Mary, Mary, quite contrary how does your gardenia grow? How should I put this? Not well. I bought several gardenia bushes, planted them in my back yard, and each subsequently died. I live in Northwest Arkansas and the winter weather is too cold for gardenias to survive outside. It took some time, and several dead bushes for this realization to take hold. Then, three years ago I bought a gardenia bush and planted it in a container. It didn’t bloom. The gardenia, also called Cape jasmine, is a warm weather loving, evergreen shrub. It grows well in the southeast. With glossy green leaves and a fragrant scent from the white flowers, a great place to plant it is by your deck or anywhere you spend a lot of time. It needs full sun to light shade and grows best in acidic soil, between 5.0 and 6.0 pH. Some gardeners have found that using Epsom salt to amend the soil helps bloom production. The salt increases the magnesium level. Tomato and rose plants can also benefit from this increased alkaline component. For premium growth, the gardenia needs an inch of water a week and should be planted in rich well-drained soil. I neglected to follow any of this helpful information. Finally, after three years of moving my beloved bush outside for the spring and summer then back inside for the winter, it bloomed one precious, glorious bloom. The smell was exquisite. The color glowed pure white. When the bud first formed, the tips of each petal sported a thin lime-green line which eventually disappeared. The flower, when the petals were fully extended, was three inches in diameter. It was a beauty. Why, you ask, am I so enamored over a single bloom? Anticipation…maybe. It took three years. I might have tossed the non-producing, space-hogging plant out after two years of disappointment and used the container for something else, but it was worth the wait. Is that how God sees us? Each one of His children, a precious, fragile flower, that when in full bloom produces a magnificent fragrance? Are we worth the wait? God thought we were worth the life of His Son. He allowed Jesus to die on the cross to bear the brunt of our sins. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16, NIV) We have the soil in which to grow even if it’s not the perfect pH. We may not receive the ideal amount of water or the optimal amount of sun, but we have the Son to help us with our imperfect conditions. And He can help us bloom no matter our circumstances. We can be a beautiful fragrance to the world. You are equal to the task. Bloom and be fragrant.