A Garden’s Tale

Every garden has a story. Memories of who planned and planted it, who tended it or who simply sent their time enjoying it.

Our garden is no different.

Pete and I bought our home 7 years ago, perhaps based a little TOO much on the potential of its beautiful garden. The garden was a little larger than we would have liked, after all who really wants to have to spend every single weekend pulling out weeds and mowing lawns. But there was just something about it. It was a sea of tropical green and located on three levels, which for practical reasons, is never an ideal and something that had specifically put us off other properties before.

We hadn’t even deliberately gone to look at the property. We had merely taken a drive on a Sunday afternoon to meet up with the estate agent, who at the time, was helping us search for a house.

We fell in love with it instantly.

Of course we did.

It was way over our budget!

In fact that’s why we hadn’t even given it a second glance when it was advertised in the property section of our local newspaper the day before. But like I said, there was just something about it…the peace and tranquility of the setting was unexpected considering it was located only a few minutes from our town centre. This may or may not have had a lot to do with the stream tinkling melodically on the other side of the boundary fence. Forget the smell of freshly baked bread, all you estate agents and potential sellers out there, there is simply nothing like the sound of water to win a buyer over!

In fact so much so that we suffered a little buyer’s remorse when after much negotiating (and fortunately a very willing seller!) we finally got the keys and realised just how much work needed to be done to the house itself!

But like most homes, you understand the concept of having a constant work in progress. The garden was simply no exception. With the help of Bethuel, the amazing gardener who had worked for the previous owners, and loads of manure from a certain dairy farm 🙂 , we slowly started to stamp our own (gum boot clad) footprints on it. And on many occasions a “small” job ended up becoming a large project taking up more time (and money!) than anticipated. So over the years, paths have been redone, retaining and boundary walls built (lots of them!) and roses and all sorts of flowers have been added.

But the real change came two years ago when the life we knew came to a crashing halt. Surgeries, radiation and chemo played havoc with our social life. The constant fear of contracting an infection which could delay an already lengthy treatment plan or land me back in hospital, along with the bizarre chemo induced car sickness I experienced, kept us from straying too far from home!

Our garden became an invaluable part of this new, unfamiliar and scary life.

For Pete it was a weekend distraction from a sick wife and an illness he couldn’t control. A routine was established: on a Saturday morning Parkrun was completed, a brief stop at home for a shower and to check if I was okay and then he would head over to the shops to pick up anything I hadn’t been able to get around to doing during the week; along with a stop at the local garden centre.

Which meant that boot loads of plants made their way into our garden over quite a few months!

While I would be indoors recovering and staying out of the sun, he would spend most of the weekend planting. But always with his cell phone close at hand he assured me, so that I could call him if there was an emergency. Like “Pete, I need help getting out of bed, or mostly like “Pete, really feel like MacDonald’s chips”! 😉

I certainly earned my nickname “Director of Gardening”.

When I was feeling better I would take him a cold beverage (still often in my pj’s) and spent some time putting in my two cents worth. Phrases often starting with: “you know I’ve been thinking…..” or “don’t you think it would look nice if….”or “wouldn’t it look better over here”. Sometimes it was appreciated, and other times….well, not so much 🙂

For me it became my refuge, a place to walk barefoot, think and heal. Countless hours were spent sitting on the grass with Frank and Noodle and an occasional butterfly, drinking tea, steeling myself for the next onslaught of treatment or waiting for phone calls on blood and scan results. And I hate to admit it, but there were also many hours spent thinking some pretty scary and troubling thoughts.

Our garden became the place we could escape to, a place where tough decisions were hashed out while digging in the soil or lying on the grass listening to water flow and birds sing.

So when we opened our garden this year to the public as part of the annual Maritzburg’s Open Gardens, we did so not because we thought our garden was award winning or anything. We – and I use that term loosely 😉 certainly were not pretending to be garden gurus! Gosh, we often couldn’t even remember the names of the things we planted; and our sage garden advice to anyone who asked about our planting strategy was “if it doesn’t live, try something else”!

It wasn’t about having perfectly manicured lawns and hedges or show stopping blooms. It was about what it represented to us, creating something that was beautiful to us, out of a not so beautiful situation. And it was about sharing a journey, whether anyone who visited actually understood that or not.

And the big fat cherry on top? We raised some awesome cash for Reach for Recovery PMB!

So to all of you who supported our first open gardens, whether it was by donating your time, your cash, your amazing cooking and baking skills or shopping for amazing yummy goodies, helping us set up and take down, lending us your children as slaves (you know who you are!), or traveling from near and far to spend a few hours saying really nice things about our garden, and to those who did all of the above, THANK YOU.

Just, thank you…

“A garden always has a point.” Elizabeth Hoyt

“A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfil good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.” Liberty Hyde Baily

“Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get.” H, Jackson Brown Jr

“Won’t you come into the garden? I would like my roses to see you.” Richard Brinsley Sheridan

“In my garden there is a large place for sentiment. My garden of flowers is also my garden of thoughts and dreams. The thoughts grow as freely as the flowers, and the dreams are as beautiful.” ~Abram L. Urban

“You can bury a lot of troubles digging in the dirt.” ~Author Unknown

“With fronds like you, who needs anemones.” ~Gardening Saying

“Show me your garden and I shall tell you what you are.” Alfred Austen

R4R15

The Reach for Recovery rose in our garden.

Garden 3Garden 4Gardens2R4R 1R4R11R4R6R4R12R4R9Garden 5Garden 6R4R16

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One thought on “A Garden’s Tale

  1. Hi Janine, what a great story of your garden and your recovery. There is such great peace to be found in a garden and I am glad that you found peace in yours, as well as healing for both of you, and this year a celebration of two cancer free years – I hope you run out of fingers and toes to count these celebrations. Our thanks to you for being part of the Stihl Open gardens – we are looking forward to many more years together and raising lots more money for Reach for Recovery, here’s to good health and happy gardening x

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