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Happy Surprises Bring Joy to Gardening

hidden plants, finding plants for free

One of the happy surprises of gardening is finding lost and forgotten plants—plants that you thought had died—plants that somehow have managed to survive in spite of serious neglect on your part. In our move from our previous home, I hastily dug up anything small enough to carry and plopped those plants wherever I could get a shovel in the ground at the new place. That was several years ago, but recently, after a whirlwind of busy work, I found some extra time. It allowed me to finally focus on the new yard and see things typically unnoticed. I was delighted to witness the resurrection of some plants from the old home place! Happy surprises bring joy to gardening.

Tucked among the leaf litter and spreading Liriope grass, I spotted Geranium maculatum, the Wood/Spotted Geranium, quietly struggling to survive amid the competing foundation shrubs and ground covers. The Wood Geranium is not the same plant as the weedy Geranium dissectum or Geranium carolinianum, which are wild Geraniums that litter lawn grass in early spring. This one has flowers that are pretty—big, pale rose-colored blossoms with darker stripes radiating out from the center. It forms a nice mound of interestingly-lobed foliage and blooms.

I tried rescuing it today by relocating it to a partly sunny location out of the line of footpaths, in decent soil. I suppose it will be several years before it flowers, but it has sprouted new leaves. I hope it naturalizes and thrives in its new location. It is amazing to see it still alive. The ground where I found it was solid, compacted clay, having gone through at least four droughty seasons without withering away. Only two or three leaves were remaining, but it is obviously resilient and can handle difficult soils. It prefers and deserves better treatment.  I don’t see how it could have lived another year, so the rescue came in its last moments of life.

One way to propagate new plants is to find old ones volunteering in surprising places. If you are lucky, they can be relocated successfully to a new area of the garden and thrive. Two years later, I have sad news to tell. The little, struggling Wood Geranium has succumbed to the most devastating drought I have ever witnessed—at least I think it has. Every day I walk past both the old and new planting sites, hoping to see some deeply-cut, toothed leaves sprouting from the spots where they grew previously. I see nothing. I’ll give them some more time. Maybe there will be another happy surprise. 

Finding Plants