I was walking the garden again this morning – noticing where the critters are still eating my hostas (they really only like the small all green hostas – an interesting story I am sure – why only the green ones?) but that was not really what I was thinking about as I checked on which plants need water and which plants liked their new locations. It was the word history that had my attention.
History of the plants – the more global history and the personal history:
- How do these plants end up in our gardens?
- Why are tulips just a big deal?
- Why do I have these specific plants?
Each plant has its own story to tell. Most plants have a person or a group of people who found the plants to be beautiful or amazing in some way. They then began to share their love more widely. Some plants have intrigue and mystery behind them, like the story of tulips. Others have a history that comes right out of a lab or greenhouse where horticulturalists were having a grand time cross breeding to get rid of a weakness in the plant or to create a larger flower or a taller plant or a smaller plant. Some plants have a story tied to a countries history – war, financial gain and leaders of countries. (For more information see: the book All the Presidents Gardens, a book called Tulip, check out the history of Thomas Jefferson’s garden or even try reading the side boxes in garden magazines.)
There is also the personal history of plants in a garden. I began my deep garden dive about 7 or 8 years ago. The thought was to bring into my yard many of the plants I grew up with, the plants that were important to my aging mother. Over time I knew she would not ever make into my garden, her health would not allow for that kind of travel but pictures worked and it was a place for a positive focus as my Mother continued to decline with Parkinson’s.
Mother is now gone and the garden has memories of her here and there but other histories are starting to show up. The stories of why this plant in this garden.
I have Balloon Flowers (Platycodon grandiflorus) taking over the front garden – these are plants my mother grew in her garden and I was fascinated by the little balloon that popped open into a beautiful little flower.
There is a small peony that has yet to bloom (this is year 2) that came from a co-working. A friend who help me keep my sanity in the last years of teaching in a rough neighborhood and a rough internal political scene.
There are Delphiniums that came from the neighbor who is a master gardener. They have been blooming for weeks now. This was a tiny left over plant he didn’t want to throw away. It is now shoulder high and a wonder to look at.
There is the wild Jack in the Pulpit that now grows knee high in three places in my yard. It was transplanted from a dear friends property in Wisconsin about 15 years ago. We were gathering a few wild flowers to add to our gardens here in town. The Jack in the Pulpit loves the location and with the help of birds finds a new place to grow every few years.
At this same time my friend and I moved May Apples which bloom in the spring and they too have found a good home and have spread. They are at the point of my needing to move a few on to another garden just so they don’t take over. These plants bring stories of climbing through overgrown woods, dealing with Poison Ivy or ticks or crazy dogs and nights by a spring fire.
The hostas, all different colors and sizes, have come from another master gardener up the block. She redid her yard years ago and I gathered their discarded plants to fill in holes around my yard. Those hosta plants have been divided many times and are doing well. (All except my small green hostas, darn rabbits!).
There are the Husker Red (Penstemon digitalis) which was grown at the family farm and my mother’s house. They reminded me of the farmers for some unknown reason. They are now 8 or 9 years old and fading. They need to be moved and refreshed but I love seeing them each spring and early summer.
There is the Blue False Indigo that my sister gave me when I started this garden after an illness. It is now large beautiful and also beginning to spread it’s wings and grow in so many new places.
Some of my garden will hold these memories but it is also changing. I am adding new and interesting plants – some I have purchased, some I am working hard to have the patience to grow from seed and others I have gotten from friends and neighbors. Each plant has two stories to tell. The story on the more global market – its own history and second a more personal story of how it came to be in my garden.
These stories are what give my garden soul. It is what makes it interesting and what makes it important to me even if it is not a show garden. It is all in the story.
Do you remember the stories for your plants? Have you read the history of some of your plants? If you are looking for a quiet task some hot summers day reading about the history of your plants is a fun thing to do.
One last story – these lovely Begonias ( below) were started from a seed pod of some kind last year. They grew and then died never really making much of a splash. I threw the soil in a pot disappointed and this winter used that soil to root a Christmas cactus. Over the months this other plants began to grow. I had no idea what it was but with time I realized the begonias were making a come back. Here they are with their first set of flowers for the season. They are strong, growing like weeds and setting flower buds. Another story of growth and having patiences and making history!