The Nostalgia of Cleome



A friend gave me a few seeds from herย Cleome hassleriana several years ago. We planted the seeds, enjoyed the flowers, saved the seeds and continued burying them in the soil at a couple of different homesteads, spreading the joy of flowers as we moved. They are in several flower beds around our current home, both bidden and unbidden. We even have a couple popping up in our tomato patch. I can never bring myself to pull the young volunteers, preferring to let them do their thing and put on their spectacular show.

One of my earliest memories is visiting the farm of my Aunt Aubrey and Uncle Mead–my grandmother’s sister and her husband. I remember the farmhouse being rather dark and smokey (both smoked cigarettes) so we kids spent as much time as we could outside. And the cleome, or spider flower, as the old folks called them, were everywhere. We loved popping the seed pods, usually by throwing them at each other.

I still enjoy popping the seed pods, but now collect the seeds to share–Johnny Spider-Flower style.

Its been interesting to see our cleome mature at different sizes, based on nothing more but the quality of the soil they’re in, how restricted their roots are and how much sun they get. We’ve had 1-foot miniatures and 6-feet giants, all from the same seed.

Attractive to both butterflies and hummingbirds, we love addition of cleome to our garden. And the sense of nostalgia they inspire in me is an added bonus.

Do you have a favorite plant that takes you back to your childhood?





About Benjamin

Gardening, Raising a Family, Hobby Photography, Reading & Philoso-phizing...not necessarily in that order.
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32 Responses to The Nostalgia of Cleome

  1. thegentlemanfarmer says:

    I think azalea. When the azaleas bloomed, I knew spring had sprung and with that came longer days, warmer days…

    • Benjamin says:

      Indeed! I think any rural southerner would be indelibly marked by the blooming of azaleas (and crepe myrtle, and camelia, and magnolia, and …) ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. Tina says:

    We grow different cleome here in Texas, but yours is lovely. My mother grew Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans) and Althea or Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) in her gardens and I now have both in mine.

    • Benjamin says:

      Thanks! It’s nice to hear you’re growing the plants your mother grew! I love the connections gardening can bring us. ๐Ÿ™‚ I feel closest to my grandmother when I’m in the garden!

  3. I love my cleome here in Northeastern PA. Not only is it lovely, showy, and unique, but the woodchucks and deer leave it alone as well! It self-seeds vigorously, and I always have a few in the vegetable garden. This year I cannot tell you how many cleome seedlings landed in the compost pile, yet I still have a garden full!

    My father grew beautiful hybrid tea roses (no mean feat in the southern tier of New York state!), and I try, but I’m not nearly as good as it as he!

    • Benjamin says:

      Thanks for stopping by! I love the way certain plants can connect us to our past. Thanks for sharing the story of your father’s tea roses and good luck with your own!

  4. sweetk8 says:

    Thanks for introducing me to this interesting flower, I hadn’t heard of it before. I’m not sure if anything similar is growing here where I live in Finland. Actually, I’m not too familiar with many of the plants here as so many are unique to me. I’m learning as I go and it’s quite exciting anticipating what the seasons bring and how everything will look next year too.

  5. Benjamin says:

    What a cool adventure, anticipating what each new season will bring! I’d love to hear if you have something similar to cleome there. It self-seeds easily, and we always have more than enough seeds to propagate and share with friends. Great plant!

  6. bittster says:

    Nice story, I always think of my aunt in DC when I see cleome. She grew it well and the first time I saw it I was fascinated by the big, cool, exotic flowers. the seeds we took did ok, but never as nice as hers.

  7. Chloris says:

    I love cleome too, it is one of the joys of the August garden.

  8. One of the fun plants my mom had were four o’clocks. Not only did they open at the end of the day as promised but it was fun to collect the seeds, too. (Thx for prompting this trip down memory lane!)

  9. Crooked Tracks says:

    Every summer, my mother planted petunias in front of the house ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Cathy says:

    I love cleome too, and must try growing them again soon. They have never set seed here though. When I was a child we loved popping the fuschia buds in our neighbour’s garden! She used to tell us off quite often, but we still went and looked for unpopped flowers almost daily. And I always think of that when I see hardy fuschia bushes even today!

    • Benjamin says:

      We only started growing them again a few years ago and now there’s now stopping them ๐Ÿ˜‰ They are among my favorites and put on a great show for us in August.

  11. We had a few columbines that survived neglect at our household, growing in the shade of a hedge. As children, we would pick the flowers and bite the little ends where the nectar was. I don’t know who showed us how to do this, likely my grandmother.

    It was my other grandmother who had a bridal’s veil in her yard, and I have a large wall that fronts my house and runs up the rather long drive. I’ve planted the entire length of the wall with bridal’s veil and they’ve gotten to the point where they slightly overhang the wall (eight years old, now.) It’s stunning in the spring to see the mounds and mounds of white flowers.

  12. Fuchsia ๐Ÿ™‚

    Your cleome look lovely. Might try to get some seeds myself – if they can grow here.

  13. Rose says:

    What lovely memories! I haven’t planted cleome seed or seedlings in a few years, but every year I have a few plants volunteer anyway. They usually pop up in the “wrong” spots, but I leave them be, because I don’t always have luck in transplanting them. Butterflies and insects love them, too.

    • Benjamin says:

      Thanks for sharing! Its funny how many places our cleome will pop up each spring. Its like a lovely treasure hunt! Like you, we almost always let ours grow too, even in the “wrong” spots ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. pbmgarden says:

    Enjoyed reading your memories related to spider flowers. I love the way plants tie us back to special people.

  15. Hi, cleome is such a stunning flower and self seeds brilliantly. I use it in my garden as a catch crop .. Those green shield beetles love it and will leave my tomatoes to visit cleome ๐Ÿ˜‰

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