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Report From An Opinionated Gardener – June 4

I spoke to a customer at the garden center who was frustrated that all the lupines that she’d planted over the past few years have died. I was sympathetic, because many gardeners in this area have trouble with this perennial. When I was living in Osterville I couldn’t keep them going either.

I explained that this tap-rooted perennial is short-lived, even when it’s happy. Four or five years is about how long a lupine plant lasts. If the plant finds the growing conditions favorable, however, it self-seeds and the new plants take over when the older ones die.

Lupine do not like rich, well amended soil, however. Give them compact clay or rocky, well drained soil and they may stick around…especially if they’re grown from seed.

My customer wasn’t happy with this information, however. She had amended her soil well, and wanted them to like her garden. After I repeated what I knew to be true about lupine, she frowned and said, “But I love them!”

As gardeners and humans on this planet, we learn that sometimes love isn’t enough. We can pour our affection, attention and longing into something, be it a person, plant or situation, and still the object of our affection may or may not thrive.

Our plants have a far more objective approach. Given the particular growing conditions they need, they will thrive. Sometimes they’ll even survive against all odds, but they would be the first to ask, “What’s love got to do with it?”

Last June I had many blue lupine and one coral flowering plant. This year, they are all blue. If I'm smart I'll scatter lots of seed that will germinate and bloom in various colors...knowing, of course, that what will be will be. My love of a variety of colors has nothing to do with what will, or will not grow here.

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