Sunday, April 20, 2008

Heirloom Blooms

I spent my spring break in Michigan, researching my family history. The week before the trip I worked at getting my garden beds cleaned up as they snow melted. I was a bit upset with myself for leaving just as the weather was improving here and I found myself itching to be outside. I had planned to take a break from the library and visit the Matthaei Botanical Gardens at U of M. I never got a break while I was in Ann Arbor. Later in the week I wanted to get to Fernwood Botanical Garden in Niles, MI but spent my time lost on back country roads or tramping cemeteries for hours. You can read more about my trip here and here. Michigan is much like New York and the daffodils were blooming where ever I went.

The main reason that I went to Michigan was to look at a collection of letters written by various family members from about 1860 until about 1950. I wasn't expecting to find letters about gardening! As the family fanned out across the country and new homesteads were established they would write back to Michigan asking for seeds or describing the various plants and crops that they were growing in their new location. They sent peony toes by mail and if they didn't survive they would send more. One letter contained a part of a page torn from a magazine with a picture of plants that my cousin wanted to try and share with those back home. Another cousin wrote of her despair that her neighbors had no interest in flowers and how bleak she found the area without them. My greatgrandparents sent gifts of whippleberries as gifts. I'd love to know what a whippleberry is!

On my last day I visited the old homesite where my mother grew up. The house has been gone for years. Someone has just started construction on a new home. Some of the bulbs that Mom remembers from her youth were flowering while I was there and some daylilies were peeking out of the brush pile. There was no one around to ask if I could dig up anything so I had to content myself with a few pictures instead.

This was a very lacey looking daffodil. I'll be looking for one like it to plant here in my garden.


  1. How neat to find all those old letters and even see the old homestead. Next year my father is taking me to Finland and I'll get to see my great-grandfather's farm for the first time. Most of the family still live in the area.

  2. I wanna know what a whippleberry is too! That is quite the mystery. I should've known you sisters had gardening in the DNA! Meanwhile, I've got weeds seeds in mine! LOL. Great to have you back.