This past week I spent a full afternoon nibbling away at a some animal chores and gardening tasks then decided kind of spur of the moment to thin the zinnias growing wild in our east facing flower bed. If you grow zinnias in full sun and give them a few drops of water with even a passing glance of affection, they will progress from a tasteful ruffle of happy color to a Jumanji-esque no-man’s land that is, for all its cheerfulness, impossible to honestly call “tame.” Even our concrete-pooping geese have recently grown troubled by the not hostile but still complete zinnia takeover. The east facing flower bed has been vaulting up flowers four feet tall in stands almost as thick. While generally I believe that more is more, a thinning was in order.
The tender-woody stalks pulled up from the ground pretty easily, with just a little muscle, and because zinnias are so friendly and good spirited in general, the exiting roots did no discernible damage to the remaining plants. Classy move, zinnias, very classy. I quickly amassed a thick, weightless heap of confetti-dotted flower stalks, all still buzzing with bumblebees and vibrating with butterflies, their root balls shaken free of most of their dirt but still crumbling down more. I started collecting seed heads for a future garden and made a mental note to feed the rest to our chickens.
Really the size of the stack of stalks was stunning. (Sorry.) Even after having cut dozens of flower bouquets from this exact area all summer, in a few minutes I had pulled up hundreds of new blooms. Wow. How many zinnia stalks could be here?
To satisfy my curiosity, I separated the pulled up stalks neatly and counted them. All of that fluffy, velvety, life-giving plant material had grown from just nine rootballs, which were the products of only nine skinny little seeds. A few months ago nine inexpensive seeds found purchase in fairly average soil, germinated in the Oklahoma sun and rain, and grew pair after pair of perfect leaf sets. Then those taller and taller stalks yielded dozens of colorful, striped and spotted, pollen-shedding flowers for weeks. Months! They just seemed to grow bigger and badder every week. We can see them from inside the living room too, a vibrant wall of color and wildlife.
And, yeah, I get that plenty of seeds might have been scattered that did not germinate and grow into a gorgeous, wild garden, but look how few it took to get here! It makes me so deeply happy.
This is how the stack of harvested zinnias looked about three days later. Crispy and faded, still amazing me that all this and more happened from just nine little seeds. These are now headed to the chicken coop along with some fresh herbs for the nesting boxes.
I know there are too many times in life when we feel so discouraged and defeated that we never want to try anything new again. Or we are so done persevering with even normal, easy stuff because something always seems to go wrong. Giving that One Amazing Worthwhile Thing another ounce of our valuable energy sounds like the most painful, wasteful idea.
Thank goodness zinnias are here to remind us that even small, average efforts, cheap seeds planted in unamended soil, can yield incredible, ongoing beauty.
How are your gardens looking mid-August? Are you beginning to thin some areas a little, or are you glancing forward to fall? Are you just trying to keep everything hydrated, haha?
How is the condition of your heart, your willingness to keep trying and maintaining faith that sometimes small, average efforts are what will make all the difference in your life? Keep up all the good work you are doing, friends. Keep living those daily and seasonal routines that you know will flower later. Keep planting seeds of kindness in relationships, and trust that you are not required to work miracles yourself. We aren’t actually the ones who sprout the seeds, right?