Most things don’t happen when you think they will, especially if you haven’t sent out invitations. Some things happen early, like getting the first Walla Walla snowfall before Thanksgiving. Other things happen late, and lately it seems many things happen late. You guessed it, I’m talking about the garden, my own personal Land of Late Bloomers.


I thought the hibiscus were never going to bloom.


Me either, Lily. For weeks I’ve noticed gardens all around the neighborhood with plate-sized blossoms of pink and purple. Friends nearby have proudly posted selfies with enormous hibiscus flowers tucked behind their ears. I know they’re celebrating their own joyous summer, but lately I’ve felt downright taunted.


I did everything I could to encourage the hibiscus plants, carefully checked their watering needs with a gauge, fed them 10-10-10 fertilizer at the recommended intervals, talked to them- –


You are so weird.


Thanks, 9, I’ll remember that. For weeks both bushes have been packed tight with buds, some of which dried up and fell off! Were they just going to ignore my pleas and die?


Then, two days ago, I saw this:


First of the late bloomers: hibiscus in flower, at last!


And yesterday, this!


Late bloomer: yesterday’s superstar of many saucer-sized flowers!



Hope arrived in the form of gorgeous white flowers with red centers, not as common as the pinks and purples that would clash with my grey-green exterior house paint. With that particular late bloomer episode resolved, my obsession turned to squash.


But they have tons of blooms!


True, 9, but only one bloom on 10 plants had a squash attached to it. Wondering why the heck that was I consulted the internet and learned this is most commonly caused by lack of pollinators. But fear not! It’s a reproductive pitfall that can be overcome by collecting the pollen of the male blossoms with a cotton swab and dusting it on the female blossoms.


I don’t take biology until next year. How can you tell the difference between the males and females?


Good question, Lily! The male flowers have long stems. The female blooms are close to the vine. You could easily have performed the pollination intervention with your 14-year-old eyes but when I collected a cotton swab I also snagged a pair of reading glasses. Thus armed I advanced to the squash plants. I collected the pollen from the first male I encountered, then looked for a female and- -oh! Quite a few tiny squashes were already forming down on the vine!


Late bloomers: the spaghetti squash vines have plenty of flowers and, if you look closely, many wee baby squashes!



So if you weren’t as blind as a bat- –


We’ll talk about that later, 9.


In human terms a late bloomer is defined as a person who fulfills their potential later than expected. Sounds like a lifelong project to me! There are so many different potentials to fulfill, right? Intellectual, artistic, spiritual, interpersonal- -the list seems endless. Maybe that’s a good thing?


How so?


Maybe not everyone feels this way, but I feel most alive when I’m working toward something, not when I’ve achieved it. To me achievement is a signal that it’s time aim higher or try something new.


It’s like being a perpetually blooming hibiscus, or a zucchini plant that grows peaches, too.


Being a late bloomer is living on the threshold of magic.

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