My long-time love of gardening began germinating a couple of decades ago. We had moved into a new house with a great space for a flowerbed by the front door, so I ordered a bunch of perennials from a mail-order catalog to help fill it up.
Plants were much cheaper back then, which is why I was able to purchase six black-eyed Susan plants for about $12. The heavy clay Arkansas soil must have agreed with them, because in a few years, they had expanded so much they practically took over the entire garden.
That might not have been a bad thing had they been a different color, but I’m not overly fond of yellow-orange. Plus, someone this younger version of me wanted to emulate once referred to black-eyed Susans as a weed, and for some reason, I adopted her attitude instead of agreeing with the opinion of a different friend who considered black-eyed Susans to be her favorite flower.
So I dug them all up and replanted the huge clumps on the bare west side of the house where they would get plenty of sun. Soon, they were so big that I’m pretty sure you could see them from space.
Eventually, I got so sick of looking at them that I gave them all to another friend, who happily transplanted them in her own yard. And I vowed I would never have black-eyed Susans in my flowerbeds again.
I kept my promise at our next new house, but when we moved to Kansas in 2006, the home we bought had some black-eyed Susans gracing its existing flower borders. I didn’t have the heart to get rid of them, and they were more contained in the slightly less hospitable Kansas climate, so I let them be.
Several years later, we moved into our current home, a fixer-upper surrounded by expansive, mostly bare garden areas. Our first summer there was a scorcher. The backyard, which consisted of a large, neglected swimming pool and flagstone patio surrounded on three sides by a huge flower border, was a jungle of weeds and thorny hedge trees.
It was too hot to do anything back there and even if it had been cooler, I had no energy for gardening during that exhausting season of my life. But despite my complete lack of attention, there were a few bright spots of color on the patio, including—you guessed it—a black-eyed Susan plant sprouting out of a drain hole near the pool.
There it was—in a mass jungle of weeds, in the midst of the worst drought in decades— growing happily. And every time I saw it, it made me smile.
The irony wasn’t lost on me. The scorned had become the blessing.
A few summers later, I moved that plant to a more appropriate spot, only to find that the rabbits that frequented my now-thriving flowerbeds enjoyed eating it as much as I enjoyed looking at it. I tried all kinds of rabbit repellents, but nothing deterred these persistent creatures.
Which is why, the following spring, I found myself cutting out a length of chicken wire to go around this vulnerable little black-eyed Susan clump. How could I not protect this thing that had brought me so much joy during such a parched season?
The moral of the story is this: Sometimes, the things we turn our noses up during one season of life are the very things that bring us the most joy later.
P.S. Linking up this week with Kelly Balarie at Purposeful Faith, Jennifer Dukes Lee at #TellHisStory, Lyli Dunbar at #ThoughtProvokingThursday, Holley Gerth at Coffee for Your Heart and Missional Women.