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The Generosity of Gardeners

June 7, 2016

rhododendron back slopeGardeners are a generous group, eager to share both their gardens and their much-loved plants. In part, this is because a garden is a kind of love affair, and those who are in love usually want to share their joy with the world. A second, more practical, reason for the generosity of gardeners is that our beloved plants are living, growing beings. They sometimes grow too big for their allotted spaces in our gardens, and they sometimes reproduce on their own or with our assistance. The logical thing for gardeners to do when they have too much of a loved plant, or even just enough to spare some, is to share their bounty with others.

Evidence of other gardeners’ generosity can be found throughout my garden. The first plants that I put in the ground here were gifts from my mother. It was the year after I bought the house, and I was struggling to find a way to manage a steep slope that had been cut off from the rest of the side lawn when my father and I built a flight of steps up from the driveway to the back door. My mother’s gifts of a small rhododendron division (dug up from the woods behind my parents’ house) and four pieces of a green hosta that they had growing along a stone wall in their back yard suggested that the solution was to turn the slope into a garden. Today, that rhododendron is a large plant that dominates the back slope flower bed and spills its pink flowers down the slope each May; the hostas have spread to grow under and around it.

My friend Joyce, who was my gardening mentor, has contributed many plants to my garden. Among the first were divisions of Siberian irises from her garden. In the twenty years since she gave me that first clump of irises, they have been divided over and over again and have also self-sown. Their progeny are growing in almost every part of my garden.

pass-along irises

Last year, a friend recruited me into a garden club whose primary mission is supporting the McLaughlin Garden in South Paris, Maine. In addition to volunteer efforts  at the McLaughlin Garden, the group visits gardens together, both of members and non-members, and provides support for one another’s gardening efforts. One member of the club often arrives at group garden visits with plants from her garden that she wants to give away. This is how I added the lovely, understated Geranium phaeum to my garden last fall. Geranium phaeum flowers

ice plantThis past week, I benefited from the generosity of two more members of the garden club. On Wednesday, I drove out to the home and garden of club members who run a daylily nursery to pick up some daylilies I had ordered from them. As always happens when gardeners get together, the visit included a tour of their garden. At one point I admired an unfamiliar groundcover plant with vibrant deep pink daisy-like  flowers. Even as they were telling me that this was a cultivar of ice plant (Delosperma), one of them was scooping up a handful and putting it in the bag with my bare-root daylilies. It is now settling in between the lavender plants along my Lavender Walk.

Two days later, I met up with my friend Harriet to drive together with a few other garden club members to a plant sale and garden visit about an hour away. I expected Harriet to bring me some divisions of another groundcover plant, Sedum spurium ‘John Creech,’ which she had offered me (also destined for the Lavender Walk). When she opened her trunk to unpack the plants, I was treated not only to three divisions of ‘John Creech,’ but also to two additional types of low-growing sedum (Sedum album and Sedum kamtschaticum) that I can try out in my garden.

john creech sedum kamtschaticum

The generosity of gardeners has made my garden more interesting and more beautiful. As my garden grows, I look forward to repaying some of that generosity by sharing my own plants with others.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. June 7, 2016 11:12 pm

    Pass-a-long plants add a unique character and history to a garden. Each one contains a memory.

    • June 11, 2016 9:11 pm

      Kris, In that way, they help give a garden its special character.

  2. June 8, 2016 3:05 pm

    Hello Jean, following my recent post on the “Parental Haul”, it’s fair to say that a large part of why the garden looks the way it does it down to donations, offsets and give-aways from the parents. As the garden is starting to become established, we’ll soon be able to start giving plants back. It all started with a bucket of Iris Sibirica and a few hostas and they’ve been further split and divided over the years that I’ve lost track of the originals.

    • June 11, 2016 9:14 pm

      Sunil, They only reason I can keep track of my original gift Siberian irises and hostas is that I know where I planted them. Any in other locations are divisions of self-sown plants (no self-sown hostas, but lots of self-sown Iris sibirica).

  3. June 8, 2016 4:17 pm

    A virtual hug to your South African Delosperma.

    Our friend came to visit on Sunday. He lost ‘Diana’s plant’ (Dusty Miller) when a mountain fire swept thru. Sparing the house! Five feisty cuttings are going to replace the lost plants.
    Today I saw a seedling, where they like to volunteer, between the paving slabs.
    Potting up for a new home?

    • June 11, 2016 9:16 pm

      Diana, I’ve learned that my ice plant is a cultivar called ‘Table Mountain’ that was bred to be cold hardy this far north. I’m loving its carpet of purple flowers.

  4. June 9, 2016 2:11 am

    That rhododendron is superb – what a great reminder of your mother. I like the way plants that other people have given me always make their face (and sometimes their pet name for the plant!) spring to mind when I look at them in the garden.

    • June 11, 2016 9:17 pm

      Cathy, My mother was pretty superb herself, so it is fitting that her gift plant has become such a dominating presence.

  5. June 10, 2016 1:34 pm

    I think many gardeners, including myself, get real pleasure out of sharing plants – especially when it is a new plant for the recipient.

    • June 11, 2016 9:18 pm

      Jason, I agree. I always love it when someone admires a plant I have tons of and I can say “Would you like some to take home?’

  6. June 10, 2016 8:33 pm

    Hi Jean. I completely agree about the generosity of gardeners. A nearby neighbor — and now friend — provided me with many plants to help me get started in zone 10. And like you, garden club friends added to the collection. Now, so many of my plants have a story — and I enjoy sharing the story of the plants with anyone who visits. As always, I’m enjoying watching your progress. Cheers!

    • June 11, 2016 9:20 pm

      Kevin, I can imagine how important garden friends would be when you are learning to garden in an entirely new environment with a new set of plants.
      I’m going to post some wide shots of the new front garden for bloom day.

  7. July 4, 2016 10:11 pm

    Other gardeners have helped fill many holes in my garden with their divisions and cast offs. It’s cheaper than going to the garden center and I end up with a garden full of memories. :o)

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