Passalong plants are the BEST sort of plants to have in your garden! They add both charm and magic wherever they are planted.
I started thinking about this last week when my neighbor thinned out her bed of Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum odoratum) and gave us several plants. I’ve been wanting to grow Solomon’s Seal for years but had not gotten around to buying and planting it.
I’m not kidding when I say John and I saw it growing in the neighborhood that very morning, admired it, and talked about adding it to our shade garden.
Voila! Just like that, a bucketful showed up on our porch.
Maybe if you whisper your gardening desires to Mother Nature, she will make it happen?
A common characteristic about gardeners—we love to share plants.
We need to share plants.
If we don’t divide our perennials from time to time, they won’t bloom as well. Plants, like people, need fresh air.
So you see, I think plants have this unexpressed yearning to grow up and become passalong plants.
How do I love passalong plants? Let me count the ways.
Passalong plants provide an obvious little thrill, because let’s be honest—who doesn’t appreciate FREE? While some spend money on designer shoes or exotic vacations, I buy plants and seeds and the best tools I can find to care for them. Gifting me a passalong plant = money in the bank. It provides me the opportunity to buy more plants later. (Or, let’s be honest, books—other obsession.)
But this isn’t my primary reason for loving passalong plants. Not by a long shot.
Passalong plants arrive with a history, one I may never know but like to imagine.
Before the plant came to live in my garden, the plant thrived in different soil, maybe next door, maybe in a different city. Someone, years or even decades ago, planted the “mother” plant which grew to the point of needing to be thinned and shared. That means, it’s a happy, healthy specimen, one with a secret past.
Variety + Interest
A few of the passalong plants I’ve received were plants I knew little to nothing about. They’ve added variety and interest in our garden that wouldn’t otherwise be found.
A Few of Our Passalongs
I never grew Lenten Rose (hellebore) until my neighbor thinned hers out. This year, after only a few growing seasons, ours needed thinning. We’ve now passed a few plants along to a neighbor.
When we first moved to Fayetteville, my sister-in-law divided her irises and shared them with me. Hers originally came from my in-laws’ garden. Our irises have now spread like crazy, and I’ve shared them with my neighbor.
The idea that my irises originally came from Fort Smith, and that my mother-in-law, Pauline, tended them, keeps her living in our garden.
I wonder if Pauline had passalongs too?
Coneflowers + More
This year, I’ve passed along coneflowers and black-eyed susans and creeping jenny. My day lilies need dividing; soon I will have them to share.
We’ve passed along several plants that originally came to us from the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks, including aromatic aster.
Wild ginger (Asarum canadense) happily grows in our butterfly alley (I just named it butterfly alley), and it all came from my generous neighbor. This unassuming ground cover is ideal in a woodland setting, and it has such a unique, almost hidden, blossom.
Can you see the flower in the picture below?
Rose-Scented Monarda (Monarda didyma) is a passalong plant from my friend and gardening mentor, Gail. This variety of bee balm may be the most interesting specimen in our garden because the leaves smell exactly like roses. Gail gave me this plant last year, so this is my first spring with it. I can’t wait to see its shaggy blooms. I know the pollinators will come flocking.
My favorite and oldest passalong plant is a cutting from my Nana’s cactus. This plant grew from the cactus she had on her porch when I was a child. I’ve written about this cactus several times both on my blog and in Arkansas Review. So, yeah, she’s sorta famous.
I’m sure if I walked around the garden, I would find more passalong plants to show you.
I like to remember the plants we’ve left behind at the places we’ve lived, and I wonder if they are still there?
To my former Dallas neighbors, if you notice chrysanthemums and/or ivy growing in the yard at Worth Street, these are passalong plants from our prior house on Lakemere. (The chrysanthemums were originally planted by Lakemere owner, Frances Pitchford.) Any cactus in the Worth Street yard, came from Nana’s cactus originally from Keiser, Arkansas.
This plant history is likely important to no one but me. Ha.
Are you a fan of passalong plants? Which plants have you been the beneficiary of and which have you passed along to others?
Grace Grits and Gardening
Farm. Food. Garden. Life.