When I was growing up, my grandmother had a garden. I realized today that there are certain plants I always associate with her garden, because she always had those plants, and her yard was where I first encountered them. These plants include roses, coleus, phlox, and petunias.
I then began to think about what other associations I have with certain plants. Here are a few:
plants: When I was growing up, spider plants became all the rage for a
while, as houseplants. The thing to do was to put them in a hanging pot.
(Hanging pots were also in fashion.) Preferably in a macrame holder.
(The macrame probably tips you off as to when this was.)
cactus: In my twenties, I started traveling on my own, after having
spent most of my life in the northeastern US. I decided I wanted to see a
desert, so I flew to southern Arizona on one of my vacations. I was
still on the plane coming into Tucson when I saw my first saguaro. I was
thrilled. Up until then, I had mostly just seen little cacti in
pots, and I'd seen some prickly pear growing wild in New Jersey. But the
saguaro is the emblematic, picture-perfect cactus, the kind you see on
TV. I don't think I believed it really existed until then. To me, the
saguaro is about the freedom I had then, the willingness to just pick a
place on a map and get on a plane and go see it. (After saving up all
year so that I could do so!)
Yarrow: This humble plant grew all
over the yards and playgrounds where I grew up. We crushed its feathery
foliage to catch its fragrance. The scent is sweet, somewhat grassy and
Tulip: One of my grandmothers loves tulips, so I always think of her when I see them.
For some reason, this tropical plant has become associated with
Christmas in the US. You would see poinsettia everywhere in late
December, and then they disappeared--unless you had a grandfather like
mine. He kept the plants past Christmas, and by judicious pruning and
fertilizing, managed to keep them alive indefinitely. I still remember
seeing shelves full of his leggy poinsettia plants.
believe I first saw these during my traveling twenties, in the mountains
of the American west. They usually seem to grow with bright red
paintbrush plants, and the purple of the lupines against the scarlet of
the paintbrush is one of my favorite wildflower scenes. A confession:
The inner leap of joy I experience whenever I see lupines expresses
itself somewhat strangely. When I see a stand of lupines, I usually call
out in a high, tiny voice, as if I were a cartoon character: "Lupines!"
writer in me will now point out that these kinds of associations can
enrich our writing, both in the areas of characterization and setting.
They don't have to be based around plants, of course. They could be
based around songs, or food, or movies, or anything.