When I visited my grandmother on Sunday, I took the chance to walk around her garden a few times. Sadly she doesn’t walk very well any more so she couldn’t join me, but I wanted to see what I wanted to “poach” from her garden in early spring.
(And walking gardens in November is when it comes in handy to have grown up with a mother and a grandmother who are both avid gardeners, because I can still see what’s what more or less, even when there are just a few withered leaves on the perennials.)
She is very happy to pass plants on to me, of course, because she can hardly walk and hardly see any more, and also she has this autumn become so frail that she doesn’t really go out unto her terraces without company. And she knows how much I enjoyed having some literal heirloom plants in the old garden and how plants from her garden are more important to me than the fanciest stuff I could buy in a plant store.
Some areas of her garden would be more sensitive to poaching than others. Because she doesn’t walk much these days, she will probably never make it into the lower part of her garden again, so that’s where I can really do my poaching without her or – more importantly, given her poor eye sight – her guests ever noticing. I want the upper garden around the house to still look nice and lush and presentable.
Still, some plants from the upper garden won’t show if I poach a huge quantity of them, especially her geraniums and her wild strawberries. They have such rampant growth that I can take as many as I want and it will still look lush a few weeks later, even to a 20/20 vision guest!
In the lower garden there are some asters and daisies I could use, and of course lots and lots of biannuals like evening primrose.
When I do poach/collect these plants, an interesting thing is that because my grandparents created this garden more or less from scratch, the original plans exist and were routinely updated until my grandfather died, so I can get actual species names for almost every single plant by consulting those plans. That is, I believe, a rarity when getting plants from established gardens.
My grandmother is, I hope, not much longer in this world. She is a kind and generous and loving person, and I hope that one morning she just won’t wake up. She is still mentally present to a great extent (okay, she repeats herself, but what she says is sensible and interesting) but her body is failing. And she is quite open about looking forward to dying.
Apart from getting some great plants for free, what I’ll also get is my own history imprinted on my little plot of land. A sense of belonging by virtue of sharing the garden with plants from my grandmother’s garden. I believe we’ll all be very happy in the rich soil of the island of Lolland!