This is a repost from 2009 but when the GDRT decided on the idea of Memory and Plants I knew immediately that I wanted to revive this post….it is one of my favorites and as I re-read it today (3 years after I originally wrote it!) it still rings so true….that is the thing about memories (and plants)….they don’t change so much.
I started my annual Christmas cookie baking extravaganza yesterday — it will continue through the weekend. Why do I do this?….purely for sentimental reasons. I bake because my grandmas baked, because I love it and because giving away cookies is joyful. Thinking about grandmas, of which I am blessed to still have one of, my mind immediately wanders to thinking of plants. My mother’s mother was a huge gardener too. Her ranch in Montana is where I learned to love nature and gardens and she continues to be huge influence. Thoughts of her, as I rolled snickerdoodles in cinnamon sugar yesterday, left me making a mental list of plants that I just love, purely for sentimental reasons.
I make no claims to recommend these plants to my clients per se, it’s just that a homey garden, for me, will have each of them. Kind of like a house isn’t a home unless it is filled with family pictures, furniture hand me downs and favorite things, my garden doesn’t feel homey without these.
1. Red Peony, 2. Mexican Marigolds, 3. Nettles and Hazel Leaf, Lithprint, 4. Down among the Horsetails, 5. Hollyhock shed, 6. Margaritas, 7. Orange Oriental Poppy, 8. Weeping Willow
Burgundy red peonies….because I was always at my grandmas house in the summer when these were blooming…she had a huge hedge of them, when she died I took some for my own garden at the time and swore that I would never have a garden with out some of them. But my current garden is without…and I have resolved to change that…I just need to make my way back to central Montana to dig some up. Easier said than done.
The smell of marigold greens is the best scent in the garden, don’t you think? Marigolds aren’t a favorite flower, but when I was about 8, my sister and I de-headed and spread millions of marigold seeds through my mother’s purple irises. She cursed us and made us weed them all out in the spring. (or at least attempt to) — I can’t say I fully understood the amazing-ness of seeds until that day….and I still find seedlings exciting…even if it does mean lots of weeding.
Nettle and Horsetail grass grew wild on my grandmas ranch. Long walks always involved pulling apart pieces of grass, and I will never forget my first incorrect plant identification…when I excitedly thought that the nettle was mint, and my cousins and I rubbed it all over our faces trying to get it to smell….nice.
Hollyhocks that my mother planted were always rusty and never as nice at this picture, but they were double flowered and made great little girl dolls for dirt fort houses. My mother also grew beautiful oriental poppies and white daisies together…I loved them so much they inspired my wedding flowers and colors.
And finally – weeping willows – one grew on the banks of Spring Creek which runs through my grandmas ranch, our swimming hole was beneath it, and also one grew in the center of my childhood backyard. The one in my backyard can actually choke me up if I take a drive by that old house. It is huge and beautiful, but it was a whip when we planted it. I think it was a freebie giveaway tree from a grand opening of a K-mart. After about 5 years, It had grow significantly but it appeared to be diseased – my dad insisted that the only solution to whatever ailed it was to cut it down and get rid of it. I couldn’t bear the thought, and if not for my intervention (I was about 11) it wouldn’t stand today as one of the prettiest trees in the neighborhood. I begged, I cried and I basically laid down in the front of the thing – I was an original tree hugger – we figured a way to cure the tree and it lives on.
Listing these in my head, I was surprised to realize that I don’t really have any of these plants in my own garden. So I have my first resolution for 2010 – to change that. I only have the shasta daisies and oriental poppies, but my evil woodchuck friend ate them. I will have to take some hard action, but it’s a good and accomplishable resolution I think.
Update 2020: I have burgundy peonies (but not from my Grandma’s ranch). Rather, they are transplanted from a local historical garden whose story is at the root of the novel that I will someday finish. (more on that here). I am amazed at how tough they are – the peonies I transplants (as well as those that at the ranch) all must have been planted more than 50 years ago… and they live….and survive transplanting. Amazing.
I also have a weeping willow. It too has had its struggles, (it got whacked in a storm and lost its main stem). But, I could not let it go, and have pruned a new leader stem into existence and it continues to thrive (though it has a little more ‘character’ now).
I’ve tried to establish hollyhocks in my current garden, but the woodchuck seems to love them as much as I do.
And I have daisies for days, they go with everything, so I plant them with everything. Everything except for Poppies. I can get the little California poppies to grow from seed in my garden, but the big oriental ones don’t love my land. I think they may have a penchant for the sandy basic soil that mom mom had in our Colorado garden. Here I have heavy acidic soils… I’ll keep trying though.
I am curious, what are some of your sentimental favorites?
Join my GDRT colleagues for their thoughts on Memory and Plants.
Andrew Keys : Garden Smackdown : Boston, MA
Deborah Silver : Dirt Simple : Detroit, MI
Genevieve Schmidt : North Coast Gardening : Arcata, CA
Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO
Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK
Mary Gallagher Gray : Black Walnut Dispatch : Washington, D.C.
Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In The Garden : Los Altos, CA
Susan Cohan : Miss Rumphius’ Rules : Chatham, NJ
Susan Morrison : Blue Planet Garden Blog : East Bay, CA