It’s always a treat to find useful or beautiful plants that I didn’t plant growing in the garden. Everywhere else I’ve lived and done anything resembling gardening, my rule of thumb was that I needed to plant 10 things to get one that survived. Here in the Pacific Northwest, I plant 10 things and end up with a hundred like the one I planted, and other, different ones that seem to come out of nowhere by spontaneous generation.
A few weeks ago the leaves started dying down, but a flower spike started coming up. It’s now about 45 cm (18 inches) tall, with loosely spiraling rows of white flowers, most of which are open. And the flowers are fragrant! They have a sweet, airy, vanilla-floral scent that seems to attract bumblebees. Orchids are always welcome in my garden even if, technically, they’re weeds.
The second big surprise was a shoot that came up from the roots of a purple-leaf ornamental plum that we planted several years ago. Apparently the ornamental plum had been grafted onto a rootstock of another variety, and the rootstock decided to grow on its own. This year, when I was clearing blackberries away from the base of the tree, I was amazed to see little fruits all over the branches of the renegade tree. They looked like mirabelles, a blush red variety. A few had dropped on the ground, and when I tasted them they were indeed mirabelles. What a bonus! We now have a beautiful pink-flowered ornamental tree that blooms spectacularly in spring, and next to it, like a siamese twin, a highly productive white-flowered mirabelle plum tree. I harvested a few today by shaking the tree. These tree-ripened fruits are tasty and sweet, with a flowery, concentrated plum flavor, much better than the big, sour plums they sell in the supermarket. I love volunteer plants!