A Plant Story – the plant in our family tree

Our family tree includes a plant.  Once lush with many shiny, leathery green leaves, my now straggly, not-so-attractive Hoya plant has a 3 generation history. It began as a cutting from a plant of my mom’s, her plant being a cutting from my paternal grandfather’s. Grandpa’s plant, of unknown origins and age, covered the entire ceiling of an enclosed back porch in the farm house where my dad and his siblings grew up. Mom’s plant moved east with us when I was 5, living in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and eventually coming back to Washington with my parents.  At some point in my 20s I began my plant, now over 40 yrs. old. Not sure how long mom’s lived. Her’s began to have mealy bug problems in its/her later years, and though she still had a Hoya in her 90s, when she moved from her house, it may not have been her original.

My plant, though dropping lots of leaves, continues to bloom pale pink velvety stars, with centers of  red centered pale yellow stars.

The plant genus Hoya was named after Thomas Hoy, a respected plant biologist and propagator in England in the late 1700s, early 1800s. Hoyas grow in the wild throughout Asia, especially India, some species are also found in Australia. The soft velvety pale pink variety of our family plant is Hoya carnosa, and though it is sometimes called Wax Plant, I’ve never heard anyone in my family call it that. I would call it velvet plant, the pink stars so fuzzy you want to pet them, but if you do you will get sticky fingers from the sweet nectar, which is very tasty! Hoya carnosa is said to have been cultivated for 200 years. If I add up the age of my plant, my mom’s, and think of how long ago Grandpa started his, I estimate the Hubbard plant is from a very early cultivator!

Being a tropical vine, it is “natural” for the plant to get “viney”,  and perhaps drop lower leaves as it adds new growth. Over the years I’ve cut out old dead vines and it has responded by increased new leaves and blooms further up the vines. Not having a tropical forest to climb up through, its vines, trained back on themselves around a trellis, made a visual mass of evergreen leaves when it had more leaves. Hoyas are easy to grow, survivors of many conditions, not wanting too much water or attention, but often tricky to get to bloom. Someone once gave me a Hoya they had that never bloomed, I kept it for years but never could get it to bloom.  I was taught they must be root bound to bloom, perhaps blooming when stressed.  Mine has always bloomed, regardless of where it is located. I’m thinking of cutting my plant back, even re-potting it, which will mean no blooms for possibly years, but it has sent up a few new leaves from its base, a hopeful sign.

Aunt Jackie’s second generation Hoya growing in the same house Grandpa grew his. She has not let hers cover the ceiling however! (thank you Shaun Hubbard for the photo)

So what happened to Grandpa’s plant?  My cousin Shaun tells me when her parents, my Uncle Bruce and Aunt Jackie, who own the original farm house, moved the house in the 60s the plant went to a hair salon where my cousin Laurie was working at the time. Aunt Jackie took cuttings and when the old enclosed porch was remodeled into a room, Aunt Jackie’s second generation plant was reinstalled, where it continues to grow today.  Over 90 herself, Jackie continues to pass out cuttings from her second generation plant, as grandpa did with the original plant. There are no doubt extended family Hubbard Hoya plants in the homes of many family members and friends. (Any cousins reading this who have their own Hoya story, I’d love to hear it!)

When I do cut back my plant, I have someone in mind to pass a cutting on to, who I think will nurture the cutting into a fourth generation plant. And if my cutting doesn’t make it…..there’s always Aunt Jackie’s!

