Cultivating a Culture of Gardening™

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Legacy Plants

Providing a Legacy That Grows

What is the message in a gift?
Is the statement really true in gift giving that, “It’s the thought that counts”? One of the memorable mistakes I made as a teenager was recommending to my good friend that he give his girlfriend a plant for Christmas. “She’ll love that you gave her something that symbolizes your growing love and blooming relationship,” I encouraged. We went and picked out a beautiful plant in a lovely container and he eagerly presented it to her.

She cried. Not with joy.

This experience began my growing realization that not everyone has a passion for plants. Even more enlightening was the knowledge that the giver’s message of love or of caring or of friendship in a horticultural gift is better understood as the seasons pass. A gift basket of a hundred daffodil bulbs may have seemed an odd gift for my mourning friend who had just lost her sister to cancer. The hundreds of blossoms, however, that woke up the spring was a message of hope and a reminder that she is not forgotten. She has told me that as the years have gone by and the busyness of life takes back over, the growing clumps of spring blossoms help to refresh the memories of her sweet sister.

Legacy plants

Do you have memories of walking into your grandmother’s house and breathing in the scent of peonies floating in bowls? Did irises line the fence of your great uncle’s farm? Did your best friend’s mom have daylilies that greeted you a hundreds of times? Legacy plants can come in the form of these old favorites that easily divide and pass on the memories of favorite places or people. The peonies that are divided this year will be around for your grandchildren. Here are few of my favorite pass-along legacy plants and dividing instructions:

Peonies: Best varieties for Tennessee – “Festiva Maxima” and “Kansas”. Transplant in the fall and don’t plant too deeply. Peonies take about 2 years to recover from transplanting. Keep them protected from summer afternoon sun.
Iris: Divide rhizomes in July or August and plant them shallow leaving half exposed to the sun. This is Tennessee’s official state flower!
Daylily: Replant these tough, drought tolerant perennial anytime from spring until fall. The work horse of repeat bloomer are the “Stella de Oro” and “Happy Returns” but some of my other favorites are “Little Business”, “Mini Pearl”, “Little Grapette”, or “Strawberry Candy”.

You can find iris, peonies, and daylilies at Iris City Gardens in Primm Springs, Tennesse - and most of your local nurseries.

Daffodils: Plant these now until the end of December. My favorite place to buy daffodils is Some bulbs that work well in this area are “Carlton”, “Mt. Hood”, “King Alfred”, “Thalia”, “Tete-a-tete”, and “Campernelle”. Most of your local nurseries will carry some or all of these varieties.

Another type of legacy plant is a tree that becomes a part of your landscape for generations to come. I once heard a Greek proverb that said, “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” With the arrival of my new grandson, I’ve thought often of the type of tree I want to plant to honor his arrival – one that he can know every time he comes to visit that this is his tree growing in our yard and can maybe even climb someday. Right now the top five choices on my list of legacy trees are:

Red Oaks – “ Quercus shumardii” or choose a Quercus robur “Fastigiata” if narrow space is an issue.
Magnolia – “Bracken’s Brown Beauty”, “Little Gem”, or “Southern Charm” (sometimes known as Teddy Bear Magnolia)
Allee Elm – you can see these as they line the entrance to the Westhaven community in Franklin, Tennessee.
Dogwood – “Indian Princess” or “Constellation” are good choices, and always check with dogwood guru Don Shadow’s website to see what he is recommending:
Ginkgo biloba – ‘Autumn Gold’ and only buy a male species of any ginkgo; the females produce a really stinky fruit.

Think about giving a legacy this holiday season that will grow. You will not just be sharing a plant, but passing on a love for the creation around us that shapes and structures our memories. “Gardening is not some sort of game by which one proves his superiority over others, nor is it a marketplace for the display of elegant things that others cannot afford. It is, on the contrary, a growing work of creation, endless in its changing elements. It is not a monument or an achievement, but a sort of traveling, a kind of pilgrimage you might say, often a bit grubby and sweaty though true pilgrims do not mind that. A garden is not a picture, but a language, which is of course the major art of life.” Henry Mitchell in The Essential Earthman
May your “language” this season be a legacy to those you love


At October 25, 2009 at 8:54 PM , Blogger janie said...

Lovely post, and so true. I remember helping my Mother plant crepe myrtles after Daddy died. I think I will always associate crepe myrtles with the memory of my Mother.

At October 25, 2009 at 9:44 PM , Blogger Sue said...

My mom's parents didn't garden, but I remember violets growing in their back yard. My dad's parents gardened, and the only flower I remember is iris. I grow both, but have to keep the violets in check.

I love your photos!

At October 25, 2009 at 11:00 PM , Blogger NellJean said...

I wondered how I'd missed you on Blotanical, then saw that you are a new member. You have messages on 'Your Plot' there.

I can relate to everything I've read so far on your blog, except for snow on camellias. It never snows here. I'll be planting 'Tahiti' and 'Ice Follies' as soon as real cool arrives here.

Nell Jean -- Seedscatterer


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