The two authors, Steven Bender and Felder Rushing talk about individual plants in a neighborly, anecdotal way, sometimes lurching over the line into Jeff Foxworthy territory, but with genuine horticultural information under the kudzu. I have no resistance to this kind of Southern- style writing, treasuring old paperbacks by Lewis Grizzard and Celestine Sibley, enjoying the YaYa Sisterhood, and loving movies like Steel Magnolias and Fried Green Tomatoes. If you can’t swallow garden writing served with a side of cheese grits, you may need a lot of iced tea to get you through the pages, but the plant stories are wonderful. I love my copy, sometimes rereading the book for fun, and sometimes using it as a reference for specific plants.
Many of the most tempting stories are about plants that won’t grow above zone 7, giving the Northern gardener a case of zone envy. Felder and Steve are currently considering a new book about Passalong Plants for colder zones, so if you live where camelias freeze, read this book first and hope they’ll write a companion volume in the future.
But among the passalong plants in my present garden are two that traveled long and winding roads to live in Austin, Texas.
Look into the photo above and you’ll see some tall while phlox, cavorting with a white Echinacea and some Perovskia last July. The family legend says that my great-grandmother grew the phlox in Michigan in the early 1900’s. By 1924 she'd given a division to her daughter, my Grandma Anna, who took them to Chicago. Grandma passed them along to my parents in the 1950’s. Decades later, I took some of the white phlox with me to a rental townhouse, then to our first house. Another four years passed, I redivided the burgeoning clump and took some to our second house, then repeated the process and planted them in the square garden at the third house, seen below.