An Over-Achiever in the Garden

In the garden, there are the thrivers, survivors, and the quitters, but this one bean plant just keeps on going.

Growing a crop is really about making sure that there is enough water, nutrients, sunlight, and air for your plants to grow. But you can’t force a bean plant to grow bigger or stronger in the garden. All you can do is make sure that the soil is moist and rich, and that you’ve planted in a warm spot. Some plants are just born weak, some beans don’t have much to say, and they leaf out and barely create any flowers to pollinate. Other plants get a disease that makes them weak, but sometimes beans make us feel like we have a black thumb.

But then, there are other plants you can’t seem to get to stop growing in the garden. The ones that surprise you and start delivering right when you least expected it. For example, right now, I’m in cucamelon heaven. I’ve been offering out baskets of them to my daughter’s babysitter and the neighborhood kids who love them. I’m not quite sure when they’re going to quit because they started producing long before my melons, and are going strong long after my cucumbers.

It reminds me of today’s piece, “Still Blooming.” The author feels a kinship to the beans in her garden who do exactly that: they keep blooming. I’ve never been diligent enough to create huge crops of beans through succession planting, but Eleanor Cowles shares the story of the beans that wouldn’t quit.

More Stories in the Gardens That Don’t Quit (and Some that Do!)

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

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Still Blooming

By Eleanor Cowles of Independence, OR

For several years, I have planted my bean seeds in successive rows. I start the first row as early in the season as possible, then sow another row every one or two weeks. This way we always have a new supply of beans coming on as the earlier rows deteriorate.

Sometimes, though, older rows keep producing longer than I expect. One year especially stands out in my mind. I don’t know if it was due to the variety or the weather, but I was still picking beans from my oldest row in early November. It had been producing for almost four months! The plants weren’t much to look at—mostly vines with very few leaves. But each still had at least one bean and one bloom.

How could those poor plants keep on blooming? I finally decided the plant just didn’t know it was old and could retire. It didn’t know frost was coming. It just knew the sun was warm and it was created to produce beans, so it was going to keep on doing it.

I feel a kinship with them. I am a retiree. Sometimes I feel old and tired, and, unlike my beans, I know the frost is coming. But, like them, I know why I was created. So I keep trying to bloom each day. I turn up my face and vow to use the sun’s warmth and nourishment to grow the life which is still in me.

By Eleanor Cowles of Independence, OR, published originally in 2018, in GreenPrints Issue #115. Illustrated by Katherine Shimadda

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Does this remind you of a similar story in the garden that you’d like to share? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear it. 

  • This year has been strange in my flower garden .we didn’t get a lot of rain and I couldn’t water a lot .but then all of a sudden we started getting rain .and now my flowers I thought were dead are alive and blooming like crazy .

  • My tomatoes and dahlias did the same thing. I’d go out each day and quietly cheer them on to no avail. Then, one day in August the rain came, and the colors burst open for all to see!


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