Home & Garden

Charlotte readers share their pass-along plant stories

Anita Taft, 75, of Charlotte: My twin uncles, George and Glenn, owned a florist shop in Maryland. In 1995, they presented us with four pink Hydrangeas to be planted at our new Charlotte townhome. We planted them in our backyard and they faithfully bloomed every spring for 18 years. In 2013, we plant a cutting from one of the plants at our new home. Today it blooms just as beautifully as ever.
Anita Taft, 75, of Charlotte: My twin uncles, George and Glenn, owned a florist shop in Maryland. In 1995, they presented us with four pink Hydrangeas to be planted at our new Charlotte townhome. We planted them in our backyard and they faithfully bloomed every spring for 18 years. In 2013, we plant a cutting from one of the plants at our new home. Today it blooms just as beautifully as ever. Anita Taft

If plants could talk, what stories would they tell of family and friends passing them from one garden to another, down through generations?

We were deluged with essays about your pass-along plants: ferns and hydrangeas, lilies and roses, peonies and irises. Each plant has its own personal narrative.

We share many of our favorite stories and photos here. More stories can be found at charlotteobserver.com/living/home-garden/.

A double pink peony

Minerva Bullock, 77, of Davidson:

Growing up, I loved to visit my grandmother in Pennsylvania and loved her flowers, especially her large, double pink peony. She passed along her peony to my mother who passed it along to me in 1956. I moved to North Carolina in 1983 and brought that peony with me. It still grows in my yard and has continued on in our family for four generations as I divided it and passed it on to my sons. It’s a perfect pass-along plant to fondly remember a loved one, especially when it blooms.

Twin uncles’ hydrangea

Anita Taft, 75, of Charlotte:

My twin uncles, George and Glenn, owned a florist shop in Maryland. In 1995, they presented us with four pink hydrangeas to be planted at our new Charlotte townhome. We planted them in our backyard and they faithfully bloomed every spring for 18 years. In 2013, we planted a cutting from one of the plants at our new home. Today it blooms just as beautifully as ever.

An African violet

Eva Ann Wilson Via of Belmont:

The grandmother plant of this beautiful pink African violet was owned and cared for by the late Mrs. Rhunette Hurst during the early 1950s. Her daughter, Louise, who lives in Atlanta, is a retired registered nurse, was my classmate at Piedmont Hospital School of Nursing in Atlanta. Louise remembers that her father was not allowed to park the family car in the carport because her mother had this violet and other flowers there that needed to be shaded. Louise continues to have a “daughter plant” rooted by her mother, and Louise rooted a leaf for me about 30 years ago. My plant blooms constantly and provides beauty and sweet memories.

A dad’s irises all over Charlotte

Katherine Paul of Charlotte:

In 1999, my friend Sandy Parker moved to Charlotte. Her dad in Reading, Pa., gave her 50 iris rhizomes for her new home. When he passed away in 2008, she saved his iris garden by bringing them back to Charlotte. Her plants did well and she divided them, repotted them and donated them to others.

We were both on the boards of the Charlotte Garden Club. She donated rhizomes to us. She also is involved in plant sharing at Habitat for Humanity. (She donated 200 plants last year.) I planted mine around a maple tree, which was mistake. So I moved them to other side of my front yard and next spring they were a feast for the eyes of my neighbors and friends. Now Sandy’s dad’s irises are all over Charlotte.

Sweet autumn clematis

Linda Carr, 64, of Mooresville:

My mother-in-law is the ultimate gardener and has always been very generous in sharing her plants. Twenty-five years ago, she gave me a volunteer from her sweet autumn clematis. We planted it in my mother’s yard while our house was being built. The clematis grew so well in my mom’s yard that we took a volunteer from it to our new house. Every year this plant covers half the stairs and railing on our back deck. We always call my mother-in-law and tell her how much we are enjoying her gift.

Two gardeners named Mary

Barbara Starr of Lake Norman:

We have lived on Lake Norman for 15 years and enjoy a shade path from the back of our home to the water. Two gardeners named Mary contributed to our garden. One lived in our neighborhood and shared Lenten roses year after year. Every time she needed to clear any little space she would invite us over. We dug up as many as we possibly could. The other Mary shared her small red and green Japanese maple trees. Now we walk down the path an enjoy treasures from two very special women.

A friend’s cactus

Kathy Schwabenlender, 47, of Charlotte:

My parents last visited Milwaukee, where we are originally from, in 2009. We stayed with our old friend, Marilyn Hinz. She had cacti growing along the side of her house. We had commented that they looked really nice and she asked if we wanted to take some home. We agreed and brought back a couple of leaves.

When we got home, my parents planted theirs in the backyard. Since then it has grown tremendously and even blooms every year. It’s a nice remembrance of a dear friend whom we don’t get to see often enough.

