The heirlooms in my garden

A beautiful flower bloomed in my garden yesterday, a stunning red hippeastrum. It was the same flower that my grandmother used to grow in her garden. In fact it is from the same plants, which I transplanted to my own garden when my parents sold her house after she and my grandfather passed away. Gardening was her thing… and hippeastrums were her specialty so it is special to me to see them bloom each year. Perhaps sentimentally, they really bring her back into my life every time they do even though she died more than 15 years ago.

I’ll bet many of you have similar things growing in your garden that have their own special stories… Heirlooms from your life or lives gone by that have been left behind and that, when they come to life bring your memories alive.

Year after year, in the spring, these flowers bloom in my garden, and after 10 years in this house, there is heaps of them, strewn from corner to corner. We take care to pollenate them, catch the seeds as they fall and plant them somewhere else in the garden, every single year. As a child, my grandmother, who was a botanist, took great pride in teaching me how to pollenate these beautiful lilies, carefully dusting the stigma with the dust that stains hands, clothes and anything else it touches, and now I do it with my own children. Hopefully these flowers will be special to them one day.

Over the years of childhood we would experiment with them too. We’d take a thumbful of pollen from a red hippie and combine it with the pollen from a white hippie and remember where we planted it to see what the colour would do the following year. These experiments were terrific fun for me and for my grandma and provide me with the most beautiful memories now.

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It is not the formal meaning of the term but it seems so simple. Perhaps you are like my mother-in-law who has a rose that she got a cutting of a sister-in-law that died too young from cancer. And year after year she prunes it, fertilises it and cares for it. These plants are oh so much more special for the memories they have attached to them.

Every now and then, when I am showing my kids the pollination process, I wonder whether many children still get this type of education? With the advent of computer games will they ever know what the flowers smell like and how to pollenate them outside of a textbook? So today I want to ask you two things:

1) Do you have a plant in your garden that acts as a special heirloom, or memory-creator each time it blooms? – tell us about it today or you could even share a picture.

2) Do you teach your grandchildren and children about it, so it can perpetuate its heirloom status in your family?