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Archive for November, 2009

We continued to plant, groom, and bucket water the Ilwaco planters, as well as two at the library that we took on as a small volunteer project.

2 planters, 21 April

library planters, 9 June

Eagle Street planters, 9 July

(plants: Cosmos ‘Sonata’, Salvia viridis (painted sage), Diascia, Golden Marjoram, Violas)

Main Street, Lake Street, 9 July

But wait, what is THIS?  Some yobbo (walking between the port and the local tavern?) pulled a Cosmos right out and left it to die.  Why?  Not even theft, this is wanton vandalism.

finger blight, 9 July

Thankfully this cosmos was caught in time to be saved by emergency resusciation….Dunk completely into water bucket, fill planting hole with water, replant, water again.

Onward we went with our water buckets (and one watering can), fuming, no doubt.

on First between Lake and Spruce, 9 July

On the east side of First at the stoplight intersection, our planter was joined by the containers cared for by the Café and Antique Store that was there at the time.  That reminds me of a late afternoon when we were watering and an irate and officious man bustled out of the store and accused us of parking in a handicapped zone.  I was hefting a five gallon bucket of water at the time (that’s over 40 pounds of water) and I said to him “I’ll NEED to park in a handicapped zone ALL the time if I have to carry these buckets any further.”  We faced off.  He retreated.  I knew darn well we were NOT in a handicapped zone…confirmed by the store owner when I asked her later.

lots of planters, 9 July 2009

On the 26th of July, a Sunday morning, while on our way to do something else (work, probably),  I saw that the planter nearest the tavern looked very strange…all wilted.  A closer look revealed that someone had ripped all the plants out and thrown them around about a ten foot circle around the planter.  (Evidence: soil on the sidewalk and street.)  Then someone else (or the same person, repentant?) had piled them back into the planter, but just on top of the soil (below left).  We got water, soaked the plants that might be salvageable, replanted them, put the others in a trash bucket, and were left with a planter looking pitiful (below right).

26 July, a finger blight mystery

Why, we wondered, did someone put the plants back on top of the planter.  Did s/he think that would save them?  We’ll never know.  In high dudgeon I took pictures of a couple of planters just up the block to show how they SHOULD look in comparison to the one we had tried to fix that was, really, unfixable.  By the end of July, no more Cosmos ‘Sonata’ was available for sale so I could not acquire healthy plants to match the ones in other planters.

planters as they should be, 26 July

By the 29th of July, I was completely fed up with the finger blight…nay, outright theft…that plagued one particular planter down by the boatyard.  Every time I planted it, the center plant was stolen, leaving a hole.   After the fourth time, I put this sign in (inspired by a sign I had seen at Seattle’s Tilth garden]…and after that the new plant was left alone.

hands off, 29 July

[2012 note:  I learned over the winter that a woman who lived in an RV Park at the east end of the port was the consistent thief of plants from shops as well as the street planters.  When she died, coffee cans each with a dead plant were found in her trailer.  And no, I did not rejoice at her death, but it may explain why thievery has dropped off…nor was any planter completely trashed in 2010 or 2011 so perhaps the worst vandal has also left town, one way or another.]

We also cared for the streetside garden and the garden boat at Time Enough Books, starting with narcissi and tall yellow tulips (“Big Smile”).

garden boat, 5 May

By 2009 the old garden boat had gotten so decrepit that bookstore owner Karla thought it might have to be consigned to the dump.  We repaired the boat with some stakes to make it last for another year or two.  After the tulips, we planted Cosmos, but I seem to have not photographed the summer boat at all.  So I’m cheating and putting it the photo, below, from 2007.  The astute viewer might realize that the Phormium in the bow is smaller and that the stakes holding the boat together were not yet necessary.

2007 garden boat, August

At the beginning of October I decided to broach to the post mistress an idea that had been brewing in my mind for some time: making a volunteer flower garden at the post office.  She gave us the all clear so on a very hot day, when the only thought in my mind came to be “Who’s stupid idea was this, anyway?!”, we dug out the sod.  Fortunately the postmistress, who lived right next door, had some areas in her yard that needed filling in so we did not have to haul it far.

before, after, 4 October

The scrubby lawn was a bugger to dig up and to my horror the subsoil turned out to be heavy clay like my garden over behind the boatyard.  I had imagined easy peasy sand….

Happily for us, a wonderful new espresso place and antique store called Olde Towne Trading Post had opened two doors down so we went down there for a refreshing break. [Foreshadowing: this would become one of my favourite places of all time.]

