Appalachia Wildflowers & Trees Of Appalachia

Plants are a Living Testimony

flowers growing at old home

“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.”

—Don Casada

I was reminded of Don’s comment when I found flowers growing at an old homesite up the creek last weekend. I brought home a couple for me and one for Granny. I’m guessing they are the common orange day lilies you see growing along highways throughout the south. No matter the color of the blooms I will love them, for as Don said they are a living testimony to those who walked the woods before me.

Last night’s video: Favorite things to Use in the Kitchen – Part 1.


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  • Reply
    March 13, 2022 at 4:51 pm

    I love this! My yard is full of gifted and thrifted plants. We haven’t been in our house long, and yet it’s surrounded by things from the people and places we love. <3

  • Reply
    March 11, 2022 at 3:35 pm

    I’ve always called them Day Lilies. My Mother-in-law called them Railroad Lilies. I guess she grew up seeing them along a railroad somewhere.

  • Reply
    Denise R
    March 11, 2022 at 3:17 pm

    90% of the perennial flowers we have here at our home have come from family and friends. That is my favorite way of obtaining flowers, there is a memory of the person each time I look at the plant. I have my grandma’s Christmas cactus, which the original plant came from our neighbor Edna. The original was old when grandma got her start and I’ve had it since I was about 10 years old, so it’s about 100 years old now. I also have grandma’s peonies and clematis vine which are about 48 years old now. All of these plants are still growing strong and getting bigger each year. My daughters have taken starts from the peonies so grandma’s legacy is still being passed on! Have a wonderful weekend celebrating your daughters wedding!!!!

  • Reply
    March 11, 2022 at 2:23 pm

    You’ll have to be sure to tell us what plants and bulbs you give to Corie for her new home.

    I’ve got an aucuba japonica that is a scion of a scion of a scion taken from one my mother planted 55 years ago. We took a cutting and grew it then passed a cutting on to my wife’s dad who grew it and gave a cutting to my wife’s best friend who took a cutting and gave it to us. We needed one because we had planted ours in the ground a our house in Raleigh and didn’t think it fair to deprive the new owners of it.

  • Reply
    Osage Bluff Quilter
    March 11, 2022 at 1:14 pm

    If they are the orange day lilies, my father in law always called them ditch lilies.
    Enjoy your day tomorrow, it will go so fast!

  • Reply
    betty stephenson
    March 11, 2022 at 1:01 pm

    your right about the plants have a lot of them in my garden chrysanthemums from my grandfather day lillies and alstomeria and dhalias which were mums a lots of other bits and pieces from different friends and family over the years its so lovely to see them come out at different times have a great weekend its saturday morning 7 00 am here best of luck for the wedding to all concerned

  • Reply
    March 11, 2022 at 12:00 pm

    I have always loved, loved flowers and my Mother told me I got that from my Daddy’s Mother. My Grandmother must have had a green thumb because she had flowers collected in pots all over the long porch and out in the yard, plus the ones she planted in the garden. Many years after my Grandparents passed I happened to be out at the old place in February and found daffodils all around where the old house stood. I dug up one and took it back home and I’m still enjoying them here in PA. My husband’s parents lived in northern Illinois and when we moved his Mother gave us a piece of her Bleeding Heart plant. We planted it here in PA and it has been divided and shared many times.
    You mentioned the common orange day lilies you brought home. I’ve planted different day lilies and enjoyed all of them but I will never forget walking into a grand foyer in an old 1800’s home and sitting in the middle of this large table was a huge arrangement of the ordinary Orange day lilies. It was a stunning beautiful arrangement.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    March 11, 2022 at 11:15 am

    Tried to post earlier. Didn’t work so trying again.

    As mentioned, those plants showing up over and over are an object lesson in our relationship to land and place. The fact that some of them originally came from Europe, Asia and Africa underline the emphasis of the long inter-relationship. I hope the Park Service uses that idea in their interpretive work & doesn’t just dismiss none natives as a problem.

