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Secret Signs & Symbols

hyacinth buds

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As I was enjoying the purple flowers in my garden today, I was reminded of the role purple flowers play in my Seed Savers books.

In Seed Savers-Treasure, as Clare and Dante travel cross-country in search of a place where gardens still exist, they discover the secret signs and symbols that help members of the underground Seed Savers Movement identify each other. The first sign is purple lupines. Here is an excerpt from chapter 27, Preparing to Leave.

He taught them how to read the night sky and how to find friends.

“Years ago, when gardeners had to go underground, so to speak, they developed signals still used today. When you looked up at my balcony what was the first thing you noticed?”

“Your purple flowers!” shouted Dante.

“Yes, the pansies. I wish you could have seen the lupines. Lupines were really the chosen flowers for our code, but alas, they finish blooming early in the summer around here. So we keep anything purple alive that we can,” he said, smiling.

“What’s so special about lupines?” Clare asked.

“Well, for one thing, everybody has roses,” Gruff said, winking. “The story is this: about a hundred years ago, a mountain in Washington state blew its top. Forests were blown away. The land was devastated. It’s said that the first plants to emerge from the ash-covered land were wild lupines. They’re tenacious—like us. We, the Seed Savers, will come back someday, too.”

“Wow,” said Dante. “So, if we see some place with a lot of purple flowers, they might be friends?”

“Right,” said Gruff. “But there’s more. Obviously if lupines grow wild or if someone likes purple, that wouldn’t be enough to go knocking on their door and ask if they were Seed Savers. The next sign is a symbol of a circle within a circle.”

“A circle within a circle?” Gruff grabbed a pen and paper. “Like this,” he said, drawing. He drew a circle as best he could, and then right outside of it a second circle, enclosing the first.


“It’s an ancient sacred symbol of mother earth, or earth goddess, and the fertility and fruitfulness she embodies. If you go outside my door and take a good look, you’ll find I’ve painted a small one down near the bottom. Anyway, if you find the purple flowers and the symbol, you can pretty much figure they are Seed Savers. But just to be sure, there is one last test. Knock at the door. If someone opens it, first ask, ‘Are you the resident here?’ If they say yes, then ask, ‘Do you know where Amber Jenson lives?’”

“Who is Amber Jenson?”

“She’s not anyone. Well, I’m sure she is someone, but the name is random. Initially the Network wanted to use the name of an early worker in the movement, but it was deemed too dangerous. We’ve never had a problem so far with these three signs. And GRIM hasn’t figured out any of our means of communication. Be very careful with the knowledge.”

Gruff made the children sleep during the day and stay up at night. It would be easier, he told them, if they were used to a nocturnal lifestyle before departure.



Sandra Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed Savers. Visit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on TwitterSign up for the newsletter!

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