Olde Towne Coffee Café, autumn 2009

The postmistress’s cat and dogs and her downstairs neighbour’s handsome Rottweiller watched us dig*.

cat and dogs next door

Thank goodness for amusing cat and dog antics during a miserable hot digging session.  Finally, at almost sunset, we got to cooler temperatures and the adding of soil amendments.

next morning, 5 October

The English Nursery in Seaview donated some plants, and we provided a few, and later planted many the bulb.   The garden turned out well….

Post Office Garden, April, May, and August 2010

*[Sad 2012 note:  In 2011, the sweet Rottie who helped us endure that hot digging day died with his beloved human in a small plane crash.  I mention this because Ilwacoans will have probably felt a sad pang at the photo of such a nice dog….and remembered his nice and well-regarded owner, Kevin Dooney.]

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We’ve been helping with garden care at Klipsan Beach Cottages for many years and it’s still our favourite job for a number of reasons:  Owner Mary loves and collects cool plants; her spouse Denny is droll and amusing;  the budget includes soil amendments and some new plants each year; part of the garden is fenced away from deer, and we don’t have to worry about the watering because it’s well taken care of by the garden owners.  A view of the beach from the old-fashioned row of cottages, a nice dog (Riley) and two charming cats (Timmy and Sarah), and sometimes a cup of tea with cookies are also factors in KBC’s rating top of the jobs.  In 2010, I created a Facebook page for KBC and during gardening season I update it every week to ten days with new photos.

While I am sorely tempted to do a slide show, I fear that format could be repetitive so I’ll save it for the Long Beach planters.  Here’s a photo essay on the KBC gardens in 2009.  (My favourite part of a three year high school photography class was when teacher Denise Mannery’s assigned photo essays…which involved pasting photos onto paper, with captions, to tell a story.  How she would have loved being able to do the sort of photo essays we can now do online!)

4 April, basket of Fritillaria meleagris

In April, one of the cats observed our work closely.

feline audience, 4 April

On the fourth of April after work, I looked up from where we park near Denny’s burn pile and saw the most amazing colour of blue sky.

so blue, 4 April

18 April, cottage windowboxes

Each of the eight cottages at KBC has two windowboxes, as does the A Frame rental.  We insert plastic windowboxes inside wooden frames, first with a selection of early blooming small bulbs (narcissi, species tulips, snowdrops, crocus, fritillaria meleagris), then with summer annual combinations chosen and planted by Mary.

By the entry to the basement laundry room blooms yearly one of my favourite species tulips, Tulipa sylvestris.  I order this one from Colorblends.  It’s combined with the precisely checked Fritillaria meleagris, AKA Checkered Lily, AKA Guinea Hen Flower.

Tulip sylvestris

On the 3rd of July, we made our weekly visit to get the gardens quite perfect for 4th of July weekend.  The guests surely share this motto from outside one of the cottage doors:

Mary’s windowboxes, planted in mid-May, flourished and trailed by the cottage windows.

windowboxes, 3 July

On the very bright and sunny 9th of July, climbing rose ‘New Dawn’ put on a pretty show with its petals scattered on the lawn.  Unfortunately. ‘New Dawn’ gets such blackspot that we often resolve to get rid of it, but when it does this, we relent:

9 July, New Dawn

Inside one of the five gates to the blissfully deer-proof garden (blissful for the gardeners), Allium schubertii (lower right) was the star of the show.

Deer proof garden

By the A Frame and well outside of the deer fence, a large white rugosa rose bloomed…apparently not very tasty, or perhaps the hair-like thorns are more prickly than the larger thorns of other roses.

rugosa rose

Mary’s window boxes by the office looked even prettier than the ones on the cottages, maybe because they get more sun (a south rather than an east wall).

office windowbox, 9 July

(Below) By the big lawn is a surprise flowerbed we made for Mary one October afternoon when she and Denny were at the state fair.

Mary’s birthday flowerbed

You can see beyond the garden to the cottages on the ridge.  Just as the sun began to set we went into one and I was charmed by the table decoration as well as the great view.

cottage table

On the 24 of July the garden had reached its full summer exuberance.

