Plants With A Story

Before this week I had never heard of the Double Japanese Aster, Kalimeris pinnatifida ‘Hortensis.’, also known as the Oxford Orphanage Plant. But now I want it for my garden and my garden won’t be complete without it.


Because I read a new post by Allen Bush on the Human Flower Project blog/website about how the garden designer/writer Elizabeth Lawrence gave him a start of this plant as a passalong plant when he visited her garden in 1982.

I love plants with a story behind them.

Most plants do have a story behind them, if you look for it and ask about it. It might be a family story, like the story of my August lilies, pictured above, now blooming with a sweet scent that hangs in the night air and makes me want to linger in the dark for awhile, wishing that the days were not growing shorter like they are. Or maybe it is someone else’s story, like the story of the Oxford Orphanage Plant, which you are borrowing because now you have that plant in your garden. Then the story forever connects you with other gardeners past and present, who grew that same plant in their gardens.

And that’s why I want to grow the Oxford Orphanage Plant in my garden. It will connect my garden to Allen Bush's garden which is connected to Elizabeth Lawrence's garden. I will then have just two degrees of separation between my garden and the garden of Elizabeth Lawrence.

Then when someone points to it in bloom in my garden and asks “what’s that?” I’ll tell them a story something like this:

“That’s the Oxford Orphanage Plant. I once read about how Elizabeth Lawrence gave a start of these as a passalong plant to Allen Bush, who still grows it today in his garden in Louisville, so I decided to get it as a reminder that passalong plants are one of the greatest gifts a gardener can give to another person because it not only gives them a free plant but also gives that plant a little more meaning and history. Would you like a start of it for your garden? Let me go get my trowel and dig one for you. No, really I insist, because you know that it was the writings of Elizabeth Lawrence and in particular her quote “We can have flowers nearly every month of the year” that gave me the idea for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day? Now, give this some morning sun and a bit of afternoon shade and it will do great. Hey, would you also like some August lilies, because as you can see I have quite a few of them. Don’t those smell good? Did I ever tell you the story about how I got them…”


  1. I love those plants with stories too. It really makes a great conversation piece. More than anything, I love the memories just waiting to be triggered off each time I walk past them :)
    I wonder how the Kalimeris got that particular name of 'Oxford Orphanage' though.

  2. I have to agree that passalong plants with stories attached to them are the best gardening gifts!

  3. Oh yes, those pass along plants are full of not only blooms but stories. This makes them more valueable than any other plants to me.

  4. Allen Bush is nice. I bet if he read this blog post, he would give you a piece of his Oxford orphanage plant. He will probably be at the GWA symposium in Raleigh.

  5. Not only do you get good stories with passalong plants, you also get pieces of other's gardens. I love that.

  6. And I love sharing plants and seeds from my garden, imagining them growing and blooming in other gardens, making my garden and me part of those other gardens' stories.

  7. I don't think I have any passalong plants except the ones the garden center passed to me in exchange for money. No, wait, I did transplant my mother-in-law's roses into my garden. I think that counts! I do hope you get an Oxford Orphange plant.

  8. "Most plants do have a story behind them"
    Interesting statement, and i like it. And even every plant has a story. Yet it cannot tells us, instead we have to discover each....


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