The joys of sharing plants

Dominion rose

Dominion rose is now a “passalong plant” for Jodi DeLong

Close to 15 years ago, I stopped at a roadside plant sale in Upper Granville, not far from Annapolis Royal, N.S. The affable gardener, Jim Smith, sold me an interesting rose that he called the Dominion Day rose, as its red-and-white striped buds normally open on Canada Day, formerly Dominion Day.

I have never conclusively identified the rose, other than to determine it’s related to the Scotch roses, Rosa spinosissima or R. pimpernellifolia, a group of roses that includes the lovely ‘Stanwell Perpetual’. Mine was a once-bloomer that put on a show for about a month. I say “was,” because it was one of many plants I had to leave behind when I moved from my former home to my new life in Wolfville.

For 20 years, Jim Smith and his partner Norm Plant have operated Treasures & Collectibles at the Yard Sailing Shop. While I don’t stop in often, I do drop in from time to time, looking for interesting pottery. I visited last fall, and when I was talking to Jim, I mentioned the Dominion Day rose and how I had left mine behind, and that I would like to purchase a new one come spring. Well, last week I had an email from Norm, telling me Jim had dug up a piece for me, and that it was waiting at the shop. When I popped in on Sunday, I asked Norm about the origin of the rose, and he said they had gotten it from a friend when they were first starting their own gardens. Now, another piece of that rose has been passed along to me. They wouldn’t take money for it, either, just being happy to share in the rebuilding of my new garden.

U.S. garden writers Felder Rushing and Steve Bender coined the term “passalong plants” for plants that gardeners share among themselves. Often, these are beloved plants with a piece of family history attached to them, or with some other great significance. Sometimes, they are simply plants that a gardener loves and wants to share with gardening friends. Always they are beautiful — and I am almost positive goutweed is never an intentional passalong plant!

For the 13-plus years I gardened in my former home, I shared many a cutting, division or seeds of plants that caught the interest of my family and friends. For my father, who died nine years ago of Alzheimer’s disease, I planted copious amounts of forget-me-nots, and shared those with my sisters and others who wanted also to use them in tribute to someone lost to that disease.

We all have our favourite passalongs. My friend Emma Crowson-Mooy of Port Williams, N.S., has moved a sprig of the wonderful ‘Blanc Double du Coubert’ rose with her through three different gardens, while another friend, Sue Peck, has moved a southernwood (Artemisia sp.) three times, over 20 years or so, from British Columbia to Nova Scotia to her current and, she hopes, permanent home in Merrickville, Ont. Another friend, Marian Fulton, of nearby Hantsport, told me her favourite passalong plant is Geranium phaeum, the mourning widow cranesbill, which she got from me several years ago…

… A seedling from which she dropped off yesterday for my new garden. And so the cycle continues.

Jodi DeLong

Jodi DeLong, of bloomingwriter.blogspot.ca, is the author of Plants for Atlantic Gardens. Jodi also writes about plants and gardens for Saltscapes magazine and The Chronicle Herald in Halifax.

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