Posted in Life, garden

From Tiny Seeds to Blooming Beauty: The Miracle of Gardening

As wandered through the garden shop’s aisles of colorful and more expensive than ever pots of annuals, I decided, “I’m going to plant some seeds this year.” I had just finished cleaning up my backyard gardens which were now, other than the amaryllis, devoid of color. Having seen the beautifully landscaped entrances to gated-communities near me, I visualized now nice my garden would look in just a few weeks.

The seed display is off in the corner, behind the patio furniture. This store stocks two brands, and each brand offers regular and organic packets of vegetable and flower seeds. Other than price, I doubt there is much difference between organic and non-organic seeds. I’ll look that up later.

I’ve researched what flowers will grow best in my area, so I am armed with a list. The pictures on each packet explode with color. I underestimated just how amazing my garden will look!

I find zinnias, marigolds, and cosmos, but none of the others on my list. I know, I should have just shopped online. But then I’d miss the sights and smells that get my gardening juices flowing. I do find a couple of colorful flower mixes. I’ll give those a try.

Back home, I’m ready to plant. I carefully open the first packed of zinnia seeds. Wow, you don’t get very many seeds in a packet. They’re tiny, too. I carefully pour some into the palm of my hand. Don’t sneeze, or they’ll be gone. Picking up a few between thumb and forefinger, I drop them along a line I’ve drawn in the soil with a trowel. I can’t even see where they’ve landed. Before I know it, they’re gone. Trusting that they have found a home, I gently cover them with a 1/4-inch layer of dirt. That’s not very much, but that’s what the instructions call for. I do this with all my purchased seeds. They didn’t go very far. I will have to buy more for other areas in the garden.

I grab my watering can and moisten all the areas I’ve planted. And that’s it. Done. And what do I have to show for all my efforts? Nothing. My garden looks exactly the same as when I started. Dirt. I know, it takes a few days for the seeds to germinate and weeks before I’ll see any flowers.

The whole process is a simple yet powerful act of faith. Faith that the seed will actually grow. Faith that the plants will actually produce flowers. Faith that color will explode from that little black speck that disappeared into the ground.

It’s a miracle. A lifeless seed comes to life with some soil, sun, and water. And I get to watch that miracle happen.

Posted in garden, Moments of grace

Amaryllis Blooming: A Reminder to Slow Down and Enjoy Life’s Simple Pleasures

They are sneaky. You forget all about them for most of the year. Then suddenly, one day, BAM! There they are. The amaryllis.

I didn’t even notice as the plants began poking their heads through the pine needles and bark much. Even when they were a foot tall, they blended in with stalks of hibiscus and other plants that had died when the temperature dipped below freezing for a few days. The perfect disguise.

One afternoon, walking through the backyard, a tiny glimpse of red caught my eye. I couldn’t ignore them any longer. They had blown their cover. They weren’t coming; they were here.

The next day it looked like someone had run through the garden with leaking buckets of bright red paint. Flames shot out in every direction from the stems. The colors shouted from the brownish-gray backdrop, “It’s spring!”

The brilliant hues make me laugh out loud. I can’t contain the joy inspired by sudden spring color. I have to stop and look and look and look again. They are beautiful.

The red ones are the first wave. The big pink ones won’t be far behind. And then – the lilies!

Posted in Moments of grace

Let’s do a little gardening

“I need some help planting these flowers.”

That’s all it takes. That’s all my five-year old grandson needs to hear, and he’s all in.

Our first project involved a couple of Blue Daze plants which always do great in our garden soil. He wanted to plant blue flowers, which aren’t that common. Even these are a bit on the purple side, which he pointed out to me. He carried the two quart containers out back, while I brought the shovel, some branch trimmers (I knew we’d encounter lots of roots at the base of the pine trees), and a watering can.

He dug the holes as I lopped off some uncooperative roots. I showed him how to take the plant from the pot and shake out the roots a little bit and place the plant in its new home. He filled in the dirt and started to work on the second hole. After we were done, he gave both plants a nice long drink in their new home. Each time he comes over the house, I always remind him to water his flowers.

