Thursday, May 31, 2007

Passalong Plants

I know that house. It sits on top of a small but steep hill. A fence separates the slope from the hilltop, and hot pink creeping phlox covers the entire yard. This picture, this memory, is the picture that resides in my mind's eye when I hear the word "creeping phlox." And it must be the picture in Felder's mind's eye as well. That house on the hill in Oxford, Mississippi brings a smile to the face of all who pass it. The creeping phlox all in bloom, it seems to yell "Smile, because spring is here!" It is a sight one isn't likely to forget.

Passalong plants are like that. More than any other plants, passalongs are often tied to a memory, feeling, or event. In Passalong Plants Felder Rushing and Steve Bender offer their readers a collection of not only valuable plant information, but also of the many stories and memories these plants help us recall and share again.

Mimosa must be one of the messiest trees on Earth, but I still love it. I inherited one in my front yard on the north side of the house in between my house and the neighbors. It helps provide a punch of height and color and shade for a bed on that side of the house. Growing up we didn't have a mimosa, but the neighbors did. The fan-like foliage, pompom-like flowers, and study seedpods provided plenty of ammunition to allow our imaginations to run wild. I distinctly remember a game of "Cleopatra" where one chosen girl was the Queen of the Nile and others fanned the Queen with mimosa branches or did her make-up with mimosa pompoms. These days I love the mimosa for the sweet scent it provides as I enjoy a evening glass of wine or tea on the front porch.

My Grandma Cain introduced me to cosmos and zinnias. We'd sow the seeds directly in the ground of her cutting garden after the last frost date had passed. Also in her cutting garden were sunflowers, bachelor's buttons, a couple rose-of-Sharon shrubs, and gladioli. All summer Grandma would have the most beautiful arrangements. Table-top bouquets were filled with these passalongs. In college when I rented my first house, I decided to till a bit of the soil and plant some sunflowers, zinnias, and cosmos from seeds she had given me. Each year since then, when the temperatures go warmer, I long for the stems of zinnias and cosmos to fill my surroundings with color.

Gardeners love to share stories and swap plants. When we find a plant the fills a spot just right or gives off a heavenly scent or thrives in less-than-ideal conditions, we want to share it. When we have a plant whose blooms remind us of spring or special events such as our wedding or graduation, we want to share it. We want to share our best memories with our family, friends, and neighbors, and what better way to do that than with a living, growing passalong plant?


Carol said...

Thanks for the wonderful post on passalong plants and for participating in the Garden Bloggers' Book Club! How fun that a mimosa tree always reminds you of being a kid again, playing make-believe games. The mimosa is "marginally hardy" here so there aren't that many of them around, but I remember my Dad trying a few times to grow one anyway, one that he got as a passalong from my grandparents!

Leah Maria said...

There is definitely something about the mimosa that brings back those childhood memories. Behind my childhood best friend’s house was a field that had tons of mimosas. We would spend hours out there thinking of all kinds of games to play with the trees.

Bonnie said...

Great post. I was just in Jackson and enjoyed the Mimosa tree in full bloom at Mynelle Garden. It was breathtaking. And cascaded over the pond there so reflected beautifully in the water.