Recently, I was asked what I most value as a gardener. Without hesitation, I replied: memory.
Without that God-given faculty, gardening would mostly be sweaty, hard work with only a fleeting one-time reward. By exercising the gift of memory, however, I can pick and choose from a storehouse of magical garden moments from the past when this or that plant outperformed all expectation.
Better still, I can relive precious moments in the garden with family and friends. While I dearly love plants, people always trump plants.
When I was a boy, my mom, hobbled and weakened by decade-long battles with cancer and heart disease, tended a modest cottage garden filled with gorgeous perennials. Her beloved little garden was therapeutic in ways a daily regimen of pills could never match. Gardening, I’m convinced, added years to her life. Sitting with her in the garden and hearing her share her love and fascination of plants was, and is, priceless.
Mom had a select group of plants that she referred to as beloved “memory plants,” special plants that hearkened back to childhood moments in the garden with her mom. Garden phlox (Phlox paniculata) was at the top of that list. Her garden was always filled with tall flowering phlox. She saw something beautiful and special in garden phlox long before the species was hybridized into the ravishing beauties they are today.