One thing that’s always struck me about gardening in the mountains is how we tack names to our plants. We connect the things we grow with the person who first introduced us to it, whether it’s an apple or bean.
When I lived in Kentucky, I would’ve had very little landscaping had it not been for Rona, a native eastern Kentuckian who had spent most of her life near Boston before returning. She had picked up a strong accent up north, and would tell me that my “yahd needed more plants.” I had a lilac from her, as well as several ornamental plants I didn’t even recognize, but even after she passed away, I referred to those flowers and shrubs as “that pink one that Rona gave me.”
In our Grow Appalachia group, the members are as generous as Rona, sharing a myriad of seeds, bulbs and transplants, just because.
I remember a couple of years ago, I got a phone call from Pam, who managed a green house. “Do you think some of the Grow Appalachia folks would like some broccoli plants?” I expected to pick up a couple of trays, but I ended up having to lay the back seat down in my Trailblazer to haul all the plants. Many of our participants that year reported that it was the first time they had grown broccoli.
Iva grows several different types of dahlias in her one-acre garden, and she brought two big boxes of tubers by my office in 2018 to give out to other participants. After everybody had taken what they wanted, I brought a few home myself and have enjoyed them the last two season.
This year, somebody also donated beautiful Roma transplants.
Thinking of my own little garden in 2020, I grew dahlias from Iva, sunflowers, melons and peppers from Joseph, sweetpotatoes from Lamar, walking onions and gooseberries from Jessica and black raspberries from Matt. I grew greasy beans from Frank on teepees of bamboo given to me by William.
Sometimes I don’t remember the variety names, but it’s hard to forget the gardener who gifted it.