Well-traveled red hot pokers

Meredith Davison of Matthews:

These red hot pokers are from a plant originally given to my grandmother by her friend while they lived in Athens, Ga., about 50 years ago. They took it across country to Beaverton, Ore., and then to Jackson, Miss. From there it was divided and my dad raised it for several years in Spartanburg before moving to Shelby. From Shelby, I divided it and brought it to Charlotte, where we’ve enjoyed it for the last 20 years. This plant has had quite the adventure.

Great-grandmother’s fern

Ann Williams of Charlotte:

The mother plant of these maidenhair ferns belonged to my great-grandmother. She probably acquired several around the 1880s possibly from the wild in the warm, marshy Florida panhandle where she lived. They were divided and passed on over the years to my grandmother, my mother and then to me. I remember them in baskets on my grandmother’s front porch, and in pots scattered around mother’s well-shaded north Florida patio. Mine live indoors. I didn’t inherit their green thumbs, so they die back when I forget to water, but a little tender loving care always brings them back.

Many plants from one friend

Mary Beth Boda, 58, of Matthews:

My best friend, Diane Bullard, has passed along many plants throughout the 33 years I’ve known her. The sedums flourish wherever I want to stick them. The hostas, growing along my garage, have been shared with numerous family and friends throughout the years, including my father-in-law’s gravesite in Poland, Ohio. But, the most special bulbs that Diane shared, are originally from her mother-in-law’s childhood home in Baltimore. These lovely candy-apple red amaryllis can be traced back 150 years.

A mother’s daylily

Pam Washer, 57, of Blowing Rock:

Almost all of the plants in my garden are pass-along plants, but my favorite is Miss Jessie. My mom still talks about the time when I was 4 or 5 and came running in the house one morning shouting, “Mama! Mama! Miss Jessie’s blooming!” Miss Jessie is a beautiful, unusual variety of daylily. It has been in my mom’s yard for more than 50 years. I now have it in my garden where it has thrived. I have passed it along to others.

Grandma Sally’s rosebush

Nancy Posey of Hickory:

I am the fifth generation to grow a “Grandma Sally” rosebush in my yard. The original grew in the yard of my maternal grandfather’s grandmother’s yard in Brick Church, Tenn.

I grew to love the fragrance of this old-fashioned rose when I was a little girl because there was a bush grown from a cutting of the original in my grandmother’s yard in Florence, Ala. Each Mother’s Day, we clipped a red rose to wear to church on our Sunday dresses.

My own parents, who’ve moved often, managed to grow a Grandma Sally rose in every yard. Not until I moved to the house where I now live in Hickory have I managed to get my own to survive. Now mine is blooming just outside my bedroom window. This year on Mother’s Day, I remembered to clip a red rosebud and pin it to my collar. I’ll bet my mother did the same.

Her parents’ potted rose

Arlene Lenhart of Denver, N.C.:

In 2012, my dad died and my mom, who has severe dementia, had to move into a facility. When we sold my childhood home, I had the job of cleaning it out. My mother had a large array of roses. In San Diego, just a few miles from the ocean, they flourished. We rented a pod for a few things we wanted to bring back. Among those things were two of mom and dad’s potted roses. They had been in place so long that the roots had grown out of the bottom and had to be cut. I wasn’t sure if they would make it. We rented the first three years we were here, and just bought our home last November. Since we were renting, I repotted both roses. Though one of the roses appears to be dead, I have planted it in hopes of a comeback. The other appears to be loving its new environment. I was thrilled to see the first blooms this year on what I call my California rose. Each bloom reminds me of my mom and dad, and I know he is looking down from heaven and smiling.

A favorite houseplant from a neighbor

Sally Hughes of Charlotte:

My favorite pass-along plant was given to me by Pete McKnight, former editor of the Charlotte Observer.

In the late 1970s, we moved to Beverly Drive. Pete and Gail McKnight and their daughter, Colby, lived next door. Colby’s best friend had moved out of our house, so she immediately attached herself to our daughter Margaret. They were wonderful neighbors.

One day Pete asked me if I would like to have a dieffenbachia. Not being a plant person, I had no idea what it was. After he explained, I said I would love it. It has been the best house plant I have ever had. I have given away many of its “babies” to friends, including to Colby who is now married with a family of her own.

A grandmother’s lilies

Gloria Watson, 76, of Charlotte:

In the spring of 2015, I stood in my greenhouse admiring the lovely orange lilies. They decided to bloom early. All of the sudden, it hit me. I was admiring lilies whose bulbs came from a grandmother I never got to meet. Smiling to myself, I experienced a beautiful moment with her. All because of our shared love of flowers and family. I plan to pass these special bulbs on to my children.

A white hydrangea

Kristy McCarter of Charlotte:

My pass-along plant, a beautiful white hydrangea, originally came from Kenesaw, Neb. My great-grandmother had it on the farm there and brought it with her when she moved to Lincoln, Neb., in 1944. My aunt got a cutting from her for her own garden, and then her daughter, my first cousin, got a cutting off of that plant in 2007. Two years ago, my cousin took a cutting and shipped it to me for my garden in Charlotte. Last year, I kept it in a pot to nurture it. This year, it is in the garden, growing and loving this North Carolina climate.

