This Book Will Grow On You

Passalong Plants by Steve Bender and Felder Rushing, 1993
Passalong Plants by Steve Bender and Felder Rushing, 1993

Okay, so maybe gardening isn’t your thing.  But if you found yourself stranded on an island with this book, you couldn’t despair completely.  The humor, history and, yes, profound insight in Passalong Plants would keep your mind off your troubles for a little while.

Passalong plants are ones that grow and multiply so easily that gardeners share and sometimes foist them on other gardeners. Authors Steve Bender and Felder Rushing weave wonderful, often personal stories about these horticultural treasures, many of which can’t be found in commercial plant nurseries.

Post Format:  Quotations

Here are a few passages that had me chuckling:

“If humanity is someday stupid enough to annihilate itself with the hydrogen bomb, the only living things left on the planet will be cockroaches playing beneath a trumpet vine.”

Cannas are as tough as the meat of a geriatric rooster.”

I learned the history of kudzu vine by reading this book.  (It was brought to the United States in the 1930s to combat soil erosion.  Boy, did it do the trick–it can grow a foot a day and sixty feet in a year!) Bender’s thoughts on this overly successful vine again had me laughing:

“Driving to work recently I passed by what used to be a hardwood forest.  It’s now a giant green waterfall, thanks to kudzu, which has happily digested woods, telephone poles, and slow-moving mailmen throughout the South for about the last fifty years.”

“Today, kudzu has come to symbolize the South… and among certain Southerners, it’s earned a grudging respect.  You just can’t help but admire a plant that can climb a squirrel faster than the other way around.”

The authors gave me insight into my love for the ginger lily.  They refer to this passalong plant as a “perfume factory.” I just know its scent brings me right back to my Aunt Margaret who grew them in droves and arranged them in vases in her lovely home:

“Yet in some way, smell is our most profound and surprising sense, for more than sight, hearing, touch, or taste, it is capable of calling up dusty old memories stowed away for decades on some forgotten, cerebral sidetrack.”

Rose Campion (2)
My garden is full of passalong plants including this colorful rose campion.

BONUS BIT:  Coming from a long line of gardeners, I am familiar with many passalong plants.  But one plant in the book was a complete newcomer to me–rose campion. I was so intrigued by its description that when I found some for sale at a plant festival, I grabbed it up.  I’m so glad I did!

“Not a few people think rose campion comes on too strong.  Thus, they caution against using it in a mixed border, promoting instead softer, quieter pastels, colors you might find in a Monet painting or on bathroom tissue.  To them, I say, “Wake up, Bud, it’s party time!”

QUESTION:  Do you have a favorite passalong plant? If so, what is it and would you share?

4 thoughts on “This Book Will Grow On You

  • June 2, 2016 at 11:16 am

    I love this post…and your rose campion! Pass some along to me please. Remember the cardinal rule of sharing plants-the recipient can never say ‘thank you’ or the plant won’t transplant well.

    • June 15, 2016 at 6:27 pm

      So glad you enjoyed it. I’ll be happy to share the next time you stop by.

  • June 7, 2016 at 8:24 pm

    Would Wisteria be considered a pass along plant? Really enjoyed your write-up on this book. Sounds interesting.

  • June 8, 2016 at 5:32 pm

    So glad you liked the post. Wisteria is not mentioned specifically in this book, but sure, why not? I mean it’s hardy, it multiplies (as evidenced by its profusion in the woods), and it can be found in gardens all over the South. In fact my mother has a vine/bush near the walk going up to her front porch. When it’s full of those fragrant, lavender blooms, there is no better welcome.


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