Posts Tagged ‘Mom’s Garden’

I think that unless I get a weekday off, I will start saving the week’s photos (before and after work) of our garden for a Sunday update.  That may change if I start taking a different (or no) day off.

3 April

I found, on a real estate site, a photo of our house when it was for sale in 2010.  (I was checking comparable values and oddly, even though it is manufactured and thus depreciates, our house is holding more value than some historic houses on the street!)

early summer 2010

early summer 2010

I want to use this as the basis of a series of photos of the garden progress, but already had forgotten the photo angle to use when I took this:

3 April 2013

3 April 2013

front garden

front garden

front garden

front garden

tulips and cardoon

tulips and cardoon

a stunning yellow tulip

a stunning yellow tulip

6 April

First, a bunch of photos from right by where we park our car when we go to and from work.

the first Dutch iris

the first Dutch iris

Narcissi 'Merlin'

Narcissi ‘Merlin’

I love the very small cupped narcissi.  I also have realized this week that I love the apricot coloured cups on the ones that Nancy and Lorna picked out for their gardens.  I did not think I would.  Some of them are the ones that are supposed to be pink.  Next year I am going to order lots of them.

an Erysimum

an Erysimum

This Erythronium is precious to me because it came from my mother’s garden.

Erythronium (dogtooth violet)

Erythronium (dogtooth violet)

Fritillaria meleagris (checkered lily, guinea hen flower)

Fritillaria meleagris (checkered lily, guinea hen flower)

I am going to give a clump of the fritillaries to Judy.

In the back garden, the boat is coming on with tulips.  I put up a sweet pea tee pee around which I planted the ‘Alan Titchmarsh’ sweet peas that my friend Sheila kindly shared with me.  The wind has blown it over, but more wind is predicted for tonight so I will put it upright later.  I remember the optimistic moment when I put it in place earlier this week and thought “I don’t need to lash this to the boat because the big winds are over.”  No.

garden boat

garden boat

Later, that view would have included the two red gale warning flags flying over the Port Office.

My favourite ornamental grass, Stipa gigantea, is already putting out some fronds.  I have more than nine of them in the back garden.

Stipa gigantea backed with clean debris heap and crab pots

Stipa gigantea backed with clean debris heap and crab pots


The day began with rain, so I started reading Mr. Tootlepedal’s Blog (April 2011).  Then out came the sun and I began to feel guilty, so after finishing the month of April in the borders (UK), I went outside with the intention of pulling one bucket of weeds, just one.  I soon came back in and started reading May, because my hands got so cold.  The sun peeked out again, and guilt drove me back outside, and then the rain came and I came back in to my reading.  Here’s what I saw in our garden today:

view from front porch while I pondered weather

view from front porch while I pondered weather

Hmm, Allan had a measuring tape next to his garden bed.

What is he up to?

What is he up to?

He is planning to make a new grid on which to record his plants (on paper) and has driven in screws a foot apart for future reference.

Allan's tidy garden

Allan’s tidy garden

I found a tragedy in my front garden bed:  a very precious and expensive Allium bud rotted off (and the one on the right looks iffy, like it might be rotting):

allium disaster

allium disaster

I love the emerging spears of Baptisia australis:

Baptisia (false indigo)

Baptisia (false indigo)

and white bleeding heart:

Dicentra spectabilis alba

Dicentra spectabilis alba

And the new leaves on Pieris:

Pieris  (My grandmother called it Andromeda)

Pieris (My grandmother called it Andromeda)

One of my favourite tulips, ‘Leo’, is coming back and a good thing too because I did not get any more of it.

left:  Tulip sylvestris on the way out, Tulip 'Leo' on the way in

two favourites:  (left) Tulip sylvestris on the way out, (right) Tulip ‘Leo’ on the way in

I like all the different cultivars of Muscari and try to add new ones every year.

