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Report From An Opinionated Gardener – November 7

When I was a girl in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, I found a dog in Iverson Park. He was super friendly and, already a dog person at age 13, I naturally brought him home.

All of my brothers loved him right away and we named him Buffy. Later, the vet told us that he was probably a golden retriever mix, although my father would always insist that he was a Lergnom Toidi, which turned out to be “mongrel idiot” spelled backwards.

Buffy was a great dog, and one of my first lessons that great things can turn up when you least expect them. I thought of Buff today as I passed by my rain garden, and found a plant that has just as surely followed me home.

Fifteen years ago, in the garden that is 7 miles away from Poison Ivy Acres, I planted purple plantain (Plantago major Atropurpurea). Yes, plantain is a weed, but this one was purple, dammit!

In the world of purple foliaged plants, plantain isn’t such great shakes, but it self-seeded gently and wandered harmlessly around my gardens for three or four years. In 1997 it didn’t come back and I promptly forgot I’d ever grown it.

Until today. When I moved to Poison Ivy Acres in 2008, I brought several plants with me. Along with those chosen shrubs and perennials came the dirt surrounding the roots and in that dirt came seeds. Some of these seeds made their presence known the first summer, but others continue to surprise me. Fortunately, none of the Japanese chervil (Cryptotaenia japonica ‘Atropurpurea’) that wanted to take over that garden has shown up here. Yet.

It’s pretty amazing that a seed can lie dormant for many years, waiting for the perfect opportunity to germinate, and equally remarkable that there are always surprises waiting to grow.

OK...a bit out of focus: I took this with my phone. But here it is, a purple leaf plantain, some ten or more years later and 7 miles away. I'm letting it go to seed here in the rocks on the edge of the rain garden. Welcome home.

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