Growing memories: The plants that remind us of our mothers and grandmothers

By Heather Kirk-Ballard

LSU AgCenter Horticulturist

As Mother's Day approaches, many of us begin to reflect on the important role our mothers and grandmothers have played in our lives. For some, this may involve memories of spending time in nature with our mothers, perhaps picking flowers or tending to a garden together. Maybe there is a specific flower or plant that reminds us of them.

As I thought about this recently, I walked through the halls of my office building and asked friends and colleagues what plants reminded them of their parents. Not one person had the same answer as the other, and to my astonishment, they didn’t all answer roses.

Answers ranged from flowers like caladiums, hydrangeas, tulips, camellias and desert roses to raspberries and rosemary. It was honestly lovely to watch their faces light up as they told me stories of the plants and their loved ones. It was beautiful. I love the human connection plants can help bridge.

For me, it is bridal wreath spirea and dogwoods that remind me of mother and camellias for my grandmother. Bridal wreath (Spiraea prunifolia) is a deciduous shrub that is commonly grown for its showy, cascading clusters of white flowers.

On average, mature shrubs reach a height of 6 to 8 feet and spread out to a width of 6 to 10 feet. The leaves are oval-shaped and alternate along the stems with serrated edges and a dark green color.

Bridal wreath produces its stunning blooms in mid to late spring before the leaves fully emerge. The flowers are arranged in clusters along the length of the branches, and each cluster can contain dozens of small, white flowers with five petals.

After the flowers fade, the plant will produce small, brown fruit capsules that contain seeds. Bridal wreath prefers full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil. This shrub seems to have faded from popularity, but at one time, it was a common landscape plant used in foundation plantings, in mixed borders and as a specimen plant. Its graceful form and profuse blooming make it a popular choice for weddings and other special occasions.

To this day, the sight of a blooming bridal wreath spirea bush immediately brings me back to memories of our childhood home. My mother’s other favorite is the iconic dogwood — a plant that flourishes every spring in her native Nebraska. Unfortunately, dogwoods do not fare well here in south Louisiana. Despite her efforts, every dogwood she planted in Louisiana died, but her love of the beautiful, flowering tree never did.

Whatever the plant may be, there's no denying the powerful connection that can exist between nature and our relationships with our loved ones. So, this Mother's Day, take a moment to reflect on the plants that remind you of your own mother and the memories and emotions they evoke. Go out, find that plant and put it in your landscape so that when you see it, you will think of your mother.

Plant with white flowers.

Bridal wreath spirea produces white flowers in early spring. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter

Plant with dark pink flowers.

Honor your mother by planting something in the garden that reminds you of her. These are desert roses. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter

5/4/2023 5:57:18 PM
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