Muscari latifolium

Muscari latifolium

But I was horrifed to see Geranium ‘A.T. Johnson’ making its way into the garden…and this photo is after I yanked half of it out.  I used to love it, but its extreme vigor has worn out its welcome.

that pesky hardy geranium

that pesky hardy geranium

But the rains came so I got back to my reading.  My achievement:  only 7/8 of a five gallon bucket of weeds pulled.

Speaking of wearing out one’s welcome, which I felt I was doing by stopping daily by Olde Towne café to photograph their progress in reopening in a new location, I am pleased to say that the news is that they are opening on Tuesday.  So the heart of Ilwaco is almost back.

Postscript:  Food

Reading the Tootlepedal blog often makes me crave tea and biscuits, and Mr. T. often writes of his friend Dropscone, a former baker who makes a delicacy called Drop Scones.  (Oddly enough.)   I forwarded the recipe to Allan (via email to the next room in the house) and he did try to make them.  They are similar to pancakes and did not look quite like Dropscone’s results but were tasty anyway.

first attempt at dropscones, served with Rose's lime marmalade

first attempt at dropscones, served with Rose’s lime marmalade

The next night, he made scones which turned out looking better, and tasted good, but the drop scones were just delicious.

Allan's scones

Allan’s scones

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My mother’s garden, begun in June 1999, was coming along beautifully.

Below: The entry garden in springtime…This reminds me of a scene out of Narnia (the lamp post).

the lamp post

the lamp post

Before, the above area was all nasty boring scratchy Juniper tams.

front garden

front garden

In early spring Robert, who had been living with her after our breakup, moved out of her house and moved into an trailer in Andy’s Long Beach yard. Over the winter, Andy’s love Lily had died of ALS. I had seen her a couple of times and always wished I had known her long before; I remember a day her sisters all gathered and crowned her the queen and took a last set of photos of all of them together.

Robert had been a great help to them, helping to make the bathroom wheelchair accessible, and after moving into Andy’s trailer he helped created the garden that Lily had visualized, in her memory.

My mother and I became closer and thus I had many more photos of her garden in 2004 compared to the previous year (none).

Mom's south garden

Mom’s south garden

On the south side of her house lay the second lot of her property, all gardened, except in an grove of trees in the southeast corner.

south garden

south garden

We both agreed that there was way too much Valerian; it had reseeded too freely.

When Mom had said she was having the house painted green, I was thrilled, until I found it was olive drab. (I had pictured Shelburne green!) She loved it because, she said, it matched her Marine Corps uniform.

looking from south to north at the new paint job

looking from south to north at the new paint job

She had also hired a local builder to enclose her porch into a sunroom.



Lily and Physocarpus 'Diablo'

Lily and Physocarpus ‘Diablo’

mom working in her garden, summer 2004

mom working in her garden, summer 2004

lily and variegated Buddleia in mom's garden

lily and variegated Buddleia in mom’s garden

lily and fully grown Escallonia hedge

lily and fully grown Escallonia hedge

Below:  Mom’s prolific vegetable garden.  I may have done some weeding, but that year at age 80 she was still doing a lot of the gardening herself.

vegetable garden

vegetable garden

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My mother moved to Long Beach in June 1999.   We talked her into it over the two years after my father died.

She had come to gardening late, getting interested in it when she was 50.  As a child, she had worked on her father’s farm after school and swore she would never garden again, but the passion for plants finally caught up to her.

Below:  her house before we started the new garden.

Before, south side.  The property was two lots.

Before, south side. The property was two lots.

looking south from the house, with a pile of soil

looking south from the house, with a pile of soil

We spent every Sunday that whole summer and fall creating garden beds for her. The concrete strips had originally supported a single wide home. The previous owner had planted some shrubs and trees in that strip, some of which we moved to further out along the edges of the garden.

mom's, south side, before

mom’s, south side, before, with a pile of soil and some rocks having been delivered

Robert working on a new border in Mom's garden

Robert working on a new border in Mom’s garden

spring 2000

spring 2000
early spring 2000, looking south from the porch

early spring 2000, looking south from the porch

spring 2000, looking south from the porch

spring 2000. An escallonia hedge curved along the outside is still in its infancy.

late spring 2000

late spring 2000

She had had doubts about moving and leaving her large retirement garden near Yelm, where she had lived for 18 years.  But within a year of coming to Long Beach, her new garden proved completely satisfactory.

before, the east side

before, the east side

hellebores in that same area a few years later

hellebores in that same area a few years later

tulips on the east side where we had torn out some horrible juniper tams and added rocks.

tulips on the east side where we had torn out some horrible juniper tams and added rocks.


