What is serendipity and what does it have to do with gardening? Webster defines serendipity as the faculty of making fortunate and unexpected discoveries by accident.
If gardeners look carefully, they can find new plants growing in the garden everyday. Many people call these things weeds but a more careful observation could reveal surprises. Nature has a way of teaching the gardener different ways of thinking about what is appropriate to grow in any area.
One gardener might be upset that an area beneath the trees is filled with wood’s violet, if grass is what was wanted. Another gardener might just be delighted to have the lovely violets with their lush leaves and bright purple blossoms.
One man loves the fast-growing spiderwort-type plants that come up every year in his yard. They cover the ground and have the smallest blue blossoms – about the size of a match-head. His friend dislikes the plant immensely as it takes over an area she wanted to keep open and clear.
A solution for that problem is to change the growth factors that naturally govern what will come up. These factors are soil, water, food and light. If any of these conditions are changed, different plants will come up as volunteers.
Your soil can be analyzed and then changed by adding potassium, nitrogen, or phosphorus – as the soil test recommends. Or more or less water and mulch could be used in a given location. Or, if established plants shade an area, those plants can be thinned to let in more light. Any of these changes could alter the “climate” to better accommodate the plants you prefer.
Or another approach – find plants that like the same condition as the volunteering “weeds” and let them flourish. This is a way to benefit from your newfound knowledge – your serendipity.
Mary Claire Rowe, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service