At the Reunion this year, Mark and Donna Hinds will be doing the costumed interpretive story telling of Mary Matheny’s struggle with not wanting to leave for Oregon before she had gathered her seeds.  She planted her seeds where they first settled for half a year and then harvested them again for the move to Wheatland.


As you know, families used to depend on the seeds from the trees and other plants that gave them food, beauty, and tradition.  Once again, we are coming full circle and now value those same plants, because of their hardiness, ease of growing, and flavors and traits that were sometimes lost when our more modern fruits and vegetables were bred to make them suitable for mechanical handling and long distance transport.


We have had seeds of two of the family heirloom plants contributed to the Reunion auction in recent years, the Noble bean and the Hewitt plum.  Certainly, there are more and now is the time to make sure we have them preserved.  Let’s start a discussion of where they are and their stories.


Some of you may know of organizations that research heirloom seeds that can help us learn more about the biological history of a tree, etc. before it became a family heirloom.  For example, there is a Hewitt plum tree on the Kerr family Homestead and I would like to learn who the tree was before it became a Hewitt.  I have contacted the Felix Gillet Institute out of California, who are a non-profit organization founded in 2003 to “identify, preserve and propagate the best varieties of the perennial fruit, grapes, and nuts brought by Felix Gillet to California and the Pacific Northwest beginning in 1871.”  They have descriptions and locations of hundreds of plants on their database and propagate them for future generations.  Normally for a fee, they research your old fruit or nut trees, grapes, ornamentals, roses, or other food producing plants.  But they are a small organization and for health reasons right now are not able to do research.  In the future they will accept inquiries on specific plants and let you know what they would need including a ripe or nearly ripe fruit.  They are online at   If you know of other organizations, large or small that are also researching heirloom plants, please tell us about them.
Our horticultural history is certainly one of our family’s greatest riches, well worth preserving not just as stories in a book, but as a living, growing treasure.  If you are the proud owner of family heirloom plants, please let us know and tell us how the greater family can support you in preserving them.


  1. Barbara says:

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