Take inspiration from generational gardens
Historic American Buildings Survey Old photograph copied in 1934 EAST ELEVATION (FRONT) – Cady House, Dodge & Norlin Streets, Sonora, Tuolumne County, CA Photos by Survey HABS CA-116 – Library of Congress
Theft is illegal, but the “theft” of garden ideas is something else. Driving slowly around your neighborhood will clearly show gardening successes. The premise is simple; if the plant is in the same type of soil, with the same water, in a similar location, your garden should have the same success with that same plant. If you are lucky enough to live in an old and well established neighborhood, the views can be spectacular and may have been around for generations.
Gardens undergo transitions as they age, as do the homes and families who live there. Look for the house where accumulated generations of gardeners have worked with love. These generational gardens have a longevity secret that will save you time and money.
For example, along a country road, have you ever noticed a picture-perfect white lilac sitting in the open, next to a dilapidated wooden building that it has survived? Lilacs are plants known for their longevity and lack of care. Plants that survive through generations must be resistant and have a long life.
Trees immediately come to mind for their longevity. Oaks live for several hundred years. Long-lived flowering trees include magnolias (up to 120 years) and dogwoods (up to 125 years). Fruit trees like persimmons (up to 75 years old), apple and apricot trees (up to 60 years old) and pecan trees (over 300 years old) are real heirlooms transmitted by the one who had the foresight to plant them. . (Of course, the lifespan of any plant depends on who takes care of the plant’s needs, the variety of the plant, and the growing state of the plant.)
There are perennials that also surprise us with their longevity. Peonies, with flowers the size of a softball, will last for decades after establishment. Daylilies with large, brightly colored trumpet-like flowers will last for years. Irises with green leaves and bearded flowers of many colors are often found in historic cemeteries and around abandoned homes. (The iris should be divided every few years to help promote large new flowers, but requires little care otherwise.)
Hosta is another long-lived plant. Beautiful leaf patterns and upright flowers adorn the hostas. (The problems for hostas are snails, slugs, and deer that want to shorten their lifespan quickly.)
Sedum is drought tolerant and very hardy even in cold weather. Sedum has varieties like ‘Autumn Joy’ and ‘Purple Emperor’ which serenade pollinators. Liriope or lilyturf lasts for years with thin bladed leaves and small flowers.
The list of generational plants is long: baptista or faux indigo, catnip, agapanthus, oriental poppy, wisteria, trumpet vine, heliopsis, yarrow, moss phlox, and balloon flower are all a good start.
How long do plants live? Long enough to be the envy of the neighborhood. Long enough to have named heirs in a will. Long enough to bring joy for years to come. So, don’t hesitate to steal ideas from gardeners with dirty hands for lifelong happiness.
Julie Silva is a Master Gardener at the University of California Tuolumne County Cooperative Extension.
The UCCE master gardeners in Tuolumne and Calaveras counties can answer questions about home gardening. Call 209-533-5912