The Courtney hydrangea

Royce Kimbrough of Cornelius:

In 1995, Donna Flowe gave me a small hydrangea as a gift for working with her son in Bible school. Courtney, at age 9 and 10, had been a big help to me. My husband and I named the hydrangea for Courtney and have enjoyed watching it grow just as we have watched him turn into a fine young man. We were honored to be included in his Eagle Scout celebration and wedding. We have many hydrangeas in our yard but only one very special one – the Courtney hydrangea.

Mama Dot’s garden phlox

Carole Sorrell of Waxhaw:

When my husband and I purchased our first home in 1980, his mother, known as “Mama Dot,” shared with us a plant from her gardens. This plant is known to us as “Mama Dot’s Phlox.” Over the years, pots of this plant have traveled with us from North Carolina to Michigan to Ohio and back to two different homes in North Carolina. At each home, the phlox grew and spread, and its beauty attracted many neighbors, friends and family with whom I have shared this plant. This flower is a beautiful reminder of a beautiful and precious lady, our “Mama Dot.”

A tree brought home from school

Anne Laukaitis of Concord:

In 1979, I was teaching at the Children’s Schoolhouse, a parent cooperative preschool in Cornelius. In the spring, a little boy brought everyone a tiny Japanese maple seedling in a 5-ounce foam cup for his third birthday. I planted mine and it thrived. I planted seedlings from the tree several times before the original tree died. The third generation of the original Japanese maple is now thriving. It reminds me of the schoolhouse and those wonderful years with the children.

A canna lily from Wisconsin

Joan Heid of Chester County, S.C.:

On one of my visits home to Wisconsin, my sister-in-law Beth asked if I would like some canna rhizomes. I planted them and there are now more than 50 canna in my gardens. Every day I see the canna, it is a happy reminder of my family, friends and farm upbringing.

Mother’s garden

Martha Gilmore of Mint Hill:

My mother was an avid gardener for most of the last 20 years of her life. We spent many hours together working in her yard and sharing ideas about gardening. When mother passed away in 2012 at 94, my brother and I dug up some of her plants before we sold the house. We each wanted some keepsakes from her garden. I made a memorial garden for her in my yard. Most of the plants came from her. Lenten roses and hostas are among my favorites. The stepping stones and an antique cement urn also came from her. This garden is something I enjoy daily from my kitchen window.

A maple tree

Mike Pacer of Huntersville:

In 1966, I planted a maple tree seed in my parents’ yard near Buffalo, N.Y. Fast forward to 1983, I planted seeds from that tree at my first new house in Charlotte. In 1985, I moved those saplings to my next new house near UNC-Charlotte. This fall, I will be getting seeds from those trees to plant in my yard in Huntersville. And I will get those seeds from my son Philip who just bought the house that I moved those trees to in 1985. Pass-along trees – pass-along house.

An orange tree

Suzanne Hersek, 56, of Charlotte:

In 1981 while in Florida for spring break, my sister bought a mini orange tree for our dad who loved growing plants. Dad cared for his orange tree over the years, outside in the summer then back inside each winter. He loved watching the grandkids pick the tiny oranges then make a face when they tasted the tart fruit. Dad passed away in 2014. There was no question I would take Dad’s tree back to North Carolina with me. I love the intoxicating scent of the blossoms and caring for Dad’s tree.

Grandma’s Oxalis

Vicki Barkley Peterson, 64, of Charlotte:

Grandma Fesperman had Oxalis by the porch of her house. Before I was even a pea pod, my mama dug up sprigs and planted them at her new home. When Mama and Daddy moved to their dream house, she dug it up and took some along. Mama died in 2003, and I planted it at my home. My husband and I have moved several times. Every time, I took it with me. Whenever I see my Oxalis, I think of Mama and Grandma and I smile.

Presidential boxwoods

John Elliot of Charlotte:

These boxwoods were transplanted from President Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage estate by Ida Louisa Harrison Mauldin to her home in Greenville, S.C., in the 19th century. They were moved to my parents’ house in Charlotte in 1954. In 2000, we moved them to Lake Wylie.

Grandparents’ daylilies

Margaret Kirkman Franklin of Charlotte:

As a child, I spent many memorable summers at my grandparents’ farm in Harmony, N.C. I loved the beautiful daylilies in their yard. Before their home was sold, my mother and dad transplanted daylilies to their home in Charlotte. They later transplanted some to our home, which we have moved wherever we go. For 30 years, they were at our home on Lake Norman. Two sons were married there with the beautiful lilies lining the yard in full bloom. We are now retired in our home in Charlotte where we have again moved our lilies and are still enjoying their beauty.