Sisterhood of the Traveling Plants Print
     There is 12” of snow on the ground, and more falling.  It is a winter wonderland worthy of a Christmas card, a perfect time to sit indoors and read with a cup of tea at my elbow.  I love to read old gardening books and stories about women gardeners.  I ponder what life was like in olden days.  I think of how those early women treasured the plants in their gardens, and how they might have obtained them.  Did they carefully dig wild herbs and flowers from woods and meadows as they moved from field to house, bringing them home in their aprons to make a little garden of their own?  Did their male family members bring plants over long treks as they returned from Crusades or sea voyages from exotic lands?  Were cuttings or seeds “borrowed” from nearby wealthy estates?  Were special plants purchased with hard-won pennies from peddlers or early nurseries?  
      It is fascinating to me to think of women who painstakingly packed cherished plants and seeds into boxes or trunks to sail across an ocean to the New World.  Did they expect to find the same growing conditions?  Could they not picture life in a new place without their precious plants from home?  I know I couldn’t.  There are stories of women who nurtured plants carried in Conestoga wagons across deserts, sharing precious water to keep them alive.  These women understood the value of herbs, as food, as preservatives, as insect repellents, as medicines, as fragrance, as teas, as comfort in an uncertain world.
     And still later, as women settled in villages and towns, on farms or estates, the herbs were joined by flowers.  They gardened for the families’ larder, they gardened for pleasure.  They shared the plants from their gardens with neighbors, friends, and family.  They formed garden clubs and study groups.  They taught their daughters to cook, season, heal, and entertain with the fragrant plants.
     I think of it as “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Plants.”  It is interesting to me that true gardeners rarely hoard their plants.  They want to show them and share them.  When a gardener finds a plant that is especially wonderful (and aren’t they all?) they can’t wait to tell another plant lover, or to introduce it to a novice.  They plant it, and if it isn’t happy, they move it and fuss over it until it thrives.  They learn to use it, if it has useful qualities, to savor it if it has flavor, and to take time to admire it if it has beauty.  And throughout the learning process, their excitement grows until they share their findings, and usually the plant, too, with others.  They are content……until the next discovery appears!
     Each of you is a sister, joined by a love of plants and gardening.  We nurture one another as we nurture our plants.  We share our joys, and sometimes our failures.  When my beloved 20+yr. old rosemary plant, a gift from a friend who had brought it from the Holy Land suddenly just gave up and departed this earth, I had to e-mail my best gardening friend, because I knew she’d totally understand.  The fact that I have dozens more didn’t really matter. “Mother Superior Rosemary” was gone.  To help compensate, she sent me seeds of a variegated serpent garlic.  Traveling Plants, gifts of the Sisterhood.
     I hope as you garden this season, you feel part of that sisterhood.  Remember those who gave you wonderful plants, support nurseries where you find special gems, and pass the treasures from your garden and the lessons you’ve learned to others.  

To facilitate the passing on of plants, we’ll have a special spot for members of the “Sisterhood of the Traveling Plants” to bring a plant or two and take one in exchange.   Bring something special from your garden, and trade it for a gem from another “sister.”