Ten years after she bought the property, the garden was on the Peninsula garden tour in 2009.

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I am hoping to write a memoir entry with more about my mother’s garden.  She died unexpectedly almost two weeks ago.  Although what was diagnosed as a relatively  minor heart condition had led her to move into Golden Sands Assisted Living a year ago, her friends and caregivers there…and I…expected her to go on for another ten years enjoying the garden that we have been creating in the facility’s enclosed courtyard.  We will continue to do that garden, while we try to decide what to do with my mother’s house and garden in Long Beach. It has been for sale for a year but remains unsold.  I am pretty firmly fixed on continuing to live at the mouth of the Columbia even though Long Beach is a lovely town.  It is true that gardening is one form of art that dies with the artist, so with our decision to probably not live in her house, I am not sure what will become of the garden there.

The one thing my mother and I bonded on was gardening, and also a love of reading, where our taste did overlap on Dick Francis books.

Mom's Marine Corps photos

at her memorial at Golden Sands, photos of her life in the Marine Corps in WWII

Mom's memorial pictures

At her memorial, photos of her as a baby, young woman, and in her garden..and of her cat, Tabby.

At her memorial, we displayed photos along with a bouquet sent by Allan’s family in Seattle (his mother died earlier this year), and two bouquets from her garden and from my garden.

I am now flummoxed with many decisions and with such a sad feeling that she did not live to see us turn the whole courtyard outside her apartment window into a garden paradise.  It was nice enough this first summer but did not grow as lushly as I had hoped.  The sandy soil needs more improvement and there is a surprisingly severe slug or snail problem in the enclosed courtyard.  She waited all summer for her dahlias to bloom.  Finally one did, and I do hope she got to see it the day before she died.  (“Oh, so NOW you decide to bloom!” I thought at it when we went up to begin to clear out her apartment the day after her death.)

belated dahlia

belated dahlia in the Golden Sands courtyard

A few days before she died, we had agreed to help install a new garden at the local mortuary, Penttila’s Chapel by the Sea.  The plants were mostly chosen by the mortician and his partner.  (It helps a lot to be acquainted and friendly with the mortician when someone dies…eases the making of arrangements.)  As it happened, we were planting up the garden on a day six days past her death….and while her style ran more to gladiolas, dahlias and lilies and roses, I think she would have liked the results.

Penttila's entry garden

Penttila’s entry garden, where once was lawn.

Penttila's entry garden

Penttila’s entry garden, view from chapel entry

Here is the link to her obituary.

She wrote a short autobiography for her women veteran’s group:

Virginia (Cox) Johnston    USMCWR



I was born in Seattle and raised north of the city in Snohomish County.  I graduated from Edmonds High School in 1942 and went to an office job in Seattle.  In 1944, I had the idea to join the Air Corps in honor of my fiancé, who was shot down in a Boeing Flying Fortress in a raid over Germany.  However, the Air Corps wouldn’t even take my name until I was 20 (in April).  I walked down the sidewalk and saw the Marine Corps recruiting office. (“Be a Marine and Free a Marine to Fight.”)  They signed me up, gave me a physical exam, etc., and told me to come back on my birthday to take the oath, which I did.

I had my boot training at Camp Lejeune, NC.  After about two weeks at camp, they were going to discharge me because I was “not up to the physical standards of the USMC.”   When I said I wanted to stay, they sent me to a psychiatrist, who decided if I wanted to be Marine so bad they would let me stay.

