Sunday, May 8, 2011

Seeds of Joy

Prologue: My husband was in the Air Force for 20 years and we moved three times as these events unfolded.

Gardeners like to say that their gardens are a part of them, that destroying the garden destroys the gardener. But is the opposite also true? Does creating a garden create a gardener? If my garden is a part of me, it is my heart, raw and tender at another Mother's Day without my mom.

My mother died at 58, the cancer crawling from her breast to her pancreas, metastisizing and gaining strength before climbing her spine and cloaking her brain in a shawl of confusion and pain. There was no easy ending or sweet parting words. She collapsed, was found unconscious by a friend, and died several days later. I flew home, dealt with the details of her death and returned to my frozen town in upstate New York and tried not to go crazy.

My fathers death at 55 from stomach cancer caused by possible exposure to Agent Orange during Viet Nam, had been linear and neat. A diagnosis of no-time-left but enough time to spend together, a good bye in a small airport of "See ya later, kid" and peaceful release from constant pain. I felt his presence in my garden in South Carolina and I filled it with his favorite flowers.

When we moved to Virginia, I poured myself into creating a home, learning a new curriculum, and designing my garden. I fought stubbornly with the slick, heavy clay, thrusting roots in and praying they'd grow. I needed life to replace what had been taken, and found comfort in the small leaves and desperate seedlings. I unpacked my heart and began to heal. My garden did more than just create a gardener, it created a home.

Today is always a difficult day but instead of dwelling on what can't be changed, I've decided to share with you what I would share with my parents if they were still here. When I wander my garden, this is what brings me joy: 

 This honeybee is upside down on a 'Johnson's Blue' geranium.

The geraniums are always at their best in mid-spring. The sweetspire to the right is covered in buds and is slowly changing from early-growth-yellowish-green to summer green.

 Several years back I planted red rhodies in the front of the house. A severe ice storm nearly killed them and I moved them to a sheltered spot to help them recover. They all eventually died but this one popped up when a branch rooted to the ground. It may be the world's only ground cover rhodie, but it's so happy and beautiful, I just enjoy it and let it do it's own thing. :o)

A happy 'Susanna Mitchell' marguerite 
This grows in a pot with a slightly dwarf russian sage and some ornamental oregano

Chives by the dog run fence at a meet-n-mingle with the coreopsis.

The clematis by the back fence are much bigger this year than last! Hooray!! I think they really liked the kelp meal and worm compost I gave them.

The vines are rich with buds.

I planted these diervilla shrubs are bare root sticks last fall and they're growing! They even have flower buds at the top.

The Dog Run garden is packed with growth. I can hardly wait until everything until is in bloom!!

My 'Miss Kim' lilacs are planted by a window and the whole house smells like lilacs.
I love the yellowish orange of this 'Lemons and Oranges' gaillardia against the red pot.

A mysery seedling left on the doorstep by a wonderful friend!!

I moved the yarrow to a much moister spot and it's finally thriving!! However, I can't remember what color it is. Waiting for it to open is like waiting for Christmas. I love the texture of its leaves against the geraniums.

Beet seedlings growing in the shape of a smiley face!!

 "A house is made with walls and beams, a home is built with love and dreams"
is painted over the kitchen doors near our table.


  1. Not only does your garden bring you joy, I am certain many of us are smiling at the upside down bee, beautiful flowers and the smiley face seedlings.

    That's a wonderful quote in the kitchen.

  2. I teared up reading about your parents as I have a similar story about mine. I was glad you changed direction and wrote what you would share. Thank you for sharing with us as well.

  3. What a wonderful tribute to your parents! Sounds like you've had several unique garden settings in which to experiment and add your own whimsical touch. This is a lovely post! Your garden looks so welcoming!

  4. Lovely post about your mom & dad, what they mean to you, and how their loss all ties into the love you pour into your garden and your home. I love how your rhodie has a strong will and determination to survive!

  5. What a wonderful post, TS. Thank you for sharing your story and your garden with us. I was blessed to be able to spend this past Mother's Day with my 2 sons, their wives and 2 brand new grandbabies, and my own mom. She is doing well but I know she won't be around forever. This past Sunday was a true gift for me. Thank you for reminding me of that. Your garden is blossoming beautifully!

  6. Thanks for taking us with you as you wandered your garden. It has made a home.
    I share your feelings on Mothers Day and though the garden may not be able to heal, it can certainly soothe the hurt.

  7. I had forgotten about the smiley beets! oh what a wonderful surprise on a sad day.

  8. You've been through the ringer, losing both parents at relatively young ages. I'm sorry for your losses. Gardens do have the marvelous ability to heal though.

  9. That your parents died when they were so young makes me appreciate mine even more. It's also a relief to see some sun and early summer plants compared to my gloom (or maybe it was the smiley face beets). Your mystery seedling sure looks like a hellebore. Hope I didn't spoil the surprise.

  10. Thanks for the warm thoughts and kind words. The day ended well with lots of love from my wonderful husband and kids. :o)

    Sorry - It is a hellebore!! I've never grown them before so I'm excited!!

  11. Lovely. Everything is so green and lush where you are!

    Clematis is so pretty - I wonder if it will grow in our zone(5) - must check that out.

  12. Mothers Day can be a tough one, with loss as well as joy. Your garden is blooming beautifully. In New England we are still waiting (the dogwoods will bloom this week), and Mothers Day itself is always cold! It's the spring marker for us... only after Mothers Day do things get going in the garden here.

  13. With the loss of both my parents, I can relate to your pain and sadness, but also your joy of gardening because it's something my Mom and I shared. It's a blessing to have sweet memories. The real sadness would be not to have those wonderful memories. I try to look at it like that and thank the Good Lord that, even though I hurt so much at times, it was the best blessing to have such great parents. I'm glad you were blessed too.

  14. Your post touched me...from all that sadness came joy and comfort for you from your garden. I've taken your suggestion of "What brings you joy" for MISSION QUITE POSSIBLE. It is a perfect mission, looking for joy. Hope more people are able to join in.

  15. A beautiful post, thank you for sharing your feelings - and your garden. You have certainly created beauty out of the sadness.

  16. Hello and thank-you for your beautiful post. Your gardening seems to certainly be a place of healing and inspiration. I am from Australia, and with another local mum in Victoria, am creating a free parenting magazine. One mum has written a lovely article about gardening with kids and has described the excitement that can be enjoyed by planting seedlings in a smiley face - just like you have done with your beets! I was wondering if you would mind if we printed your photo as an example of what she is talking about? Heidi


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