Granny Wildflowers & Trees Of Appalachia

Granny’s Ageratum

purple flower

Granny has grown ageratum for as long as I can remember. It was one of the first plants she shared with me when I planted my own flowers, so I have it growing around the yard too. It’s never really been one of my favorite flowers. It isn’t that showy and probably most of my dislike for it comes from the time of year that it blooms.

By the time the flower blooms summer is so overgrown I’m ready for cold weather and a hard frost to push everything back. I had never wondered where Granny got her start of the plant, but the other day she told me the story.

She said when her and Pap only had my older brother Steve they lived in a house they rented from the Kings in Murphy. Pap’s mother, Marie, would come to town and baby-sit Steve while Granny worked. She said the Kings had ageratum growing in their yard and Mamaw Marie asked them for a piece of it. Mamaw brought it home to Brasstown and got it established.

Years later when Pap and Granny were able to build their own house up the road from Mamaw Marie she shared her ageratum with Granny.

Granny said “She shared it with me because after all she probably would of never had the flower if I hadn’t begged her to come and keep Steve for me.” I told Granny “Now that I know the story I’ll never again be able to pull up my ageratum with such abandon no matter where it spreads.

Last night’s video: Apple Bread and Fall of the Year in Appalachia.


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  • Reply
    Sanford McKinney
    September 29, 2021 at 9:26 pm

    Just ordered the cookbook for my wife. I know she will enjoy it, even if she doesn’t try any of the receipts. Ordered the paperback since the hardbacks ran anywhere from $60+ to over $100.

  • Reply
    Kat Swanson
    September 29, 2021 at 5:19 pm

    I love pass along flowers and seeds. I have been raising the same marigolds for over 30 years , first grown for my daughter. …we gathered and dried seeds, sharing with dozens of friends and neighbors over the years. Our family has grown big hibiscus from shared seeds for over a hundred years. They come back every year in colors of white, pale pink and dark pink. They take yard because I can’t stand to cut them down. They were grown by my aunt and my daddy as a reminder of their grand ma. I am drying the seeds now to send along with their story to a cousin’s daughter now in Chattanooga.
    Flowers connect us to relatives long gone . I say their names and remember them.
    My mom used to say an odd thing about pass a longs….she’d say you should not say thank you, but say I appreciate it instead. She said they’d not grow if you said thank you. Is this only something we did in coalfields VA.???

    • Reply
      September 29, 2021 at 6:16 pm

      Kat-I’ve heard that my whole life: If you say thank you for plant starts that someone shares with you they will die. It is so hard not to immediately say thank you for their generous giving 🙂

  • Reply
    September 29, 2021 at 4:50 pm

    Ageratum is the one flower I only associate with graves – my mother would always buy ageratum, geraniums, and petunias, and plant all three at each of the family graves. She’d plant petunias and geraniums at home, too, especially in a big window box my Dad made, but the ageratum seemed destined only for cemetaries. Now you’ve got me wondering why!

  • Reply
    September 29, 2021 at 4:37 pm

    I think its pretty. Glad your not getting rid of it. You have shared so many pretty flowers with us. Thank you.

  • Reply
    Bernie Horan
    September 29, 2021 at 3:13 pm

    I love this story! Earlier this year my niece brought me a lilac bush which she had collected and grown for me from my parents home in upstate NY. The original plants were in my grandmothers garden in Hicksville on Long Island. I think it was the best present I have received in a very long time. My mother loved those lilacs and waited for them to bloom every year. For as long as the bushes bloomed our dining room smelled of that delicate scent. Now I will be able to do the same thing every year in Waynesville.

  • Reply
    Marsha Favis
    September 29, 2021 at 10:13 am

    These grow wild in Missouri and are called Mist Flowers. I always thought they would be pretty dried.

  • Reply
    September 29, 2021 at 9:02 am

    I enjoy reading your stories behind things that were either given to you or how you found them. It makes me thing of stories my mom use to tell me. I sure miss my mom and her stories.
    Thank you for sharing your stories.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    September 29, 2021 at 8:48 am

    Tipper—As is often the case, never mind my deep mountain roots, I learned something this morning. When I first saw the post I said, “aha, Tipper doesn’t know how to spell argeretum.” Turns out I didn’t know how to spell ageratum, although I’ve always called it floss flower.

    Spelling and name aside, it’s beautiful and it can be a bit bothersome given that it reseeds anywhere and everywhere.


