My grandmother’s garden was a riot of color, shapes and scents. She taught me to save seeds, pinch back spent blooms and love the big, luxurious peonies that spilled exuberantly onto her side porch. Those flowers now bloom every spring in my own garden, keeping her memory close. “There’s a nostalgia about plants,” says Bill McLaughlin, curator of plants at the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. “When you pass along a plant, share cuttings, or keep seeds from year to year, you’re connecting to ancestors, family, friends and neighbors.”

Consider adding these charming classics to your own garden plan:


  1. Sweet Pea

Delicate, graceful and fragrant sweetpeas are a must to lend an old-fashioned feel to any garden. “Sweetpeas have an undeniably sweet fragrance and come in a soft, soothing palate of colors,” says Renee Shepherd, proprietor of Renee’s Garden Seeds, which specializes in heirloom seeds. They need netting or a trellis to climb and tend to do best in cooler weather.


•Cupani’s Original: Heirloom heat-tolerant variety in deep purples and pinks

•April in Paris: Creamy white petals tinted slightly with purple edges


2. Morning Glory

These vining flowers grow well from seed and come in a huge array of colors including blues, pinks and purples. They’re not invasive, so plant them anywhere they can climb, such as a mailbox or trellis, says McLaughlin.


•Royal Blue Ensign: Bush type with deep blue flowers, white throats and bright yellow centers

•Clark’s Heavenly Blue: Pale blue heirloom that dates back to the early 20th century


3. Heliotrope

This plant was popular in gardens as far back as the 1700s, thanks to its sweet fragrance, and was especially beloved by the Victorians, says McLaughlin.  Heliotrope does well in containers or borders.


•Deep Marine: Deep purple flowers with violet-cherry scent

•Fragrant Delight: Vanilla-scented plant that overwinters well indoors in a pot


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