Six on Saturday: The Garden’s Faded Glory

A tired garden trellis is given a fun purple paint-job and a new lease on life, thanks to my hubby.

Iris ‘Immortality’ makes a return fall blooming engagement.

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Between raindrops – German Bearded Iris ‘Immortality’

We lost our birch tree last year and haven’t gotten around to grinding out the stump. It made a nice pedestal for my mother’s blue pot of dianthus and a bit of orange portulaca trying to make a comeback for one more blooming before killing frost.

This hibiscus moscheutos ‘Tie Dye’ just keeps on blooming. It’s slowing down, but still putting out a few ruffled blooms every day.

A few years ago my neighbors bought a whole bunch of plants in the hopes of doing a major landscaping project. Pots filled with the promise of spectacular blooms awaited planting, but it seemed they would never get planted. In fact, I rarely saw my neighbors. At summer’s end, I noticed my neighbor lady outdoors, so stopped my gardening to chat with her a bit. She apologized for the “mess” in her driveway – a few pots of dead and dying plants sitting in a heap. I asked her what had happened. Apparently, unbeknownst to me, much like these potted plants, my neighbor’s marriage was shriveling and dying. Pointing to the pots, she said that if there was anything I’d like to try to save, to just take it. Sedum ‘Maestro’ stands in testament to the fact that, like marriage, plants need attention and TLC.

My garden helper, Smoky – a neighborhood stray who chose us as his family three summers ago.

That’s my six for the week. Now, let’s see yours.

Keep checking back to our host’s site for the latest Sixes.

https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/

Six on Saturday – “Hello” to Autumn

Like most Midwestern gardeners, my season in the garden for 2018 is coming to a close and, as always, I have so much left to do. Over the past few summers, taking care of Momma has been my first priority with time spent in the garden has been very limited. This year Momma lives with me, so my gardening strategy has been to squeeze at least one gardening task into one of her daily naps. I know I’ve accomplished a lot more this year than the past two or three, but I still feel a tad bit overwhelmed. I have four new daylilies (purchased in June) which are still awaiting planting in my flowerbeds, hostas I’d like to divide, weeds that need to be pulled, bushes needing trimming, mulching that should be done, and my newly arrived mail-order of new tulip and daffodil bulbs awaiting burial in a sunny garden location. I’ve had all sorts of reasons (excuses) –  hot rainy weather paired with mosquitoes; cold rainy weather paired with soggy ground; and plain ol’ busyness paired with the tiredness that comes from late nights taking care of my mom as she wrestles with the fiend, Alzheimer’s.

With only a suggestion, my wonderful husband painted a few of my garden trellises to renew their almost spent life cycle. Here’s one he painted red for me. It looks amazing as a backdrop for some orange zinnias that are still lookin’ snazzy on the edge of a flowerbed awaiting fall cleanout.

One of autumn’s faithful beauties is most definitely sedum. So, so, so pretty.

Our fireplace woodpile houses a few chipmunks who love to use the top log as their stage for their morning ‘chippy’ serenades. I noticed something fun when I was looking through photos…their stage has a lovely heart shape in the wood-grain on the end.

One of my favorite shades of green in the garden is this one – a lovely chartreuse-y green that lights up the garden wherever it is planted. This ‘Tiger-Eye’ Sumac graces the north-east corner of our backyard deck.

I don’t recall planting cosmos this year, but I’m loving this fuchsia pink volunteer…and so are the visiting bees.

This beautiful cherry red zinnia makes me smile too. With very little effort, late summer and early fall are rewarded with this cheery flower. I’m a perennial gardener, but there is always room for zinnia in my gardens.

And I always, always wish I had planted more zinnia.

Well, I hope you enjoyed my very first contribution to ‘Six on Saturday’– a fun blog meme hosted by  The Propagator, and introduced to me by Carolee, whose blog “Herbal Blessings” makes me aspire to be a better gardener. Please take a moment to check out both of their blogs. You’ll soon find yourself virtually wandering through some pretty amazing gardens all over the world and I guarantee  you will learn something along the way.

 

 

My Caregiving Dream

Everyone tells me I need to take care of myself. “You can’t take care of your Momma if you’re not taking care of yourself.” I hear it from my family, my doctor, friends at church, my Facebook friends, and my on-line support community at myALZteam.com.

It’s true.

So, I’m trying to listen. I joined a gym and have been getting regular exercise, striving for 5 days a week while my hubby keeps tabs on Momma. It was the right thing to do and has been so helpful.

My concerned friends also say, “Take advantage of respite care. You need to take some time away – maybe go on a vacation.”

True again. But, I’m finding that one easier said than done.

Looking into respite care options has opened my eyes as to how difficult it is to find respite memory care in my community. I found two facilities with a room available: one would require that we bring our own bed; the other seemed perfect, albeit expensive.

