Heirloom gardening blooms in popularity

Summer garden with blooming purple larkspur blossoms flowering.

What goes around comes around. Heirloom, heritage, antique, and pass-along — all are words used interchangeably for growing old plants. Whether it is re-creating a historic landscape to match a period home, or simply growing a rose bush or a vegetable variety that your grandmother grew, heirloom gardening has wide appeal.

Many gardeners look for plants that are pretty and require little care. This is why gardeners are rediscovering an appreciation for plants of the past, due to their ease of growth, disease resistance, fragrance, and graceful growth habit. Most heirloom plants grow well in average soils and have few insect or disease problems. Look at old home sites, some of which have been abandoned for years, yet their plants live on.

First spring snowdrops in the wild. Flowers of Galanthus in nature

While there are a variety of dates used — and debate as to which dates are correct — most gardeners believe “heirloom” applies to plants growing 50-100 years ago. Such plants have proven their worth over several generations. Today, there are improved cultivars of some older plants that retain many attributes of the original.

Heirloom gardens include native and non-native plants; many gardeners brought plants with them when relocating, so they would have a taste of home in their new landscape. Consider getting a piece of your own heritage. Visit with grandparents, aunts, and uncles, and find out what they have in their gardens, or what plants they remember. Pass-along plants are an inexpensive way to add new plants to your garden while continuing a family legacy. Many gardeners are willing to share cuttings, divisions, or whole plants.

The two most developed groups of heirloom plants are roses and vegetables, with many varieties available via local and online retailers. Antique roses steadily gain in demand with varieties that are disease-resistant and fragrant.

Some popular varieties include Belinda’s Dream, Cecile Brunner, Mutabilis, New Dawn, and The Fairy. Of all the heirloom vegetables, tomatoes rank No. 1, but there are some popular heirloom beans, corn, melons and squash too.

Growing heirloom plants connects us to the past, creating living bonds with gardeners who came before us.

Sweet Shrub – Calycanthus floridusFlowering
Crinum Lily
Rose of SharonHostaIris
Mock Orange – PhiladelphusPhloxLycoris – Surprise Lilies & Naked Ladies
Spirea (Bridal Wreath & Anthony Waterer)Sweet PeasSnowdrops – Galanthus
Flowering Quince – ChaenomelesYarrowSummer Snowflakes
Flowering common hollyhock (Alcea rosea) plants with dark red flowers in summer garden