Plundering My Mother’s Garden


My sweetie and I have been talking about creating an herb garden and, when we visited my parents right after Easter, I asked my mother if she would share some of her plants with me. She agreed with a motherly excitement and we toured around her garden that afternoon. Distracted by visiting, we never got around to actually potting any up.

This past week, I jumped back on the highway to become a pirate of the plants!

Leading up to the plunder, my mother shared her excitement to pass along these plants. Her father was a farmer for years, planting crops of corn, beans, and all kinds of veggies to feed the family year round. She reminisced about that garden and wished she had taken this same tour with her father. My heart broke a little, but seamed itself right back together when I realized that she was confirming that I was making the right move.

On the first day of my second visit, Mom and I walked around the garden, talking about the plants and picking the ones that seemed to fit into my current gardening plans. She passed on her experience.

Lamb’s Ears: “Bees love it! I moved them all away from the patio because the bees were taking over. And they’re basically weeds, you know. They’ll invade your whole garden.”

Lemon Balm: “You’ll have this everywhere if you don’t watch out. Bunnies love it. They’ve made their little home here.”

Mint: “I use the chocolate mint for tea and your dad loves it. Watch out, though! It will spread like wildfire.” Me: “Oh, we’re going to plant it in pots.” Mom: “Mint can’t be contained.” Me: “Even out of a pot.” Mom: (with a wizened eye roll) “Even out of a pot.”

Parsley: “Parsley will find its own place. You can’t control it. I started these same plants next to the patio in the back. Now look! They’re all along the road with the flowers. I didn’t move them! They moved themselves.”

Asters: “These look horrible almost all year. Then, in the fall, they burst into all of these gorgeous blooms! Bees love them. But most of the year, they look awful!”

I sucked up all of the wisdom she shared. My list of plants grew with each description. The trip needed to be worth the effort, but I didn’t want to seem greedy. My garden tour ended with a list of fifteen.

Then, we visited my mother’s local nursery and got some of those chintzy little pots the garden centers use for seedlings. Cheap and perfectly sized, I grabbed ten of each.

Woohoo! Arming the ship was complete!

Bowl of Tea with Mom & Dad

The next morning after my bowl of tea and chit-chat with both parents, Mom and I hit the garden. We searched around the specified plants for a little offshoot, some sprout which had gone rogue. When we found that solitary small plant, we dug up the whole thing, making sure to leave as much of a root ball as possible.

With another strategy, we surveyed the edges of a well-established plant, scruffling around and untangling several stems from the rest of the plant with the bare minimum of roots attached.

On and on throughout the garden, we filled our plastic tub with plants ending in bare roots and swiftly crumbling root balls.

Mom kept saying “Don’t worry about the roots. Nothing can kill these.” She didn’t realize I could hear the crossed fingers in her voice.

Time to pot them up! We slipped some potting soil into the bottom of each pot and settled my transplants onto the soil, arranging the roots as necessary. We filled the rest of the pot with dirt and watered the plants in. After the dirt settled from the deluge, one more addition of soil filled the pots to the brim. A final splash of water followed and the transplant was complete!

Potting the Plants

We filled pot after pot, covering her patio with potting soil and splatters of water. Storing each finished pot on her garden shelves, I marveled at my booty.

Bounty of the Plants

The next day, my mother, like all good pirate mothers before her, filled my ship. She packed all of the plants into the car, making sure they would stay upright both in the cooler I had carried for this reason and in the cardboard flat she used to contain the rest.

Eighteen plants made it into the back of my car that Thursday morning: Oregano, Lambs Ears, Lemon Balm, Sweet Savory, Artemisia, Parsley, Thyme, Opal Basil, Lemon Basil, Hens & Chicks, Asters, Chocolate Mint, Spearmint, Tansy, Sage, Rosemary, Lavender, Coreopsis.

I know I listed fifteen, but I couldn’t resist!

Back at pirate headquarters in North Carolina, several looked homesick. I spent the next week plying them with water and varying amounts of sunshine. My new lemon balm rejected the sun and requested a shady spot for recovery. Soon, her wilted leaves revived in my kitchen. The asters finally came back to life with a steady strong thunderstorm.

With a week’s worth of root growth and a couple of those strengthening rainstorms, the plants are ready for their new pots or garden beds. My sweetie and I are planning a vertical herb garden just outside our kitchen door. A bee garden needs digging along the edge of our own back woods. Room must be found in the veggie garden for the extra basil.

Plants Ready to Go

For now, I rejoice in my plunder.

Tomorrow, it’s time to get digging.

Where’s my crew?

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