Tuesday, May 24, 2011

My Father's Garden

Papi, you left us a year ago today, and as you know from my daily chats with you, this process is difficult if not horrific.

There are days I believe we will learn to live with this loss, and others where we feel we will never overcome this pain.

What has been incredibly therapeutic for me has been to create a garden for you, and I'd like you to join me for a walk so that I can show you what I've done.

I can see this garden from the dining room, the coffee room, and my bedroom upstairs.  This garden is the first thing I see when I get home and the last thing I see when I leave.  I wouldn't want it any other way.

There's a little patio out here and I sit in that red chair (which yes... I will replace with something a little more elegant) with my coffee every morning, much the same way I used to sit with you on the front porch.  Do you know how much I miss that?

Everything was centered around the tree that I would plant for you.  Mami suggested a big tree, a strong tree, that would live long after the rest of us were gone.  So I decided on the Crimson King Maple for I find the foliage to be outstanding and downright magnificent.  I couldn't find this tree last fall and someone told me to check with a local plant farm.  I did that and the owner of Pequot Plant Farm went out to find the right tree, fully understanding what the significance was to me.  I think he did a great job in selecting this tree, don't you?

I planted the tree on October 17th after scattering your ashes along with a handful of wildflowers I found on the property in the hole.  It survived our brutal winter and looks gorgeous in its new home.

I wanted lots and lots of hostas to serve as the backdrop because hostas remind me of you:  unassuming, bold, non-presumptuous, and reliable.  I have twenty hostas in this garden but I do believe I'll add more.

Your mother's name was Teresa and although I couldn't find a plant named Mother Teresa, I did find beautiful astilbes named Sister Theresa.  That was close enough for me and it gives me great comfort to have her in this garden with you.  I remember the day your mom died... I was a little girl and it was the only time I had ever seen you cry.  I felt so bad that I couldn't say or do anything to make you feel better.  We never outgrow our parents, papi.  We never do.

I also planted heucheras, ten of them, but think I want to add another fourteen.  You wonder why heucheras?  Well... the common name is coral bells and seeing these in your garden reminds me of your grandfather's clock that you built yourself.  You were so proud of that clock, and who could blame you.  Mami still makes sure that it's wound properly, by the way.

I also planted twenty forget-me-nots, blue ones and white ones, and pulled back the mulch in hopes that they will reseed and multiply.  The blooms are all but spent right now, but a month ago, they really were quite lovely.

The bleeding hearts were the most difficult thing to plant, papi.  It was so emotional and that they don't look robust and full as I know they will in future years has bothered me so much this year.  I planted nine bleeding hearts:  five pink and four white.  One for each of us... your children and your grandchildren.  They're in a nice shady spot of the garden, and when these fade in the summer, the hostas behind will be in full regalia.

The pond in the center of the garden is also not looking as I would like, but in time, the heucheras and hostas and astilbes will fill and soften the edge.  The tiny pond was important to me as it attracts so many froggies and so many dragonflies.  I wanted you to have all sorts of visitors when I couldn't sit out here with you and these gentle creatures are never far away.

I also planted ten Montauk Daisies around your tree, at the edge of the garden.  Why daisies, you ask?  It's simple.  The English word for mami's name is Daisy and I know that you would be happy to have her so close.  Nearby.  You always liked having her close to you.

Two tiny beds near your garden hold Knockout Roses and lace cap hydrangeas that my co-workers gave me when you passed away.  These are full of buds right now and it won't be long before they put on a show of their own.

You can see that there is still quite a span of the garden that has not yet been planted.  I'm working on that and I hope to have it done soon.

So there you have it, papi.  Your garden.  Something for me to do for you for a change.  A chance to take care of you for years and years to come the same way you took care of me for years and years gone by.

We'll walk the garden again on Father's Day, you and me, and have our morning chat like we used to do.


  1. What a loving tribute. You've chosen the plants with such thought. It will be a while before it all looks filled in, but you will enjoy watching it develop and grow and truly become your father's space.

  2. What an incredibly thought-filled garden! I look forward to watching it grow and wish you many, many hours of memories spent while enjoying its beauty!

  3. What a lovely way to pay tribute to your Father. I'm sure he would be so proud. :)

  4. Wendy, That was really lovely~I planted a winter blooming witch hazel for my mother~She blossomed in the winter of her life and Hamamelis vernalis makes me think of her whenever I see it. gail

  5. I just saw these comments today (I have trouble knowing I have comments sometimes). Thank you all.... it really is an emotional process at times, to work in this garden. Other times, it's just a garden that needs tending, but for the most part, the experiences here are a bit surreal. Gail, sounds like you know exactly how it is... we gardeners have a way of keeping everything alive, in some way. That's what makes us all so special. :-)



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