Mother’s Garden Love Affair

IMG_6842In her tiny yard on Queen Anne Hill, Mom tended many flowers & a few veggies. (Pardon the redundancy to those who read my fb page. This is the ‘long’ version).  She was particularly fond of her roses, but loved all flowers and tended and fussed over lilacs, rhododendrons, Gerber daisies, pansies, tulips, daffodils and many more. A black-bearded iris was a favorite, she wanted me to dig it and take it when she knew she would not be living in her house much longer. DSC02162If you took her to a nursery she’d inevitably buy something and squeeze it in somewhere. If a plant died she asked to stop at a nursery so she could buy a replacement. A planter on the porch changed with the seasons. A spring ritual was the purchasing and planting of twin red geraniums along with little blue flowers in two planters on each side of the entrance to the basement stairs. Little lavender, pink and white flowers whose names I’ve forgotten (but she remembered!) re-seeded each year to her delight. IMG_1296 (1)Late in life she had to hire someone to keep up the yard up. Initially he replaced some of her flowers with more practical bushes and low maintenance plants, including lavender. Mom was not a lavender person, she had never grown it. With resolve she accepted it in the garden, but did not care for the scent in the house. The yard began to look raggedy, in the last year she lived in her home a neighbor complained to me about it. To me her yard was like those you see in every neighborhood, the yards of the aging, frail or ill, once tended with love, now aging with their owners. But years of planting and caring paid off as the perennials, old friends, returned each year for her to enjoy. IMG_1259 (1)

DSC08014 When she would visit us she always brought something from her yard, a rose, a sprig of lilac. Even when walking became difficult, her body hunched, she would walk her yard and pick a tiny nosegay for her table and one for the small vase I gave her that hung on her refrigerator door on a magnet. A huge dusty miller plant provided the ‘filler’ in every bouquet.

Inside, in the atrium off the living room, which was warm and bright on sunny days, there were more plants.  Multiple Christmas caucuses, a large hibiscus in the corner, the family Hoya, root bound and blooming at least once a year, spider plants, and various misc. plants. Plants also resided in the living room, where a gorgeous red prayer plant cascaded down off her marble table. In the dining room she attended to her African violets. She had a special fondness for orchids and grew a few.

IMG_0661.JPGTwo yrs. ago was our last trip to Volunteer Park Botanical Gardens where she loved to see the orchids.   Mom was not a plant aficionado, but she had her own quaint ways of making things grow, she read the newspaper articles about roses and other plants, watched Gardening with Cisco on TV, and she knew there was always room for one more plant to nurture. My wise cousin wrote to me today “All women are mothers — of someone they love. We can’t help it, we learned from the best!”  I don’t remember ‘learning’ it from my mom, but loving and appreciating plants have always been part of my life, from her encouragement of my childhood pansy beds to our trips in recent years to Whitney Rhododendron Gardens and Bloedel Reserve. Yes, I learned from my mom to love and nurture plants, and like her, I find there is always room for one more.

On this Mother’s Day I’m sure mom is puttering around a heavenly cottage garden, delighting in the vivid, colorful blossoms! Happy Mother’s Day to all the remarkable mother’s I know. I hope your day is filled with blossoms of love and appreciation.

(Mom was proud of her tulip tree, which she thought both beautiful and a bother when it blocked the view of the renter downstairs or dropped its petals & leaves on other plants. Every few years it was cut to the quick, but always came back with even more blooms!) DSC06278

Family

Life circumstances, mostly my mom’s growing care needs over the past few months, have kept me from even thinking very creatively, let alone finding time to write.  But as with most families, as one generation’s story reaches its final chapter, younger generations are beginning new journeys and creating new stories.

My two oldest nieces, Katina and Kira, both chose this month to marry their sweethearts, and since many of the readers of this blog are family and good friends, this mini post is to share a page of photos from Katina & Daniel’s wedding. If you are so inclined, you may enjoy this joyous occasion through the eyes of one devoted Aunty, me, by clicking the link below.

 Mercandante’s Wedding Celebration.

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10446637_10202192226267779_5104555424149590081_nThe next celebration is Kira (pictured here at her cousin’s wedding) and Carlos’s wedding this coming Friday, which, sadly Mike and I will not be attending, but she and her husband will be celebrating again in Washington come September and we look forward to sharing that time with them, their families and friends.

Unabashedly delighted and proud to see the remarkable young women my nieces have grown to become, and like anyone who wants only the best life has to offer the young people they love and care about, I’m overjoyed they each are marrying men who love and respect them and treasure their uniqueness.

I hope to write again soon and share some thoughts inspired by Nature’s beauty as we were able to experience it on our trip to Katina’s wedding, spending time in the Redwoods, and on the Rogue River.

Thank you for indulging my Auntiness.