Garden Volunteers

a nigella seedling reveals a garden volunteers

Garden “volunteers” is a term with two meanings. Surely, we are fortunate when others volunteer to help us with our work in the garden! However, horticulture holds its own unique definition, describing with quaint expression a subtle yet delightful discovery: seeds lingering from last year’s annuals sprouting and growing all on their own, poised to flourish in the new season. An offspring of a nearby perennial might also volunteer, or one blown over from a neighbor’s plot, increasing and filling our garden with more of its kind.

No trip to the nursery or flats of seedlings on late winter’s dining room table needed—garden volunteers are sheer gifts! In such happenings, plants appear to generously offer themselves, willing to grow for us without payment; they volunteer, so to speak, slipping past their gardener’s investment planning in sweet surprise.

Discernment Required

garden weeds and volunteers

Note among the weeds in the upper photo, the hyssop volunteer in the lower left corner?!

To receive such gifts, we must be able to detect their presence. As obvious as that sounds, in the garden it is not so easy to distinguish a seedling from a weedling, an aspiring bounty of flowers or leafy greens from the common weeds ready to take over the spring landscape. Often the weeds have rustled me into such a fury, I am quick to yank, rid, and root out any sprouting green, and slow to realize the treasures that might bloom and grow for me carefree.

Discernment, then is the lesson to glean from garden volunteers: To distinguish good from bad, helpful from useless or detrimental. Dear gardener, in this encounter with the ways of plant kingdom, find it no surprise to see a parallel teaching in God’s kingdom.

…give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart…
1 Kings 3:9-12 NIV

King Solomon, perhaps the most prominent teacher on wisdom and the plant kingdom, relished the integral relationships of knowledge, wisdom, understanding, and combined with discernment, they imparted the ability to assess situations, analyze key, dynamic factors, and enabled one to make sound, just determinations.

hyssop garden volunteers

I have been astoundingly blessed with hyssop volunteers this spring, WOW!! I was never able to raise this holy herb from seed, and after two seasons of unyielding sowings, I opted for transplants. The purchased plants have done much better, thriving for several years, and I let the plants flower in order to enjoy the bee party they host all summer. I have been able to pass along cuttings to other Bible plant geeks, but never bothered to collect the seeds because of their germinating challenge. Imagine my wonder then…I am in awe at the little one inch plants that I keep discovering!

May God’s Words on discernment come forward in our minds as we work the ground and take care of it this spring:

Their job is to teach my people the difference between the holy and the common, to show them how to discern between unclean and clean.
Ezekiel 44:23 The Message

I am your servant; give me discernment that I may understand your statutes.
Psalm 119:125 NIV

let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance—
Proverbs 1:5 NIV

Who is wise? Let them realize these things. Who is discerning? Let them understand. The ways of the LORD are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.
Hosea 14:2 NIV

endive volunteers among onionsimpatiens volunteers in a woodland garden

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ
Philippians 1:10 NIV


NIV God's Word for Gardeners Bible with daily essays on the plants, landscapes, and garden metaphors in the BibleFor more on Garden Volunteers, see “Volunteers,” from the Propagating devotions of Garden Work in God’s Word for Gardeners Bible, page 311


Photo Credits: ©2018 Shelley S. Cramm So many volunteers in our garden this spring! Nigella, hyssop, endive, and impatiens

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2 Responses to Garden Volunteers

  1. Lydia Plunk April 26, 2018 at 3:21 pm #

    Absolutely lovely collections of verses to ponder.

    • Shelley Cramm April 26, 2018 at 3:58 pm #

      O Lydia, thank you! So glad you enjoy!

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