Gardener's Notebook - Plants associated with Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and isn’t it such a beautiful holiday! Every day we wake up is a reason to give thanks, but Thanksgiving is a time to really focus on all the blessings we have been given: precious family, dear friends, and the blessing of calling beautiful Canada home.

As gardeners, we probably associate certain plants with Thanksgiving. Many would list flower plants like chrysanthemums in their lovely fall jewel colors, but most of my plant memories are connected to the wonderful food that Mom would prepare for us!

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One of the first that I would list is cranberries. While we have cranberry bushes in our yard, I often think of the delicious cranberry jam Sweet Pea used to make with wild cranberries. The aromatic perfume of the cranberries cooking was something I’ll never forget, a hint of the taste treat that was coming! What could be better on a warm piece of toast? Then I also think of the cranberry sauce we’d make for our Thanksgiving feast, this time using cranberries from the store, but Mom always added just the perfect dash of this or that to make it tangy and rich in flavor. And the color! That beautiful ruby condiment is a treat for the eyes and the palate!

Another favourite is sage. Sage was one of the first herbs I ever planted in my patch, and I remember that the first year I had such a bumper crop that not only did Mom and I dry jars of it, but I was able to give sage to my aunties as well. That was a treat for a young gardener! I love everything about sage: the grey-green color of the leaves, the dusky, heavy aroma, and the sharp taste. One of the favorite parts of the Thanksgiving meal is the dressing, full of sage; especially when it is picked from our own plants in containers right by the back step!

Parsley is a Thanksgiving plant full of memories. Mom always had large clumps of parsley growing in her garden, and when I was a child one of my Thanksgiving tasks was to pick the parsley and wash it for our feast. Mom grew the curly parsley for many years, and it took several washing to wash off any dust or bits of soil. A large handful of parsley went into the turkey, and the rest was kept for garnish when the roasted turkey was presented on Great-Grammie’s platter. It was delicious and beautiful!

Ornamental gourds were another plant I associate with Thanksgiving. Mom always liked to have little displays of them here or there, and their bright colors and interesting textures set the tone for Thanksgiving. Pumpkins also grew in that same corner of the garden: another Thanksgiving plant! Mom always made the most amazing pumpkin chiffon pies, which we would eat as quickly as the wedges of pie could be topped with mounds of whipped cream! Isn’t that an amazing smell: pumpkin cooking on the stove, with hints of cloves and cinnamon wafting out of the pot? It is a warm and comforting smell, very homey.

All these plants remind me of Thanksgiving. We tended them with care all summer, then used them for a feast that gave us the chance to express all the many things we were grateful for. I was so blessed to sit at that table in my parents’ home, surrounded by loving family, delicious food, and countless blessings. Love you forever, and thank you, Mom and Dad. 

Now I’ll make the same feast for my precious family and dear friends, but it won’t taste nearly as good as Mom’s!

The October meeting of the Yorkton and District Horticultural Society is a “members only” meeting. Members can call Liz for full details. Visit us at and have a great week and a very Happy Thanksgiving! God bless! 

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