    Way back, seeds and plants were trade goods that moved along trade routes thousands of miles. When Fort Loudon on the Tennessee River was built in the 1750’s there was already a peach orchard there. Seeds came by way of the Spaniards from the Spanish coastal missions.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    March 11, 2022 at 11:02 am

    I am a killer of house plants–I love them but can’t keep them alive usually. My one success is Mama’s aloe vera plant. It was her pride–planted in a trough like planter and grew huge and gorgeous. When she died 11 yrs. ago I knew I had to try to preserve it. And I did!! I put it in an East window like she did and I have divided it several times and gifted others with starts of it. I have her four o clocks and her French hollyhocks outside, too.

    Over the years, my husband has salvaged plants and trees from many old homes where his company was moving dirt. They are all precious to me but my favorites are the two peonies–two big bushes. We’ve had them over 40 years so heaven knows their real age. My beautiful lilac died last year and it was a great favorite, too. He rescued some kind of evergreen years ago–the kind with limbs opposite each other. It looked like it was a goner–maybe three feet tall and partly brown. It lived and thrived and is way taller than the electric poles!! We love to salvage anything we can.

    I’m thinking of you and your family as the wedding day is almost here. I know you will miss her but she will live nearby. When people’s babies move away cross country I feel so sad for them. My son moved out on his own recently. It is good to see them grown and independent but sad that their childhood and their time in the family home has passed. I think I would have lived happy in a multigenerational home as so many used to. Just think of having grandbabies that close!! Anyway, I got carried away–I wish the newlyweds the very best life together.

  • Reply
    March 11, 2022 at 10:30 am

    Our Homeplace in SW Ohio was bordered by shrubs & flowers when we moved in over 75 years ago. Mom added at least 7 flower beds in the 50+ years she lived there. Dad planted trees – a great variety. While my husband & I lived there we carried on the tradition. There are bits of history connected to most of those plants, (ie,’the Lily from Grandma’s; the Yucca that produced the insects the grandkids played with, etc).

    Thank you for the blogs Tipper! As much as I look forward to your reading we could give it up a week or two while you are ‘marrying off’ Chatter….

  • Reply
    March 11, 2022 at 10:16 am

    Many years ago my bride asked me to dig up roots from the peonies at her beloved Mammaw’s old house. We set out four of them in front of our front porch (4 posts). Three of them survived, so of course we reset the lost one from those 3. After about 4 or 5 years one of them had a bloom. Then not many years hence they exploded with bloom. I would take blooms to the ladies at work. Of course we then transplanted some to my parents’ graves. Now i’m aspiring to get some jonquils from an old house place on part of the home place that’s left the family. Funny how something so simple can convey so much meaning.

  • Reply
    March 11, 2022 at 10:14 am

    There are a lot of old home places around where I live. Sharecroppers lived in most of them. Sometimes you can still find flowers around them. I have learned over the years of hunting around these old home places that there is a real good chance of a well close by, so you had better be careful when around these old home places.

    I want to wish Chatter well on her marriage and say to Ron that the first paragraph of his comment from yesterday is a perfect description of my wife and me. We went together for almost three years and married when she was 19 and I was 20. If she had lived we would have been together last October for 50 years. I never wanted or was tempted by anyone else. My eyes locked in on her one Sunday night at church and never left. I woke myself up these morning and almost every morning dreaming about her.

  • Reply
    Sherry Whitaker
    March 11, 2022 at 10:13 am

    Loved this post. My mother loved flowers too & planted a large round
    flower bed when I was little in Oak Ridge, Tn. One day in the hot summertime, we needed rain! We looked out & saw it raining just on that flowerbed. Mama said God was absolutely watering those flowers. I walked all around it…raining just on those flowers. That memory is sealed in my heart.

