Heirloom Plants


The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth;
One is nearer God’s Heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.
          — by Dorothey Frances Gurney

My mom was a gardner.  She loved her plants.  The first gift I gave her that I knew for sure she liked was an iron garden plaque with that poem on it.  Mom kept that as long as she could have more than just a few personal things around her. 

The plant above is a jade plant.  When I was a kid in Southern California, we had one of those growing in the ground, just outside the kitchen door.  It was almost three feet tall, with multiple branches and lots of those thick, green leaves.  They are absurdly easy to start — I think this one was a leaf that had been knocked off, laid on the ground, and begun to sprout.  Mom gave it to me, I stuck it in a little pot — and that was about 33 years ago.  After moving to Northern California it lived indoors, so it grew very slowly.  So slowly, it was still in a smallish pot on a window sill until about two years ago, root bound but still alive.  When I put it in this bigger pot, it took off.  Am thinking of giving one of the pups (that have sprouted from its base) to our son.

Even after Mom sold the house and moved into a series of apartments, she always had the bevy of potted plants that moved with her.  Most notable were the night blooming cirrus, the plumerias, and the amaryllis plants.  The night blooming cirrus was in the ground at her house, and when she sold the house she dug out the cirrus and brought it with her.  I have memories of going out at midnight with a flashlight to see it bloom.  My sister brought her the plumeria from Hawaii . . . just sticks!  Mom planted them and coddled them, and was so proud when they leafed out and eventually bloomed.  They smelled wonderful.    When Mom finally moved into a place where she couldn’t have her plants, my nephew’s wife took them in.  I would have loved to have them, but they wouldn’t have done well in Northern California (too foggy and cool here), and they were too big to keep inside.  I hear they are doing well, and that makes me happy.

It is interesting how Mom being a gardner has influenced the way I am.  For one thing, I rarely kill spiders, because “spiders are our friends” — they eat the unwanted bugs.  So I learned to carefully coax them onto a paper towel and take them outside.  I don’t know a lot about gardening myself, but every once in a while when talking with friends about plants, some helpful fact pops out of my mouth, usually something I didn’t even realize I knew.  I notice plants in yards or parking lots, and their names pop into my head.  Mom’s yard was always so lush and full of plants, she could have stocked a nursery.  Am told our grandmother, Mom’s mom, was also a gardner.  Instead of a front lawn, they had rows and rows of plants, and when you came to visit, you spent an hour walking through her garden, learning how each plant was doing, before you ever got into the house.  So it seems appropriate that I should have such a love of nature, and be concerned with environmental issues.  Even my spiritual path is nature based, something I think Mom would approve of.

Most everyone I know has some heirloom(s) from their families: photos, or jewelry, or guns, or whatever.  Not many have heirloom plants.  Do you?


About judithornot

Lives in semi-rural Northern California, happily married, retired counselor, night person, knits, plays WoW.
This entry was posted in family, our yard, spirituality. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Heirloom Plants

  1. I have one – a lacecap hydrangea from my great-grandmother’s garden. Her garden was on Vashon Island and it was truly beautiful. It climbed up the hill as long as she could tend it, then it went wild. We all got shoots of various plants, and this was one I loved.


  2. judithornot says:

    And such a lovely plant, too! Am sure your great-grandmother was happy you took it. It makes me happy just reading about it. 🙂 Thank you for sharing this.


  3. ironwing says:

    I have a grape hyacinth growing beside the front door, on the north side of the house where it catches runoff from the roof. It was planted by the people who built this house in 1968. Not an heirloom, just an inherited plant. Obviously it’s not well adapted to the desert and I’m surprised it survives, since I don’t give it any special care.
    I have a true magic jade plant story. When I was an undergraduate geology major, my advisor and mineralogy professor had a jade plant in his office window. At the time I met him, it was a pathetic stick with a couple of leaves and some plastic dinosaurs to keep it compay. When I graduated three years later, it was a lovely little tree, and in a few years it grew too big for the window and he took it home. When I visited, I saw its gnarled, leafy branches taking over the back porch. He died of cancer in November 1995. I was not there, but his wife told me about coming home from the hospital on the night he died, and finding the jade plant covered in little starry white flowers. After that, the overgrown plant began to fall apart, and several of us took cuttings but nobody was able to get them to grow.

    My great-great grandmother filled her central Virginia yard with all kinds of fruit trees, unusual shrubs, and medicinal plants. By the time I got married in 1994, only a few gaunt, ancient pear trees remained, and a dying American chestnut – one of the last known survivors of the early 20th century blight.


  4. judithornot says:

    Your stories bring tears to my eyes, Lorena. I mentioned above about my nephew’s wife taking Mom’s plants. When Mom died (many miles away), it was his wife who immediately “knew” of her death, before any other family member. I think Mom came to see her plants one more time (like your professor). And hooray for the grape hyacinth! They smell so good. Thinking about your great-great-grandmother, I think those of us who “inheirit” a love of plants are very fortunate. It really is more than just making things grow, it feels like a spiritual connection.


  5. Coppermoon says:

    Jade plants by the door are an invitation to the Spirits of Good Fortune – how intuitive of you to place your jade plant so appropriately!!


  6. judithornot says:

    Mom’s was outside the back door (which everyone used) — and while she lived there, that was probably the most secure and fortunate place in her life. Our plant is by the sliding glass door into the back yard — does that still count? 🙂


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