Me and my guy in NYC

Thankfully, my sister was able to arrange her schedule so she could take care of our mom while we got together with our kids and their families over Thanksgiving and again for our recent vacationing in NYC.

It concerns me that there seem to be so few options out there are for someone with Alzheimer’s. I am learning that places which advertise offering respite care do not have dedicated respite care units. Rather, you fill out paperwork, have your loved one evaluated, then get their name placed on a wait list. Then you wait for someone to move out or die.

If I had the resources, my caregiver dream would be to build a respite care facility that would offer all the usual assisted living amenities, but operate a bit like a hotel, with guests staying for a few days to a month. My dream respite home would serve restaurant style meals, or bedside meals, depending on the guest’s particular need. Hallways would resemble a neighborhood street, with each door a different color, and a comfy chair or two outside on their “porch” just for sittin’ a spell and talking with passersby (you can see in the pictures below that I’m not the first to think of this).

My Dream 3
Photo credit: sixtyandme.com
My Dream 2
Photo credit: tsomides.com

My little “neighborhood” would have a business district too. Pampering would be a high priority with a beauty parlor and a barber shop. A little store for “buying” snacks and comfort items would provide the dignity of making choices – maybe even an “ice cream parlor” serving up a scoop of the day.

In my dream, I also see a beautiful little chapel where guests could hear the Word of God preached and sing great hymns of the faith as they worship God.  I would invite churches to bring their choirs and youth group ensembles to sing too.

I envision a wheelchair and walker-friendly theater featuring classic movies with closed captioning. We would host music and dance recitals allowing young music students to interact with the memory-impaired through the heart language of music and the arts. I can only imagine the joy this would create.

My Dream 1
Art Therapy

Artists could share their passion – painting, jewelry making, knitting, card-making – showcasing their art form and perhaps encouraging our memory challenged guests to get creative too.

 

Dirt Therapy
Dirt Therapy

Oh, and we certainly can’t forget the gardens!

Yes! In my dream I see amazing gardens (with plenty of lilies, of course!), planted and cared for by volunteers, scout troops, garden clubs, and youth groups. Of course, there would be multiple raised gardens where guests could play in the dirt to their heart’s content.

I can dream, can’t I?

Setting the Caregiving Stage

I love to get my hands and feet dirty. Try as I might, I can’t seem to keep my shoes or gloves on when I garden. I guess I’m a tactile sort of person who enjoys the feeling of the warm earth squishing between my toes or sifting through my fingers. I try my best to make things grow, but know in my heart that very little of it is up to me.

Landscape designer Tish Treherne wrote an article for Sunset magazine that I really enjoyed. Tish wrote about how she designed her personal garden space around their gorgeous waterfront home. She likes to keep things slightly wild looking by “loosely layering unfussy perennials.” I love her garden design philosophy and enjoyed reading her description of how the plants she chose nestle into one another like puzzle pieces to create a seemingly effortless whole. 

I start planning my garden in the dead of Wisconsin’s winter when the first seed catalog comes in the mail. I get out my Sharpie marker and circle the flowers that capture my attention in the catalog pages and dream about where I’d put them in the garden. I get out my garden journal and jot down a few notes about what I’d like to plant, what I want to move, which plants I’d like to dig out, and what I’d like to purchase.

Whether shopping by catalog, or cruising the aisles of my favorite garden centers, I pay attention to the description of each plant, determining whether I have adequate space or light, or whether I’m in the right planting zone. My dear husband fully supports my need for dirt therapy, allowing me to add to my cart whatever little lovely attracts my eye.

Bug-infested Roses

Even with careful planning, planting and faithful watering, not all of my plantings survive. I have lost count of how many failed butterfly bush and clematis vines I have planted. Likewise, each tulip and daffodil bulb I plant in the fall holds the promise of a gorgeous bloom to follow in the spring, but not all of the bulbs I plant make it. Winters can be harsh, Springs too wet or too hot, cute little critters eat my plants and bulbs, disease strikes, insects munch away. Like Tish said in her wonderful article,

“You’re setting the stage as a designer, but you don’t have total control over what’s going to happen.”  ~Tish Treherne

I often draw parallels for life from my garden, and Tish’s philosophy holds true on that front as well. As I seek to take care of my mother’s increasing needs for care, I am just setting the stage as a designer. With the help of our family, my husband and I turned our dining room into a lovely bedroom for her. She has a special spot at our kitchen table where she can watch the birds and view the gardens. We make sure she has meals that are reasonably healthy, treats that make her life enjoyable. I make sure she receives appropriate medical and dental care, and that she is adequately clothed and groomed. We try our best to ensure her safety by putting up baby gates, installing handrails, building half-steps, using video monitoring systems while she sleeps, and making sure someone is with her 24-hours a day.

