As defined in my old, perhaps outdated-by-now copy of the American Heritage Dictionary, a volunteer can be “ A person who renders aid, performs a service, or assumes an obligation voluntarily” or “A cultivated plant growing from self-sown or accidentally dropped seed.” Interestingly, both these aspects have added quite a bit of excitement to my existent enthusiasm for gardening, for which I am much thankful, especially the “person,” in this case, my husband, who always helps me with outdoor tasks.
Whereas a human volunteer is a privilege, there is no dearth of plant volunteers in a garden unless one is meticulously tidy, and plants that are considered undesirable are not given a chance to survive by continuous cultivation or routine weeding; an average person like myself, on the other hand, tends to weed to a limited extent only, therefore, ends up finding many valuable volunteer plants in all sorts of expected and unexpected places. Besides, odd as it might sound, I find weeding rather a mindful relaxing activity!
Not counting what else I might run into as I spend more time every day working in different areas of the yard, and whereas the volunteer plants such as dill, cleome and pepper, I have found recently are quite commonly grown, but somehow seem worth mentioning. Also, despite the fact that I am not too much into herbs, I like to grow them for the fragrant foliage and dainty flowers they bear, hence the thrill of finding the dill volunteers; moreover, in the past, for one reason or the other, I never had luck growing dill successfully. Now, since these plants have chosen to come on their own, I have a good feeling they will survive and do well.
Cleome is a delightful summer annual; also called the spider plant, cleome is care-free, drought-tolerant and bears flowers in summer in shades of white, pink or lavender, and not that it matters to me, the color of volunteer-plant flowers is generally unpredictable. Speaking of which, the performance of the pepper plants that have popped up from overwintered seeds from last year’s crop, is something I am very much looking forward to since the variety, which I cannot seem to remember, was very productive and ornamental, too.
While too much of anything can be a problem, it is evident that in order to assure return of selective self-sown volunteers the following year, we need to allow such plants to go to seed during the current growing season. And, weed-mindfully too, so as not to miss the surprise nature has stored for us, literally.