It’s funny how things work sometimes. I’m not a superior gardener in practice, like some people are, but I know my way around the soil and I know how to plant seeds. I can’t always get them to grow, but that’s another matter.

I have a hard time throwing out unused seeds, so I have legions of full and half-full packets of everything from amaranthus to zucchini and everything in between. In multiples. In bins and boxes. Here and there.

Now since I became a serious gardener in 2005, that means I’ve got some seeds that are 15 years old. While some seeds will still be viable after that long, the germination rate on most of those saved seeds would be miserable, if they germinated at all. And seriously, if I haven’t planted them in all that time, what makes me think I’m ever going to?

Well, you just never know. Take this year, for example. I was looking through my seed stash and found some old packets of sunflower seeds. I don’t recall now just how old those were, but they looked okay, not dehydrated. I’d come upon a spot behind our compost bins between the fence and the field that I thought would be an awesome place to grow them.

I also came across some fresh pumpkin seeds that I’d been sent from the National Garden Bureau to try. We’d grown pumpkins before, many years ago, but none like these. This variety, called Blue Prince, was a 2020 All American Selections Winner and as you might guess, they weren’t orange. Now that’s fun!

So my plan was to plant the sunflower seeds against the compost bin and in front of them, the pumpkins. I imagined those stately colorful sunflowers spreading their cheer by August, to the delight of bees and butterflies and us. And at their feet, pumpkin vines bearing beautiful blue pumpkins, ready to pick by October.

I should mention that I was a little late in planting the seeds, but I figured they would take right off in the heat of early June and catch up if I kept them watered well. And that’s just what I did. But the sunflowers didn’t. In fact, not a single seed germinated. Not one. I was really disappointed.

But let me tell you about the pumpkins. After a week or so, I saw three little sprouts coming up. I thought there would be more, but how many pumpkin vines do you really need anyway? I kept them watered and they grew fast.

Summer wore on and every now and then I’d check on the pumpkins and it seemed like the vines were growing by leaps and bounds and then almost overnight, they were loaded with big yellow blossoms. The bees found them straight away, so I knew we’d have some pumpkins before all was said and done.

And then life got crazy – crazier than this year already was. I’d seen little tiny pumpkins forming just a few weeks before, but I kind of neglected to check on them for a while. The next time I did, the vines were akin to a prostrate version of Jack’s beanstalk.

One was threatening to invade the neighbor’s yard and the other shot off in the opposite direction just as far. I gave up stepping off the feet once that one reached 54 feet in length. I redirected the one heading to the neighbor’s, forcing it to make a U-turn.

And just as fast as the vines grew, so did the pumpkins. In the end, we had about 10 blue-gray pumpkins that were large and beautifully shaped and several small ones. They were somewhat flattened, so they stacked easily, yet they were round enough to carve as jack-o’-lanterns. The pumpkins were a success.

The AAS website says Blue Prince pumpkins are “as pretty as they are delicious,” and “Of all the varieties trialed, Blue Prince was first to flower and fruit which is beneficial for gardeners with a shorter growing season.” (Or those who plant late.)

By the way, we had five sunflowers that came up volunteer in the grass between the garden and the field, at the other end of the fence from the pumpkins. We’d grown sunflowers in the adjacent garden about eight years before. Go figure.

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