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Kate Jerome: Happy garden accidents

Kate Jerome: Happy garden accidents


I know we are not all perfect as gardeners, and sometimes we do things in the garden that end up being mistakes. I’m the first to admit how often I’ve done this.

But there are times when we do things that end up exactly what we want as well as times when serendipity takes hold and we get something extraordinary that we didn’t expect.

For example, I’ve planted phlox that readily reseed themselves, crowd out other more polite plants and march on through the garden producing not the beautiful white flowers I planted but common fuchsia seedlings at the expense of other plants. Every fall I rip out more phlox, vowing to keep the seedlings pulled in spring.

I’ve actually planted dill seeds, which when I don’t manage properly in subsequent seasons, seeds itself with abandon and ends up shading out some more tender vegetables. Again, I love having the dill but must be ruthless in spring and pull out the rogues.

But there have been some great winners that I didn’t plan for that I will even repeat because they were such successes. For example, I planted hostas on top of surprise lilies that I forgot were there and ended up with surprise lily flowers and white hosta flowers together — beautiful!

Recently I got fed up with the cabbage caterpillars decimating my kale leaves in spite of my regular Bt spraying. So I cut back the plants, leaving about four inches of stalk above ground. I figured I’d come back and pull them later, since they were in the middle of vining cucumbers I didn’t want to disturb. A week later I checked and there were tiny kale leaves emerging. Now I have a supply of baby kale, completely unexpected.

Morning glories can be troublesome if they reseed in the wrong places, but some of mine skipped away from my trellis and over to a spot where I’d planted sunflowers. I decided to let them go, and they climbed the stalks. The yellow sunflower blossoms and clear blue morning glories are perfect companions.

Another happy combination, which I didn’t plan, is goldenrod with asters. The arching sprays of golden blossoms are the same color as the center of the white asters and make a gorgeous late summer combination.

I let a stray milkweed that blew in stay in my garden and, although it can be somewhat weedy, I’m willing to put up with it. Every year it graces the garden with beautiful fragrant blossoms followed by attractive seedpods. It takes a bit of effort and paying close attention to catch the seedpods before they split to avoid rampant milkweed, but watching monarchs flit among the flowers and then the caterpillars develop is priceless. Well worth having a few chewed leaves.

Kate Jerome, a Kenosha writer and teacher, holds a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin and is the former Urban Farm director at Gateway Technical College. She is the owner of the consulting business Kate Jerome’s Garden to Kitchen. Her website is


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