Infinite Growth: How the African Daisy (Arctotis hybrids) Is Teaching Me About Life

There is nothing like infinite growth, at least the myth in capitalism that there is, might come to a nasty realization that resources are not infinite. But this is not what I want to write about when I talk about infinite growth. By using this idea of infinite growth, I am trying to capture the idea of nature with its infinite abundance that keeps on giving and giving. This is a story of how amazing nature is, and how amazing certain plants are. This is a story about how this African daisy (Arctotis hybrids) is currently taking over my garden and, in the process, it teaches me so much about life.

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I am actually not sure about the name of this plant. As far as my research has taken me, this plant forms part of the Arctotis genus from the Asteraceae family. They are called African daisies by some, but there are so many other species that are also called African daisies. In any case, the closest name I could find for this particular one is either the Arctotis acaulis or what some have been calling a hybrid, hence Arctotis hybrids. There are so many different species of this particular plant, with so many colors from yellow to orange to white.

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In roughly 2016, I took a cutting from a grey-ish groundcover plant from a coffee shop my brother loves to visit. Little did I know that a 5-10 cm cutting would lead me to make 100's of plants, taking over my garden. Little did I know the route my life would go, and how I would begin on a journey to appreciate nature and her abundance. Little did I understand at that moment that this small cutting, that somehow managed to survive a car trip and a drought in our region, would change my whole understanding of the world.

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This plant grows so many flowers in the springtime. These images were taken two days ago, but in the next month or two there will be hundreds of flowers. The garden is being taken over by this plant. And I love it. Because the flower screams joy, happiness, and most of all, contentment. (In my home language, we talk of "tervredenhied". "Ter-vrede", for the sake of peace. There isn't a nice translation I can think about now.)

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This groundcover is drought resistant. Even though we had a very bad drought, and I lost some of my plants, this particular one more than survived, it took over. And with the taking over, I had to severely cut it back. But here is where my idea of infinite growth comes in: with the cutting back, I gained two valuable resources. (i) I made 100's of new cuttings, (ii) I made buckets and bags full of material for my compost. By making the compost, I received a scarce resource: material in which I could make cuttings grow. I simply stick a cutting into the compost, and after a couple of weeks, I have a new plant. Because it is a ground cover, it grows very fast and spreads over a vast area quickly. And again, the process restarts: cut back, make compost, make cuttings, plant.

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My mind goes to a couple of questions: How did we end up moving away from this way of seeing nature? How did we end up viewing nature as giving infinitely, without putting back infinitely as well?

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The compost feeds the established flowers/plants as well. But this groundcover in some sense creates its own compost. All the old leaves and flowers fall to the ground where I cannot get to, and it turns into its own compost.

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Sometimes I think back: All of these flowers, the vast areas that I have covered with this plant, stems from one single 5-10 cm cutting I took 5 years ago. If I did not see that plant, bend down, and take the cutting (or if the cutting did not survive) would I have seen nature in this way? Would I have started gardening in the way I do now?

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Infinite growth. This plant provides ample resources for itself, it is drought tolerant and grows well in poor soil. It grows very well overall, and I need to cut it back every week or two. It provides with its own "overgrowth" ample resources for me to make new plants, and so the cycle continues. How far can you go with this "infinite growth"? Will nature stop me, by someday killing all these plants for some odd reason? The idea of infinite growth keeps on filling my mind when I look at the countless flowers that spring up, seemingly from nowhere, in the spring.

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Infinite growth is indeed a myth, but for the time being, we can strive to put infinitely back as well. Composting and giving back to the ground from which these plants grow, taking and giving, giving and taking.

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How great and amazing is nature by providing these flowers for the bees to pollinate, and to feed all the insects that get attracted to these flowers. I strive, some days, to plant more flowers for these insects. It is amazing that some insects seemingly come from nowhere when these flowers open up.

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If you have read it thus far, thank you so much for your time reading my musings. How amazing is nature not in providing with all the flowers, and the only thing I did was making cuttings and compost in which these cuttings could grow.

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If you have the time, and if you want, please see 2-minute video of these flowers and plants in my garden. They seem to go on infinitely. At the end, you can see a new plant I planted. Be safe, and open your eyes to how amazing nature is.

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