Once up a time, there was a gardener named Sunny who had a beautiful garden.
Sunny had carefully picked all the plants for her garden so that from early spring to late fall there were always perennials, biennials and annuals blooming. She had planned it so that the paths gracefully lead visitors through the garden from one surprise to another. It was almost magical how the dappled shade of the trees seemed to always be in just the right spot. And when anyone stood in the garden with their eyes closed, they could still tell they were in a garden by the sounds of the nearby fountain and the songs of the birds as they sang to one another.
Sunny loved her garden, but had a nagging feeling, a hunch, that it was somehow incomplete. She just couldn’t quite put her thumb on what was missing.
Then one day Sunny was sitting on a bench in the garden, deep in thought trying to figure out what was missing, when out from beneath a nearby shrub hopped Bountiful Bunny.
Bountiful hopped over to Sunny and startled her when he asked, “What’s wrong, Sunny?”
Well, Sunny didn’t know that rabbits could talk until right then and could barely sputter an answer when Bountiful continued, “I know what’s wrong, and if you come with me I think I can make it right.”
“Uh, okay,” Sunny said hesitantly, “but where are we going?”
“Back where I came from under that shrub.”
“But I don’t think I can crawl under that shrub like you did.”
“Sure you can,” said Bountiful as he hopped over to the shrub. “Just lean down and lift that one branch out of the way.”
Sunny did as instructed and just as she lifted the branch, she felt a little push on her backside and suddenly found herself on the other side of the shrub in another garden with Bountiful.
“Where are we,” she asked? “It looks familiar with plants and all but just a little bit different.”
“We are in a vegetable garden,” said Bountiful.
“A vegetable garden! Why ever did you bring me to a vegetable garden?”
“Because that’s what’s missing from your garden, Sunny. Vegetables!”
“Oh dear! I hope that’s not really what’s missing from my garden because I don’t know how to grow vegetables. I only know how to grow flowers.”
“Sure you know how to grow vegetables, Sunny! They’re just plants like flowers are!” said Bountiful, as he began to show her around the garden. Slowly, they went from one plant to another as Bountiful explained that all the vegetables came from plants, and the plants were easy to grow.
He showed Sunny how some cucumbers grow on vines that need support, like an ornamental vine, but others stay small like a sprawling shrub and can be grown in a container. He had her taste the cucumbers that were so much better than anything she’d ever bought in a grocery store. Together they looked at the rows of beans, and Bountiful explained how easy they were to grow from seed. Sunny balked a little about eating a raw green bean, but tried it anyway and agreed it was very good. She marveled at the corn and how sweet it was when Bountiful cooked an ear for her right there in a vat of boiling water. It was so sweet that Sunny didn’t even need butter on it!
And so they proceeded from vegetable to vegetable while Bountiful patiently explained that they were all just plants, and offered her a taste of each one. He assured Sunny that if she could grow flowers, she could grow vegetables, too.
Finally, Bountiful and Sunny came to the center of the garden where the tomato patch was. By now Sunny was nearly overcome by all the wonderful vegetables she had been tasting, each one better than any she had ever tasted, and almost instinctively she reached out to pick a ripe red tomato and taste it, too.
But before she could grab it, Bountiful thumped his back legs in warning and shouted out, “Wait! Before you eat that tomato, I need to ask you something! If you eat that tomato, there will be no turning back. You will be forever compelled to always grow a few vegetables in your garden, or have no garden at all. Are you ready for that?”
“Oh, Bountiful, if this tomato is half as good as all the vegetables I’ve tasted so far, I’m ready!” exclaimed Sunny.
“Are you sure?”
“I’m sure! I feel so foolish not growing vegetables in my garden all this time.”
So Bountiful gave Sunny his blessing to eat the tomato because he knew that she really was ready to grow vegetables. He knew she would never view her garden in the same way again. He had completed his mission.
Then Sunny closed her eyes and bit into the tomato. She tasted the warmth of the sun in the flesh of the tomato and felt the juice drip down her chin. It tasted so different from any tomato she had ever bought in a store. She smiled with delight, slowly opened her eyes and was surprised to find that she was back in her own garden, sitting on the bench in the dappled shade, holding a half-eaten tomato.
She wondered where the tomato had come from, but suddenly put her thumb on what was missing from her garden. Vegetables. Yes, vegetables!
From that season on, Sunny always included vegetables in her garden, anyway she could – in containers, in raised beds, mixed amongst the flowers, even in a traditional row garden.
And she gardened happily ever after!