Sunday, March 9, 2008

Plants with a Past

Driving to work the other day, I noticed something seemed out of place in a utility easement off to my right. Days passed before I had a reason to drive that way again; but knowing where to look, this time I could clearly see the green crowns of German iris plants scattered in profusion throughout the trenched and packed down right of way.

The New Digs
Yesterday, my husband and I went back and brought a few of them home to a pampered existence of amended soil, mulched surfaces, and regular watering. After surviving for over 50 years in neglect, they'll probably die from the shock. But it made me unbelievably happy to have this connection to the past scattered about my garden. These irises predictably bloom white or blue, but I don't really care which. They're in my garden to provide a feeling more than a flower.

That spot of town has been a cow pasture for as long as most people can recall, but the railroad used to run along there. The only memory of that now is the name of the street - "Railroad" - and a largely neglected historical sign along a park path. However, in the mid-1890's, our little town had a population of 250. The arrival of that railroad doubled the population. Though the railroad, too, is long gone, back then many of the town's homes were situated close to the commerce along the tracks. No telling what humble home was brightened by my plants' ancestors. And no telling how long they've survived there without any help from anyone.

"Peter's" abutilon (from Barton Sprgs. Nursery)

Source often determines what I will commonly call the plants I've started from cuttings - even when I know their botanical names. In my garden you'll find "Jeri's Llano Pink" (an unidentified antique rose from my friend Jeri's home on the Llano River), "Colleen's Climber" (found and shared by my friend Colleen Belk and later officially named for her), "Doug's Peach Iris" from my friend Doug's unbelievable cottage garden in Austin, "Lucinda's Hoja Santa" (started from an offshoot of my long time friend Lucinda's mother plant), and others.

Most of my shrimp plants were started from cuttings from the extension office demo garden. When I'm admiring the startling blue blooms on the Mexican salvia, I'm thinking of the first time I ever enjoyed the contrast of that color against its lime green foliage at Ila's house, then went home with precious cuttings wrapped in damp paper towel. Even lambs ears hold a memory for me of the day I first felt their soft leaves in the early 1970's and went home with a piece of the plant from Madalene Hill's herb garden in East Texas. It or its descendants have been in every single garden I've had since.

"Ila's" Mexican salvia

Many of our local nurseries propagate plants that become known by the gardener who first shared them or where they were originally found: "Marilyn's Choice" abutilon, "Peter's" abutilon, "schoolhouse" lily, the hugely successful "Martha Gonzales" rose, and the more recent "Peggy Martin" rose.

Schoolhouse (or Oxblood) Lily

When I walk through my yard, seeing these plants makes me feel connected to others, whether to dear friends who sent me home with cuttings, other gardeners with a plant I've admired and begged a piece of, or to unknown settlers who put a few irises on either side of a door to brighten the path. Let me know if there are "pass along plants" in your garden.

"Lucinda's" hoja santa


Kylee said...

This is a great post about passalong plants! These are the plants that are taking up residence in our hearts, aren't they?

Pam/Digging said...

Oh yes. Irises from Annie in Austin. Agaves and daisies and oxblood lilies from MSS at Zanthan Gardens. More irises from my mom in Tulsa. Salvia from my husband's grandmother. More irises and Salvia guaranitica from another Austin friend. I'm sure I'm forgetting some, but it's wonderful to have plants that remind you of someone, isn't it?

vbdb said...

Well said, you guys... they are truly planted in our hearts.

Annie in Austin said...

Nice plant rescue, VBDB! Is that Lucinda Hutson's Rootbeer plant? You have some wonderful plants to remind you of wonderful people and who knows what will come your way in future?

Last Spring May Dreams Carol assigned the Felder Rushing book "Passalong Plants" for the book club and Felder himself came to the Zilker garden fest. I wrote a couple of Passalong posts at that time, but still need to post about the wonderful plants from Austin gardeners like Pam's daylily and MSS/Zanthan's oxblood lilies.

Were you able to capture any of this wonderful rain?

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

vbdb said...

I'm delighted to have the rainfall and disappointed the guttering isn't yet installed to let me to divert it to the tank. Hopefully, all will be completed before Spring Fling. Hmmm, what kind of irises do you grow (she says thoughtfully, already trying to figure what she can trade for a "passalong" ...)?

Annie in Austin said...

VBDB, do you think the iris in this March 2007 post looks like your 'Doug's Peach'? I also have some of an old, early-blooming passalong white iris and a later blooming fragrant purple iris. None are fancy but so far are pretty darned dependable as passalongs.

Pam gave me some 'Amethyst Flame' but it's not established enough to divide yet.


vbdb said...

Annie - the peach iris in your Mar 2007 post is stunning, and not like any I've seen before. My "Doug's Peach" is darker, more solidly colored, and without that wonderful patch of accent color. Doug would know for sure, but it may be "Beverly Sills".

Vanillalotus said...

Beautiful plants! I too have some pass along. I got some plants from an older women when I was just starting my plant collection on my balcony. She gave me anything I wanted. Most of them survived but a few did not like the conditions I had to give. I've researched the plants I got and have found the names to most of them. Even those whose names I don't know I love them tons.

vbdb said...

Vanillalotus - thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Went to your blog and admired the design. I'm really enjoying the company and inspiration found in this community.

vbdb said...

Vanillalotus - thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Went to your blog and admired the design. I'm really enjoying the company and inspiration found in this community.

Diana said...

You passalongs are lovely and it's so nice to have a connection through plants. Good luck with your newly-adopted irises -- I'm sure they will think they are at the Garden-Ritz in your garden! I have a few passalongs, as well, my favorite being one I passed along to myself! Lilies I divided and dug up from my previous house so I wouldn't lose them forever, and they're coming up now!

Mary Beth said...

Love hearing the history of your plants - right now I'm enjoying my Laurie Smith Jatropha and Sue Smith Wild Olive trees. Neither Laurie or Sue are with us any longer and I feel their presence a bit when I stop to admire the plants they propogated for me!

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