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Six on Saturday – Plants That Struggle

Keep a close eye on your struggling plants. Value them as you would the scented rose.

Saturday, 27th June, 2020.

Reading time: 4 mins approx.

Last Saturday, at 5.44pm the gong marked the Summer Solstice. Every TD&H knows this was the longest day of the year, and now it’s downhill until late December. It’s a time of year for celebration as our Northern gardens are in tip-top shape. Not really a time associated with feeling depressed. I choose to highlight this aspect of The Longest Day and make some sort of a link to my garden. I worked as a volunteer with my local Samaritans’ Centre for three years after I retired. In light of this, my six this week will highlight plants that do not thrive. They struggle along, despite my best attention to them. They are definitely not the star of the show, not the top dog in the border nor the scented rose. Their struggle becomes almost invisible to those of us who do not look beyond the joy of pleasing plants.

Here’s my six this week:

1. This Vinca is in the wrong place, in deep shade under a large Acer. It was previously in another wrong place in full sunshine, so I don’t know what’s best. Perhaps the soil is not right? Anyhow, ar aon nós, it continues to hang in there. I resolve to give it more attention through the coming weeks and months.

2. Flowers of the stunningly large Dahlia Café au Lait can be up to 15cm in diameter. Not this one, I fear. It is struggling this year because I moved it into a pot, and either I’m watering too much or too little. I moved it in order to have more space to grow vegetables. If this Dahlia could talk, it would ask severe questions of my  motive for dislodging it. Some people have very good lives, suddenly thrown into chaos by a life event. Some have coping skills whereas others sink deeper into a constant struggle for survival.

3. Weeds are plants too. I have been moaning about bindweed these past few weeks, because it is doing damage to other plants. It is causing plants to struggle so I need to get rid of it. No photograph, as I abide strictly to my Bindweed Photography Policy. However, many weeds are harmless and can be left in situ.

4. I have planted French marigolds in several areas of the vegetable patch. They give off some sort of vibes that deter insects from chewing through what’s going to be my lunch. The lettuces & spinach would struggle without this intervention. This is actually a win win situation, because the vegetable patch will have a bit of colour other than shades of green.

5. The taxus baccata Fastigata is in serious trouble. I bought this only last year, to add some delight to my garden in winter. It is an evergreen, but something is seriously wrong. I do not want it to die. Be that as it may, plants do die after a long or short struggle. I’ve lost several real favourites and some that I liked less. The only difference with these plants is that they do not choose to die. Humans who choose to die are no less human. Suicide was a crime here in Ireland until 1993. That’s why the term “He committed suicide” was popularly used rather than the now preferred “He died by suicide”. I hope my taxus will survive.

6. Old age is a bitch. The struggle before death can be very difficult and particularly difficult to watch. These conifers are old. They will not be there in five years time. They are beginning to suffer and the beauty is fading year by year. Incidentally, this is from my front garden, an gáirdín ós comhair an tí. At present, I have very little interest in this part of the garden, but that’s not the reason for the decline of these once lovely conifers.


On June 20-21st 2019 I cycled 400km with my friend Declan, along with support from the local cycling community for sections of the journey. We cycled for 16 and a half hours, 3pm on Friday until 3pm on Saturday with a dinner break, a chipper/pizza delivery at 2am, a breakfast break, a lunch break (in that order), and a two hour snooze codladh sámh, through The Longest Day, helping raise funds for Waterford Samaritans.

The Longest Day is our symbol of constant struggle. The new day does not always bring comfort. Keep a close eye on your struggling plants. Value them as you would the scented rose. Keep a close watch on friends or acquaintances and be there for them with a listening ear. Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine.

Ah shur, trying to keep the good side out. (Man quote)


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Author: Páraig

Changing my mind, one thought at a time. When head is good so is everything, including some fast biking and slow gardening.

18 thoughts on “Six on Saturday – Plants That Struggle”

  1. So thought provoking. I had an azalea of my long acquaintance set thousands of flower buds and drop dead this spring. It just couldn’t manage another growing season. These things happen. Perhaps if I’d paid more attention?


    1. And perhaps despite more attention life (and death) would take its course? Endurance and fragility are constant companions. It is what it is, a chara.


  2. Your post speaks to me today, especially that “trying to keep the good side out” part. I can be an impatient gardener and a Darwinian one to boot, ready to pull out plants that struggle, maybe because they make me feel like a failure when I pass by. Most likely, I don’t like the way they take up space that could be used for something lovely. But isn’t struggle lovely, too? Also, I tried dahlias in pots and it didn’t go very well. So I grow over 150 in garden beds.


    1. Great comment, a chara! Endurance and fragility are sometimes companions in life!
      You’re right that the dahlias are happier in the ground. I just may have to move mine again. 150 dahlias? Crikey, deadheading must be a full time task.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My vinca is in too much sun. It looks terrible most of the year, but I’m not bothering to move it. At least during its bloom season it’s happy. In the summer, terrible.


  4. We so quickly dispatch plants that struggle, unless especially precious and we truly desire to have them. Nach mbeadh sé níos fearr dá mbeadh sé ar a gcumas lámh a chur ina mbás fhéin – agus an rogha chéanna a bheith ar fáil do dhaoine!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Is álainn liom an Ghaeilge a léamh uait, Paddy. Cinnte, ba cheart an rogha a bheith acu & againne. However, as the plant world operates on a survival of the fittest basis and death is inbuilt before old age. Yes, we contribute greatly to the survival of plants in our manicured gardens according to personal taste, we act as judge and jury , and yes we are at times quick to dispatch underperformers!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’d like to think I’m supportive of my strugglers, moving them where I think they’ll be content, feeding and watering, looking out for their enemies. Some things just have to be put out of their misery though. The bullies get shorter shrift, two can play their game.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wise words to have a listening ear. Thank you for sharing that and your gardening struggles. Keep the faith with the vinca, mine flowered for the first time in four years and it grows in a very inhospitable spot – who know why it made it this year.

    Liked by 1 person

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