I can design a stage for her care, but I do not have total control over what’s going to happen. She may take a fall. She will undoubtedly get a urinary tract infection and have hallucinations which will keep her (and us) awake. If this disease takes the usual sad course, she will lose the ability to walk, talk, swallow, toilet herself, or perform even the most basic of personal care. I have absolutely no control over her future. I have no idea what even this day will bring forth. But God does, and He will give me wisdom for the next step of Momma’s life journey…and mine.

In the meanwhile, we will enjoy the flowers that survived, each moment of restful sleep, the birds playing in the fountain, the September breezes, porch-sittin’ days, visits from family and friends, knees that are sorta working today, and all the other beautiful daily benefits that come from God’s storehouse of blessings.

 

Weeding the Heart

Anyone who knows me at all realizes that I love flowers. This time of year, my garden is brimming with them. But you only see what I post on Facebook…the loveliest of the lovely. But, there are things that are not so lovely.

Wayne and I appreciate my sister’s every-other-week caregiving visits and are learning to take advantage of time when mom is well cared for to spend time together. It was a blessing that a recent visit fell on our 41st wedding anniversary, allowing us to get away for a day at a nearby bed and breakfast.

Walking Iron B & B

Besides well-pampered time with my hubby, I appreciated the gardens at Walking Iron Bed & Breakfast. With one step out of our beautiful first floor room’s door, we could sit a spell in a comfy Adirondack gliding chair on the immense wrap-around porch and enjoy the cottage garden’s beauty. Of course, being a gardener myself, that wasn’t enough. I had to traipse around the whole garden touching, smelling, photographing and making mental notes. As I wandered, I sensed innkeeper Karissa’s gardening style was much like my own. Like my garden, Walking Iron’s gardens are not professionally planted or tended by a landscaping company. The owners of the B&B plant and care for the gardens themselves. In fact, when we arrived, our hostess was dressed in her grubbies and staining the garden arbor which graced the entrance to a very beautiful corner of the earth.

I loved Walking Iron B&B’s very beautiful sunny gardens brimming with beautiful daylilies, hardy hibiscus (some grown from seed), Asiatic lilies, coreopsis, zinnia and roses. The shady gardens included many gorgeous ferns, astillbe, a nice collection of hosta, and I loved the innkeeper’s use of a smattering of repetitive elements – a sort of eclectic order. But, you know what I loved most? On close inspection, Walking Iron’s garden had weeds. Lots of them. And many of the weeds were the very same type I had in my garden. In a twisted sort of way, I was encouraged and inspired by that.

Walking Iron Weeds…Just Like Mine
Beauty is always marred by sin’s curse

Seeing the weeds in someone else’s otherwise gorgeous garden spoke volumes to a heart that struggles with frustration over the number of weeds in my own. You might not believe it if you have only my Facebook garden pictures to look at, but not all of my garden is composed of lovely, healthy plants and well-mulched, dead-headed and weed-free spaces. Much of my gardening time is devoted to digging and pulling weeds, including attempting to get rid of plants with “weedy habits” which threaten to push other more favorable garden lovelies out of their respective beds. Wayne hauls a trailer filled with garden debris over to our city’s composting site nearly every other week during most of the summer. My friends rarely see me post photos of my weeds. Or my Japanese beetle infested roses. Or my phlox and honeysuckle plants ridden with powdery mildew. Or the nasty “stretchy weed” that is a menace in my flowerbeds. But weeds, disease, barren spots, insects, burrowing critters and other pests are all part of of the world of gardening. Gardens aren’t perfect. And people aren’t either. My pastor, Jeremy Scott put it well when he reminded me that, “Beauty is always marred by sin’s curse.”

Powdery Mildewed Phlox

Just as closer examination will reveal weeds in the most manicured of gardens, close examination of our lives reveals weeds – things in our lives we choose not to reveal. Sin, actually. We may try to hide it from others, and might even do a pretty good job of that. However, Scripture reminds me that I sometimes can’t see the weeds in my own life.

“Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; let them not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.”  Psalm 19:12,13  (NIV)

Some of my sins are much more obvious than others. I can’t deny I have a problem with overeating. That particular problem is easy for the whole world to see. But there’s also that stinky attitude that crops up whenever I don’t get my way. And my more often than I care to admit struggle with redeeming time wisely; my Bible may sit in the same spot gathering dust for way too many days while Facebook gets checked religiously.

But, there are many more hidden things in the garden of my life, known only to my Master Gardener. God sees my weeds. He knows the condition of my heart. The mean words that slink their way into my thoughts – not spoken aloud, but spoken in the heart. The ungrateful spirit.  The judgmental attitude. The worry. The irritation I feel when my Alzheimer’s plagued mother disrupts my sleep. The wicked thoughts and imaginations of my heart.

The Psalmist teaches me that, no matter how beautiful our lives may seem, we all have those hidden weeds. Those things known only to God. How thankful I am that verses 12 and 13 of Psalm 19 are followed by the more well known verse 14; the prayer of David’s heart – and mine.

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”  Psalm 19:14 (NIV)