After graduating, I drew six weeks mess duty (to serve the next class).  Then I was assigned to Marine Headquarters in Washington, D.C..  I was given a stripe right away because “they didn’t want any Privates walking around the nation’s capitol.”  I reported to the Ordnance Division where I worked for the next three years.

The highlight of my time in Washington was when my boss at work wanted to form a rifle team.  We competed with any team we could find (even high school boys).  Then a group of four or five of us started competing at civilian rifle matches up and down the east coast from Pennsylvania to North Carolina.

A big disappointment was not being able to march in the funeral parade for President Roosevelt.  (I wasn’t tall enough.)  But I did march in the parade for Admiral Nimitz when he came back from the Pacific.

As the war wound down, most of the WRs wanted out.  They needed clerks to handle the return of thousand of Marines coming back, so I shipped over for another ten months.  After I got home, I joined the action reserves.  1950 rolled around with the “police action” in Korea and our unit was called up.  I was newly married and I didn’t want to go.  I finagled a medical discharge.  My husband walked with me when I signed out so I wouldn’t change my mind when they played the USMC hymn.

In 1977, we both left our jobs with the City of Seattle.  (He retired at 63 and I quit at 55.) We moved to our retirement home outside of Yelm.  Then for ten years we snowbirded to Mesa, Arizona, six months out of the year.

After Bruce died in 1995, my daughter wanted me to move to the Long Beach Peninsula to be nearer to her.  (She lives in Ilwaco.)  I moved to Long Beach in 1999 where I lived until 2009, when I moved to Golden Sands Assisted Living Facility.  If I can’t live at my home, this is a wonderful place to be.

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On the night of November 21st a wind whipped the Peninsula, nothing as fierce as the big blow of 2007 but enough to create considerable havoc.  We went out the next morning to check out our jobs.

The fences at Jo’s garden had fared rather badly. The top of an arbour had blown off and decorative pieces had blown to the ground.

Jo’s fences and tree

Chen’s Chinese Restaurant’s big and seemingly sturdy sign made a difficult clean up task.

Chen’s sign down

Most shocking to us, a road closed sign ominously blocked our access to check on my mother’s house, sitting empty and for sale.  Trees in the road and a downed power line prevented our safe access but we came in from the north, determined to see what had happened.

trees down by my mother’s house

Inside the garden, the root mass of trees had pulled up flower beds and path on the east side.  Shortly before mom’s heart attack, Allan and I had had an enjoyable day blazing a walking path for her among the trees of her little patch of woods.  She had thought it would add more interest to have a defined path along the back of the south garden next time she had a garden open day.  The entry to the woodsy trail had been upended.

huge rootballs

Where once had been the fairy chair, the calla lilies, ferns, and hellebores had become a confusing mishmass of sand, landscape fabric and bark from the path, and dislodged plants.  We rescued what plants we could to take to mom’s new garden at Golden Sands and were mighty glad we’d taken the fairy chair back to our own garden.

From this….

July 2009

to this…

November 2009

From this:

July 2009

to this:

November 2009

My mother had mentally and emotionally moved on from her garden.  She’d had to or she’d not have been able to enjoy her new and much more social life in assisted living.  In a way she had begun to let go a couple of years before when she could no longer do her own gardening and had held on, with our help, till her garden had seen its summer of glory earlier in 2009.  Now we knew that whoever bought the home and garden would truly be beginning anew and that at least part of the garden would be so changed that very little remained of what it had been.

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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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All it can take is one day to change life in a dramatic way.  Sometimes what seems like the worst change can turn out to be beneficial.  But it is hard to see any change as good when it involves being forced by financial woes, a new job, a divorce, or ill health to leave a beautiful garden behind.

On August 19th we went up to Laurie’s mid-Peninsula garden where we weeded and deadheaded.  Not a huge amount had to be done because the garden was still holding up well from having been on the garden tour.  I wafted about for a bit taking photos of the lilies, then got down to the business of light weeding.

