Take a closer look. Right there. Next to the white drain pipe. Yes. Those little green shoots. My chives are coming up. WAY too early, that goes unsaid. But, I am always pleased to see them. They are volunteers and have been for the last decade, along with the rosemary and Russian lavender. I had a few seeds left one year and sprinkled them willy nilly beside the old stone bench next to the garage. I'd been sweetly surprised when they'd all sprouted up a few weeks later without a finger of help from me. I grow herbs in my back yard every year and mollycoddle them like they're being fed to a queen. The soil in their pots is liberally filled with coir and peat to help with water retention. I am careful to water only sparingly twice a week, as herbs especially do not enjoy having wet feet (roots...) About halfway through the summer, I give them a shot of Miracle Gro. Whenever we make eggs, I save the shells to tuck into the soil. If we make coffee, the grounds are tucked in as well. This helps the soil with compaction, gives their roots room to spread nicely and also adds acidity to the soil (crack to herbs...) My backyard herbs do well and we enjoy salads all summer sprinkled with basil and thyme. Soups love herbs and so do chicken breasts, steaks, and hamburgers.
But, the crazy thing? The herbs in the front of the house that I don't tend or even water unless we are in a drought, fare better. They were joined a few years ago by two volunteer evergreen trees. So now if you pull into my driveway in the summer, you are greeted with chives, rosemary, and Russian lavender splashing all over the sitting area with the stone bench encircled by two baby evergreen trees.
If we have the front door open on a cooler summer day, the sharp, clean aroma of chives overpowers the more subtle scents of rosemary and lavender. It is a delicious taste of summer that will stay in my head forever. On my dying days, I will stay in bed and remember how wonderful it was to go outside to check for the mail or just sit in the living room watching The Americans or Game of Thrones and smelling summery chives.
Why do these herbs, these volunteers thrive while my pampered ones are good, but not exceptionally so? Perhaps it is because my house faces south and that hot southern exposure works it's magic. But, I think not. I think it is because plants, like people, need a little adversity to thrive. If you have every need catered to, are buried with assistance with every waking breath, you become docile, weak, dependent.
But, those volunteers had to do all the work themselves. They've learned that water is not always a steady given, so they conserve it. They learn to bloom where they are planted and to be pretty much able to fend for themselves with an occasional helping hand when the going gets tough. They are sturdy in a way that my pampered backyard herbs will never be.
So, you must be thinking, why don't I let my backyard plants get the same treatment? The answer is easy. I tend to the backyard herbs because it is for me, not them. Pampering them satisfies my need to tend. And that's ok. I just need to know this.
The best, most generous and loving people whom I have ever known are the ones who were raised by parents who didn't smother them. By parents who sat on their hands and made them take the consequences of their actions. Sure, it would be easier to step in. It's HARD to step back. But necessary.
Of course, even though I know the importance of this lesson, I will still prepare the backyard soil carefully and crush those eggshells into the soil. But, maybe I will save some for the front yard herbs, too. A little extra lagniappe is always a good thing. Like ice cream. A small dish is wonderful. A pint? Might be too much.
Nature has many, many lessons.