Some Gardening Mishaps Have Happy Endings

Some gardening mishaps may be disappointing at the time, but with patience, these accidents can turn into pure beauty.

If there’s one thing we should know about gardening, it’s that we have to have patience. Our hard work may take weeks, months, even years to produce the results we hope for. Which is why gardening mishaps can feel so devastating. All that time we spend hunched over the soil, spade in hand, creating the perfect seedbed seems for naught. All those afternoons weeding, mornings chasing away the sparrows and robins, and weekend evenings admiring the slow growth simply vanish.

Some gardening mishaps are inevitable. A surprise hail storm blows through, or heavy rains wash away our topsoil. Other mishaps, as writer Stephanie Herrin learned, are thanks to our clueless spouses. In Pulverized Poppies, Stephanie shares how much her mother loved the “bold colors” of Oriental poppies. She describes how she, too, learned to love “their flamboyant crepe-paper petals and mysterious black velvet interiors.”

When Stephanie had the chance to grow her own garden full of magical poppies, rich with vibrant colors, she jumped at the chance. But poppies aren’t the flowers for instant gratification. Stephanie writes, “I sowed seed and new feathery shoots soon appeared. Now I had to be patient for a year as my darling poppy children matured to blooming size.”

Alas, her loving, but unwitting, husband made a mistake one day with some yard work. This was a gardening mishap that had the potential to ruin a marriage, destroy a town, and even pull the entire world into misery. Well, maybe it wasn’t quite that bad, but it was bad.

Lucky for him, this story has a surprise ending that made everything okay. In fact, it made everything better than before.

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This story comes from our archive that spans over 30 years and includes more than 130 magazine issues of GreenPrints. Pieces like these that turn gardening mishaps into everyday life lessons always brighten up my day, and I hope this story does for you as well. Enjoy!

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Pulverized Poppies

By Stephanie Herrin

My mother believed in mass plantings of bold colors. One of her favorites was a gorgeous patch of red Oriental poppies. Their flamboyant crepe-paper petals and mysterious black velvet interiors always fascinated me, so one year I decided to duplicate their magic in my own garden. I sowed seed and new feathery shoots soon appeared. Now I had to be patient for a year as my darling poppy children matured to blooming size.

My husband was also a gardener, but we had separate growing spaces. He was Vegetable Man and I was Flower Gal. While I was excited about poppies, he was in high spirits over his new fancy, multi-tasking rototiller. So it was no surprise to see him till his gar-den until it was the consistency of cornmeal. He offered to create more garden space for me, so I marked off an area adjacent to an established bed. I got home that night to find that my new flowerbed was filled with teeny, tiny, chopped-up poppy foliage. My poppy children were gone!

I don’t usually hold grudges for long, but that winter seemed a bit chillier than usual. When the seed catalogs arrived in January, I again ordered packets for those striking crimson beauties. One morning, once milder days arrived, we both brought our coffee out to contemplate our garden plans. My eyes searched the site he’d cornmealed—and there before me lay the most beautiful, feathery, green carpet of poppy fledglings. There were thousands of them! His tiller had broken small roots into many pieces, each of which had become a new plant. This would become a crimson carpet surpassing all expectations.

Flower Gal smiled at Vegetable Man. Life was good.

By Stephanie Herrin, published originally in 2015-16, in GreenPrints Issue #104. Illustrated by Marilynne Roach

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Do you have a story of any gardening mishaps that eventually turned out for the better? Share your tale in the comments!


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