24 July, Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ in the fenced garden

24 July, Astrantia major and golden hardy Fuchsia

24 July, Eryngium

24 July, the lady fountain in Mary’s birthday border

After wandering the flowerbeds looking at hot summer colours one could gaze upon the lady fountain or the waterfalls in the pond.

pond waterfall, 24 July

On July 30th, the elephant garlic were just losing their little paper caps inside the deer fence…

Elephant garlic

Mary’s birthday flowerbed on July 3oth:

Shasta daisies, 30 July

Denny’s contribution to the birthday border had been to run plumbing and wiring for the lady fountain.

Within the deer fence, in a big pot in the very center, bloomed one of my favourite tender perennials, Salvia patens:

Salvia patens

It looks to me like we had chosen the paler, and harder to find, ‘Cambridge Blue’ cultivar.

The cottage windowbox trailing plants cascaded down into the hydrangeas.

cottage windowbox, 30 July

On August 6th, the following plants especially caught my camera’s attention:

beautiful mophead hydrangeas by one of the cottages, 6 August

Allium schubertii and Catananche (Cupid’s Dart)

Agapanthus backed with Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’, 6 August

Elephant Garlic, 6 August

Agapanthus (gold), 6 August

blueberries, blue globe thistle, Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’, 6 August

Rose ‘Polka’, 6 August

Aeonium ‘Schwarzkopf’, 6 August

Elephant garlic with its cap on, 6 August

lily, 6 August

Sanguisorba, 6 August

On the 20th of August, both kitties joined us outside.

Timmy…or Sarah?

I find it hard to tell them apart, although Sarah is said to have a more worried looking face than Timmy does.

Sarah…or Timmy?

A new flowerbed along the A Frame deck planted with (of course) Cosmos and Painted Sage:

A Frame garden and deck

In the fenced garden, a delectable lily bloomed, one of a growing collection:

Lily, 20 August

We are so thankful for gardens with fenced areas where we can grow what we please without sharing with the deer.

deer fence gate detail

The three rebar gates were made by my former partner, Robert Sullivan.  I take credit for the idea of putting glass fishing floats in some of his artistically welded creations.

On October 2nd, I must have been feeling especially fascinated with the individual plants.

Melianthus major ‘Antenow’s Blue’, 2 October

Dahlia and “Golden Delicious’ pineapple sage

Meliathus major (South African honeybush) has big toothy leaves that smell just like peanut butter.  Some say old socks, but I repectfully disagree.  We like fragrant foliage….whether it be peanut butter, or the clearly pineapple fragrance of pineapple sage, or the irresistable chocolate of chocolate cosmos, or the fizz of “seven-up plant’, or the tart lemon of Santonlina, and even the harsh bitterness of Artemesia.

Verbascum, 2 October

Billardia longiflora berries, 2 October

By one of the deer fence gates, Billardia longiflora (once more rare of a find than it is now) dangled its purple or cobalt blue (depending on the light).

I don’t even remember growing a passionflower there in 2009, but here’s irrefutable evidence from my iPhoto library:

Passiflora caerulea, 2 October

Recently, on Garden Rant, I read an essay about how much more wonderful old roses, even with blackspot, are than the new Knock Out series.  Let me assure you the KBC gardens have their share of lovely old-style roses.  Mary’s favourite is ‘Jude the Obscure’.  But she has purchased a few different colours in the  Knock Out series, as in this one (and I think I see one…black…spot on a leaf):

a Knock Out rose

I like Geum ‘Mango Lassi’ because I love Indian food and mango lassi….and the apricot colour of the flower:

Geum ‘Mango Lassi’, 2 October

The special hydrangea ‘Izu No Hana’ from the old Heronswood Nursery was a gift from one of Mary’s brothers, who lives near Heronswood and mourns that it is not as it once was.  This lacecap hydrangea has the starriest flowers of cobalt and a lighter blue:

Hydrangea ‘Izu No Hana’

An Eryngium seedhead displays a fiercer, harder star:

Eryngium, 2 October

Although we would continue to visit the garden (every other week now that tourist season had ended) into the first week in December, the last photo of it that I took in 2009 said that autumn had arrived:

Autumn crocus, 2 October

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The only reason these two gardens are sharing a post is that I took few pictures of them in 2009.  Sea Nest, a wonderful place to stay on the Long Beach Peninsula, had changed owners and we were changing the garden to be more low maintenance.

Sea Nest, 30 June

For some reason the deer don’t bother this garden, partly because it is planted with deer resistant plants.  But there are two roses that remained untouched till one was discovered by deer in 2011 and slightly browsed.

