Posts tagged pottle beans

Poppy Quest



Kathryn Armstrong Johnston and her daughter, Helen.

Kathryn Armstrong Johnston and her daughter, Helen.


  Kathryn Armstrong Johnston lives in Hammond, Indiana, but a search for heirloom plants that her grandmother grew is centered in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

   A story about Kathryn’s efforts ran in the Sunday, Aug. 10 edition of The Gazette.

   Her grandmother, Esther Armstrong, lived at Pleasant Hill in Cedar Rapids where she gardened most of her life. Kathryn is looking for anyone with offspring from the pink poppies that Esther grew. She kept seeds from the poppies in a jar and often gave them to friends.


   Some side notes not mentioned in the article: Kathryn’s  father’s mother, Lorine Johnston, also was a dedicated gardener in Coral Gables, Florida.  Her mother had a garden in South Carolina while they were growing up, and several of her siblings also were gardeners.  Her grandmother’s younger brother, Preston Davis, wrote a memoir about growing up in South Carolina at the turn of the century.  He self-published it for friends and family, and to his surprise, it was bought by prominent libraries and historical societies around the country, and went into a second printing.  Part of the reason is that he describes in detail the plants his mother grew on their property, which is very valuable for those maintaining historic homes and gardens.  Her Uncle Preston later lived in Virginia and was well known for his camellias.


   Part of Kathryn’s inspiration for her search was a friend from a very old New England family (descended from witches and judges at the Salem witchcraft trial) whose family has their own bean, which they use for Boston baked beans. She got to eat some Pottle beans when she visited at spring break.


   Kathryn’s husband took pictures of her and daughter at their home in late July.  The phlox were from her grandmother’s garden.

   “I do not have a model garden myself, but I can dream,” she notes.

   Their daughter, Helen, was named after her grandmother,  Esther Helen Armstrong.


   If anyone believes they have pink poppies descended from Esther’s at Pleasant Hill, send a note to me at: or add a comment to this blog and I’ll make sure Kathryn gets the message.


   An additional note: Kathryn found a photo of a pink poppy similar to her grandmother’s at:

Check out their Web site for an amazing array of beautiful poppies.


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