My keepsakes aren’t lined up on a special shelf or stored in a special drawer. I don’t keep them in the house at all.

Dad’s purple bearded iris. Photos courtesy of Amanda Russell

My keepsakes are flowers in my garden and trees in my yard, each from a special person in my life who I have loved and who has made my life what it is today. Some of those beloveds have passed away, and some are still alive. I wish they were all still alive, but at least all of them remain a vital part of my life – or rather, a vital part of my garden, which is the same thing.

Here is a list of my keepsakes and the people from whom they came:

• Dad’s dark purple bearded iris, which sprouted along the foundation of his house.

• Grampy’s phlox, that electric pink varietal that persists in so many old-time gardens.

• Mom’s mallow, which grew between the stone steps out her back door.

• Nana’s Shasta daisies, both bold and delicate, just like the ballet slippers she wore.

• Norma’s feverfew, which she dug up for me when I was studying medicinal plants.

Nana’s Shasta daisies.

• Althene’s Solomon’s seal, which lined the base of her pretty henhouse.

• Barb’s climbing rose, with the nastiest thorns I have ever seen (or experienced!).

• Deb’s chicory, which she gave me the year her husband passed away.

• The lupine from my neighbor Rufus Caswell’s funeral, which the family handed out.

There is Seaver’s red rhubarb and Hannah’s sorrel and Andy’s purple aster. Alison’s sunflowers and Lesley’s Joe-Pye weed are taking off, and the sugar maple my co-workers gave me the year my mother died is absolutely thriving after four dry years. I have the scion-ed North Haven Strawberry Apple tree from Jamie’s and Toshiko’s farm, as well as the Round Pond Strawberry Apple tree from the house I grew up in.

Althene’s Solomon’s seal.

So many keepsakes and so many memories and so much gratitude I feel for the people who have enriched my life and who have tended each flower, each plant, each tree. Now I tend those same, so that their annual visits of bloom continue to enrich my life year after year. To all: Thank you from deep inside my heart!

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