Eryngium ‘Sapphire Blue’ at Sea Nest, 30 June

Corokia cotoneaster and Allium albopilosum, 30 June

Seanest, 10 August, blue potato vine, Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’, Escallonia

Seanest, 10 August, Agapanthus and Lavender

In early summer, we took on a new project, having been recommended by a local architect to new residents, in a home just east of the peninsula, who had moved here from Texas. They had christened their new home Casa Pacifica.  I keep promising myself to not add to the overbooked and stressful side of our business by taking new jobs.  I called back with every intention of saying no, but the new owner told us it was quite a gorgeous garden and perhaps we could just come have a look.  We did, and couldn’t resist.

The main garden bed is built on top of a rock wall with good structure of flowering shrubs because the previous owner had a sideline of doing cut flowers for weddings.  It’s like an amphitheatre backed by big trees, with the house as its audience.

14 July

Above, the main garden bed after extensive weeding and an application of Gardener and Bloome Soil Building Compost.  It was easier to mulch with bagged amendments than to wheelbarrow bulk compost across the lawn, down the the end of the rock wall, and up.

Rough stone steps in the middle of the amphitheatre bed lead up to a fire circle.

steps to fire circle, 14 July

An island bed in the lawn to the side of the house had become overgrown with grass and blackberries.

island bed, 14 July

On July 28th, we cleaned up the island bed…

island bed, 28 July

…and the entry garden by the walkway to the front porch.  I want to make garden beds on both sides of the entry walk, but the house will be remodeled eventually and that project must therefore wait.

sidewalk to front door, 28 July

Rose, possibly ‘Fourth of July’, by front deck, 18 July

The deer do not pester this garden (even though it has several established rose bushes) because of….

….Guera and Spook.   It took a several sessions of luring with bits of cheese to get Guera to like me.  Spook remained spooky all through 2011 and hides under the deck whenever we arrive.  But both are ace at keeping deer away.  Or could it be this warrior who stands by the shady side of the amphitheater garden?

shady side of amphitheatre garden, 28 July

We continued to weed and add plants to the garden beds, hampered by a lack of well water in the summer.  In 2011, I finally decided that problem means the gardens will always be at their best in spring, peak by July and in the dryness of August the shrubs and ornamental grasses can carry it through.  Unless the water situation improves, I won’t be adding lots of Cosmos…

19 November

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As well as Marilyn’s private garden, three of our public gardens have a particularly hard time with deer and we have to plant thoughtfully and sometimes with frustration as the taste buds of the deer seem to vary from season to season and even between neighbourhoods.

Andersen’s RV Park

The one place at Andersen‘s where deer did not bother tulips (yet) was in the box out by the road.  One could imagine them craning their necks in to munch, but so far they have not.

road box, 18 April

On the 29th of April in the planters by the Payson Hall clubhouse,  I was thrilled to see surely the largest head of Allium schubertii that I’ve ever grown.  Since the deer had become more interested in Andersen’s gardens, I could no longer grow tulips by the clubhouse.

Andersen’s RV Park….Allium schubertii

  On June 29th, Cosmos bloomed in the picket fence garden.

29 July, Andersen’s picket fence garden

Believe me, the picket fence is not enough to keep the deer out, especially with the south end of the garden open to the woods.  This sweet little garden is right in front of the home of Lorna, the RV park’s owner and, being on the east side of the building, is protected from the beach wind.   In 2009 the deer still let us have some roses but by 2011 the roses didn’t stand much of a chance except for the climbing Cecile Brunner over the arbour.

picket fence garden, 5 August

corner of picket fence garden, 5 August

The plants:  Salvia viridis (painted sage), Lavatera (in the corner), godetia, cosmos, white phlox, Alchemilla (Lady’s mantle), and more…

RV Park guests walk by this corner to check in at the office, and the flowers that get the most comments in summer are the sweet peas we grow all along the white fence.

sweet peas, 5 August

sweet peas, 5 August

In the planters by the clubhouse, Payson Hall, we grew on assortment of annuals and the old standbys Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ and Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’.  This might have been the first year we added Tigridia (Mexican Shellflower) and Lorna adored them.

Tigridia (Mexican Shell Flower)

We’re a long way from Mexico but so far these have come through the winter and rebloomed for us just fine.

