There is something to be said for getting something passed down to you from a loving member of your family. When you are a child you really do not appreciate the simple hand-me-down clothes that are given from older family members who might have very different clothing tastes than your own. It can be the horror of childhood to have to go to school in the passed down clothes and have all those stares wondering why are you even wearing those horrible things. After the passing of time you slowly grow warmer to the idea of hand-me-downs and start thinking, at the loss of a cherished family member, the real jewels that can only be handed down.
My great-great-grandmother was called Big Granny. She had a wild and amazing garden in the front of her home. She cared for it and took the time to really grow something that the family thought was too wild and would have liked her to have a little more grass. She was a very independent woman, getting rides all the way from Oklahoma to California to see her sister when she was a 50. She took the time to teach her eldest granddaughter the basics of gardening and how to plant and grow it.
Her daughter was called Granny Sisk. She never had much use for flower gardens beyond the simple rose bushes along her fence but her fruit and vegetable gardens were a sight to behold. She taught all her children the ins and out of gardening for food while living an off the land existence in the mountains. She brought a strong, simple, and basic approach to life and the garden. Everything had a reason in her gardens --except the roses.
Her daughter was my grandmother. She taught me the wonderful mix of both her teachers, Big Granny and Granny Sisk. She planted what she loved, and had no fear of planting a wonderful flower bed that her father would bring plants down the mountain for. Most of her plants were simple and basic hand me down plants. She only bought iris once. Everything else came from the feed store or passed along from some family or friend. She had a wonderful vegetable garden for years and her fruit trees are the fame of the family. She taught me the basics of the garden world--how to prune--how to transplant--how to start a garden.
My other grandmother had plants beyond number together in wonderful mixes and places. She taught me all the wonder and colors that they can come in. She taught me that your garden is okay - if it makes you happy. Even if this garden does not have the look that others approve, she taught me that every garden only needs to pass the inspection of one person--the person who planted it.
These are the garden memories that I will pass on to my children and grandchildren. Taking the time to teach the next generation on the hand-me-down garden methods and values that I have been taught. This is the greatest hand-me-down I have been given--when both my grandmothers took the time to focus and when they had the chance to teach me the wonderful world of the garden. They taught me a different world than I would have never known unless they had taken the time to teach that scrawny little kid who asked way too many questions. One of the things I am striving to do is to pass on these same hand-me-downs to my family, and I encourage you to pass them on to yours.
Image of my family near 1900, images owned by Alta Fitzgerald, used with permission.