June 30, 2013

Favorite plants and childhood memories

Do you have a favorite plant? I really don't.

I guess I have several favorite   "fill in the blank"   plants, though.

trillium

For example, my favorite ephemeral plant is the Great White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum). Then again, Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) is a close, if not equal, standout.

My favorite non-native plant is probably the Lenten Rose (Helleborus x. hybridus), although I have to also consider the tropical Bleeding Heart (Fuchsia spp.), an annual here that blooms all summer, and the Resurrection Lily (Lycoris squamigera), which brightens the late-summer garden.

Favorite cut flower? Where do I start? Every bouquet is unique, and most arrangements benefit from a combination of shapes and forms. A simple handful of Lily-of-the-Valley (Convallaria majalis) in a small vase, however, is unequaled in its graceful simplicity.

Sometimes traveling introduces me to a new favorite--like the Lantana (L. camara) I fell for during a trip south.

And the list goes on.

Earlier this year, when I decided to write a blog post each month about John Muir, I thought I'd be writing now about his beloved California, after traveling there for the Garden Bloggers' Fling. (I hope everyone had a great time, and safe travels!) Alas, finances and timing once again prevented me from attending.

But it had me thinking: What were John Muir's favorite plants? The man traveled the world over. How could he possibly pick a favorite plant?

fairyslipper
Calypso bulbosa; public domain photo courtesy the U.S. National Park Service

He spoke highly of many plants--including White Mountain Heather (Cassiope mertensiana), native to California's Sierra Nevada; the Fairy Slipper Orchid (Calypso borealis or C. bulbosa), which he encountered in a Canadian swamp; and the Live Oak (Quercus virginiana), which found its way onto his sketch pad as he traveled south to Florida. Wherever he traveled, he found favorites.

But some of his most endearing favorites--as happens with many of us--hearkened back to his childhood. In particular, he fondly recalled the Water Lilies (Nymphaea odorata) that graced the edges of his boyhood Fountain Lake.

Describing the lake, he said, in part, "First there is a zone of green, shining rushes, and just beyond the rushes a zone of white and orange Water Lilies, 50 or 60 feet wide, forming a magnificent border. On bright days, when the lake was rippled by a breeze, the Lilies and sun-spangles danced together in radiant beauty, and it became difficult to discriminate between them.

"...even if I should never see it again," he said of the lake, "the beauty of its Lilies and Orchids is so pressed into my mind that I shall always enjoy looking back at them in imagination, even across seas and continents, and perhaps after I am dead."

water lily

As I recalled my own childhood favorites--fragrant Roses and Lilacs, and bright Hollyhocks and Snapdragons--I noticed that the Water Lilies in our pond are about to open. It seems a fitting end to this post and an appropriate transition to the next one--about the pond survivors.

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Happy Independence Day to my American gardening friends! And happy seasonal celebrations to everyone else! As you enjoy the great outdoors during the next few days, remember to protect yourselves from ticks and mosquitoes. Click here or on the "products" tab for my review of a pleasant, natural repellent product.

46 comments:

  1. I like Trilliums, and think they are beautiful, but my favorite ephemerals are Anemone nemorosa, which are easy to dig when dormant and have multiplied for me phenomenally, making sheets of bloom in many beds.

    Childhood favorites from my Southern beginnings are Rose of Sharon from my Grandma's garden, and Lantana with its cute little bouquets of blooms of different colors.

    In addition I have made collections of roses, daylilies, irises, hardy geraniums, etc. that are favorites for various reasons. It would be hard to single out a particular plant species, I like them all.;-)

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    1. Ah, good choices, all! See--I can't really settle on favorites because you remind me of others!

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  2. Love all your favs! I also find it difficult to pick because there are so many lovely ones to choose from! Enjoy your July 4th celebrations! I haven't been able to make it to any of the flings yet either. Keeping my fingers crossed for next year!

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    1. I hope they'll still have Flings by the time I'm able to attend. ;-) Maybe it will be next year for me, too... Happy 4th, Karin!

