Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Joy of Passalong Plants

I once read a book by Elizabeth Lawrence in which she lauds the virtues of passalong plants, those lovely surprises that come to you from friends, neighbors, family...

Last year we enjoyed lenten roses, and this year it's autumn crocus from Cousin Kathy

and montauk daisies from friends Kathleen and Byron.

Both of these are brightening up the deck this October.

The crocus is one of those pop-up plants that I tend to forget about until one day they put on their show. I'm more familiar with the ones that bloom in early spring, so it will be fun to become better acquainted with its fall-blooming relative.

Montauk daisies, I've learned, are pretty darned hardy little plants that should stand up to our challenging climate, where summer can be sweltering and fall and spring can bring in a battering nor'easter, and then there is winter with an odd frost every now and then. This plant, I've heard, bushes out, and I'm thinking it will make the perfect filler between the gardenias, which only bloom in late May, early June. Montauk daisies, I believe, will give us blooms from fall to the first freeze.

The leaves look almost like those of a succulent, and true to that resemblance, it apparently has a good reputation for surviving drought.

There's a passalong plant I've known since I was born. My grandmother used to send me a little tissue-wrapped group of seeds along with her letters, and I always wondered why she bothered, since back then I was more interested in surfing, boys, skateboarding, boys... Then when I hit around thirty, so did the gardening bug, and I could not get enough info about flowers, herbs, etc., and I remembered all those seed packets she used to send me, which I never planted. In a way, you could say those plants still took root in me. Here is the plant whose seeds she used to send me.

I have found that this southern coastal area really does not make a good home for most sweetpeas because it's too hot here. But this little guy is from my grandmother's plant that was blooming here, oh, way back, possibly as early as the 1930s. I never thought to wonder where she got the first sweetpea until I was taking a byroad near the Blue Ridge Parkway, and lo and behold, guess what was blooming along the roadsides in the North Carolina mountains. My grandparents used to live in Winston-Salem, and it could be during a jaunt into the mountains, Mom-mom saw these flowers and collected a few of the seed pods.

This sweetpea does not have any fragrance. Nevertheless, it's one of my favorite plants because of its connection to my grandmother and the fact that it has definitely withstood the test of time.