Family Heirlooms: ‘Angel Wing’ Begonias, Brazilian-Plumes, Sunflowers, and More

Readers share stories of treasured family plants.

  • begonia
    Bertha grew out of pot after pot, and one summer day, surprised us with beautiful clusters of pink blooms.
    Photo by Dan Mobley
  • sunflower
    You can utilize the petals of the common sunflower by using the petals in jams and jellies.
    Photo by Vivian Perez
  • plume
    The Brazilian-plume (Justicia carnea) from the family Acanthaceae, is an exotic bloom native to the Atlantic Forest.
    Photo by Cindy Goldthwaite

  • begonia
  • sunflower
  • plume

From Household Plant To Member Of The Family

In 2001, while I was stationed at Fort Drum in New York, a fellow soldier was getting ready to ship off for a deployment in Germany. She had an ‘Angel Wing’ Begonia (Begonia aconitifolia × Begonia coccinea) planted in a coffee can. She had only two options: throw it out or give it away. This poor little plant only had three little stems with two little leaves on each stem, and it was the most pathetic, pale-green plant I’d ever seen. It hadn’t been watered in weeks. My wife, who has a green thumb and a love for plants, grabbed it and brought it home, where we gave it the attention it required.

Shortly thereafter, I was medically retired from the Army and we packed up to move back to Ohio. It was March in upstate New York, and the begonia got very cold as we traveled for two days in sub-freezing temperatures. It barely survived the trip. But it held on, eventually outgrew its small pot, and continued to grow when we moved to Alabama two years later. The weather there was just what it needed. It doubled, and then tripled in size. It grew out of pot after pot, and one summer day, it surprised us with beautiful clusters of pink blooms.

When “she” reached half her current size, we bestowed her with the name “Bertha.” We gave dozens of clippings to friends and family. She’s been with us now for 17 years and flourishes on our farm. In her current pot, she easily weighs 50 pounds. It takes two people to move her. Bertha is definitely a part of the family, and with any luck will be for many more years to come.

Dan Mobley

Sneedville, Tennessee

Returning To Our Roots

Roughly 55 years ago, my grandparents moved off the farm and bought an acre just outside the city limits. My mom said that Grandpa liked roses and lilacs as ornamentals, but other than that, he preferred to grow what they could eat. They planted lilacs, roses, and fruit trees, as well as a large edible garden. After my grandparents passed away, my mom moved us to that acre of land so we could maintain it all. We even added a few items of our own.

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