Are your seedlings thriving or just surviving?
All plants need full sunshine, don't they?
It is such a privilege to be able to immerse in the warmth of the sunshine, surrounded by the vibrancy of nature's colourful bounty, my nose filled with their heady bouquet. Accompanied by the chorus of birds announcing the arrival of longer days, I sit on the lush grass, the soft blades caressing my toes while the blossom from the apple tree gentle rains down its petals, like snow in the warm breeze.
I haven’t really minded being shut in these last few weeks. The weather has been beautiful and I’m lucky enough to have a pleasant garden to enjoy it in.
But my garden hasn’t always been like this, gardening is a long game. Learning as you go, making mistakes, finding out what works and what doesn’t. It requires patience, as you move through the seasons. Dealing with unforeseen challenges and unexpected periods of drought, deluges of rain, frosts, high winds; taking action to keep the garden thriving.
I am reminded of a time, when early on I was given a selection of seedlings from a kindly neighbour after we had recently moved in to our new home. They were left with a simple note that just said, “for your new garden, enjoy”.
Drawing back our curtains each morning gave a glimpse of her beautiful garden, full of colour from all the flowers she grew. I was eager to have such a garden. So, with best intensions, I cleared a patch of ground, removed the weeds and planted the seedlings.
I had chosen a spot in the garden where they would benefit from full sunshine, because all plants need as much sunshine as possible, don’t they?
I watered them each day, added well-rotted stable manure and made sure to keep removing any weeds. At first, all the plants seemed to grow, but soon I started to notice that some were doing better than others. Over time the disparity between the health of the plants increased. I knew the plants were different and expected them to look different, but I also expected that they would grow with the same vigour, if I cared for them in the same way. But, no matter how hard I tried, some of the plants struggled. They looked weak and were withering.
In time, the thriving plants revealed their identity and soon my efforts were rewarded with the sweet perfume of roses. So beautiful, so strong.
The other plants were spoiling the look of my flower bed, so I dug them up and placed the shrivelled plants to one side, at the edge of my garden, under a tree.
I forgot about these discarded plants until the following new year, when I noticed their young shoots, pushing through the frozen soil. They grew strong green leaves, an amazing achievement given the cold, frosty mornings of these winter days.
They showed me their remarkable resilience with a carpet of delicate white flowers, gently nodding their heads under the bare winter tree. Snowdrops - bringing smiles to all that entered the garden and marking the first sign of spring after the long cold winter.
Becoming a good gardener is getting to understand each plant’s needs, when to water and how much, sunshine or shade. Some will be tall, but with the need for constant support to weather the winds, others are low lying, strong and bushy plants, needing space to fully flourish, resilient even on their own.
Each plant knows what resources it needs to thrive and flourish. Each will be beautiful in their own way.
The gardener needs to provide the right environment for growth and choose the right tools for the job, always with her plants in mind. Asking, what do they need to reach their full potential?
Parenting is like gardening, there are no instructions on the label when the seedlings arrive.
We nurture them, with the best knowledge and tools we have to hand, but we need to keep asking, is my child flourishing and thriving? Are they in the right environment, with the right resources available to them?
We need to be like the gardener, responding to the plants well-being, being flexible in our approach, prepared to try something different for each plant. Observing and listening to our child, finding out who they are and gaining understanding of their needs for growth.
Even if being out in the full sunshine feels good to some, does your child feel the same or is a nice quiet shady spot what they long for?