Recently, while reading posts offered by members of a reflective blog writing group to which I belong, there were a couple that caught my eye. The authors, two separate people, wrote on the memories that specific plants evoke for them. I understood completely! Plants are powerful!
My grandma always had african violets. They seemed to thrive under her care, having many blooms in purple, white, and even pink. My mom and I eventually received slips of the plants or even whole plants to nurture on our own. Until recently, I usually had an african violet I was caring for in my own home. When we explored cuttings in garden club, I let the children take a leaf cutting from my plants to root in a glass of water at their own home. African violets root easily and it was a great lesson in asexual plant reproduction, but left me without a violet.
Philodendron’s are also verdant hardy plants of which I have vibrant memories. I had one in my 1970’s lemon yellow bedroom hanging from a handmade macrame’ plant hanger. It was aptly named, Philly. It grew very long and survived on benign neglect. My sister-in-law had a similar Philodendron that was so long it traversed the stair well in her condo, easily connecting the bedroom ledge with livingroom floor.
My love for plants might go back to my 6th grade science fair, in which I experimented with cactus seeds and learned all about these plants that have adapted to live in arid environments. I have always wanted to visit the desert, especially when it was in bloom, but thus far, have not made the trip. I have, however, collected photographs of Prickly Pear cacti wherever I have found them growing – in the United States and abroad. Cacti and succulents ended up being another popular garden club unit, of which I ended up added to a collection of plants for my home, rather than cutting it away as I did with the African Violets.
For many, Poinsettias conjure up images of the winter holidays. This plant made the largest impression on me when we visited Longwood Gardens in December in the early 1990’s. It was filled with poinsettias, traditionally red colored ones, forming pathways, and even pseudo-trees in swaths of holiday color. Poinsettias have a long history, having come to the United States from Mexico by a long ago ambassador, Joel Poinsett. The colorful leaves are not the flowers on this plant, a fact that still goes unnoted by some. Almost every year in garden club, I had the students learn about the history of the poinsettia and some accompanying plant lore and legends. It was one of my favorite units. This plant has come to symbolize the welcoming of the holiday season in our home. My husband usually arrives home with two large potted poinsettias from Sam’s Club, just around Thanksgiving time. They had a brightness to our house that is so needed once the long winter days set in.
Probably no plant symbolizes our family more than our fruit trees. We have had a home fruit orchard in Wisconsin in two different yards, cumulatively for almost twenty years. Each has grown a variety of apples and cherries. Our current orchard is also home to pears, blueberries, and plums. We added a hardy peach called “Reliant” to the rows this spring, along with two apricots. The fruit trees provide year round beauty and bountiful harvests. However, they also need year round care. Our whole family is involved in taking care of these trees. Maybe it is for this reason that I really cannot imagine having a yard without them.
Plants are powerful. For me, strong memories are attached to these living things that provide beauty and sustenance, for the mind as well as the body.