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  3. You have mentioned so many special plants there - and a few I've never heard of before. Great choices!
    Childhood memories are peonies, dalhias and roses - my grandfather grew them all. Peonies are my all time favourite blooms despite the fact they don't last very long and I have a developed a 'thing' for Primula over the last few years and am trying to build up a collection in my garden.
    Have a wonderful Independence Day!

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    1. Oh, yes, the ones you mention are among my favorites, too! I'm not very familiar with Primulas, but there's always room for another favorite! Cheers!

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  4. A beautiful, lyrical post -- and a lovely photo of the water lily just starting to bloom.

    Sorry, but I can't pick favorites. I have about 50 plants that I love for different reasons :)

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    1. Thanks, Aaron! The Lily will probably open today--definitely something to look forward to. I hear you on picking favorites!

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  5. So sorry you were not at the fling, I would have loved to sit down for a chat. Great Muir quote!

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    1. I know ... it would have been a great chance to meet you. Sounds like it was a wonderful event!

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  6. It is hard for me to select a favorite. I find myself amazed at each and every display as the seasons move forward. Your favorites and some of John Muir's are definitely on my list as well. Enjoy your 4th celebration!

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    1. Me, too. Some stay with me and others come and go. But it's impossible to pick just one! Happy 4th!

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  7. Beautiful shots! There are very few flowers I don't like and it would be impossible to choose one favorite flower.

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    1. Thanks! I totally agree. And same for foliage! It's impossible to pick.

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  8. Not easy to pick a favorite, I continue my "affair" with lavenders, but these days I love the delicate elegance of (edible) flowers of Moringa oleifera

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    1. Oh, I can understand the Lavender love. Moringa oleifera ... hmmm, I wasn't familiar with it. The "miracle tree." I will have to read more about it! Thanks!

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  9. The lovely flowers you showcase here do not grow well in our tropics. My childhood favourites are orchids, dahlias and bougainvilleas.

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    1. Those are some of my favorites, too. Some Orchids are native here, believe it or not. Dahlias also grow in my zone. But Bougainvilleas ... I will have to be happy viewing them on warm-climate blogs like yours, and seeing them when I travel. Absolutely stunning draped over arbors and trellises! Sigh.

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  10. As a tropical floral biologist I have seen quite a few flowers, but probably my favorite for its sheer elegance is the sacred lotus with its connections to so many Asian cultures and religions. As a year around resident of our waterlily/lotus pond, the lotus will flower in a day or two, and you just want to sit and look at it.

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    1. I can only imagine the tropicals you've seen! I enjoyed your post about the Lotus. I think your thoughts about aesthetics and intellect help explain part of the reason I find it hard to choose favorites. Some plants are obviously visually beautiful. Others are functionally useful and fill a niche. Still others, like your Lotus, are both! Great photo, by the way!

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  11. Nope, no favorites. It changes too often to narrow it down. Too bad you could not make the Fling. It was great is every way. I could not comment on your posts with the iPad though for some reason. I tried a number of times too.

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    1. Yeah, I'm bummed about the Fling. I'm saving for a few other trips. But maybe I'll get to the next one, or the one after that, God willing. I'm not sure what was going on with the iPad. Someone mentioned Blogger was having issues, and then Google Chrome was having issues. Maybe one of those interfered.

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  12. Ja mam swoje ulubione kwiatki. Są to niezapominajki i konwalie. Czekam bardzo na ich kwitnienie wiosną. Nie znaczy to, że innych kwiatów nie kocham. Oczywiscie tak. Pozdrawiam.
    I have my favorite flowers. These nots and lilies. Waiting much of their blooming in the spring. This does not mean that others do not love flowers. Of course, yes. Yours.

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    1. Hi Giga: For me, I think it depends where I am visiting or living at the time. Some of my true favorites will not survive the harsh winter climate here. Darn!

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  13. You covered all the bases with great choices! Thank you for linking to your blog so I could find you.

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    1. I like your idea of picking a favorite a week ... because it would be impossible to cover them all otherwise. Glad I found your blog, too!

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  14. I have favourites from time to time but the list always changes, my fave plants are natives to aust, these are the ones I remember from my childhood. Happy celebrations.

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    1. Thanks, Karen. Australia is on my bucket list--I've always wanted to go there, and I can imagine the plants are fascinating!

