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April 14, 2014

Extension Update: ‘Pass-along’ and heritage plants are a tradition in southern gardens

Live Oak —

By Carolyn Saft

UF IFAS Extension Environmental Horticulture Agent II

Some of my favorite plants are those that have been given to me by family and friends.  Each plant brings fond memories of the person who gave it to me.  My yard is an eclectic collection of plants that existed of when I bought the house, plants that I brought with me from South Florida and plants that my North Florida gardening friends have shared with me.  I have an orchid that was divided by my grandfather and a piece was given to me before he passed away in 1978.  Every time I see it bloom, it brings a smile to me as I remember all the fun times I spent with him.  I also have a begonia whose cultivar name is ‘Marmaduke’ that was given to me by a friend in the West Palm Beach Begonia Society who knows how much I like dogs.  In addition, I have an old climbing rose that came from a plant in the yard I played in as a child.  It is a wonderful feeling to work in a garden and know that you are tending some of the same plants as your grandfather, friend or someone from generations ago.

My yard is like many southern yards which are usually a blend of many cultures such as Native American, Spanish, French, African American, English and German. Before plant nurseries were as prevalent as they are today, people brought plants from their native countries, grew them and then shared them with others.  Rose cuttings were transported in potatoes, and seeds were stored wherever room was found, then passed along or moved with the family.  Each plant holds a story of where it came from and the working hands that grew it, whether you trade with your next door neighbor or attend an organized plant swap.  An interesting book, The Southern Heirloom Garden by William C. Welch and Greg Grant, gives a detailed account of the story of our gardening heritage. Just remember, according to Southern tradition you should never thank anyone for a "pass-along" plant or it will not live and grow.

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