A bee appears equally entranced with the new dahlia blooms.

JULIA ATKINSON-DUNN

A bee appears equally entranced with the new dahlia blooms.

As a pretty fresh gardener in just my fourth growing season, I am surprised that my enthusiasm hasn’t waned.

In all honesty, I have a track record of launching into projects and applying myself solidly for a good two years, then feeling like it’s at least somewhat complete and moving onto the next thing.

The opposite is happening to me when it comes to my garden.

Echinacea brings less showy colours to the summer garden.

JULIA ATKINSON-DUNN

Echinacea brings less showy colours to the summer garden.

I know any wise gardener out there reading this will be nodding in understanding. Every success a gardening adventure awards pulls you deeper into the obsession, and it’s unlikely you’ll ever emerge from this one.

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I surprised myself mid-garden wander the other morning (my second of the day), when I was eyeballing the progress of my rudbeckia, echinacea, poppies, salvia, snapdragons, scabiosa and dahlias, among others.

I was up close and personal with their weird and wonderful buds, whispering sweet nothings to them and muttering they were “much earlier this year”. I zoomed out to a bird’s-eye view of this red-haired 39-year-old stalking her backyard in a botanic trance and was immediately slightly weirded out!

Monitoring the progress of buds, such as these scabiosa, marks a milestone in a gardener’s journey.

JULIA ATKINSON-DUNN

Monitoring the progress of buds, such as these scabiosa, marks a milestone in a gardener’s journey.

It felt odd to recognise that my last few years of feverish research and experimentation have now given me a base of reference to regard the seasonal behaviour of my own wee patch.

How amazing that I – a former non-grower – even have an inkling about my dahlias’ normal schedule.

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At the risk of sounding overly soppy, my monitoring of these beautiful strange buds marks another milestone in what has been a wholly surprising journey.

With less tripping over the basics of growing, I now have time to notice the detail.

Thalictrum produce delicate buds.

JULIA ATKINSON-DUNN

Thalictrum produce delicate buds.

I’m no longer only on the pursuit of arriving at the “main show” in the height of summer.

Instead, I find myself marvelling at each day’s changes and each season’s quirks.

The alien heads of my poppies cracking to reveal a hint of burgundy silk one day, only to reveal their full tulle blooms the next quite frankly astounds me. The glossy drops of dahlia buds still developing beside their sisters who are in full relationship with pollinators gives such promise. It would be easy to wax lyrical on this all day…

Snapdragon buds and blooms – “powerful symbols of new life”.

JULIA ATKINSON-DUNN

Snapdragon buds and blooms – “powerful symbols of new life”.

I am a sucker for the arrival of a new year and the delicious potential it holds with the click-over of the calendar but I feel equally buoyed by the annual arrival of my “bud season”. It’s a period that feels like being at a pre-drinks event, getting ready for the best party.

These buds promise action, not a guaranteed result, but forward motion that’s motivating in a way I didn’t expect. It signals that I managed to grow something, a simple joy in itself, but also reminds me that no party or project is immediate and the process is of course where the subtle, but equally lovely, work happens.

After my maximum romanticising of buds being powerful symbols of new life and possibility, I arrive once again to what I now already know. This gardening game has become one of the most enriching projects of my life and if I am only reaching bud appreciation now, stand by for full-blown soil microbe hero-worshipping this time next year.

I hope all curious gardeners-to-be might find that 2021 presents them with the chance to meet the motivation of a bud or two soon.

Julia Atkinson-Dunn surprises even herself with her continued enthusiasm for gardening.

Supplied

Julia Atkinson-Dunn surprises even herself with her continued enthusiasm for gardening.

Gardening might well be the project with no completion date that you have been looking for.

Stuff

JULIA ATKINSON-DUNN

www.stuff.co.nz

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