The Wonderful World Of Garden Mutations

By Nikki Tilley | July 10, 2021
Image by jchizhe
by Nikki Tilley
July 10, 2021

Admiring odd plant growth is something I enjoy. Whether it’s a stray plant growing in an unusual place and thriving, like a sidewalk crack, or garden mutations that make you take a step back, they’re all beautiful in their own right. Differences are what make us all unique, and in the garden, this can be a pleasant discovery.

Ugly Produce is Beautiful

One of my favorite things about gardening is the anticipation of what’s to come. What will the garden bring this season? Will all my flowers thrive and bloom as expected or will there be hiccups to overcome? What about my veggies? How well will the garden produce this year? What crops will grow vigorously verses those that are epic failures? Will the insects overrun my garden plants, will the weather cooperate, or will it be plagued by disease? 

Inevitably, I will battle weeds – I always do. But each year is different in the garden. Some years are marked by success while others are completely catastrophic. Oftentimes, mine falls somewhere in between. But, hey, that’s just the way it goes. And there’s usually always something memorable from each season too. For me, it’s the “ugly” produce, and even flowers, that get filed in my memory bank. I actually prefer to call these garden mishaps “unique” as opposed to ugly.

Ugly Vegetables

We all have something about ourselves that we may not particularly like, but that doesn’t make us ugly or useless. Plants in the garden aren’t any different. I’ve inadvertently grown radishes that come out looking like hearts, carrots that look like hairy root balls, tomatoes with noses or odd-looking appearances, and even ornamentals with unusual shapes. On occasion I’ve plucked conjoined onions and other root crops or dug up potatoes that look more like alien space pods. But it’s all good! This “ugly” produce is beautiful, and sometimes quite amusing.

Most of the time this can be attributed to me forgetting to thin my crops as needed or not providing adequate water and nutrients. Sometimes, though, it’s just Mother Nature. I particularly enjoy finding instances of fasciation in the garden. I’ve had this happen with many flowers, like liatris and coneflower. I’ve also witnessed it in my tomato blooms, which can sometimes lead to conjoined fruit. Some people might get frustrated by things like this, but I find it all fascinating. It’s like opening that box of chocolates and popping one in your mouth, never quite knowing exactly what you’ll get as you bite into it (unless you actually read the box). It’s the not knowing that excites me each season. What’s in store for my garden next? This anticipation keeps me wanting more. Every year I keep planting new things and making new discoveries. I especially love finding these strange garden mutations.

If you find something growing a little differently or harvest vegetables that are slightly odd, don’t be alarmed. Most of the time those weird veggies are still fine to eat, and those ornamentals can make interesting conversation pieces.

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