There’s a sunflower patch behind the shed in my backyard. It came up on its own in my early days at this address, but after the tender ministrations of an over-enthusiastic yard guy (he mistook my sunflowers for weeds and weedwhacked them down to nubs), it needed a little help. So last year, on a trip to the beautiful Texas Hill Country, I stopped by Wildseed Farms and bought a packet of sunflower seeds. Mammoth Grey Stripe, to be exact.
Here's what I planted . . .
When the time was right for planting, I carefully sowed my seeds according to the directions on the packet, watered, and waited. Oh, and this year I put up a little iron fence to alert Yard Guy that it was a protected area. Sure enough, some time later, a mess of matching plants sprouted in my little garden.
I was thrilled. They didn’t look exactly like the sunflowers from previous years, but I figured they were a different variety so that made sense. I watered them. I nurtured them. I watched them grow to eye level (about 5’3” in my case). They were healthy, happy plants.
Just one problem. They didn’t look like sunflowers. Now I’m no botanical expert, but I compared my plants to the sunflowers growing wild alongside the road and my now-blooming backyard leftovers—and they didn’t look ANYTHING alike.
Here's what I expect to grow.
Fortunately, it was time for another trip to the Hill Country. I cut off an 8” section of the mystery plant, sealed it in a baggie with my Mammoth Grey Strip seed packet, and headed back to Wildseed Farms. Upon arrival, I produced Exhibit A. The staff was stymied. They didn’t recognize my mystery plant, but all agreed—it was NOT a sunflower. They gave me a replacement package of seeds, took down my contact info, and promised to call once their experts had reached a conclusion.
The next day I got the call. The nice lady on the phone explained their expert botanic forensic investigation had determined that I must not have planted the original seeds deeply enough. Birds, being fond of sunflower seeds, had doubtless eaten them all. The tall, lush, green plants now waving gently in the breeze behind my shed were, in fact . . . weeds.
How humiliating is that? I had been looking after these darn things for months. Pampering them. Talking to them. The whole shebang. And all along they were just weeds.
In professional kitchens, to say you’re “in the weeds” means you’re in trouble—running behind and rapidly losing hope you’ll ever catch up. (Ever feel that way?) Often this is a result of poor time management—spending too much time fooling around or fussing over non-essentials. This is also true outside the kitchen where we daily deal with the question of priorities: is this activity, attitude, relationship, whatever, worthy of the time and attention I’m giving it? Is it a flower or only a weed?
I guess the moral of the story is when something doesn’t look or feel right—in your garden or your life—check it out. If it’s a weed, pull it out while it’s still small and the roots aren’t very deep. If it’s a flower, nurture it. If you can’t tell, seek the advice and counsel of someone with more wisdom and experience than you.
How does your garden grow?
P.S. Just to be fair, I believe it was noted British gardener Alan Titchmarsh (of Ground Force fame) who said, “A weed is just a plant in the wrong place.” I’m sure my whatever-they-ares behind the shed would be fabulous . . . somewhere. In my sunflower patch, not so much. So just because something is a weed in your life doesn’t mean it’s inherently evil. It could be the star in someone else’s bouquet.
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