Voluntary Work


I had not come across the American use of the word ‘volunteers’ for self-seeders until recently – but hey! how apt is that, as they do volunteer themselves in all sorts of unlikely places without being cajoled or press-ganged or cossetted in any way. It never ceases to amaze me what turns up, and where – not to mention HOW!

The healthy little fuchsia seedling in a crack between slabs paved area is a case in point, quite probably a child of one of the ‘Deep Purple’ fuchsias that have been in three nearby pots for the last couple of years. Similarly, the tiny clematis in an adjacent pot alongside the resident young acer is probably a fledgling of Clematis alpina ‘Frances Rivis’, the clematis that clambers of the pergola with the ‘Danse de Feu’ roses near here. The pulmonaria next to the stream, all of a sudden developing from a leaf or two into a small but healthy clump, must be 20 or 30 feet away from the nearest potential parent – P. Sissinghurst White’ in the species snowdrop border. I shall be fascinated to see what flowers do appear, perhaps next year, before the orphan is adopted into a new home.

The bottom right picture shows a pretty little antirrhinum outside the front door – the distant relative of a presumably similar plant which was in a big pot near her many summers ago. I would love to try and rescue her and bring her up in a more amenable environment, but alas! I fear a delicate attempt at extrication from her inhospitable home between two bricks might prove too much for her.

IMG_3120However, a more easily arranged rehousing will follow the exciting discovery I made in a pot of spent tulips, currently sitting patiently with others in the fruit cage, awaiting a decision on whether toΒ  replant them or if it is not worth the bother. To me, this leaf is instantly recognisable, but have a guess and I will include the name as a ‘tag’ under the post so you can check it out. It is a plant I bought in full flowering glory last year but which failed to reappearΒ  this year – how there came to be a seedling in this pot will remain yet another of life’s big mysteries…..

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31 Responses to Voluntary Work

  1. Benjamin says:

    I love our “volunteers” wherever they spring up. I can hardly ever bring myself to just prune them away after fighting the odds in their bid to grow. Sometimes I can identify them quite young and move them to appropriate place. And sometimes I just let ’em go and see what happens. Usually a nice gardening surprise for us. πŸ˜‰ Great post!

  2. I had an inkling of the identity, before reading your tag! I’ve had a few interesting self seeders myself, from grasses, such as Carex and Stipa, to Geraniums, Phlomis, and now an Astrantia, all sprouting in the most unlikely places. Oh, and a seedling/volunteer of Digitalis parvifola! The joys of nature!

  3. johnvic8 says:

    Enjoyed your blog on volunteers. Unfortunately, there are “good” volunteers and “bad” (sometimes “very bad”) volunteers. When the leaves turn, I hope to publish a photo of a Japanese maple volunteer seedling that is now a twelve year old bonsai.

    • Cathy says:

      Yes, I was going to mention the downside of non-welcome ones as well, but forgot or perhaps it was time to make a meal or something!

  4. Julie says:

    Lovely post, I have lots of volunteers in my own garden, I am always delighted that any of them visit, some are potted up for friends, some are put in a more ordered place. I did not recognise your leaf, its rather lovely though.

    • Cathy says:

      Yes, I shall pot all these ones up, Julie (well, no I shall move the pulmonaria directly to a new home) – and the hellebore (for that is what it is) will be nurtured and cossetted to make sure it grows to be an adult πŸ˜‰

  5. Chloris says:

    It is fun when something like a Clematis or Pulmonaria seed themselves because they can be quite different from their parents. How often do find the most exciting plants seed themselves in cracks in the paving? You just can’ t get them out without breaking the roots.
    I think your volunteer in the tulip pot is a Hellebore. Maybe Sternii ‘ Silver Dollar’ or something similar.

  6. Anna says:

    I must admit to being baffled when I first came across the term ‘volunteer’ Cathy πŸ™‚ I like it though and think that it has the edge over our ‘self-seeder’. I’ve come across a few ‘volunteers’ this weekend and am debating whether to leave them in the ground overwinter or pot them up now for plant sales. Will probably err on the side of caution and leave them be until spring. I’m with Chloris – a hellebore of some description.

  7. Anna says:

    P.S. Have now just cottoned on to the ‘tag’ reference – on Blogger the equivalent is a ‘label’ πŸ™‚

  8. Sally says:

    The mystery plant is indeed a mystery to me! Volunteers are the best when they disappear and show up several years later……Gardens are so much fun!

  9. Pauline says:

    Lot of plants self seed here, most of which I am very grateful for, but sometimes some of them are far too enthusiastic. Yes, I agree Hellebore, is it Moonbeam , without going and checking the label on mine I’m just guessing?

    • Cathy says:

      I thought you might recognise it Pauline – I was really disappointed when the parent didn’t thrive, so whether this is a seedling from the original pot it came in or what…I was just so thrilled to see it πŸ™‚

  10. Christina says:

    I’d never come across the term volunteer until I began reading American blogs; I agree it is a lovely term. As to growing in places they are impossible to be removed from, yes – almost always, obviously they aren’t disturbed there unlike in a flowerbed!

  11. croftgarden says:

    I’m an enthusiastic supporter of volunteers, although in my garden they tend to be survivors and colonists. I always let my plants seed, it is an insurance policy as I never know whether the parents will survive the winter. Inevitably some have to be weeded out, but you never know quite what you’ll get and the seedlings often arrive in new areas and do better than the parents.
    I’d be inclined to keep the seedling hellebore, you never know it could be the start of the “Ramblers Variety”!

    • Cathy says:

      Yes, good to keep an open mind about them, but there was no question over keeping the hellebore – that’s a must, whether it’s a baby Winter Moonbeam or some new Ramblers Variety. I think the former is more likely though. ps I found I was nurturing a young chickweed plant amongst the seedlings growing from the seeds you gave me, but I am hoping the others turn out to hellebores and not unwanted ‘volunteers’!

  12. It is funny for you to point out the term “volunteer”. I had come across it, too, and even as an American (living in Ireland) I was also baffled! Glad you set that straight for me πŸ™‚

    • Cathy says:

      It adds to the interest we get from reading blogs written by people in different places, doesn’t it? Such a lot of new things to find out πŸ™‚

  13. bittster says:

    You have a beautiful selection of volunteers! The hellebore is a fantastic find, I thought it looked a bit like a mahonia seedling, wouldn’t that have been ironic after the mother plant was finally cut πŸ™‚

  14. I like the term “volunteer” too, and always fun to see what they turn out like. I am being over run by marigolds and tomatoes this year, they are popping up everywhere!

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