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Green Acre #140: No-Fuss Flowers

This is a sad display of cosmos in my garden last summer, says LittleBird Stehpanie, the sum total of a package of seeds. And they’re yellow—when I wanted pink and purple. Come to think of it, maybe I didn’t get ANY cosmos: These might be volunteers blown in from another yard. I never plant yellow flowers on purpose. / Photo by Stephanie Cavanaugh.

SOME WEEKS AGO I found a recipe online for simple syrup infused with cannibis, which I had legally procured and intended to add to tea or margaritas or whatnot to improve my dusting. 

Despite there being only four ingredients, including water, and three steps, I managed to botch the job. I am direction-challenged, forever trotting off cocksure that they’re necessary only for you, not me, and being proved, time and again, wrong.

It being days from spring, my thoughts turn to flower seeds and several decades of disaster. 

For instance. Who has trouble growing zinnias? The packets always exclaim things like “Easy to Grow!” and “Perfect First Plants for Kids!”

Zinnias are on a rather lengthy list of “trouble-free” flower seeds, a list that includes sunflowers, marigolds, vinca and snapdragons. HGTV has a web page devoted to such.  None of which do well by me, despite growing in mad tangles in every other tree box and garden plot in the neighborhood.  

A fumble-thumbed friend once took a sorry patch of dirt and planted cosmos, which bloomed like mad—a fairyland of tall pink and purple flowers. So many flowers. So simple, so gorgeous. So very easy. Not only did they grow the first year, they increased in abundance the next. Just as the packet said: “easily naturalized.” Ha. 

My multiple failures may be the result of just going outside and tossing seeds hither and thither on a rainy spring day, expecting they’ll sprout. Last year I got, as I recall, no cosmos and three zinnas. Zinnias are not particularly impressive when there are only three in an entire front lawn, even a lawn as unimpressive in scale as mine. They are even less impressive when one of them develops some mysterious white fuzzy stuff and then lists, sadly, to one side and has to be decapitated, and then there are just two.

I’m no better with vegetable seeds, though I inadvertently grew a potato last year. When I was uprooting the sweet potato vines from the window boxes to transition from summer to fall I yanked up this nasty gnarled brown hunk and stood puzzling over it for a while. It was My Prince who said, “Look! A potato!”

It should surprise no one that it did not occur to me that one could grow potatoes. Neither did I know veal was not an animal until I was past 30. City kids are very sophisticated in some ways—being obnoxious about it comes immediately to mind—but they can be downright stupid when it comes to . . . farming, I suppose you’d call it.   

The Prince does better with seeds than I do, but don’t tell him that—his head doesn’t need to be any bigger. He’ll find a little patch and till the soil (that’s when he scratches the hard surface and “improves it” with bits of this and that) and put in his little seeds, gently pats them down, waters them and walks away. Amazingly, things grow.

I suppose there is something to be said for reading directions. This year I’m determined to turn over a new leaf. I shall buy seedlings at the garden center.  

Another question. Why am I writing about gardens when I am just so bad at gardening? 

—Stephanie Cavanaugh

LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” promises to do better at tending her plants this season.

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