Below, the new garden in the sand (created in 2007) on the west side; California poppies  predominate although earlier we had some red Papaver rhoeas:

17 July, sandy path through poppies

And…here’s why gardening can be a challenge at Andersen’s.  It’s not as sheltered as Marilyn’s garden so plants don’t get as lush, and it has the same problem with deer, as evidenced by these ambling through at 1:30 PM on a busy mid July afternoon.

an afternoon stroll at Andersen’s RV Park

We are fortunate that they don’t eat the plants that we grow in the whiskey barrels along the short drive to the RV parking: Lorna’s choice of white and yellow petunias and our additon of yellow million bells and a bright yellow Agyranthemum ‘Butterfly’ in the middle of each barrel.  And while the deer nip a bit at Lorna’s beloved godetias, they leave alone our painted sage, Cosmos, and the glorious sweet peas…and the California poppies.

On the 15th of October I took the last Andersen’s photo of 2009 one fall clean day when the misty light enhanced all the colours of the west side garden just outside the back door of the park office.

west corner garden, 15 October

Silver, feathery Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’, Euonymous (Burning Bush) and late blooming pink Schizostylus (River Lily) are also not pestered by the deer.

Discovery Heights

Another garden rife with deer (and where once a bear was spotted sleeping in the lower garden) is up at Discovery Heights in Ilwaco on the hill overlooking the ocean.  The lower garden is more woodsy and wind-protected.  The T Junction (refers to where the road goes either way) and the very top gardens are the most challenging because of the wind.  The middle garden is full sun and windswept with some protection from trees to the south.  All the gardens are heavily browsed by deer.

On April 9th, we planted in the new and topmost garden of our four Discovery Heights gardens.  It had been installed the autumn before at the entry to the Coastal Ridge Townhomes just in time to plant narcissi.

9 April, top garden

21 April, middle garden in mist

Deer will not eat Narcissi.  Above is a white mix from Van Engelen.

26 June, middle garden

6 July, middle garden

A partial plant list: Along the front, a trailing Ceanothus (California lilac) blooms blue and is not eaten by the deer, as is also true of tall, shrubby Ceanothus at the back of the border (the latter not shown in these photos).  We also planted Dianthus, Lavender, assorted ornamental grasses, Santolina, Artemisia, Alliums, Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’, Echinops and Solidago ‘Fireworks’ (a well behaved golden rod)…and bronze fennel, which I fear has now been declared invasive.  The foxgloves planted themselves.

The Wiegardt Gallery

The Wiegardt Gallery is on a main street in Ocean Park but that does not stop the deer from sampling the garden.  (They boldly enter gardens in all the towns on the Peninsula.)  For the first few years that we cared for this garden, deer did not figure out that tulips and a rose were on offer…Then word got around and now we can grow neither tulips nor roses.  Still, we have enough knowledge of what deer might leave alone that we’ve made a cottage garden look around the old house where Eric Wiegardt has his art studio and gallery.

3 July, Wiegardt Gallery

17 July, Wiegardt Gallery front (south-facing) and back (north-facing)

plants:  Salvia viridis (painted sage), Knautia macedonica, ornamental grasses, Rosemary, Santolina, Lavenders…and more…

24 July, with elephant garlic and Sanguisorba in street-side garden

I been rethinking the colours of the garden, though.  The house had been repainted a sort of pale pea green with olive green trim, yet the garden had been planted for…a pink house!

old Wiegardt Gallery colour, pink with blue trim

That garden theme still worked with the colours in 2007, a sort of dark creamy-pinky wall with dark green trim and a purple door….

Wiegard Gallery, 2007 colours

But in 2012 I still, three years after the green colour went on the walls, have not quite figured out the right plant additions to make the old plant colours work with it.  Even though I’ve somewhat gone off Alchemilla (lady’s mantle), I think I should introduce some into this garden.  (There are plenty available to dig out of other gardens!) because the chartreuse flowers might make a bridge between house colour and the existing plants’ colours.  And the deer don’t like lady’s mantle.

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Standing by the back porch lookingnorth to the lawn, two views:  June 18th and July 18th:

Below:  The back porch, June 18th and July 3rd.  Marilyn’s mum recently told us that M. does not like or even quite approve of beer, and so hops might not have been the best choice of vine for the porch railing!  Oops.  We were assured she does think it is pretty.

