What Is Your Oldest Plant?

Jim McKenney jamesamckenney@verizon.net
Mon, 01 Oct 2012 14:50:34 PDT
My earliest bulb experience I'm not sure about, but I still remember my first insight about bulbs. The lawn of our house had these plants which had long strap-like leaves with a silver middle. I don't remember seeing them in bloom because the lawn was cut so frequently. The leaves said "crocus" to me, but when I dug the bulbs in question I knew right away that they were not crocuses. It was only after I moved some to another place where they could bloom that I "discovered" star of Bethlehem. This might have happened when I was very young, maybe eight or nine years old. It was at about the same time that I learned to distinguish ragweed foliage and chrysanthemum foliage. 

And it was only a few years later when I had another memorable "bulb" experience. The grandmother of a boy next door who was one of my playmates gave him a colchicum corm. I already knew about colchciums from my garden book, but I had never seen one. I remember thinking at the time "What a waste to give him the colchicum bulb; after all, I'm the one who knows about them and really wants it."

I also remember that mom had the glad 'Spic 'n' Span' in the garden back then. Other neighbors had Lilium regale and kniphofias. 

As for oldest plants, since we moved when I as in my late teens, and we brought little from the garden where we had lived before, I don't think there is anything in the garden now which dates from those days. But I still have a half dozen Paeonia lactiflora peony cultivars originally planted in the 1960s and a copper beech I planted in the 1960s ( maybe 1963).

Only last month I visited the old neighborhood and brought back some cuttings of Forsythia bushes I used to play under as a kid. And the last time I looked, the old red cedar I used to play under on the school lot over sixty years ago was still there. All of the trees which once grew on our lot are gone - as are most of the trees on neighbors' lots. 

Nor could I find the plants of Rosa carolina which I used to enjoy in the woods as a kid. The woods is now a bamboo grove. 

Jim McKenney

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