Photo by Adobe Stock/SunnyS
Plants for Pollinators
Q: I read the article about growing milkweed to attract and raise monarch butterflies in your Spring 2019 issue. We have a vegetable and separate flower garden with all kinds of butterflies and bees present; I’m a believer in protecting these insects that help us grow food. Do you have a list of nurseries where I could purchase milkweed seeds?
— Judith Pearson
A: We’re excited to hear you’re interested in providing a friendly space for your insect neighbors! Depending on which milkweed plants are native to your area, you can purchase a variety of different milkweed seeds. Some of our favorite seed companies include Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Seed Savers Exchange, and Burpee Seeds, all of which offer beautiful milkweed selections.
— Jessica Mitchell, Heirloom Gardener editor
Making a House a Home
More than 60 years ago, Tarleton State University exercised eminent domain and bought all the houses on our street in Stephenville, Texas. The college paid a fair market price to everyone, but my family had to move. Luckily, a local man was building a small frame house just a few blocks away, near the elementary school. Since I was just going into first grade at the time, the location was perfect for me; I could easily walk or ride my bike to school. Plus, our family of six was accustomed to small spaces; in the past, we had shared a single bathroom, so there were plenty of times we had to hurry so we could all take our baths with hot water and still be on time for school.
Photo by Getty Images/Armastas
My dad, a truck driver for Texas Power & Light, planted some bright-yellow cannas along one side of the new house. Every year, they grew along the side of the house, making it feel warm and well-loved. This was our family home until Dad died. After his death, Mom sold the house and relocated to a smaller apartment. Before she moved out in 1985, I returned home one last time and dug up some of those cannas. I relocated them to my home in Fort Worth, about 60 miles away. Over the years, I’ve shared those cannas with my two sisters, one who moved back to Stephenville after she retired, and one who now lives in the little town of West, Texas. I’ve since moved to Lantana, Texas, over 100 miles from the cannas’ original home. Each year, my sisters and I have a contest to see which of our cannas has the first bloom of the season. Each time they bloom, it feels as if Dad is greeting us and smiling down on us once again. Even when the blooms are gone for the season, they remain a sentimental memory for all of us.
Passing on Purple Lilacs
My parents built a golden-brick house on Rolling Hill Road in Wisconsin’s scenic Kettle Moraine region. My dad landscaped the yard, using stone left by the glaciers for retaining walls. South of the house, two steps led to the family vegetable garden. Adjacent to those steps, my parents planted lilac bushes. By the time I was of school age, the lilac bushes had outgrown me, and, come springtime, they’d burst with clusters of fragrant purple flowers.
Photo by Getty Images/Teodora Lukic
I remember walking to the blooming lilac bushes on a dewy spring morning with my mother, before the yellow school bus arrived. My mother cut several of the sweet-scented heads, wrapped the stems in some foil, and handed them to me before sending me down to the end of our sloping cement driveway to wait for the bus. Attired in a dress, white tights, and the black-and-white patent-leather shoes of the 1970s, and tightly clutching my metal Disney lunchbox, I arrived at my elementary school with drooping purple lilacs for my teacher.
Some years ago, my mother gave me a lilac seedling from those bushes. I planted it in the side border of my suburban Milwaukee yard, not too far from some existing lilacs. After a bit of initial pampering, that lilac bush is now well on its way to outgrowing me once again. Like all purple lilacs blossoming in spring, they remind me of that morning outing with my mom to cut flowers for my teacher, and of those innocent school days of my youth.
If you’d like to present a question for our expert panel to answer in print, email your question to Letters@HeirloomGardener.com with the subject line “sage advice.”
Send Us Your Stories
We’re looking for readers’ stories about special plants passed down and shared for generations. We pay $25 for each story we publish and $25 for each photo we use. Please send your story and high-resolution photos, if available, to Letters@HeirloomGardener.com for a chance to be included in a future issue.