As we pull into a parking spot on the alleyway near the paved trail, I notice a lone perennial boldly pushing its way through the fence. It has stretched its stem through the slightest of cracks like a fielder diving for the fly ball. The blue petals hold fast to a strong framework that looks like it could snatch the whizzing ball, scooping it and throwing it back in one powerful thrust. A volunteer Delphinium boldly playing the outfield, while its teammates hover near home plate.
I never fully appreciated the idea of a perennial volunteer until I saw it at work in my own garden. I had carefully planted different types of Delphiniums to highlight a couple of places: along one side of my back porch, and behind a wishing well. I knew that after a couple of seasons I could split these showy perennials and place them in other areas of interest. I soon discovered that Delphinium determination had a different design in mind.
Our driveway had been paved the previous year except for a curved patch of gravel that remained near the end where the macadam skirted the backyard. As spring arrived I planned to put some soil on top of the gravel so I could plant a new assortment of perennials. A wetter, colder spring stalled my plans, but not the one’s already developing under the rocky area. When the sunnier weather finally did prevail, I found new plants popping up in a scattered but pretty pattern. Delphiniums were pushing their way, shoving the stones to the side as they staked their claim to this hardcore flowerbed.
I could only marvel at their persistence. Despite the destructive temperatures of winter, regardless of the lack of loose soil, these Delphiniums had broken the surface, relying on newly formed roots to firmly flower as the foundation of a new perennial bed. Being a newcomer to this area myself, I could only admire a fellow determined source of energy that wanted to declare itself “at home.”
A volunteer?? Services offered without purchase, efforts produced without seeking pay, hours of work done without expectations of gratitude or acknowledgement. To volunteer means to show up and be there with a willingness to help. These Delphiniums showed up at the right time for me. I needed a nudge in the right direction to remind me that volunteering could help me feel that I was a part of my new community. I could show up and volunteer with a spirit of determination like the foundation of the prairie community to which I had moved.
Each year I wait to see where new perennial volunteers will surprise me. I’ve seen the Columbine in pursuit of the Delphinium trying to reinvent the home team. I’ve seen Lily of the Valley bully its way at the foot of the mighty Delphinium. But I always want to shout, “Way to go Delphs!”, when I see a new Delphinium going out in left field, stretching and struggling to make its way, to prove that it too, has found its way home.