Our second project involved part of an old whiskey barrel my wife wanted in the corner of the patio, a few bags of potting soil and a twelve-pack of impatiens with orange flowers. The impatiens were a variety I hadn’t seen before, suitable for both shade or sun (according to the label.). I found a few old landscape bricks to take up space in the barrel, and then added the soil. Now the fun part. I pulled back a small hole with my trowel as he stuck each plant in it’s place and covered up the roots with dirt. Once again, we treated our new guests to a tall cool drink.

One of my go to places to relax or destress is the garden. Soil, plants and water are cheap therapy when you’ve got a lot of stuff on your mind. The sun, the breeze and a little dirt under the fingernails always take my mind off my worries.

I think my dad taught me most of what I know about gardening. My dad always had amazing gardens. Front yard beds full of crocuses, tulips and hyacinth in the spring were followed by azaleas and roses as summer approached. Dad’s beds were immaculate, too. No weeds, cultivated soil and gorgeous blooms were the rule in front of our house. The vegetable gardens were out back. Lettuce and spinach first, followed by peas and beans, and then carrots, kohlrabi, peppers and bushels of tomatoes by the end of the summer. His carefully composted rows of vegetables produced much of what we saw on the table throughout the year. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this help keep our family fed during my growing up years.

The gardening gene must be dominant. When we arrived at our first call in Coventry, CT, we planted a garden. And what a garden! Our parsonage was on the four acres next to the church’s four acres. I borrowed a rototiller and broke up a 20′ x 40′ area of the backyard for our garden. If someone tells you that New England soil is rocky, they are understating the conditions. I think we found more rocks that soil! Forget the spade. You need a spading fork. We got it done and planted corn, sunflowers, several varieties of beans (including some that were purple!), peas, carrots, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes and melons. There were also some asparagus beds in place.

My harvests had mixed results. We got some sweet corn, but many ears didn’t properly develop. Some kind of bug ate a lot of the sunflower seeds. The cantaloupe never got bigger than a softball. We had lots and lots of peas and beans, though. Do you know that purple beans will turn green when you boil them? I’d say our attempts were average. We ate a lot of peas right off the vine and had plenty of beans.

We had a garden at our second call in Iowa. Our backyard in West Des Moines had rhubarb. It didn’t matter how cold the winter or how hot and dry the summer, we had huge rhubarb plants. No gardening talent needed there. My wife made some amazing rhubarb and rhubarb-strawberry pies. The soil produced some amazing zucchini, too. We made lots and lots and lots of zucchini bread. Our best gardening project, though, were strawberries. I bought a whole bunch of plants for our backyard, carefully mulching each one. In year two, we began to see some nice strawberries begin to form. That’s exactly when I got the call to Florida. We never got to see how that harvest looked.

Florida gardening? Totally different than up north. After much trial and error, my philosophy is this: plant native and plant what grows in your yard. My soil is crazy sandy, the growing seasons are weird, and plants take over your yard when you aren’t watching. Winter freezes are few and far between. Hurricanes blow in weeds you never expected to find. Plants you gave up on sometimes grow back. Plants that look great in the yard across the street die in mine. Go figure.

When I put my hands in the dirt, I leave something behind and I take something with me. Along with seeds, fertilizer and water, the garden always seems to have room for worries and frustrations. It return it gives peace and serenity along with blossoms and fruit.

Thus, the allure of a shovel, soil and a watering can endures. I can still care for our little piece of dirt, planting and watering and watching things grow. I can still eat the fruits of our labor, share them with others and enjoy the colors of creation.Maybe that’s why gardening is so appealing and amazing. It brings me close to the Creator, reminds me of His creation, and gives me a chance to share that with a new generation. When I’m close to Him, I discover a peace that surpasses my understanding.

Posted in garden

And suddenly…


About six months ago, a friend gave me about 18 bromeliads from his yard. They propagate well in Florida, so he had to thin out his beds. I planted them in a few different places around my yard. They took root and began to propagate, but all I got was greenery. Until today, when all of a sudden one caught my eye as I passed by with the lawnmower. I didn’t know what to expect. They’re beautiful!