Family Heirlooms: Daffodils, Spitting Plants, and More

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Photo by Unsplash/@tobschu

Mother’s Daffodils

My mother raised many types of flowers and was an avid gardener, working the soil in her vegetable, perennial, and annual gardens. Most of all, she planted spring bulbs, including crocuses, hyacinths, and daffodils.

In 1963, the Missouri farm we lived on was bought for the Truman Dam’s 100-year flood plain. It was both heartbreaking and exciting. The 120 acres became part of the Brush Creek State Wildlife Management Area.

Today, you can cut southwest off state Highway C just east of Brush Creek and stop in a parking lot where our house was located. Dotted over the landscape are daffodils that once stood like soldiers in a row beside our pasture fence. Now scattered, they’re spreading towards the Little Branch and the cattle pasture that’s full of walnut trees.

Early in April, we enjoy heading to the farm site to walk our childhood trails. Along the way, we pick daffodils and think of Mother. Who knows how many have starts from her 75-year-old bulbs? We cherish the memories that bloom with the flowers each spring. 

Rebecca Dockum

Phoenix, Arizona


Spitting Image

My cousin, Joyce, and I were visiting Aunt Faye in her assisted living apartment.

As we chatted about various topics, she shared that her friend Katheryn had given her some seeds from her “spitting” plant. The significance of that information became apparent as Joyce and I prepared to leave. Aunt Faye informed us that she had two starts of the plant, one for each of us. We tried to gently suggest that she should keep these to decorate her room, since we didn’t need any more plants. Her response and body language made it clear that this wasn’t an option. So we graciously thanked her for the green stem with leaves in the 4-inch pot.

Photo by Nancy Banister

The plants grew and had to be repotted. Over time, the green stem turned into a round, brown, woody stalk that was 4 inches tall, and then became a five-sided green trunk that continued to grow taller and taller, with a cluster of leaves at the top. As it grew, it shed the lower leaves, leaving small brown horizontal lines on the green trunk. It quickly became apparent that the trunk had to be supported, as it began to look like it had scoliosis of the spine.

Somewhere along the way, the plant started spitting seeds. Sometimes they land in the plant’s pot, or in neighboring flower pots, and babies sprout. Seeds have landed as far as 10 or 12 feet from the plant. The small brown seeds, about the size of a blackberry seed, usually eject in pairs. The plant’s very sneaky; we have yet to see a seed being spit.

Aunt Faye has been gone since 2005. My spitting plant is a reminder of a special lady. I have contemplated passing this plant on to the next generation(s) of our family, and I plan on doing so in the future. Since I have plenty of seeds saved, there will be plenty to go around.

Nancy Banister

Wenatchee, Washington


Montauk Daisy

Each year, as October approaches, I wait impatiently for the daisies to open. Every day when I check on the them, I am delighted to be greeted by their slowly opening white buds.

When I was a little girl, my grandma had the most magical garden imaginable. An old, unused driveway sported wildflowers between two concrete paths. At the end, sweet peas grew in a magnificent magenta tangle. Black-eyed Susan and purple coneflower vied for the butterflies’ attention.

Through the squeaky old gate were bushes of beans that I was allowed to eat, right off the plant. There were sweet cherry tomatoes tangled up with vines of sugar snap peas. The air was sweet and alive with bird song; the light was a warm, golden green. The whole garden was more alive than anywhere else I knew.

At the back of the garden, against the garage wall, were the giant Montauk daisies. My grandma always said that they were her favorite plant in the garden, for they refused to admit that winter would ever come.

When my grandparents started to get older, they decided to move into a one-story home to be closer to family. They bought a ranch house around the corner from my house. I was 16 and could ride my bike over.

My grandma was so excited to have a big, sunny yard. She asked me to help establish her new garden. The first thing we did was to root the cuttings that she had brought from her Montauk daisy. I couldn’t believe that just sticking them in the ground was going to work, but she was my grandma, so I did what she said. We stuck those cuttings in the ground and they rooted, grew, and bloomed.

Ten years later, when my new husband and I had our first home, she gave me a cutting of my very own. I rooted it and nurtured it. Every year since, I have celebrated its first bloom.

Five houses, two husbands, and four children later, I still do. I can’t call my grandma anymore to see if our daisies are blooming at the same time, but I have left a string of Montauk daisies through three states, and have taken a cutting with me every time.

My grandma passed away last September. In early October, when that first daisy opened, I knew it was her, smiling at me, still refusing to believe that winter would ever come.

Elizabeth Mansolillo

Glastonbury, Connecticut


Joyful Memories

My late grandmother, Fannie Mae, had a lake house in Breckenridge, Texas. She loved to fish, watch the Texas Rangers baseball team, and grow flowers and plants. As a little girl, I wanted to water all of the plants in her screened-in porch. She would let me, even when they probably didn’t need it.

Photo by Cindy Helm

Some 25 years later, on a fine summer day, I explored the lake house gardens with my own daughter. I discovered a beautiful grouping of plants that I had never seen before. The ‘Autumn Joy’ stonecrop (Sedum spectabile) were everywhere. I knew this plant was for me, since it seemed to grow with little care and, as a first-time mother, my time in the garden was limited. I collected some ‘Autumn Joy’ to take home.

Now, another 21 years later, I still have these ‘Autumn Joy’ with me. I have lost a few and gained many more, and even moved them a time or two. They now rest in a container, and each spring they come back to life and warm my soul. Although they are called ‘Autumn Joy,’ I’ve renamed them “Fannie Mae’s.” Each spring when they come up, and each fall when they produce their beautiful purple flowers, I think of my sweet grandmother.

Cindy Helm

Oak, Texas


Fragrant Phlox

In my yard, you’ll find dogwood trees that create a sea of white blooms each spring, red tulips that have faithfully reemerged for at least 18 years, and bright Knock Out roses with abundant blooms. Among the plants that I love more than anything are my tall garden phlox.

The phlox in my yard originated in Wyoming from my Grandma’s yard. After she passed away in 1983, my mom dug up some of that phlox and took it home to plant, so she and my dad could enjoy Grandma’s flowers.

Photo by Pixabay/Hans

Nearly 20 years ago, Mom divided Grandma’s phlox and brought it clear across the country so that I could have a beautiful reminder of Grandma. 

I treasure those fragrant, lavender masses of star-shaped flowers. The butterflies love them for their nectar, but I love them for their history.

Carol Davis

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