Family Heirlooms: Roses, Peonies, and More

Heirloom Gardener readers share their stories of treasured family plants that have been passed down for generations.

Coming Full Circle

After moving into my home more than a decade ago, I befriended an elderly couple a few houses down. The man had Alzheimer’s disease, so I often heard the same stories from him when I stopped in. He had many interesting adventures to tell me about, but his favorite to recount was the tale of his beloved peonies.

Kris Gold's neighbor went the extra mile to rescue his favorite peonies before demolition of the home and yard. Photo by Adobe Stock/alexphoto1293.

Long before I arrived to the area, there was a small neighborhood built at the bottom of our hill, near the river. My neighbor lived there as a young man, and every year, he’d forage for mushrooms near the river. On his way home, he’d pass a patch of peonies in someone’s yard that he admired.

Years later, after he’d moved to his new home at the top of the hill, the neighborhood was set for demolition to make way for the construction of a floodwall and levy. Before all the houses were destroyed, he rescued the peonies and transplanted them to the top of the hill.

He has since passed, and I miss hearing him tell this story. The peonies still live in his wife’s yard, where they’ve been for almost 30 years. She was kind enough to allow me to dig up one of the peonies from her yard to bring to my own home shortly after his passing.

My other neighbor, who overlooks my side of the house where the peonies are, once asked me about the flowers. When I told her about their perilous journey from the bottom of the hill, she was tickled to inform me that the original peonies my late neighbor had rescued had come from her mother’s garden of all places! She was sure of it, since her mother was the only one living in that area who grew peonies.

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