Laurie’s health was on the upswing again and she had been able to enjoy the garden a bit more.  As soon as we had finished our light workday, we planned to spend some time visiting with her.

Lily and Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’

Lily and orange montbretia

white lily with pink freckles

And then….my cell phone rang.  The sunshine and lilies and the view of the bay fell away as my mother told me that she could not catch her breath and the pain in her shoulder was much worse…and had been since a few hours after we’d had our usual evening phone call the night before.  How long had this been going on?  All night and into this next afternoon.  She kept hoping to feel better but did not.  She did not want us to call 911, so we flung our tools into the car, bade a quick goodbye to Laurie and took the fifteen minute drive back down the Peninsula to mom’s house in Long Beach.

Ocean Beach Hospital

There she sat on her bed, dressed and ready to go, still refusing to have us call 911.  We helped her to the car and on down to the emergency room in Ilwaco.

By the time I had finished the paperwork, she had been given some medication to relieve fluid build up and had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and a mild heart attack.

We sat with her for hours in the room, refusing her suggestion that we just leave her there and go back to work.  Finally they checked her into a nice room with a window and said they would keep her in for a few days to monitor her condition and decide what steps to take next.  We assured her we would feed her feral feline friends and finally went home, heads full of worries, unable to visualize what would happen in the immediate future.  At least we had been assured that the heart attack was not life-threatening.  Had it been, she would have been taken to Portland, Oregon, on the Life Flight helicopter.  The pilot had been at the ready but was advised that he could stand down.

The pain in mom’s shoulder, and the fact that it had been worse at night when she lay down, was a strong symptom of congestive heart failure’s fluid build up, if only we had known.

The next five days found us visiting the hospital every day, before and after work.  Mom, being such a night owl, found it difficult to shift her sleep time and usually napped during the hospital days.  In the evenings when we fed the wild cats I would take a walk through mom’s garden and wonder what would happen next.

We took a couple of breaks from work and worry and walked down to the beach from our Long Beach job to take pictures at the Kite Festival (next entry).  Planters had to be watered in Ilwaco and Long Beach, public gardens needed grooming and deadheading, but other than necessary watering, our private jobs simply fell away for awhile.

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The summer of my mother’s garden continued as on August 10th and 16th we mowed the lawn, visited, deadheaded some flowers, and took pictures of the continuing garden perfection.  By now the dahlias (probably my mom’s favourite flower) had begun to bloom profusely, and the lily show went on and on.


By the street, a Buddleia originally purchased from the old Heronswood nursery trailed extra large flowers onto the parking area.

garden with freshly mown lawn

Clematis and Lily


On the south side of the house, next to the sun porch, a Clematis bloomed next to a shocking orange lily.  My mother never gave thought to colour combinations but had accidentally joined the ranks of Christopher Lloyd and sometimes Dan Hinkley with hot, tropical, seething with contrast colour schemes.  We often had discussions about where a new purchase should go, especially if she had bought it from a catalog.  After the new plants arrived in the mail, out she would go and plunk them in anywhere she saw a spot: soon-to-be-large shrubs right next to a narrow path, sun plants in the shade, shade plants in the sun….”I put them where I want them, and if they make it, they make it, and if they die, they die”, she would say.  I had learned that a tactful request, along the lines of asking if I could move a flowering quince that would soon block a path, would usually be met with agreement.  And I must admit I would sometimes rescue a well-baked shade plant from a full sun spot and move it into the woodsy garden without even asking.
She once sat with me on the porch steps after a bit of an argy bargy about garden design,  sighed, and said “I’m not a very nurturing person.”  And yet she used to grow the most wonderful veg garden, all organized in rows, harvested, and carefully canned and preserved.  Her strawberries and raspberries had been planted in neat rows.  The fruit of her apple and pear trees she had meticulously sliced and dried.  Only two years ago at age 83 had she lacked the energy to plant her peas, beans, tomatoes, onions and lettuce.

mom’s apple trees

She took her veg and fruit gardens very seriously, but her flower gardens were more of a place to play.  I regret that my “good taste” usually talked her out of ordering and planting rows and rows of Gladiolus.  She loved them, but I, being invested in the creation of the garden, always took the line that they were too stiff and formal.  Note to daughters everywhere:  If your mom loves Glads and they remind you of ungainly flower arrangements, never mind; let her plant as many as she wants.

