Frances Fair Clark Mallett | The Pass-Along Garden
The carved wooden sign in Frances Fair Clark Mallett ‘s front yard reads, “Elijah Paul Duncan Garden”. It might seem odd to see such a sign in Frances’ yard where it sits among the ferns, bromeliads, and colorful flowers. The story behind that sign tells of long ago friendship, love of plants, and making home where your flowers grow.
In the mid 1950’s, E. P. Duncan, an avid fisherman, pulled off Highway 19 at my husband’s bait and tackle shop, The Outpost, to buy supplies and get the scoop on the local fishing hot spots. Duncan had recently driven from California cross country in a homemade truck camper to find a friendly small town on Florida’s Gulf coast where he could afford to live on a modest, retired military pension. New Port Richey fit the bill and boasted lots of good fishing spots. My husband is quite a talker, says Frances Mallett, so he and E.P. soon became friends. After meeting our children, a bond of love grew where Duncan became a frequent guest at our family dinners and a fishing buddy for our oldest son. To all of us, he was “Sarge” and we loved him.
I had always been a practical gardener, focusing mainly on growing vegetables that we ate. It was
Sarge, whose small trailer was surrounded by beautiful flowers growing in pots (he had a special touch with plants), who encouraged me to grow flowering plants. He shared cuttings, potted plants, and seeds; I was hooked.
Sarge was generous with his flowers and told me that I was always to share plants with others so that they might experience the joy and beauty of gardening. Today my yard is filled with native plants and other plants that thrive in the hot climate of our area. As this legacy continues, I share cuttings from a gorgeous pink plumeria, brilliant blooming bromeliads, mysterious night blooming cereus, salvia plants to attract butterflies, self-seeding New Zealand spinach, and even let the caterpillars eat my parsley so they can become beautiful Monarch butterflies.
The “Elijah Paul Duncan Garden” sign today reminds us of family memories of love for a man, his love of growing things, and the passing along of plants to others so his legacy continues into the future.