No matter what you grow, discovering companion plants is like hitting the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Companion plants are like your super enthusiastic friend who gets you to do yoga and eat healthy. I mean, you can do it on your own, but it’s helpful to have that one really annoying, er, helpful friend who cheers you on and holds you accountable. In the garden, a good companion is just as “helpful”. Sure, as long as your plants have good, healthy soil, warm temperatures, and the right amount of sunshine and water, they’ll probably do just fine. But, pairing two companion plants is like having a friend who not only gets you to yoga, but also holds the umbrella for you when it rains, and tells you if you smell bad before you hit on the cute barista. What a pal!
The three sisters—corn, squash, and beans—get all the glory in terms of companion planting, but I feel like there are so many less publicized companion plants that don’t get enough love. For example, some people have an allergy to corn, so instead of growing their vining veggies up corn stalks, they use sunflowers. In fact, small cucumbers grow quite well up a tall thick stalk of a sunflower. I mean, I’ve also seen cucumbers climb up sides of houses, so I guess they aren’t that picky.
In today’s piece, The Cornfield Cathedral, author Cora Raiford shares a glimpse into another unlikely pairing: corn and morning glories. Considered a weed to some, morning glories are pretty happy to grow up and around anything they can get their little tendrils on, and corn is no exception.
To a farmer, this might seem like a nuisance, but at five years old, our author thinks the sight of it feels a bit like church. And I’d be lying if I said I don’t want to try and recreate the image she paints for us in today’s story!
More Than Companion Plants
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!
The Cornfield Cathedral
By Cora Raiford
It was the Summer I was almost 5 when I discovered the glory of morning glories in the cornfield.
I rose early (I always was an early riser) and put on a sunsuit—by myself. No one saw me as I padded through the kitchen and out the back door. The dewy wet grass felt delicious on my bare feet, the air was still and cool, and the whole world was washed with gold.
I had a destination. Yesterday Grandpa had complained that morning glories were taking over a corner of his cornfield. I had to see them before he destroyed them. Morning glories were considered a nuisance weed.
I walked the little path that ran along one side of the cornfield and saw them right away, their vines dancing from stalk to stalk, their blue and purple faces turned up to the sun. I walked down the cornstalk aisle. The big leaves were wet and scratchy, but when I looked up—oooh, how beautiful! It was as beautiful as the big round window in our church when the sun shone through it.
Completely enchanted, I stayed in the cornfield cathedral, turning circles, looking up to watch the kaleidoscope-like patterns of flowers change until I was dizzy, thoroughly wet, and wearing a morning glory necklace.
Mom and Grandma were in the kitchen when I returned. Both asked me at the same time, “Where on earth have you been?” “You’re sopping wet,” Grandma added. “Go dry off and put on a dry sunsuit,” Mom ordered. At breakfast I tried to explain why I was in the cornfield. “It was just like being in church” was the best that I could do. ❖
By Cora Raiford of Jacksonville, FL, published originally in 2016, in GreenPrints Issue #122. Illustrations By Chelsea Peters
Have you discovered other uniquely complementary companion plants? I’d love to hear them!