Dahlias had fallen out of favour with many garden designers until Christopher Lloyd championed them.  Now they were cutting edge again and mom’s garden abounded with them.

pom pom dahlia, my favourite kind



peachy dahlia

dahlia with seashell cosmos and drumstick allium

dahlia with picotee edge

spider dahlia

streaky dahlia

spider dahlia

dahlia backed with lily

dahlia backed with Eryngium

more peachy dahlias

The mid-August lilies filled the garden with intoxicating fragrance.

lilies in an apple tree

lilies August 10th and August 16th

towering lilies

lilies with pink freckles

peachy amber lilies

dark pink lily

As we took a turn around the garden with my mother, a tall hollyhock towered over all.


A tiny variegated fuchsia bloomed in a pot left over from the garden tour.


Lemony lilies and blue globe thistle caught the later afternoon sun.

lilies and Echinops ritro

Low to the ground the clever buds of the aptly named balloon flower popped open into starry blue flowers.


My mother remarked about and admired every flower in the garden before returning to her easy chair and her book.  She complained of intermittent shoulder pain, saying she must have pulled a muscle when she reached for something or helped us deadhead in the garden.  I asked when she would again see her doctor, and suggested she talk to him about it.  She said old age brought so many aches and pains that she was used to it but yes, she would see him soon and mention it.    I had a vague sense of unease…but knew from experience there was no talking mom into doing something she did not want to do.

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I did say that is was the summer of my mother’s garden.  Over the month of July it got better and better as more lilies, annuals, and roses came into full bloom.  Gardens are ephemeral  and  bound up with the fate of the gardener.  This summer of beauty was the peak of this garden’s existence.

mom in her garden, July 15th

It was easiest for mom to get out and enjoy her garden when we stopped by during the day.  She had had a couple of scary experiences of falling in the garden; the previous summer, she’d taken a tumble toward the end of the day and had to crawl to a chair to pull herself up.  After that day I initiated a daily phone call on the way home from work to make sure she was safe inside the house, so in the last year we had more conversations than we’d had in perhaps the previous ten years put together….although the conversation often went quickly with her saying “Okay, bye” and getting back to her book or the news.

lilies and a golden hyssop


lilies and cosmos

everywhere, sweeps of lilies

The beds closest to the house continued to be the most spectacular, but lilies bloomed throughout the garden beds.  Every year she’d bought mixed lily collections from assorted catalogs.

Allan helps mom deadhead in the gardens by the sunporch

Asiatic lilies, cosmos, Allium albopilosum

Cosmos, lilies, Allium albo and just the beginning of dahlias

Of course,  attention must always be paid to the shady fairy chair, here draped with calla lilies.

fairy chair

Allan checks on the garden, July 25th

the lilies of late July (7-25)

lilies backed with Cotinus (smokebush)

lilies and allium albopilosum (Star of Persia)

a rose like red velvet

mom’s favourite rose

In some ways my mother was a great record keeper.  Financially she had the mind of an accountant and kept meticulous records.  Woe betide a mail order catalog that sent her a plant in less than excellent condition.  She always had the receipt to hand and would write, longhand, to request a replacement….and always got one.  For years she had worked for the boiler  and elevator inspections departments for the city of Seattle and handled mountains of paperwork.

But oddly, once a plant was in the ground, the receipt listing its name (because most nurseries include a list of names) did not get filed and saved, and so she could not tell me the names of the velvety red rose or of the especially stunning coppery-sheened one (right) that was both of our favourites.

