This link about hand-me-down plants got me to thinking about garden treasures. Like an heirloom rose, the article is a little loose and rambling, but thoroughly charming.
Although I don’t have any heirloom plants myself, I love the idea of a garden with living ties to our ancestors. When I lived in Evanston, Ill., I saw the woman across the street digging around one fine morning. Responding to my nosy inquiry, she proudly explained she’d traveled to her parents’ house an hour away to obtain a slip of a rosebush originally planted by her grandmother. Her parents were preparing to retire south and the family didn’t want to lose this bit of plant heritage.
Here in our New Jersey garden, we inherited some elegantly shaped flowerbeds that were probably dug more than fifty years ago, based on what we were told by a woman who had lived in the house as a little girl. Sadly, we haven’t done much with them. Our insurmountable problem is deep, deep shade which only the hostas truly love. Nearly all the direct sun is blocked by an enormous evergreen tree in the yard next door – one of those former Christmas trees planted by some well-meaning family decades ago.
I’m sure it, too, was charming once. It isn’t now. Our poor neighbor tried to get the township to consider cutting it down to use as the municipal Christmas tree, and it was rejected on the grounds of being ugly. It drops ugly pinecones, too (although my kids get paid by my wonderful neighbor for picking them up so we don’t all trip over them).
However, it does give us one gorgeous dividend. The ancient hydrangea that anchors one end of my garden LOVES the pine needles that wash over it with numbing regularity. Each summer we get spectacular deep, nearly violet blooms that by rights ought to be powder blue. (One of my other neighbors has a cutting of this very plant, and powder-blue blossoms are what she gets.)
So the unlovely heirloom pine tree is giving my lovely heirloom hydrangea a beauty boost. It’s a little drama I get to watch each summer in my own backyard, and I’m sure it’ll be part of my daughters’ family memories, too. Along with the @#$! pinecones.