Nancy Roman

Bean Brain

Late in the planting season, after the rest of the garden was in, my husband regretted that he had not planted any beans.

The raised beds were all full, but we had some whiskey barrels that we usually filled with herbs and flowers. We never planted beans in barrels before, but it was worth a try. So hubby bought a few packets of bean seeds and put them tenderly in the barrels. Literally, we let nature takes its course.

And sure enough, the beans started to grow.

The yellow beans got thick and bushy right away, but the green beans seemed to languish. They came up, but they were thin and sad.

It occurred to my husband that perhaps he had not planted bush beans, but pole beans.

So he built a little impromptu trellis, saying sweetly to the beans, “Here you go. Give this a try.”

And sure enough, the beans started to grow.

It was absolutely amazing the way they climbed that trellis.

In four days, the beans looked like this:


I was very impressed at the willpower of those little bean seeds to twist and hang on and climb as fast as they could.

And the green beans grew thick and happy and caught up with their yellow counterparts.

Then an even more amazing thing happened.

When the beans reached the top of the trellis, they didn’t stop.

But because they were in a pot, there was nowhere for the little buggers (I use that term endearingly… they had no bugs) to go.

Except one place.

About two feet away was a single basket of coleus, hanging from a shepherd’s hook in the lawn.

The only, only thing near the beans.

And the beans sent out a shoot.

The plant did not send out a bunch of shoots, trying randomly to hit something. It didn’t reach to the South to the sun.


It went North. It sent out one  – and only one –  tendril aimed directly at the coleus.

It hovered in mid-air for several days.

I didn’t encourage the little bugger,  I didn’t say “You’re getting warm” or “Keep up the good work” or “One more foot” or anything.

But it grew and grew, balancing in the air, and then:


One morning the little curly filament had latched onto the edge of the basket.

And it climbed the basket chain. And the flowers came, and then the beans.


The beans with their annex on the coleus. (And yes, that’s my little dog strolling through the background.)


I have a close friend who can’t stand the overused word, “Awesome.”

But this bean plant is AWESOME.

How did it KNOW?

It has no eyes, no sense of smell, no compass.

But it grew to the one and only support nearby.

My bean has a brain.

And this makes me wonder.

Wonder why a bean can reach its goal, when a human being cannot.

I’ve given it a lot of thought over the past two weeks, and I think I have come up with the answer.


The bean had only one goal.

It wasn’t thinking about work, money, tweets, politics, dinner, shopping, dusting, pets, television, retirement, taxes, losing weight, solitaire, children, sex, shoes, weather, writing, hairstyles, bosses, healthcare, laundry, cars, facebook, parents, school, oil prices, social security, manicures, snacks, flossing, yoga, traffic, makeup, lawncare, or the afterlife.


(meaning: me.)


  1. Yes, those beans are amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love it! A climbing vine is a determined thing!


  3. Isn’t that incredible? Those tendrils have brains or radar or something supernatural. I’ve seen it in my own garden, but not the hanging-in-midair tendril. I wish you had a picture of that!


    • I wish I took a photo of that too… I just don’t get how it KNEW!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have no idea. So much is hidden from us mere humans.


  4. Good advice. I have one project going currently at work, when I normally have half a dozen. I need to focus cause that one project is not getting done!


    • I have believed for a long time that multi-tasking is a complete fallacy. You need to pay attention to just one thing at a time.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m actually the exact opposite. If I have a bunch of things to do, they all get done by deadline. Give me one task and it will take me a lifetime!


        • i like to be able to concentrate, but I do know that that busier I am, the more I get done. Because I don’t have time to waste.

          Liked by 2 people

  5. Pam

    Wow! That really is awesome! Love your yard, trees, and cute little dog, too.

    How did the bean plant know that there was a basket of coleus nearby to cling to? Pole beans don’t have eyes or ears. The coleus, being on the north, could not have cast a telling shadow on the bean plant. So how did it know? Must be a plant survival instinct or something, but it seems magical.

    I have a raised garden bed, and I wanted one because I thought I could keep the bermuda grass out of it. Ha. Bermuda likes to creep, and it creeps right over edging and mulch. Somehow it managed to get into my raised bed without creeping up the side of the cinder blocks, and I’ve had to pull bermuda out all summer. But how did it get up there? From growing up under the blocks through 6 inches of dirt? Don’t know, but bermuda is the worst weed ever in a garden. It’s tough, quick growing, and aggressive especially in hot weather. The only thing it doesn’t like is shade, but then neither do vegetables. Anyway, it seems like bermuda has a special survival thing going for it, too.

    Thanks for sharing your pole bean story!


  6. Pam

    I love gardening because it lets me focus, forgetting about all those human issues you listed that clutter the mind. A little sun on my back, breeze blowing in my face, and birds singing while I CONCENTRATE on my planting project makes me a happy gal. 🙂


    • I feel that way about weeding. I just sit on the ground, feel the sun on my shoulders, and do that mindless task. It calms me.


  7. I don’t think I’ve ever loved a bean plant more!! This is truly awesome. I just read something yesterday about how NASA didn’t try to just land on the moon – they set out to simply HIT the moon, and eventually get to a point where they could ‘land’ something. (That sounded more profound in my head.)


    • That’s sort of like golf. I took golf lessons once, and the instructor said that when you are on the green, but far from the hole, don’t think about getting the ball in the hole. Imagine tire around the hole, and try to get the ball within the tire. If you are within the tire, you will sink the next putt.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow! The little bean that COULD!


  9. Huh. And to think, when we were kids, we thought “bean brain” was an insult. Who knew?


  10. Ray G

    Sorry to be late to this entry, since we are traveling. Actually, plants (some species) do have a sense of something we might call “smell”. They can detect the approach of something endangering others of their nearby species and sometimes take defensive actions. Researchers have isolated test individuals from common media such as water and soil, and still they get the “drift”. So it isn’t something which is transmitted by anything other than air. Perhaps the beans use something similar to detect a nearby plant to reach out to and climb.


  11. It is awesome! (and plants do have a sense of humor…and style)


  12. Sally Habib

    Completely totally awesome sauce ! Such a great
    story and life lesson …


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