The Eloquent Garden

The garden you create or dream of creating is a mirror of yourself

Tag Archives: plants

Mourning in The Garden

Yesterday, I watered Avalene’s garden. I was alone there for the first time, because she died last Monday. She was 85. I feel sad that I can’t garden with her again. I always smiled in anticipation when I was driving to garden with her.  She loved gardening and was fun to garden with, we laughed, she engaged me with her beautiful full smile, conversation, talk of her family, daughters named from the garden – Primrose and Marguerite, her son, a granddaughter in Great Britain.

Avalene’s garden was full of history….well over 55 years of history. Some she shared with me, of beloved plants, difficult plants, plants given to her by her daughters, cuttings given and found. She called me when she began to suffer lots of pain in her hands. She said she needed me so that together we could do the garden jobs she wanted to do, but couldn’t quite manage.  But never did she give up. She stayed determined to always do some gardening beside me, and together we’d wheel the bin over, she’d carry plants, water, do as much as she could, while directing me.  Always excited and grateful when I would bring a few plants, cuttings, offerings from my worm farm.

I remember the day Avalene found the tiny green frog, on her Strelitzia. She was very excited, as she hadn’t seen him, (perhaps her?) for quite a while. She told me to be very careful not to disturb him and maybe he sensed his safety, as he stayed unperturbed while I pruned near to him.  I think of and immediately smell intense honey scent of alyssum..purple, white, pink, and some in between. Is there a specially sensitive  part of our brain that remembers the scent of flowers? Does anyone know that? Please let me know if you do.

So it was sad, being there alone. Avalene’s spirit is still there though, in the mix of sweet peas, passionfruit, lettuce, chilli bush, blue plumbago, coleus,  white crocus, curry plant, pink and yellow Star above Star Camellia, pink  and purple bromeliads, brunsfelsia, apricot geraniums, hippeastrums, so many more. A garden as practical, as many faceted as its owner. I picked bright red chillies as a memento.

I plan to take some cuttings of her Camellia, Geranium, Banksia Rose, for her family. Then I thought of my own family, my beloved Daughter, living in Great Britain,  who left to go home again only a short week ago.  I thought of the lovely and varied  time we had together.  I also mourned her leaving, as I watered.

The garden is a good place to mourn. And a good place for comfort. Gardening is a continuous cycle of endings and beginnings and who knows which is which.  Plants finish a flowering season, but are no less beautiful when deciduous or in seed.  Seeds are hope and promise of more of  life to come.  A new plant with many possibilities –  a different hue, size, flower shape. Or perhaps sown in a different place?  In the Garden is always hope.  Avalene’s funeral service reading had 2 lines that brought tears, yet at the same time comfort, thoughts of the future: ‘ Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her, Or you can be full of the love you share.’

I think about Avalene’s Funeral ,  where we gathered to honour and celebrate her life. I learned many more things about her, understood what an inspiration she was to her whole family. I admired her, still more.  I ask myself, do I live my life in such a way that I will be missed and honoured as much as she was.  Now, there’s something to think on. I learned that she went on road trips only a few years ago, with 2 other women, to Darwin! On the road trips they loved listening to “Bright Side of the Road” by Van Morrison. As we walked out from the Garden Chapel where her funeral service was held, we listened to that song, and felt lighter, somehow.

This is the poem written on the back of the order of service:

“Into the freedom of wind and sunshine

We let you go

Into the dance of the stars and the planets

We let you go

Into the wind’s breath and the hands of the starmaker

We let you go.”                           (Ruth Burgess.)

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

On Saturday, I saw ‘Tree of Life” with 2 dear friends. Gosh!  we talked for 3 hours  afterwards-OK, not all about the film. But surely themes inspired by that…Love, loss, death, dating,  food, dancing……I liked the film’s lack of dialogue, I thought it was like being in the garden with someone-  where sometimes silence is more eloquent, more able to provoke thought.

In the film I enjoyed how we looked upwards  through the  trees branches, and looked down through the  branches from above. I felt the film was perhaps partly about out our  innate need for connection with nature – for comfort, solace, for answers.

Crikey’s Review of “Tree of Life” said “tantalisingly imperfect”  and I will partly borrow that –  Mystical, eloquent, sparse dialogue,  tantalisingly imperfect- that’s my description.

How did you feel about ‘ ‘Tree of Life?’  How did you respond?

Soon I will take afternoon tea with Alzira.  I’m taking Thai Rice pudding….OH! The voluptuous smell of Cardoman as I stirred slowly. I could not resist eating a spoonful, OK maybe a few more!

Cardoman is such a mystery…it smells a little like eucalyptus when seeds are intact.  Then when crushed and cooked, completely change to a smell that’s sultry, powerful, spicy……….

ingredients:

100g/3 & 1/2 ounces  arborio rice

1 cardamon pod, split, and seeds crushed.

300ml/7 fl Oz coconut cream

150ml/10 fl oz  water

2 tablespoons honey

coconut flakes and 1 tblspn flaked almonds – to decorate top.

