In the book I have never written, “Everything I Need to Know, I Learned in My Garden,” I would have a chapter called “It matters where you are planted.”
I bought six flats of annuals last weekend, two dazzler white impatiens, two maestro salvia, and two raspberry parfait dianthuses. That’s 288 hardy, but very little, plants.
I bought them from a woman whose name is Michelle Tarver, but who calls herself Crazy Plant Lady because she is so crazy about plants in all their guises that she not only grows them but also writes about them on her website crazyplantlady.org, which is subtitled “Chronicles of a Productive Obsession.”
I met her outside of Costco in Avon, where this North Dighton resident has been setting up shop every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in May — not to line her own pockets but to raise money for Boston Children’s Hospital.
Most of the plants she sells she grows herself. Her son, Evan, who helped me load what I bought into my car, said she starts them in early spring, watches them sprout, feeds them, and keeps them warm.
Some plants she gets as donations from other gardeners, which requires her driving all over the state to pick them up. She sends every penny people pay her to Children’s Hospital.
What she does consumes her time and is a lot of work, but here she is, with her family and friends helping her, one more ordinary person quietly doing an extraordinary thing.
I thought of her and her teenage son with every hole I dug last Sunday. I was careful with each tender shoot. I watered every plant right after I patted dirt around it. And then when I finished, I connected the hose and watered all the plants again.
Despite my care in planting them and the Crazy Plant Lady’s care in growing them, they won’t all survive. I know this. I plant flowers every year (except for last year, which I took off).
And I have learned that you can plant seemingly identical flowers one right next to the other, and one will thrive and grow big and look exactly like the picture on its identification tag and the other will wither and die.
What I don’t know is why.
Most plants are easy to grow. And they come with descriptions so you always know what you’ll be getting. Salvia: Fiery-red flower spikes, dwarf plants. Dark green foliage. Grows to 10 inches.
Plus, they come with directions:
Use in borders, beds. How to grow: Plant in sun or part sun 10 inches apart.
It should be a slam dunk. Follow the instructions, and everything you put in the ground should survive.
But even in plant life there are variables. Too much sun. Not enough sun. Sandy soil. Silty soil. Too close to a tree. Not close enough. The morning paper lands on it. The hose uproots it. A child plucks it. An adult steps on it. The hedgehogs devour it.
I dug permanent homes for all 288 little plants that someone else grew from seed. And I was gentle.
But I saw how the soil changed every few feet, how it was darker and richer near the trees and lighter and dryer near the street.
I felt the sun’s angle shift, too, as I moved around the yard, going from hot to warm, from sunshine to shadow.
I noticed, too, how some plants absorbed the water I fed them from the hose and how with others the water just ran off.
I don’t know which of the seedlings will make it and which will not. Maybe run-off water is good. Maybe these plants will like it near the street. All I know is that it matters where you’re planted.
Whether you’re a raspberry parfait dianthus, a dazzler white impatiens, or the person who plants them, you need to be tended to. You need to thrive to grow.