    • Reply
      Sanford McKinney
      September 29, 2021 at 9:29 pm

      Perhaps I should report this to King College!

  • Reply
    September 29, 2021 at 8:43 am

    I don’t care much for them either but I understand why you keep them. I would too.

  • Reply
    Margie G
    September 29, 2021 at 8:40 am

    I’ve not paid attention if I’ve seen ageratum but I think it’s a dandy looking flower and it’s violet color is stunning with little “pointers” poking out to boot!!! It may be something I look for in years to come (if the Lord allows me to live that long.) On the plus side of cemeteries, there are many beautiful statues and even epitaphs there as well as lovely flowers. I recall at a wedding once every lady got a potted plant. Someone planted it on aunt Marilla’s grave. It was the ONLY one that thrived as all the others croaked over. I say it’s because the woman was practically a saint. But I think the ageratum story is simply MARVELOUS, Tipper. I’d grow it everywhere and get some to give your girls to grow when they get married and start their homes. It’s almost like a heritage at this point.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    September 29, 2021 at 8:25 am

    Seems as if Ageratum should have a descriptive common name. Mr. Casada used one the other day in his comment about ironweed but I forget what it was. But anyway, those storied things handed down through friends and family take on a value that is bigger than their flaws. Seems there ought to be a moral in there somewhere.

    On a completely different subject, Sharon and I took a walk over by the lake yesterday evening and heard the rattling call of a kingfisher. Out of the blue I recalled my Dad called them a “didapper” or sometimes a “shitepoke”. I thought of you and the DSME and wondered if either or both of those names are Appalachian regional. I’m grateful you have made me more aware of such things. Now when I have those memories I almost always think, “Wonder if Tipper would know that the same way?”

    It is about time for the purple and white gentians to be blooming. I can’t have any here, too dry. Like the cardinal flower Mr. Casada mentioned, they are a nice fall-blooming plant to find.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    September 29, 2021 at 8:16 am

    Plant connections to both people and place are a wonderful part of Appalachia. We’ve got day lilies (Daddy called them cow lilies) and japonica here at the house which came from the old home place on Juney Whank Branch. I know of other folks who have retrieved roots or bulbs from old home places as well.

    At the Bryson City Cemetery, there are dogwood and redbud trees, yellowbells, marigolds, zinnias, dahlias and jonquils which we’ve transplanted from either our house or other folks have given us. There are some jonquils which traveled with the Bryson family from here to Durham to Olathe, Kansas, where Dan Bryson, great-grandson of our town’s namesake now lives. When he dug them up last year, he sent a box of bulbs to me. They’re now at the graves of his forebears.

    Maybe a decade ago, some pumpkin seed which came from Chambers Creek (which has been in Park for over 3/4 century now), was given to me by Christine Proctor, whose husband Troy grew up near Chambers Creek. I planted them here and had a fine crop of a particularly good-eating pumpkin. I bragged about it to Tipper and gave her some seed. I always had volunteers, so quit saving seed until last year, there were no volunteers. So I asked Tipper for seed, since I’d given her some. She mailed them to me and now there are some fine pumpkins whose forebears traveled from Chambers Creek to Bryson City to Brasstown and back to Bryson City.

    In different sections of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there is abundant evidence of neighbors sharing plants. For example, on Noland Creek, with one exception, every jonquil to be found is the double jonquil variety. We’ll never know who started it, but clearly the first person who planted them dug up the bulbs to separate and replant, and that’s when they began to spread throughout the drainage.

    Plants are living testimony to those gone on before.

  • Reply
    Denise R
    September 29, 2021 at 7:25 am

    Just read about Ageratum, is your variety a perennial? Is it the wild variety? I don’t know about this one, but what I found about the flower online is interesting.

    • Reply
      September 29, 2021 at 8:46 am

      Denise-I’m not sure what variety mine is, but it dies back every year and spreads around very easily 🙂

  • Reply
    carol harrison
    September 29, 2021 at 6:28 am

    I always call Ageratum “grave flowers”. When I was young Mom and Grandma always planted them on the ancestors graves every summer along with Marigolds. I always pass the little blue flowers over when considering plants for porch planters. I have flash backs of graves when I see them. Back then grave upkeep was the responsibility of the family including mowing of the lot.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 29, 2021 at 6:24 am

    It’s funny how some things touch your heart and stay there forever. You have a tender heart Tip and especially toward family. That’s just one of the many things about you that I love!

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