I am who I am because of the nurturing guidance and enthusiasm of my mother and grandmother. My love of plants began at a very early age. My mom would say I came out of the womb with Latin names imbedded in my psyche! She loves to tell the story of picking a Dandelion from the yard in Blowing Rock, NC and giving it to me only to have me start crying for her to plant it back. I couldn’t even speak at the time but as soon as she convinced me it had been grafted back to life I began to smile. My mother recognized that my strong empathy for plants and life of all kinds was a gift she would foster, and she became a pillar of support that would shape my life and career.
My grandmother was one of the best gardeners and botanists I’ve ever known. She had a hard childhood and did not complete high school. Despite this, she taught herself all of the plants of the hills and coves of the Appalachians and the horticultural world of the time. Her garden was grand, with plants all well-grown and consisting of a collection of over 1000 species and varieties. She was always “acquiring” new accessions. I remember her slipping away from a funeral to snatch a sedum cutting she particularly admired from a nearby permanent resident’s plot. She encouraged me to learn all I could about a plant and taught me the best way to know a plant is to grow it. She gave me book after book to devour and first inspired my absolute dedication and adoration of all things green by sending me into the forests around our home to search for trillium to mark so that we could best manage them where they were. The first plant I identified was a Painted Trillium (Trillidium undulatum). I fell instantly in love with the plant and to this day every species of Trillium, Trillidium and Pseudotrillium hold the most special place in my soul.
The extended cool spring this year has resulted in our Trillium collection being near or at peak flowering this week, just in time for Mother’s Day. In honor of our mothers Heronswood Garden is offering free admission this Sunday. Come explore the trails and share the miracle of life with the person who cultivated your life. Thank you to all the mothers out there who recognize and nurture the talents in your amazing family, especially those who gave us our love of all things green.
– Dr. Patrick McMillan, Director