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July 24, 2006

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Marti

Growing up in the central valley of California, passalongs were taken for granted in our little farming town. I lived in town not on a farm but my motherr and father grew herbs, roses, sweet peas, you name it, they grew it. Our town had many Italians and Portuguese as well as a few immigrants from Spain, i.e. my parents and aunt and uncle. They formed their own version of The Merryweathers and once every three months, a day was chosen to share slips,cuttings,recipes and good food.

Passalongs are so worthwhile but difficult to do when you have purposefully chosen to be "rootless" for the next several years. Since I have chosen to live in different parts of the USA over the next several years,the only passalongs I have are macadamia nuts brought with me to Texas from Maui by way of Washington. Darn it; I should have done my homework and I bet the Merryweathers could have helped me. Did a little research on the web and found that planting seeds (the nuts) is not the best way to grow a macadamia. "Macadamias are easily grown from seed, but the seedlings may take 8 to 12 years to bear a crop and the quality of the nuts is unpredictable." Now when we just about have decided that the hill country of Texas is really starting to suit us and we may be here for quite a long spell, I learn that my macadamia nuts probably will make lousy trees...oh well, I hear tell that Pecans are the state tree...maybe the Merryweathes can tell me how to go about starting my very own orchard!

Digging in the dirt, Marti

Pam

A few years ago China offered some of her Love Lies Bleeding seeds to go along with her book "Love Lies Bleeding." I planted those little seeds, and for years Love Lies Bleeding plants would pop up anywhere they wanted to in my garden - and I would let the plants stay where they grew. I still have the seed package with some of the seeds.

My Mom and I passalong plants to each other, but my favorite passalong story is when I gave my Mom some chives from my garden this spring. These chives were originally from part of a plant that was in her garden. So part of a part of her chives have made it "home" again! That made her really happy!

CHINA REPLIES: What a treat to hear about those seeds, Pam! When Susan and I were making up those little seed envelopes way back in 1997, we wondered where the plants would find homes. Glad they've flourished in your garden--and aren't they fun to grow? And dried, they make really interesting wreath and swag accents.

Dani G.

I would kill for some Canadian Bloodroot. ;) I have pounds of Cosmos seed in exchange. I got my first seeds from a community garden plot some years ago, have sent them to all my friends (put them in little painted film canisters with a loop glued to the top and called them Christmas ornamanets), and I'm quite sure they'll be declared an invasive weed after I leave this little High Plains town where bluegrass and organophosphates rule! I love them, though, and have even had a Queen of Cosmos Coronation ceremony as the Little Folk buzzed around the blossoms. Who needs television? ;D

Linda Mandeville

My favorite passalong story comes from many years ago when my children were little. The topic of cotton came up, and like most city kids they had no idea where cotton came from. Knowing I was determined to show them, my step-father found some bolls of cotton out in the country and gave them to me. About the same time, a man in our church heard about my cotton growing adventure and gave me seeds for "brown cotton" which we also planted. Because of the great black clay dirt and hot Texas sun, I had the prettiest cotton I bet anyone ever had growing in their flower bed!

Marti

China,

I just had to share a very nice thing from this morning; I received a passalong from a neighbor... This neighbor has four grand rosemary bushes in her front yard that I have so admired on my morning walks. Well, this morning she was in her yard and I stopped and chatted with her. Yup, before I knew it she had given me about a dozen cuttings and I will plant them out in my front yard later in the cool of this evening. I have a big pot of rosemary, the trailing kind growing by my front door but these passalongs are the upright kind. Now when my neighbor takes her walks, she likes to walk in the evenings,she will be able to see her gift of rosemary growing in my garden.

Marti

CHINA REPLIES:
Marti, Susan and I have a suggestion for those cuttings. Take a 3-liter soft drink bottle, and punch 5-6 holes in the bottom with a hot ice-pick. (We heat ours in the burner of our gas stove.) Slice the bottle in half across the middle with a sharp knife, and fill the bottom half with a light-weight rooting medium: Perlite or something of the sort. Dampen the medium and punch enough holes for your cuttings (we use a chopstick). Strip the lower leaves off the cuttings, dip them in a rooting compound, and stick them into the holes. Tamp down the medium. Put the top half on (sometimes we have to cut 1" slits in the bottom edge, to make it easy to slip on)--now you have a mini-greenhouse!