18 July, backdrop of hops on porch

Behind the back porch, a drainage area for roof water, with daylilies and Siberian iris and grasses alongside…

river rock swale, stepping stones to faucet

The view from the garage entrance, 3 July and 18 July:

Allan deadheading the Shasta daisies, which get huge…perhaps because of a manure mulch applied the previous fall:

18 July, just your ordinary shasta daisies…

Some views of the long border:

18 June

3 July

18 July

And now…the plants….all proven very resistant to deer.  They’ve munched many things I’ve tried in this garden, including a failed backdrop of Escallonia to hide the neighbours’ garage, but these plants have prospered.

18 June, catmint, santolina, daises

18 June, Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low'(catmint), Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’, California poppies

3 July, Penstemon, Blue Oat Grass

3 July, Salvia ‘May Night’, Anthemis ‘Sauce Hollandaise’, Allium albopilosum, golden marjoram

3 July, Cistus ‘Elma’

3 July, poppy

3 July, Knautia macedonica backed with grasses (Miscanthus variegatus is the white-ish one)

3 July, Knautia macedonica

3 July, feverfew

3 July, Stipa gigantea, my favourite grass

3 July, Allium albopilosum

3 July, daises, Miscanthus, bronze fennel

3 July, Brodiaea ‘Queen Fabiola’, Santolina, Eragrostis curvula (weeping love grass)

3 July, Dianthus

3 July, Achillea (yarrow)

18 July, Phygelius ‘Moonraker’

18 July, Penstemon

18 July, Phygelius

18 July, white painted sage, drumstick allium, feverfew? anthemis?, Scabiosa

18 July, painted sage (pink and blue), Allium albopilosum, feverfew, Shasta daisies, Cosmos

18 July, Echinops ritro (blue globe thistle)

18 July, Brodiaea ‘Queen Fabiola’

18 July, Eryngium (sea holly), Knautia

18 July, Cosmos ‘Yellow Garden’; this one bloomed in July but most of this colour waited till mid September.

13 August, dahlias

13 August, Achillea (yarrow)

9 Sept, Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’

9 September, Allium albopilosum

9 Sept, Eupatorium (Joe Pye Weed), Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’

30 October, Marilyn’s plant table with a stray pumpkin

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A slideshow (and you know I love one) is the ideal showcase for Marilyn’s garden north of Ocean Park, as the perennials, grasses, and annuals rise up to meet their yearly challenge of hiding the neighbours’ garage window.  (We leave some of the grasses up all winter and cut them back in early March.)  The garden is visited often by deer; in fact, a doe birthed two fawns in the ornamental grasses across from the living room window.

We created this garden in (I believe) autumn 2005.  Marilyn is the Depot mom…Mother of Nancy, co-owner with Chef Michael of the wonderful Depot Restaurant.

This series of photos shows the viewpoint from where we park to unload tools for our work session and from a little closer as we cross the lawn to the main path along the west side of the house.  This border runs north-south..

I will follow this with a second post showing details of the plants and garden areas.

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I vow that this year I will get a photo at least every other week and do a similar but more complete slideshow for 2012.  In 2009 I missed August photos at Marilyn’s entirely.  I must start earlier, as well, which means we had better get on up there soon for the first visit of this year.

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After just a few days in the hospital, my mother had been doing a lot of thinking and planning.  She had already been inspired by the socializing on her garden tour days to imagine that someday she might live in the local assisted living center, Golden Sands.  Because of her crippling shyness, she had always found it hard to reach out and make friends.  In all my years I had never known her to have any but situational friends….workmates, and one neighbour in retirement with whom she’d lost touch when the neighbour moved away.

Even the social life inside the hospital made her feel, she said, that she did not want to go back to her life of solitude.  So Allan and I went up to have a look at Golden Sands for her.  We immediately took to the director, Linda, who showed us a room overlooking the courtyard garden, and said that we could create a garden for my mother outside of her window.

a room (center windows) overlooking a courtyard

The courtyard had four quadrants of boring lawn, an oval walking path, a center lawn/swale for drainage, and was completely enclosed by the building:  thus, no deer!

courtyard fountain

Linda pointed to the window that could be mom’s little studio apartment, with its own bathroom, bedsitting room, and tiny kitchenette with microwave and mini-refrigerator….and garden view.

