Features and Occasionals

Gifts that Grew

By Staff

What grows in your home or garden that came from somewhere else—not purchased, not even as a formal gift, but a garden-to-garden sharing, like sourdough starter? We asked a few of our gardening friends. Here’s what they wrote.

KEVIN & CELIA BELL – Homesteaders, SLC’s West side

Pulling through a tiny town in central Utah we stopped in at a quaint roadside attraction of a nursery run by a pair of fellows, Don and Tom. We knew Don through a connection with Wasatch Community Gardens where he’d recently become the director. After perusing all of the available potted plants in stock, one explosion of green really caught my eye, giant cane grass. It isn’t native to Utah, but we liked it. Don immediately potted some up and sent us home with it for free. Don has since died but the grass lives on, serving as a soft, vegetative division between my space and my neighbor’s. In the summer, I use an old Native American loom to weave the cane grass into mats for shade.


For many autumns, my grandmother sent me jars of fig jam she’d made from the fruit of her fig tree in Sun City, Arizona. It was her jam that inspired me to begin canning. I made strawberry jam and apple butter, but I always relied on her for my figs. Then, a few years back, she announced she was relocating to a new home. My first thought was the tree. I couldn’t survive without that wonderful sweet gift. So on my final visit to her old house, I took a cutting from the tree and drove it home to wintery Salt Lake City where I’ve cared for it in my greenhouse and watched it grow every year. It now stands four feet tall, has outgrown three pots and last year gave me my first fruit. Someday, maybe I will make jam from it, too.

ALISON EINERSON – Manager, Downtown Farmers Market

Back in 1997, my husband Scott, despite his dear mother’s tearful objections, headed west and landed in Utah. He purchased a home, and year after year his parents would drive out to visit. With each visit, my dear mother-in-law, Beverly, an avid gardener, hauled irises, Christmas cactuses, tulip and daffodil bulbs across the country, carefully planting them around the yard so her son would always remember her and his old home in western North Carolina. Ten-plus years and two kids later, we opted to leave that lovely starter home—but dug up most of the irises, bulbs and asters to plant around our new home just a mile away.

Beverly passed away a few years back, but each Mother’s Day those beautiful irises bloom, filling the air with their enchanting aroma and re­minding us of the lush green hills of the Blue Ridge and of our wonderful mother, our Nana, our original landscape artist.

JAMES LOOMIS – CATALYST contributor and gardening consultant

When I was younger and gardening with my parents, the process was purgatory. My Pops would pull out the tiller in early summer, ravage a ridiculously large plot, plant in earnest, then leave its tending to me.

Later, as a young teenager, I worked for a German family at their pioneer homestead a half-mile from my parents’ home in Spring City, Utah. It was my first experience with a well-designed garden and it was nearly overwhelming in abundance.

By my mid-twenties, I was an avid grower but there remained one plant I could never grow: dill. On a rare visit home to Spring City, I stopped by to visit the German family and saw dill filling out all manner of nooks and crannies. I asked for their secret. I was sent home with a bag packed full of mature seed heads and instructions to spread them around my entire garden the following spring. I did exactly that and, to this day, I have a perpetual self-seeding crop of dill. Every time I see it pop up in spring I’m reminded of my gardening mantra: If it’s difficult, you’re not doing it right.

GWEN CRIST – Chapter leader and board chair for Slow Food Utah

My grandmother was a passionate gardener. She grew fruits and veggies enough to feed an army and bottled them up each year to give away to her family. I looked forward to her homemade vegetable soup every winter, each taste reminding me of her and her big garden in Ogden. When I would visit her, she would always send me home with armloads of food and plants. Many of my houseplants are from starts of her plants.

The plant she gave me that I love the most is the feverfew that grows semi-wild all over my yard. Its bright green, frilly leaves and cheerful daisy-like flowers are my continued connection to her, though she’s been gone for years now. I can still picture her bent over in her garden digging up that plant, a big root ball handed to me in a plastic sack to take home and nurture.

The feverfew originally came from her mother’s garden in Woodruff, and rumor has it that it came over from England with her mother before that. The love of growing things is in my DNA, a gift from my grandmother.

This article was originally published on June 3, 2016.