In Praise of Old Plants

Oriental poppy
Oriental poppy


When my parents bought this homestead some 45 years ago there were no gardens vegetable or otherwise. There were a few specimens of cultivated plants in the yard, however. Common lilac, pink honeysuckle, horseradish, rhubarb, Oriental poppy, clove currant, a fluffy white peony and a fluffy red peony, and a light pink flowered Sedum spectabile. I think that these plants may have been here at least three decades before we moved in. They are still here today. The honeysuckle is the only original plant the rest are cuttings taken and propagated over the years. The lilac was nearly wiped out, it is a weedy bush, but I’ve decided to plant it someplace near the yard where it won’t get too out of control. I miss its fragrant clusters of purple flowers. The horseradish has become a weed but I probably should not have run it over with the tiller a few years ago. These and the others are tough plants capable of surviving our brutally cold winters followed by summers that can be hot one week and almost freezing the next. Whoever planted them wanted to add a bit color and fragrance to their yard that wouldn’t be demanding. And they wanted some fresh food like rhubarb and horseradish that would thrive even with minimal cultivation. So, I’ve decided that I will keep them all, even the lilac and honeysuckle, as historical plant specimens to be passed on to any future owners of this property. My own legacy of plants will include many kinds of apples, blueberries, currants, and many new flowers both wild and cultivated. I hope that these will enliven the surroundings of whoever follows me.

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