My only hint is that they probably came from Wayside or Jackson and Perkins, so I should peruse their catalogs.

birdhouses with apples red…

….and apples green….July 25th

gardens by the sunporch steps

cats on the sunporch path


Mom had adopted and cared for a black feral cat (Ebony) and her offspring (Tiger).  She had amazed me by going to the South Pacific Humane Society, getting a trap, catching the cats and taking them in to be spayed and neutered.  This would be quite an undertaking for a woman who was so shy that, in her reclusive older years,  she felt anxious just going to the grocery store.  Her favourite cat was Ebony, nicknamed Bonnie.  Neither cat would allow petting but they would sit close to mom when she took some sun on the sunporch steps.

Since the garden tour days of June and early July, mom had been talking just a bit about wanted to go check out Golden Sands, the local assisted living place.  She told us she thought she might want to move there in a year or two because she figured that a structured social environment would help her get over her shyness.  She’d tried once going to the Senior Center ice cream social but just couldn’t break through that barrier that made it hard for her to start a conversation.  We said we’d take her up to just have a tour of Golden Sands some time in the fall.  The time had not yet come; there was still too much enjoyment to be had in the garden.

the lawn before mowing, July 25th

Allan and Mom on July 25th

Sitting on the stairs of the sunporch was her favourite spot to be now that she could no longer putter for hours among the flowers and vegetables.  She looked forward to the next phase of flowers:  the dahlias; we’d planted many of them in the spring, and now at the end of July they were almost ready for their season.

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On the fifth of July we spent a day grooming mom’s garden for her second garden open day.

From the parking area on the east side of the house, you might not have guessed that a big bright sunny garden awaited.

By her car port, a blue geranium rambled through a cutleaf elderberry.

cutleaf elderberry

Almost all of the lilies now bloomed in the sunny south garden.

flower beds

In her patch of woods, we had hung an old window for decoration.

mom’s bit of woods

Looking west from the lilies above, we could see Mike and Mark’s house:  good neighbours.

looking west

The lawn edging had held up well from tour number one and would not have to be redone for the smaller tour two days from now.

All the containers we’d brought up to enhance the garden for tour day were still in fine fettle.

container with grass and viola

fairy chair

The plants on the fairy chair had started to blend together.  (All purchased at The Basket Case.)

lilies and grass paths

Above, looking from the west to the east down one of the small paths.  In front of the house, two long concrete strips running east-west (for a single wide trailer, originally) had inspired a design of nine geometric garden beds divided by grassy paths.

looking to the west

One of the short north-south paths of the nine flower beds gave this view of the big flower beds that sweep in a curve around the south side of the garden.

looking south

Originally we had kept a doorway pruned through the escallonia hedge, but we had let it close in to keep the deer out.

Just a reminder of what the escallonia hedge had looked like nine years before (yes, it is there, behind the tulips):

in the year 2000

The cosmos were starting to bloom over in that southwest border….


along with a magnificent tall stand of lilies.

lilies backed with escallonia

When I first learned of the existence of Oriental and Asiatic lilies in the late 1980s, I could not believe they would actually grow in my garden.  They seemed far too delicate and tropical. I got a book called “Let’s Grow Lilies”, illustrated with clip-art style cartoons, that said they would not grow well in thickly planted beds but must instead be planted among “little lacy lovelies”.  Yet here they were coming back strongly year after year in my mom’s overgrown garden.  The main trick was keeping the slugs off.


lilies among apple tree branches

It looks like the lily book from the North American Lily Society has changed its look!

Let’s Grow Lilies then and now

But I digress.  Here we looked back from the south border toward the house, and we walked from the patch of open lawn that divided the geometric beds from the big swooping border and reentered the grid of grass paths.

looking north

back into the grid

An old photo, below, shows the same side of mom’s house in 1999;  it is a good thing she bought the second lot to the south or she would never have had enough room for her garden.  (You can just see the edge of the concrete parking strips that inspired the geometry of the nine garden beds.)

1999, south side of house


Above, in 2009, the birdbath sits just inside of the edge of those concrete strips.

The garden is finessed and again weed and dead-head free and ready for the Vancouver garden club and a few friends to arrive in two days.

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