Gone to Seed

Milkweed pods gone to seed
Gone to Seed by Johnathan Nightingale (2014) CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr. https://flic.kr/p/oSE4at

As the summer ends, I have been thinking a lot about the phrase, “gone to seed.” Literally, it refers to the plants in a garden. They are taking all their energy from growth and greenery activities and putting it instead into developing their seeds. Because of the energy diversion into seed production, the plant and flowers become tattered, shabby, and worn-looking. The plant/fruits may become bitter, hard and inedible. To humans, the plant looks ready for the compost heap.

The figurative meaning of “gone to seed” captures this negative connotation, “to decline in looks, status, or utility due to lack of care.” (Idioms by the Free Dictionary). Or even more starkly, not just to be “shabby,” but to be synonymous with “dissipated” or “corrupt.” (fromThesaurus.com).

These past few weeks, I felt as if I had gone to seed. The intense heat and humidity sapped my strength and enthusiasm from my work at the Children’s garden. I came home every day, shucked my garden clothes and collapsed into a long nap. When I realized that we still had an intense week of summer camp organized for the last week before school, I didn’t know where I would find the energy to do more than show up. I felt like a desiccated flower head, crunchy and brown, ready to blow away in the breeze.

However, as camp grew closer, I mustered some more enthusiasm as I reviewed schedules, supplies and activity plans. When the kids arrived, my training and excitement kicked in to help me don my larger-than-life Garden Educator persona. My kindergarteners (“The Basil Buddies”) and I (“BasilBot”) had a fantastic time exploring the garden. While I was certainly exhausted by the end of the week, I also managed to tap into my kids’ excitement and curiosity to help keep myself going.

I also began to think about the positive aspects of the phrase, “gone to seed.” Lola Gayle over at Hush, Lola! has a gorgeous post about saving the seeds from balloon flowers in her garden. Making seeds (on the plants’ part) and saving seeds (on the humans’) is a major investment of resources. It is also a way of continuing a legacy, creating intention for next year’s garden, and as in Lola’s caption, making “a promise for tomorrow.”

I attended a screening of the documentary “Seeds of Time” a couple of weeks ago. It was hosted by Edible KC, a local food organization, and included a panel about grassroots seed saving efforts. The movie is about international seed banking: Long-term storage of different varieties of food crops to preserve diversity of the genome for breeding and adaptation to changing climate and disease pressures. It was fascinating and could have been pulled entirely from the realm of science fiction (Deep freeze with thousands and thousands of seed varieties inside a Norwegian mountain!) I also really enjoyed learning about the work of different organizations cooperating with indigenous potato farmers in Peru to archive and propagate heirloom/traditional seed varieties.

I had my last day at the Children’s garden this week. The weather was absolutely beautiful – sunny and breezy and cool – a perfect day to spent trimming back plants in the garden. I was a little sad to leave my co-workers and the amazing workplace that has welcomed me (wacky ideas and all!) this summer. However, like the seeds, I’m ready to move on to the next stage. I’m starting a new job next week in another city (more details to come!) and have been ramping up the process of sorting and culling possessions that have accumulated around me at my parents’ house.

To the promise of tomorrow! (And next week and the month after that!)

Tangents for this post:
Books about seeds that I read aloud during camp at the Children’s Garden:

The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle

Rooting for you by Susan Hood


3 thoughts on “Gone to Seed

  1. Gone to seed is about right for me, I’ve reproduced and I’m now withering away (in a well-fed sort of way). All I need to do now is embarrass my kids, ask when I’m going to get grandchildren and spend their inheritance. Gone to seed – it can be fun.

    Liked by 2 people

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