Method:

Put all ingredients except those for decoration, in a saucepan. Stir slowly and constantly till all liquid is absorbed  and rice is tender.

Serve warm, with decorations on top. You can serve alongside mixed berries. Definitely serve with cream (or yoghurt if you are feeling very virtuous.)

And….this cutting from a magazine mysteriously appeared on the wall above my computer…“Every act of Creation is first an act of destruction.”    Pablo Picasso .  To my daughter,  who put that here for me to find….thank you for that inspiration.

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What are your earliest garden memories?

Before I tell you something..I wonder if you’d like to write down your earliest garden memory? Get a  largish piece of paper, perhaps a hand-made paper, or something very lovely. You may even want to frame this one!  Now sit, preferably outside, gaze at the horizon, remembering. Then begin writing. Be as detailed as you can….flowers, activities, people, scents, feelings, colours, places, gardens, kitchens, there may even be memories you may think bad ones. Anything garden or nature-related.

Then, put your memories aside for the moment. Right now, I want to tell you about a morning in Brisbane, at a retirement village. We sit around tables with little terracotta bowls of dried rose petals, others with lavender flowers sitting on embroidered lace tablecloths. There are tiny drawstring bags in pink, purple, orange, white.  Huge bunches of rosemary and of roses in old-fashioned vases in the centre of each table.

I ask this group of about 15 elderly retirement village residents, ‘What’s your earliest garden memory?’

Dorothy says ‘It was during the War. We had to grow veges or we had none. My job was to water the veges..heaven help me if I forgot, we depended on that food. My father made me a watering can. He punched holes in the bottom of a tin can, put a wire handle on the top so i could carry it. I had to fill it with water and walk up and down the rows of veges, make sure they got enough water.”

Joan ‘We did too, had to grow our veges. We lived in London. Where were you?’

Dorothy says “We lived in London too.”

‘Gosh! Old neighbours!’ I say. Everyone laughs.

Joan and Dorothy live in the same retirement village, a slow 10 minute walk from one another.  They have never met before, never spoken. Amazing? Somehow sad. Yet now that they have, somehow hopeful!

Alcea has exotic tales..a life lived in Peru, South Africa, Europe, travelling as her husband was employed with a mining Company. A fabulous tale of the ‘Tropicana Nightclub, with a glass dome ceiling, with trees and swings and girls swinging on these over the heads of diners!  Whew…no troublesome workplace health and safety getting in the way of Big Fun there!

But today-  together we make lavender or rose bags. Small, coloured chiffon bags to hang in wardrobes. Or to hang in the shower so the smell is enjoyed while showering. Someone’s inspired to make an extra lavender bag for a beloved great-grandchild when she visits next. ‘Great idea!’ Others do too.

I take Photos of everyone enjoying the morning. There’s much laughter as everyone wants their “best side’ shown! Me too!

Two of the residents discover they’re both named Rose. They also have never met before. One talks of her now dead mothers rose garden..tears come to her eyes. The others nod, remembering too…

Margery remembers playing with a friend, making ‘perfume’ with rose petals and water, giving some to  her mother for her birthday. Her mothers joy at receiving this.  Margery laughs, with the knowledge of adulthood. We join in.

So many memories expressed in these answers- old friendships, fun, family history and secrets, lives led, plants special to certain people, events forgotten, now remembered.

I suggest that over the next 6 weeks we could do ‘Garden Walks’- visit everyone’s garden. Have a cuppa at each garden, morning tea, warm the friendships begun today. Ask one another “where did you get that plant?’ ‘What’s your favorite plant?’ Enable time to tell more of themselves. More of their garden histories, gardens remembered, garden companions,  garden loves.

In this lovely activity today, I see the seeds of friendship sown, hear laughter, reminiscence, enable arthritic fingers to move and exercise, stimulate  memory and imagination, be involved in meaningful activities. I record all this-with photos to be given to each, at our next time together and to put into a new photo album.  A garden history together, to be added onto their life garden history. Everyone takes some roses or rosemary home.

So what was your garden memory?  What did it say about you? Your philosophy on life? Your family? Relationships? What’s in those memories for you today, to think about?

My memory is of visiting my grandmother, a quirky, slightly radical soul- yes, a gardener! I was wanting desperately to climb the very high trellis to pick beans. How daring! How forbidden! My mother would have had a fit!  ‘Why not!’ was Grandma’s response.  Something that’s stayed with me all my life. Yes indeed ‘Why not!’  Have fun, take risks, climb high. I’ve had so much fun!

Then another memory. Sadder perhaps….but maybe not, depending on how its perceived.  Shutting myself into my room.  Dramatic family life, events that were definitely not ideal, swirling around me.  Climbing out my bedroom window, picking grapes, and swiftly back in the window undetected, to read for hours. Grapes from the garden and a good book..what a great escape!  What a comfort.  Some may say, and I agree, that I learned to comfort myself when life was sad.

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