Passalong Plants

Winter is the perfect time to read gardening books.  Someone at a gardening conference recommended the following book to me.

This one was definitely worth the read.  It’s informative and humorous.  Two authors alternate writing the chapters.  If you read ‘Southern Living’, you’re familiar with Steve Bender’s gardening column.  The other author is Felder Rushing who has written numerous books and speaks frequently on the garden conference circuit.

Old plants that have been grown in the south for generations and passed along to family and friends is the subject of the book.  They explain growing conditions and how to propagate each plant.  This Spider Flower, or Cat’s Whiskers (Cleome hasselrana) reseeds freely.  So it’s easy to passalong either seeds or new plants.

“A word of advice to the novice – Cleome, particularly early in the season before flowering, looks suspiciously like marijuana.  Expect quizzical looks, and be prepared to explain.”  F. Rushing

“People give plants the dumbest names.  Just because individual flowers on the long stems of Physostegia have hinged joints and remain pointing in whatever position they’re bullied into by your finger, the plant has come to be called Obedience.  Well, don’t be fooled by this tame title…In moist soil, it’s so invasive that it actually seems to thrive on being brutally rogued.”  F. Rushing

That’s probably true, but I don’t have moist soil, so it spreads very slowly here.

“For all you fern aficionados out there who fancy yourselves experts on the subject, here’s a litmus test for you – are you familiar with Southern  Shield fern (Thelypteris kunthi)?”  S. Bender

It’s also sold as Wood Fern.  I am very happy with mine.  But, with our clay soil and dry climate, it doesn’t spread easily.

“I looked out my window the other morning and saw a troop of naked Ladies gracing my garden.  Don’t get excited – these weren’t dedicated sun worshipers or buxom starlets filming a B movie on location.  Instead, they were the surprising flowers of Lycoris.”     S. Bender

They’re also called magic lilies.  The most popular naked ladies here are Red Spider Lilies (Lycpros radiata).

“All of these Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckias) are easy to pass along.  Save seed or let them self-sow and transplant seedlings.  I always propagate it by dividing clumps in late winter or early spring.  Just lift a clump with a garden fork and pull the roots apart.”      S. Bender

The last chapter in the book focuses on the Southern habit of using yard art.  It’s titled “Well, I Think it’s Pretty.”

“Of course, most educated people consider such displays to be tacky.  But there are a couple of things wrong with this generalization.  First, you don’t have to be Southern to enjoy classic yard art.  Second, art is in the eye of the artist.  Who’s to judge what is good taste and what is bad?”

Although, I don’t know for sure, but I’d guess that F. Rushing wrote that.  He presented at a conference I attended in the fall and showed his own yard.  He’s a zany comic and his yard art supports that.

“Painted crown tires benefit society beyond just being vernacular art.  For one thing, they recycle old rubber and are good for the environment.  And they’re funny – they give us a good laugh.”  F. Rushing

In their travels across the south, each author has visited many gardens, public and private, and collected many pictures of plants and yard art.  They are knowledgeable about their subject.

This is a fun book that is easy to read and provides helpful information.

“You don’t need a Ph.D., horticultural library, or yardman to belong to the Passalong Club.  All that’s required is a piece of earth and a generous heart.  In fact, you’ve probably been a charter member for years without realizing it.”  Passalong Plants