My journey to the mountains provided an opportunity to reconnect with distant family, the mountains and the culture of my roots. Twenty years ago I bid farewell to Appalachia, and following university I left with a one way ticket to the high tech fields of California. I have been fortunate to have a career that has offered me the opportunity to experience many different countries, cultures and perspectives on life. While I realized as a teenager that I wanted to experience more of the world, I have viewed those mountains and their culture as the context for my personal story. This particular journey brought a few of those embedded traits to the surface.
As I've aged I've developed a increasing connection with the plants that share and support our life on this planet. Every spring I order and plant a diversity of native tree species on our 40 acres. I'm sure my my wife and daughters have often questioned my grip on sanity. Most years I transplant over 30 seedlings. Many of these trees will not reach maturity until I'm well into my twilight years, if I'm so fortunate. Perhaps it's an instinct to create and leave a legacy on this earth.
In our own attempt to establish the connection from generations past and future, my family has sought an answer in the plants that have shared our lives. The treasures I inherit from my ancestors are not financial but horticultural. We pass on these little botanical bits of legacy, each holding a connection with our past. This week I planted rhubarb that has been split several times from one grandmother, a June sour apple tree sprout from the other grandmother (I can still conjure the memory of that applesauce), splits from one great grandmother's rose bush, and lilies from a great-grandmother that passed when I was an infant. As I planted each of these into landscape bed, orchard, and garden, my heart was warmed with hope for the future and reverence for the past.
I've heard of the Italians and French passing old grape vines across generations. Maybe this isn't unique to my family or culture. My wife has a Christmas cactus growing in the corner that originated with her grandmother, with starts passed on from mother to daughter to granddaughter. Perhaps it is instinctual to tie our heritage and future to the plant life that provided us with sustenance and pleasure. I hope my transplants survive the spring and I can one day share them with my daughters. I'll be out next weekend planting several dozen trees on this rough piece of land so that someday my grandchildren can get a start off my pawpaws, persimmons, shagbark hickorys, northern pecans or dogwoods. Maybe.
If you have plants passed on from past generations, please share in the comments section. We would love to hear the stories behind your own horticultural treasures.