|Lamb’s Ear, Stachys byzantina|
|Mullein, Verbascum thapsus|
I’ve had leadership on my mind so what better place to have a think about being a leader, following a leader, than the garden? Wander with me.
Who can resist a plant with velvet leaves? I’m especially fascinated since the common lamb’s ears didn’t grow in Texas. Rather, they sort of melted away at every feeble attempt at planting. Just because you can buy plants, does not mean that they grow where you buy them. And just because a plant has a zone map tag that says that it will, is no guarantee. That’s because plants don’t read maps. They are just not made for enduring hot days and hot nights, drought, calcerous clay, caliche, or deer. At least I came to terms with the notion I would not have lamb’s ear in my garden and moved on.
And literally we did move on. Different state, different climate, and there’s plenty that grows here, plenty of plants I’ve never seen before, and plenty of plants that grow like weeds that I used to pay $8 a pot for! Honeysuckle for instance. Honeysuckle vine grows like crazy here, in fact it seems to be the perfect climate for all vining plants. Trumpet vine, Trumpet creeper, Virginia Creeper, the dreaded Kudzu, and, the even more dreaded poison ivy to name the most notorious.
Last year, my husband decided I needed a garden and made it so. We stuck a bunch of big bucks perennials and annuals in the ground, purchased from the little farm market down the road, and I planted a bunch of containers. The color theme selected is whites and a few deep reds and purples, but mostly whites. I figure with a red brick house whites will be a good base color for adding to later.
There were some successes right off. Wave petunias in white tolerated the sunny spot but also the heat reflected off the white pea stone I selected to lay down in lieu of pavers. I also planted some herbs and even though not perennial in my colder zone, I managed to keep them alive over winter, probably thanks mostly to the mild one we had.
In early fall, a volunteer appeared in one of my pots. The leaves were velvety and a lovely shade of green. I didn’t even suspect it could be a lamb’s ear. In fact, I figured the load of compost and landscape mix we hauled in would reveal to us a variety of weeds, which it has. I thought I recognized the volunteer as the beginning of a mullein plant. I left it alone and almost gave up the idea because it never got very big. It overwintered in the same big container and once again, I’ve planted Wave petunias in with it. But oh my, it’s gotten big! It’s taller than I am standing next to the pot. The leaves are enormous and extremely soft. In the wild they grow in clumps in the area, but you’ll also see singles on the roadsides. Down our road in fact I’ve spotted several other variations. They are striking. They are weeds. Or are they?
|Mulleins can grow up to 5-7 feet tall.|
I decided it was not a weed. It was a plant I enjoyed so it could stay. After all, a weed is just a plant out of place…that’s what we learned in gardening class, and I’m a firm believer. I found out that Mullein is in fact an herb with medicinal uses. All the more reason to keep it around should I ever need a tea or tincture.
Much to my surprise my mother found it fascinating when she visited and wondered where I bought it?! Even more to my surprise I found a picture in the pages of a recent Martha Stewart Living of a garden where the garden owner let the mulleins take center stage for all to see. Weed indeed.
Large, showy, capable of withstanding harsh conditions, mullein is considered a pioneer plant. They are biennial so they are in it for the long term, and seed themselves and come fall when the stalk dries, it will be an attractive addition to my fall decor.
|Mulleins can be showy.|
So what three things have I learned about Leadership out here in my garden?
- As a gardener, I think it’s best to evaluate plants based on performance, not pedigree, and certainly not based on what others think should work in MY garden. Average to poor performing plants that don’t produce fruit or flowers take up space and use up resources, are not worth keeping around no matter how much is spent on the original pots. Compost them and try something else.
- A gardener tends a garden. A gardener doesn’t boss a garden. A gardener works in cooperation with nature.
- A weed allowed can be very beautiful and productive. Let it go, don’t try to control it, see what happens. You’ll probably learn something!
Missed me? Probably not. I’ve been busy working. I’ve missed writing but even more I’ve missed opportunities to study and grow. Lately, I’ve taken some time in my garden where my day’s jumble of thoughts become more clear. I think this is why gardeners garden. We’re thinkers and doers and there’s nothing quite so rewarding as physically working…tending a garden…and having the troubles on your heart laid straight. It’s prayer in motion.