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  15. It is so hard to pick a favorite plant--I always say mine is the purple coneflower, but in spring I'm in love with tulips, now that the daylilies are blooming they're my current favorite...and the list goes on. The flowers I remember most from my childhood are hollyhocks, a shrub rose that always bloomed on my birthday, and honeysuckle. It's funny, but I was talking recently with my Dad about the honeysuckle. They brought it with them from their first house when I was young, thinking it had such a wonderful fragrance but not realizing it was invasive. Fifty years later Dad had to use a backhoe to dig it all out! I still remember that fragrance, though

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    1. That's a great story about your dad and the Honeysuckle, Rose. So it must have been a non-native instead of our native Honeysuckle? Sounds like we had similar childhood memories of plants. I'm enjoying the Daylilies now, too.

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  16. It's always a joy to visit your blog, I love the idea behind this post...

    Lily of the valley, in my Mom's bouquet, and then mine...hands down a fav.

    Jen

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    1. Thanks, Jen! Yes, I can remember a patch of Lily-of-the-Valley at one of our childhood homes. It surrounded our back door, and the scent was luscious! So great to have these memories, isn't it?

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  17. I have so many favorites... my kids would say I love anything that blooms... and maybe I do!

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    1. I'm pretty close to that, too ... and then there are the favorites for their foliage, or their shape, or ...

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  18. I love all the flowers you list, but I could make the list twice as long in just a heartbeat! I think I have favourite flowers every month, as my garden changes that often and I have planted as many as I can of the plants I love. One plant I haven’t got is water lilies, and I just adore them! But without even a tiny pond it would be difficult to have any so I have to admire them on photos instead. Looking forward to your next post :-)

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    1. Yes, I suppose I should have compiled a longer list. ;-) I always enjoy seeing all the amazing plants in your garden, Helene!

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  19. I'm not sure I have a favorite flower. I used to think I did but not any more. Instead, I love a lot of flowers but there are some plants I just can't stand. I didn't make the fling, either. You would have loved Muir's redwoods. I'm hoping the fling comes to DC or even Philly at some point. :o)

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    1. Oh, that's an interesting way to think about it. I have a few dislikes, too--not very many, though. Most of them are non-natives that I would like to view in their proper country of origin, just not in my garden. ;-) I've been to Muir Woods in California in the past, and it is incredible! DC would be a great destination for the Fling!

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  20. My favorite flower (and ironically, the bane of my existence) is the gardenia. This fussy plant was wandered into my garden and home on more than one occasion, causing feelings of happiness at the scent and levels of frustration when it yellows. :-)

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    1. Wow, I can't imagine the Gardenia being anything but wonderful. But I've always lived in a northern climate, so I probably don't realize their various stages. I've seen and smelled them during travels, and wish I could grow them here!

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    2. I live in the northeast, so I can't say its native to my state either. I usually buy one in the spring (due to the addiction, you know) and so begins my love/hate affair with it. After some trials, I think I finally figured out what seems to work, but boy is it fussy. I have a multi-part article on my blog about my experience trying to prevent it from yellowing and getting it to bloom. If you search for "gardenia", you can read my rants about it. ;)

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    3. Ah, yes, sorry for the delay. I just read all your posts about the Gardenia. So it sound like you keep it inside in winter and put it on a porch in summer? That's what I was thinking of doing--kind of like the conservatory treatment. One of these days I will make the investment, because I love Gardenias. Your post will be helpful regarding Gardenia care. Thanks!

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  21. Sorry I am a bit late Beth...I have to say my childhood memories harken back to the snapdragons, petunias and marigolds my mom planted every year in the front. it mad a splash of color like fireworks.

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    1. No problem, Donna. Things have been hectic for me lately, too. I remember all those lovely flowers, too. :)

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  22. Your garden must be all the more beautiful because you have so many favorite plants. Mine are roses, but among others I go through phases, falling in love and assembling a collection of something new almost every year. I am glad I have not yet fallen in love with any trees: having a collection of them in my tiny garden would not be possible :)

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    1. I think it's beautiful, but most of it was planted before I got here. Actually, I think just about any garden is beautiful. I can only imagine how lovely your garden is, Masha, with all your Roses!

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