It seems not too long ago that Disney, through clever marketing and strategic drip feeds through social media, nearly took over Christmas, with the latest instalment of the Star Wars epic. Nearly forty years passed on the big screen between two key moments: a young Luke Skywalker, gazing at Tatooine’s suns setting in the distance and, decades later, an older Han Solo uttering the poignant words, “Chewy, we’re home.”
Something happened during the interim. There is a sense of a road well travelled. Indeed, the journey of life can take us to moments of both wondrous joy and the most challenging difficulties.
With the warmth of spring on the horizon, the natural world begins to toss and turn, eventually waking up from its winter slumber. It is during this time that we see changes to the things we have planted in a time long past. But, between the genesis and ‘revelation’ season of a planted thing, there is a period of waiting.
I love this quote by Christine Caine: “Sometimes when you’re in a dark place, you think you’ve been buried, but you’ve actually been planted.”
Right Plant, Right Place
When I advise my clients about plant selection, I always say that plants should thrive where they are sited, and not just survive. Be it a delicate flower, a productive vegetable or a majestic ornamental tree, they all have different characteristics and can cope with a certain range of conditions. Just like us.
We have our own personalities, characteristics, foibles and quirks, as well as interests, passions and areas where we simply thrive. Our Creator knows all these things. He is the Master Designer, who has drawn up the Master Plan. According to Psalm 139, God knows us intimately, and we are utterly precious to Him. He knows where we are best placed/planted.
Trust in God, the One who drew up the Master Plan.
A seed, full of potential and life. When it is planted and starts to grow, it changes its identity and something far greater is released (John 12:24). It begins to form roots in order to seek nourishment from the surrounding soil.
My wife Charlotte and I chose Jeremiah 17:7-8 as our wedding verse. To become ‘fearless in the heat of trials’ and ‘free of worry in the year of drought’, one must trust in the Lord. This in itself brings about growth. Roots that take time to form and that are invisible to eyes above ground level, will soon bear good fruit for all to see.
Changing soil conditions
It is amazing to think how plants grow depending on where they are sited, and what nutrients are available.
Hydrangeas are a popular shrub, with flower heads that come in the most delicate shades of blue, pink or white. Some hydrangeas, like the mophead and lace cap cultivars of Hydrangea macrophylla, actually change colour depending on the acidity of the soil. For these famous chameleons, their flower heads can be pink in alkaline conditions, blue in acidic soil, and mauve (and blend of the two) in neutral to mildly acidic soils.
If you have a blue cultivar, use ericaceous compost and nourish it with rainwater. If your mains tap water is on the hard side, dousing your blue hydrangeas will almost certainly turn them mauve or pink.
Wind action on trees
Do you know that plants and trees have two types of roots?
The smaller capillary root system is fibrous and collect life-giving nutrients. These tend to be on the surface, where the soil is most rich. The larger taproots, however, give stability and support to the entire plant.
When planting new trees, the most common mistake is to use support structures or systems that are far too restrictive. Straps girded on too tightly soon choke and leave permanent damage.
Also, the action of wind buffeting against the tree actually helps it to develop stronger and deeper taproots, so that when the supports are finally removed, the tree has the best chance of survival.
In the natural environment though, we see trees whose very shape has been marked by the elements. We have family in the Isle of Man, and I always appreciate the wind-swept trees that dot the landscape.
There is beauty in a form that has been through life’s journey, and has not just survived… but thrived.