Thursday, May 13, 2010

Passalong Plants

One of the many garden books on my shelf is 'Passalong Plants' by Steve Bender and Felder Rushing. The book focuses on old plants that are not commercially propagated, but instead move from garden to garden by way of generosity between fellow gardeners. The sharing of plants among gardeners not only provides a cheap source of plants for the garden, it also provides an outlet for the pieces and divisions we cull from the garden. Many plants benefit from being divided, or need to be kept in check because they've spread out of their intended spot. It's hard for the gardener to just toss these divisions into the compost pile - and goodness knows we can't just keep creating new beds to place the spare plants (been there, done that, trying not to do it again).

Whether old garden favorites or divisions of new cultivars, passalong plants add an extra bit of depth to our gardens, along with a connection to our fellow gardeners.

My Mother's Day post mentioned the plants I was taking from my Mom's garden. The ferns that I first used in an early apartment garden over twenty years. Corydalis lutea that was originally sent to me by an on-line friend 15 years ago. Daylilies I've used in two previous gardens. Divisions of several variety of lamium, perhaps a hosta or two. Shortly after posting that entry one of my cousins commented on facebook, "Many of us have parts from your mom's garden." Received an email from another cousin, "Our yard looks amazing because she allowed us to dig in her yard last year." I thought about those comment and realized they're right. Countless people have pieces of my Mom's garden growing in their own.

I am fortunate to be part of a small group of women who met in the mid-90's on the CompuServe Garden Forum, and have remained in contact since. We've traveled together on informal garden touring trips, shared plant and garden tips both publicly in forums and privately via email. Shared struggles in our gardens and in our lives. One of my favorite memories was a plant swap in a hotel hallway in Charleston, SC. We'd each driven or flown in with plants, seeds and cuttings from our own gardens. An enjoyable couple of hours was spent discussing, swapping, and indulging our obsession with plants. In our case we don't stick to just the old varieties of plants, and admit to being just a tad excited by hot new cultivars. I loved having those plants in my garden, but in the move to this house left them all behind.

Because of this, I was thrilled to receive a box from one of these friends stuffed with plants. Nancy gave me a great start to a shade garden. Several hostas, pulmonaria, a variegated Brunnera, Chelone 'Hot Lips, more and more. So much fun going through the box and determining where I would put what.

To add to the excitement were the plants she'd included from other members of the group's gardens.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of the plants passed from one gardener to another is the connection to each other these plants provide. And the smile they bring on the morning or evening walks through the garden by jolting the memory of friends far and wide.


  1. Your Mom is a lucky lady to have her garden live on through so many others. Liked this post very much.

  2. I started my own garden with a good chunk of passalong plants. Nothing better than exchanging plants with friends, both in real life and those who you never meet beyond the 1s and 0s of the internet.

  3. Native Gardener - thanks so much for the compliment. This is one of my favorite posts so far, and now that you mention it a part of why I like it is that it made me realize just that about my Mom's Garden. It's a garden that has touched many others - not only with plants but inspiration to garden. Hopefully, I can continue the legacy - not just of gardening but inspiring and sharing with others.

    Mr Brown Thunmb - Sorta the best way to start a garden isn't it? Free, tried and true varieties that nearly guarantee success. Then we can get them hooked on gardening and reel them into the obsession bit by bit!

  4. Just saw your comment at Diana's and popped over... wow, you have taken me on a nostalgia trip, Kim! Around 1990 I was glued to the Prodigy garden-centered bulletin boards - and remember the excitement of receiving plants from people like "Denise in Minnesota".

    Unlike you I was unable to get to the in-person meetings at North Hill and in North Carolina -how wonderful that you still meet.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose