what is your oldest plant

Kathleen Sayce ksayce@willapabay.org
Tue, 02 Oct 2012 11:48:35 PDT
The oldest plant question is an interesting one for me. In our 3rd home, the prior owner had been an avid gardener. She planted many fashionable plants of the 1920s-1930s. We moved to her place in the early 1960s, and my mom immediately began revamping the large yard, removing some trees to provide more sun, adding rhododendrons to become hedges, and starting fruit and vegetable growing areas. 

One sunny SW facing corner she wanted for tomatoes and other heat loving plants. The ground was bare when we moved in mid summer, but suddenly in late August that year, there were these tall stalks with large buds. Yes, a patch of Amaryllis belladonna with more than 20 stems.  It was delightful. 

Gorgeous flowers, but Mom, who was very food-focused, said they had to come out so that she could use it for vegetables. That winter the leaves came up, and she asked me to pull them out that spring. I did, and she planted over them, but they flowered all the same. By the next year she was resigned to leaving them there, as we had a nice vegetable growing area, and put up a greenhouse instead for plants that needed more heat. So they survived. I still remember digging down around them, and seeing these large bulbs, enormous to my 12 year old eyes, then carefully tucking the soil back around them and leaving them be. 

Mom died 5 years ago, and that year my dad let me dig up some of those bulbs  and move them to my yard, where they have flowered ever since. I don't know how old the original bulbs are, perhaps around 80 years old, and still growing in his yard, and now, their clones are growing in my yard too. 

The year my mom died, I wrote an essay, Confessions of a Cereal Killer, about all the plants I had killed over the years as a result of this obsession with green life. Radishes were early victims [3-4 weeks is a very long time for a 3 year old], and I still recall my amazement at the age of 5 or 6 when a tiny pine tree, planted when I was 2, grew taller than I was. 

Gardening is an active process; I am still killing plants to this day, though with more intent as I grow older. 

I put my life-long interest in things botanical directly to growing up around food producing activities, with most of the adults in my family interested in and actively gardening in one form or another. 


Kathleen Sayce
PNW Coast, WHZ 8, dryish cool summers & mild wet winters

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