side of the lawn into Neverland! The vines have taken over!

So, I did a little research. Apparently there are two different kinds of “vine” expansions: twining or hold fasts. Vines that use tendrils wrap around their supports using thin, leafless stems… those curly cues you see on grape vines, for example. Other climbers use “sticky” pads or aerial roots to adhere to almost any smooth surface. Like ivy growing on ancient castles. So how do they know to grow up and wrap around something? They don’t. Vines do something called “thigmotropism”. Those little stems grow until they mechanically “hit” something… by wind or whatever… and end up twisting around the structure to hold on. This is why you can “train” vines to climb a trellis. (Obviously my jungle proves we have not done this!) There are some very cool looking slowmo videos of “thigmotropism” out there. Look it up!

Not my peas…but Sweet Pea (lathyrus Odoratus) is a photograph by Maxine Adcock/science Photo Library which was uploaded on February 24th, 2021.

So… what’s our take away from my jungle adventure? You got it… John 15:5 comes to mind. “I am the vine, and you are the branches…” Growth occurs when we are attached to a stable structure. Heaven knows we certainly need something stable in this ever changing world!! Especially when we are facing struggles. Or the unknown. Or simply putting the “feelers” out on a big decision we need to make. Wanna know another cool thing about thigmotropism? The bigger the stimulus the plant receives, the faster the tendril growth and the stronger the coils become! Sound familiar? Yup, often our biggest valleys in life produce the greatest and strongest amount of spiritual growth!

Well… turns out my fragrant and pretty sweet peas were not as encouraging this week as my jungle of pumpkin vines! I guess that is just the way it is sometimes in life. Here’s to “thigmotropism” and to you, my growing friend! Hold fast this week!

Seasons of Change

As many of you know, our little urban garden is up and running again. Thanks to lockdown and Covid-19, we were ahead of our game and started seeds indoors this year. As always, there are learning curves with such things and we’ve had various degrees of success. Traditionally, the long weekend in May is a fairly “safe” time to transition seedlings to outside. So, last week we did just that… off our little seed babies went into the ground with high hopes of bountiful growth. And then it snowed.

Frost damage on Corn crop (photo from agriculture.com)

I see my neighbour (who has a beautiful garden) promptly shielded her tomatoes with warming pots. A seasoned farmer I follow on Instagram threw tarps over her raised beds in a last ditched effort to protect her asparagus that finally will be big enough to harvest after waiting for three long years. We did not. Our second attempt at scraggly corn shoots look very shriveled. The others may survive with a little prayer and a lot of hope.

“Farming” is a risky business. I recently searched out what our “growing zone” is, as this seems to be a fact I should know. The website starts out with “…To determine zone number, Canada uses a formula that consists of 7 climate variables. Canada’s hardiness map is divided into 9 zones…” and continues on for about 9 paragraphs and ends with “…website includes several links intended to clarify the hardiness zones, but which seem instead to be very complicated and confusing.” 1 Ya think?? Hats off to the men and women who make their livelihood on the whims of the weather and their wage on the likelihood of storms and forest fires. They say that in Canada, we can have all four seasons in one week… and it is true. Weather is unpredictable. Life is unpredictable too.

Which had me musing about the seasons of life this week. Psychology tells us there are “stages” we go through in our average life span — seasons of growth and development, seasons of change. Many of you have eluded to these in your comments as we muse along together. That’s the beauty of exploring and sharing our faith journeys, too… we encourage each other as we go. The scriptures are scattered with references, not only to the physical four seasons we see throughout the year, but also in our “spiritual seasons” as well. God reminds us through nature how our world is in constant change… and He designed it that way.

I often question: why? Why did He design it that way? Why do things have to change? Why do we have to grown old? Why has He allowed the corona virus to infect the world at this moment? Why did He choose to come to earth at the moment He did? What will the future hold for us? Seasons of bitter cold, and seasons of preparation, growth and warmth. Each season holds something to offer, but none of them are ever perfect. Weeds grow just as rapidly in summer as the sunflowers do. Yet, the constant through it all is God alone. James 1:17 tells us there is no variation or shadow of change in the Father. We can take courage in this thought. Even in the midst of life’s seasonal changes.

My zinnias (a first time plant for me!) have sprouted cute little dichotomous leaves all tucked up in a row. I’m not sure how the frost will affect them. I’m also not sure what life will hold for us in the next year, or the next month, or even this week ahead… but we move forward through the season, and grow and adapt just as God designed it to be. As will you. Blessings fellow seedlings!

  1. (2020, https://www.torontomastergardeners.ca/askagardener/plant-hardiness-zones/)

Flowers Near Me

Have you ever walked through a grocery store and happened upon the fresh flower market? The aroma hits you like a wave of spring, as the colours create the canvas for some obscure collage of pastels with pops of red and green. The bouquets all wrapped up in crinkly cellophane or dotted wrapping paper. Buckets of fresh cut stems and little pots of flowering plants. Petite teddy bears and foil balloons with tiny cards to send wishes of joy, sympathy and love. It certainly is a feast for the senses. A friend of mine recently posted that she succomed to the calling and bought herself a potted beauty in pink! A personal pick-me-up, she wrote. So many of us are anticipating the fresh coming of spring, with its hope for warmer weather, fragrant earth, and a blip of colour peeking out of the garden. Especially after a year of lock downs, stay-at-home orders and Covid-19.

I never used to like flowers in the garden. Gardens should be practical. Food and useful stuff. Sure, I love a beautiful English Rose Garden, or a field of happy sunflowers, but anything more than a few potted geraniums to keep away the bugs, and it’s fine with me. This year, I am mellowing. Or maybe I am just experimenting with the whole sow and see theme. This year, I picked up flower seeds. Last year we tried a few Candula in hopes to make herbal “tea” – but the few blossoms we tried were not worth the brewing. Our sunflowers were tall, but few, and quickly eaten up by squirrels.

This year I picked up dahlia and nasturtium (you can eat those…practical!). We might even try wild mixes of sweet pea and butterfly-loving wildflowers. Why not?! Maybe I need to break out of my practical mode and be brave (ooh #wordoftheyear) and try my hand at something “impractical”. Or just convince myself that flowers are practical. Self care, perhaps? A personal pick me up? Maybe these flower fun-facts will convince me they belong in my urban garden:

  • nasturtium, pansies, roses, sunflowers and violets are all edible… as are daisies, dandelions, hibiscus and honeysuckle (Check out our post on dandelion honey… so yum!)
  • broccoli is actually a flower!! (also edible…duh)
  • sunflowers are “hyperaccumulators” and suck up all kinds of toxins in the soil… they were even used to clean up the nuclear disasters at Chernobyl and Fukushima (athensscienceobserver.com)
  •  the juice from bluebell flowers was used historically to make glue
  • in Holland in the 1600’s, tulips bulbs were more valuable than gold

All this flower fun makes me wonder… did God just have fun with flowers? Throw splashes of colour here and there? Add weird shapes and patterns just to be creative? Hey, why not make some of them edible while we are at it? Or be able to suck up some some toxic waste that He knew we would mess up His world with in the future? An interesting muse… and a question I may add to my Heaven list for when I get there and have coffee with Adam and Eve. The science gal in me wants to just look at the flowering facts of pollination and seed and fruit production. But why not make practical things pretty too? Flowers. You’ve got to admit they are nice to look at, aren’t they? And most of them smell pretty good. Perhaps they are God’s personal pick-me-ups, too. Created just for fun, to be enjoyed by the quiet observer who might just plant a few in the garden — just to sow and see.

photo via littlehouseoffour.com