was just made aware of the demise of a lady I used to work with. She’d
married a man from Tennessee several years after a divorce from her first
husband of over three decades. I hadn’t seen her in about ten years.
her divorce, she asked me if I wanted some yucca plants her mother had
given her from the family’s place in south Marion County. She was moving
to an apartment and wouldn’t have a lawn to be able to keep them. If she
got a place in the future, she had given some to her son and could get a
start from him.
wife and I went over and dug up a couple of small pups that stuck their
heads from under the dangerously pointed, leafed skirt of their mother. I
already had native bear grass yucca and a type that grew a trunk and would
get about eight-feet tall. This plant had leaves about three-feet long,
with a very round, compact shape and no trunk. I planted them in our lawn.
we moved several years later, I took a couple of pups from my parent
plants and installed them in our new landscape. This process has been
repeated twice again and at each stop, I’ve given young yuccas to those
interested. As with so many plants that have been shared with me over the
years by my gardening friends, I’ll always remember where this yucca
came from. This plant will always remind me of Anna.
a plant is called a ‘pass along plant.’ Before nurseries, mail order
and, now, the internet, that’s the only way our ancestors had to collect
plants. I think back to my childhood and all my mother’s plants. I don’t
remember her buying a single sprig of anything.
where I’m from, before my time, there was a person who was supposed to
be one of the best gardeners to have ever lived in those parts. They said
if she took a hankering, she could root a fingernail and grow somebody.
Her name was Zanor (short for Leighsanor) Mihanovic, a second generation
descendent of Croatians who immigrated there in the latter part of the
19th century. Her folks had been clothiers in a larger town about 100
miles to the south and had done quite well. They had managed to send her
to a good boarding school in New Orleans and later she had attended the
land grant university where she met her future husband. He was the son of
an older plantation owner in our county whose first wife had died during
childbirth. When the son graduated from university, he was charged with
running the farm. He sent for Zanor and they were married that year.
had a large house that had been in his family for generations. The couple
often had guests, usually during the day where she could show off the very
old garden surrounding their home.
had a propensity for gardening, it is said, she got from her mother. She
grew herbs nobody had ever heard of and salad greens with names nobody
could pronounce, all inherited from her mother. She had spider lilies,
milk and wine lilies, and daffodils she had also gotten from her mother
and acquaintances of her mother. Over her nearly 90 years, from her
friends, church women, neighbors and beauty shop ladies, she collected
heirloom roses, more daffodils and jonquils, fig trees, amaryllis, oxalis,
mahonia, nandina, monkey grass, sweet peas, bleeding heart, gardenia,
hydrangea, English dogwood, hyacinths, horsetail, bamboo, quince,
forsythia, flowering almond, ivies, periwinkle, hollyhocks, banana trees,
cannas, elephant ears, arums, flowering onions and more. She had also
collected houseplants like palms, pothos, Mother-In-Law’s tongue,
airplane plant, philodendron, Christmas and Easter cacti, monstera and
aloe she placed or hung in her Victorian glass house or her sunken
their silver anniversary, Zanor’s husband got pneumonia and a few weeks
later she found herself burying him in the family plot that could be seen,
when all the lush foliage of the garden was taken by winter’s cold, from
that breakfast room.
had many friends who brought friends by to meet her and walk the
meandering trails of her piece of paradise. If any visitor showed interest
she’d snip them off a cutting, wrap it in wet toilet paper, stick it in
an old bread bag and hand it to them. If they said "thank you,"
she’d tell them vocal appreciation for a plant was bad luck and they
should just promise to give her ‘baby’ a good home and share with
others when they got a chance. Everybody who walked away from her garden
with a plant, cutting or seed remembered it came from Zanor.
niece of her husband had always loved to spend weekends there as a child
and, at their delight, had moved in with them when she got out of college.
She was a copy editor for a publishing company in New York and had an
agreement with them to do her work there in the country via RFD. The young
lady was a plant person herself and could sit amongst the flora with her
manuscripts from shortly after breakfast to near dark.