  • Reply
    Kathy Gautier
    March 11, 2022 at 9:55 am

    Oh my goodness…..once again Tipper you have been stirring around in my memories. Just this morning leaving for and driving to work, I was looking at my forsythia and crabapple blooms, day lillies breaking through and jonquils blooming and other “pass along” flowers and remembering who gave them to me and what was happening at the time. Precious memories. Sometimes I swear you read my thoughts and in the next day or so, you write about it. hahaha Praying for all of you and a beautiful wedding and a long happy life.

  • Reply
    Angelyn McLain
    March 11, 2022 at 9:38 am

    I grew up in south Alabama near the coast and there were these beautiful camilias everywhere. I remember even the purple and white variegated and the pink and white. I haven’t seen them in many decades. The traditional one still bloom during the middle of winter and they are a beautiful deep red/pink. My Granny loved them and the one by her house is still there. I would love to grow them here in middle Tennessee but I am not sure I can. They definitely have a history about them to me. Not only did my Granny have them but many others in the family too.

  • Reply
    March 11, 2022 at 9:21 am

    When my mom died, my husband said her job in Heaven would be to tend the flower garden. She had a 100′ row of what she called scarlet sage that grew along the driveway to the road back in the 60s. We were surprised to see a carload of people that had stopped on the road and were taking pictures in front of our house. They told Mom they were ‘off from here’ and had never seen such a pretty sight. Those flowers would have reseeded and left proof Mom once lived there had it not been for the highway department building the four-lane road right through the front yard.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    March 11, 2022 at 8:46 am

    A beautiful family story. I have a Seminoe pumpkin, misnamed because it predates the Seminole Indian by many years. I have dhared these seeds to friends in France, Canada and all over the US inckuding Tipper.

  • Reply
    Margie G
    March 11, 2022 at 8:21 am

    I like these stories of botany and the human linked together through time, space and many memories of family. It doesn’t seem to matter what the plant is, it’s selected out of love, carefully dug up, and taken to its new home to be adored and loved yet once again by an admirer or 20. This is a uniquely human experience and also shows HOPE and FAITH at work to believe in that life again and again. It keeps us hanging on I think.

  • Reply
    Rita F Speers
    March 11, 2022 at 7:57 am

    Mama’s Baby Bonnet flowers now live in several different places with friends, children and grandchildren! They love poor soil and will thrive in the most unlikely places!

  • Reply
    donna sue
    March 11, 2022 at 7:23 am

    Sharing seeds and bulbs with family and friends, is always fun. It is a living gift that hopefully produces the sweet memory of that person year after year. That being said, how sad when your thumb is more brown than green, like mine, and you lose a plant for a variety of reasons. My Mom’s thumb is super green, and she has a couple peony bushes growing strong from bulbs I brought to her when I moved back to San Diego from Iowa. I always enjoy reading Don Casada’s guest posts!

    Donna. : )

  • Reply
    March 11, 2022 at 7:08 am

    Those are true heirloom plants. Can you only imagine the memories if they could talk?

  • Reply
    Joey Ashe
    March 11, 2022 at 6:41 am

    There is a baby’s grave from the late 1890s in the Ward cove where my papaws family had lived. Now that area is government land. We go hiking up there at different times throughout year but the only time you can find the grave is in the spring when the daffodils bloom that mark the grave. Unfortunately someone had took or moved the rock years ago

  • Reply
    March 11, 2022 at 6:40 am

    There is a baby’s grave from the late 1890s in the Ward cove where my papaws family had lived. Now that area is government land. We go hiking up there at different times throughout year but the only time you can find the grave is in the spring when the daffodils bloom that mark the grave. Unfortunately someone had took or moved the rock years ago

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    March 11, 2022 at 6:31 am

    The old home places are always interesting and very similar. There is an old falling down house or the house is gone but you can see its print. Then there is a garden plot and various outbuildings that can be an outhouse, a woodshed, a pig pin/lot, smoke house and various others to meet the need. Then there is a barn, and chicken house/lot. When the structures are all gone you can still identify the house place by the flowers. Our people didn’t consider it a home till there was flowers growing all around.
    My grandmother had flowers all around the edge of her garden and all around the house and all around the border of the yard! She loved the flowers!

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