Plants are lasting reminders of friends, past and present

Published on Thursday, 7 September 2017 14:51 - Written by GREG GRANT, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

I’ve always been a bit of a solitude-seeking loner. I can’t help it. I was born that way. Once my momma tried to send me to a party I didn’t want to attend with the counsel, “You just might meet some new friends.” Without hesitation I replied, “I don’t like the ones I have. Why would I want more?” I was just kidding, of course. After all, what would life be like without friends? True friends are like good dogs, offering unconditional love and perpetual support.

As a lifelong horticulturist, naturally most of my friends have been gardeners. And what genuine gardening friend doesn’t share their plants? My garden is full of plants that share my past, but the ones that speak to me the most are the ones gifted by friends. How comforting it is that even when they have gone on, their friendship still grows in my garden. These plants are literally part of my life.

The gifted plant I’ve had the longest is Aloe vera from my Grandmother Emanis. She always kept one around for treating burns. It literally saved my backside one year when I sat on a scorching hot bathroom space heater! I keep one inside during the winter, then divide it into three plants for the porch steps during the summer. My granny was a nurse, so it’s a little piece of her healing touch that stays with me.

When I was in school at Texas A&M, my new friend and mentor, Dr. William C. Welch, shared an old heirloom Turkish iris (Iris orientalis) from his College Station garden with me. I look forward to its cheerful white and yellow blooms each spring as a reminder of how he changed my cultural and horticultural life.

Dr. Welch introduced me to many interesting and wonderful gardeners, and by far the most interesting was Navasota’s late Pam Puryear. She shared many plants with me during our friendship, including her grandmother’s heirloom honeysuckle (Lonicera x americana “Pam’s Pink”) and the old “Creole Rose” (Rosa chinensis “Louis Philippe”).

Another wonderful gardener Dr. Welch introduced me to was Shreveport’s late Cleo Barnwell. She was a smart, gracious woman (born in Texas) who shared her fascinating Lycoris collection with me, along with her vigorous reseeding purple coneflower (Echinacea purpura).

The only canna that I grow was a gift from College Station gardener extraordinaire and friend Cynthia Mueller. She was visiting Costa Rica a number of years ago, so I asked her to be on the lookout for native Canna iridiflora. Thankfully, she found me the old sterile French hybrid Canna x iridiflora “Ehemanii” to replace the virused version that I was growing and selling to Old House Gardens. It reminds me of a cross between a banana and a fuchsia, both plants I always longed to grow.

We plan to have this canna, plus some of some of Cleo’s spider lilies in our Smith County Master Gardener bulb sale Oct. 14.

Greg Grant is the Smith County horticulturist for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. You can follow him on Facebook at “Greg Grant Gardens,” read his “Greg’s Ramblings” blog at or read his “In Greg’s Garden” in each issue of Texas Gardener magazine ( For more information on local educational programming, go to