Screw on the lid for now. Water just enough to keep the cuttings moist, and take off the lid when necessary to ventilate. We keep our mini-greenhouses on the kitchen windowsill. Sometimes we have five or six.

Let us know how it works. And how nice of your neighbor to pass along that rosemary!

Marti

Thanks China and Susan. I didn't check blogs until this morning so we had already planted our rosemary passalongs last night. Our neighbor came over and even brought us some perlite which we did have. I will wait until the rosemary takes hold and grows and next year, I will try your very good suggestion for making my own mini-greenhouses. As we got to chatting, she spotted the thyme that I have growing in my Kokopelli pot and I offered her some cuttings so the passalong tradition is alive and well in my little neck of the Texas woods.

For herbal sharing, Marti

Robin

China,

I wanted to tell about my passalong African violet from my grandmother. She had some miniature African violets and a larger plant with small purple blooms that she had had for many years. When she and my grandfather sold their house and moved to a retirement community she gave me the larger plant since they were downsizing. My grandparents passed away within 18 months of each other and have been gone now since 2000/2001, but that African violet lives on. I have started at least 8 other plants from the "momma". Some, including the momma,live in my office and the rest at home. My daughter got married earlier this year. She and her husband are working on their house and recently found out they are expecting a daughter, my first grandchild. When they get settled in their new home one of the first housewarming gifts from me will be one of the African violets that came from her great-grandma. Hopefully, one day, my granddaughter will have a passalong African violet in her home too. --Robin

SUSAN WRITES: Robin, what a wonderful story! My mother loved African Violets, too. When she was in the nursing home in her last years, she had her windowsill lined with the pots. I would rotate them, bringing the plants to my house for some R&R when they got a little stressed, and taking her those that had recuperated. They were a great source of joy for her.

I hope your daughter and granddaughter will inherit your love for plants, as well as that African violet!

Michele Robarge

I need good advice on cutting back lavender plants. I planted some 5 years ago in my rose garden to keep the afids(sp) away, it works. But now the lavenders are overtaking the roses. Help..I'm on the prairie in the Pacific NW. Thanks. MicheleR

Meredith

My aunt passed along two Veichenbleu rose bushes from her garden. They were so beautiful at my last house. When I met the new owners at the closing, I knew they would not appreciate them. Shhhh! I dug them up by the moonlight and put them in two Hefty bags to take to the new house, where they thrived all over again.

Good thing I did--last time I drove by, those people had mowed down ALL the perennial beds, too.

Becky

Just thought I'd share something I'd never heard until I married my husband. He says you should never say "Thank You" when given a plant. "I appreciate this" or "What a great gift" are fine, but "Thank You" guarantees you a dead plant! He says this was passed on by his Grandmother. I always appreciate my pass-along plants, but I have to find creative ways to express my gratitude!

SUSAN REPLIES: Mmmmm, interesting! Maybe this goes along with the old saying in England, "Stolen plants always fare better," the idea being that you should pinch a cutting or dig up a root when your neighbor wasn't looking. Beatrix Potter mentions this in one of her letters.

Aileen

What a very interesting article! The A. konjac plant is considered a health food in Japan. The roots are processed into konnyaku, a solid, jelly-like patty or thin capellini like noodles. It can be cut into various shapes and sizes and have very little flavor and no calories. It's often put into stews and soups in Japan. Recently, they've been incorporated into "Tofu Noodles" you might see in the grocery store. I never thought of growing it myself, but I have no clue how to process the roots to eat it anyway.

A friend of mine also told me about the "Thank you" being a death sentence to gift plants. The chocolate mint I gave him did indeed die, but I fault his black thumbs (he warned me about them) rather than the (lack of the) "thank you."

I have some coral bells in a pot right now that I did say thank you for this summer. A co-worker wanted to get rid of them because they were taking over her yard. They are only now producing flowers, but it's bright, lovely variegated foliage made up for that anyway.

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