A tale of seeds
There was once a small collective of gardeners who banded together to buy their equipment and supplies. Tools and compost, fertilizer and weed killer all come cheaper if you buy in bulk so the four friends would split the costs and share the benefits.
One spring, as a free bonus with their order, their usual seed company offered a mystery gift. When it arrived they were eager to see what they had been sent. The gift came in a small cardboard box which, when opened proved to contain four small items. Each was about an inch long, dark brown and slightly wrinkled looking.
“They must be seeds of some kind,” said the oldest friend, turning them over in his hand. “Is there any information with them?”
A note fell out of the box, explaining that the seeds were part of a consignment sent to the seed company from an explorer who worked in far off places, collecting new plants and sending back their seeds. It seemed that the original label of the last batch had become detached from the parcel and the seed company did not know precisely what the seeds were for. “Grow them and see!” said the note. “And send us your pictures when you get them to bloom!”
“That’s no good,” said the second oldest friend. “How can we grow something if we don’t know what it is? What’s the point of that? I only have a small garden. I have to be careful of what I grow in case it’s too big for me.”
“And how can we grow it if we don’t know what it is?” said the third oldest. “Different seeds need different conditions. Some need to be frozen for two years before they grow. I’m not happy. Some free gift!”
The youngest said nothing but held the seed in her hand, and ran her fingers over it, stroking the ridged surface and trying to sense the life within.
In the end they agreed they would each take a single seed and nothing more was said.
The oldest friend took his seed home and spent many hours searching the internet to see if he could find out what it was and how best to grow it. He contacted all manner of experts before deciding that the seed must be new to science. He took many photos of it and sent it to a professor of ethno-botany at a university to study. The professor looked at it briefly, before writing back to say he didn’t know either but the letter and the seed got lost in the post.
The second oldest friend looked at the seed with suspicion. It looked like a nut so it would surely grown into a tree, far too huge for his little garden. Even planting it in a pot would take up far too much room and anyway, what use would it be? It wasn’t as if he was going to be able to eat the fruit from it; it would take many years before it grew big enough to fruit. He put the seed in an envelope and put it into the back of a drawer and forgot about it.
The third oldest took it home and after much thought, planted it in a nice terracotta pot and watered it, giving it a label that simply read ? Each week she came back and checked the moisture in the soil. After six weeks, she scraped the compost back to see if anything had changed. The seed remained hard and unchanged. She covered it over and watered it again. Every few weeks she pushed back the soil to see if the seed had begun to germinate. Eventually the seed began to crack and open and the thick tap root delved down into the compost, seeking purchase. “It looks like a bean plant,” she said, disappointed, but fetched sticks for it to climb up. When the first leaves began to appear, she changed her mind for there were no tendrils that indicated a climber. When it got to six inches high, she thought it must be a begonia and pinched out the growing tip to keep it nice and bushy. The plant withered and shrivelled and eventually died.
The youngest took the seed home and planted it in a pot, watered it and left it alone, whispering that small prayer every gardener has uttered, “Bless you, now GROW!”. Returning only to make sure the pot was moist enough, one day she saw that the seed had burst into a shoot, verdant and vital but still unrecognisable. She kept watering it, and every time the plant got too big for its pot, she moved it to a bigger one. With steady doses of sunshine and showers, the plant grew and grew until one day, a few years after it had been planted, it began to bloom.
Still no one knew what it was yet except the youngest gardener. Visitors to her garden would ask her what it was and she told them with a proud smile.
“It’s beautiful, that’s what it is, and it’s itself. That’s enough for me,” she’d say.