Linda in the future garden

She showed us the studio and its view of the potential garden.  (The pillars are outside the dining room where residents can choose to take their meals.)

the room and the view

Below, another view of the possible garden from “my mom’s room” (as we thought it might be), and a view of the courtyard

two courtyard views

We went back to the hospital that evening with my computer to show my mom the photos we had taken…only to find she had already made her decision.  She had called Linda, met with her, and signed the papers.  She wanted to go straight from hospital to her new apartment, partly to avoid the wrench of going home and partly on health advice from her doctor, so we were charged with a quick move of a bed, dresser, and essentials into the empty room.

new home

She decided to sell her house rather than rent it. The photos we took while we sorted out all her stuff for an estate sale give some idea of the enormity of moving a person from a two bedroom home with sunporch and garden shed and storage room into a studio apartment.  She had not gotten rid of much over the course of her life, and we found (as we’ve heard is often true in these situations) cases of expired food, old home-canned beans that she had moved to her Long Beach home in 1999, old books and records and clothing, all of which had to be sorted, discarded, donated, or sold.

sorting out for the sale

Golden Sands allowed her to have her big plant stand in a nook of the public hallway.  Other than that, she amazed me by being right about the amount of stuff she could fit into that studio apartment.  I was sure there would not be room for two dressers, a table, a desk, the bed, three chairs for visitors and her recliner…but indeed, we kept bringing and she kept arranging with the help of the staff, and it worked.

the essential plant stand and Gram’s china cabinet

The plant stand with African violets passed down from my grandmother did go to Golden Sands even though there was no way it could fit in mom’s new room.  To our house went my grandmother’s china cabinet and its dishes, always intended to pass to me.  We had to tear out some bookshelves to make it fit, but so it did.

While sorting through papers, we came across so much from my mom’s life:  her youth, her years with my father, their retirement together, and her years in WWII in the Marine Corps.  She had always said the Marine Corps years were her happiest.

Virginia (Ginger) Johnston, champion sharpshooter, left and front left

Mom’s Marine Corps days

While I saved all such memorabilia for mom to share with new friends, the estate sale required much letting go of things, including some of mine that I had stored there.  Would I have kept more had I known that a year later Allan and I would move to a bigger house?  Possibly not, because I was afraid the hoarding tendencies might be inherited.

letting go….

We let go of paintings….and of dolls (who went to a doll collector who will love and restore them), the little desk my dad made for me (which I definitely would have kept had I the room), and even a dress I wore as a punk rocker, which I am happy to say went to a new generation rocker girl.  My mother did not want to keep the dark brown painting of the house she grew up in.  My gram divorced, back when it was a scandal, and did not have custody of her two children.  She saw them only on weekends.  My mother and uncle grew up in that gloomy looking house with their father and aunt, and mom did not have happy memories of that place.

As we had the weekend estate sale in mid September after two weeks of steady sorting, the garden still looked so beautiful that estate sale customers took impromptu tours of it.

September: lilies by sunporch, dahlias, the garden in bloom

I had made a photo album for mom as a Golden Sands housewarming gift with every photo I had of her garden through the years.  Her initial social experience had been discouraging, as she had been seated at a dinner table with residents who suffered dementia and could not carry on much of a conversation, but Linda had that sorted with a day and put mom with a group of sharp-witted and funny women.  For the first time in years, she had friends to share a garden photo album with, peers with whom to exchange life stories, and a roster of daily events that would keep anyone busy.

Golden Sands schedule

It seemed to me that year, and still does, that she did not look back with much regret.  I think I was having a harder time letting go of the idea of her garden than she was.  The development of a new garden right outside her window helped, as Allan and I removed the thin sod and planted many lilies and spring bulbs and divisions of plants from mom’s own garden.  We moved her two favourite rose bushes….two Joseph’s Coat climbers and the red velvety and the copper-sheened rose.  After we finished planting the quadrant outside her window, we also did the one across the path, to restore balance.

December 3rd, gardening up the second quadrant

For one year, my mom had an extraordinarily good time.

Halloween 2009

She wore her Marine Corps cap for Halloween, and had laughs with her friends and activity director Pam Fox.  Best of all, she made a true best friend, Wanda.

Mom at a party and with her best friend Wanda

In August 2010, she was proud to tell us that she had taken a ride on a motorcycle.

a ride around Golden Sands

Pam and Linda and the nurses and staff all thought mom would have ten happy years there.

Perhaps the best words of hope from this story are that memories of gardens live on in photos, and that there is hope even the shyest and loneliest person can emerge from her shell and find friends.

mom’s garden, 8 Sept 2009

mom’s garden, 8 September 2009

Mom’s Golden Sands garden in July 2010

P.S.  We continued to feed mom’s feral cats with the help of our friend Stacey until the house sold over a year later, and the new owner promised to take over the feeding.

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