So few species of common garden plants are sold in garden centers.
The marketplace responds quickly to changing horticultural tastes. Gardeners, however, preserve their favorites from year-to-year by dividing or propagating them and passing them along to friends. Bulbs, perennials, grasses, roses, fruits, vegetables and more are rescued from obscurity each year.
Today, there are several organizations, catalogs and growers dedicated to rediscovering these “heirloom” plants. They encourage the reintroduction of once cherished plants, in part to help preserve biodiversity in gardens.
Plants selected for preservation are generally those that are known to possess qualities such as unique beauty, taste, fragrance, wildlife value or historic significance. Favored species also include those that are environmentally sustainable without the need for a lot of irrigation or fertilizer. Some have high pest or disease resistance. Many are well acclimated to harsh environmental conditions and are relatively easy to propagate.
The best way to preserve old-fashioned garden plants (as opposed to modern cultivars, which may be trademarked and/or fail to reproduce identical to parent plants) is to cultivate them on your own. Give seed, cuttings and transplants to friends and neighbors. You may also share your favorite plants by holding neighborhood plant swaps or by donating them to a local garden club or charity plant sale.
Remember, many gardeners affectionately covet their neighbor’s plants and long for a cutting! Others simply can’t stand the idea of tossing a perfectly good plant into the compost pile.
Some universally grown plants that are passed along to friends include irises, sedums, daylilies, sedums, cannas, crinums, ornamental grasses, herbs, roses, peppers, tomatoes, altheas, ferns, yuccas, peppers, and hens and chicks (Sempervivum).
Other favorites include yarrow, ruellia, liriope, trumpet vine, purple heart, four o’clock, elephant ear, agave, obedient plant, fig and society garlic.
Tropical plants are also pass-along favorites. These include aloe vera, airplane plant, cactus, rubber tree, begonias, African violets, dracaenas, orchids, bromeliads and philodendrons.
For specific information on sharing heritage plants, read “Passalong Plants” by Steve Bender and Felder Rushing or visit the following Internet resources: texasheritagebulbs.com, southernbulbs.com, seedsavers.org, victoryseeds.com and heritageseeds.org.
For answers to your horticulture questions, please call the Texas AgriLife Extension, Hood County at 817-579-3280 and ask to speak to a Master Gardener or visit the website at hoodcountymastergardeners.org.