Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Transformation of a Garden and a Self

For those of you who have visited this blog before, you'll know that my husband and I have worked hard on our gardens this spring.  Over time, the flower beds in our yard became unruly and overgrown, uninteresting, and unloved.

The front bed, transformed this spring.

When we first bought this house 17 years ago, my desire for gardening grew.  I had always grown little pots of things on the balcony of the apartment where we had lived prior, and was eager to finally fully immerse myself in 'real' gardening.

Can you see the pink hydrangea on the side of the porch?

Our new old house needed lots of love and remodeling.  The yard was overgrown, filled with too many trees in awkward locations for this small property.  We set about ripping out many things, keeping others, and planting things that made my heart sing.

Calamintha, close-up.  Three of these surround the Japanese Stewartiia tree in the front bed.

I felt like a true gardener at last, and it became my 'release' after the work day was over.  I'd lose myself in the soil, the bulbs, the flowers, the sounds and smells of nature.  It brought me such peace and satisfaction.

The pink hydrangea is so beautiful.  I can see it while seated on the porch.

Fast forward a few years, to when I became pregnant with my first child.  As my spring due date approached, I never dreamed my gardening routine would change.  I pictured the baby, happily cooing in a little carrier near me, while I trimmed plants and deadheaded spent flowers.

Reality set in very fast, once my daughter was born.  I barely had time to eat and shower, let alone garden.  She was an infant who preferred to be held much of the time and slept very little during the day -- unless it was on ME.

A view of the porch, with my grandmother's antique wicker set.  
Salmon begonias in pot.
The gardening I once enjoyed so much became a chore, and nothing more.  I spent even less time outside as baby #2 came along.  Any planting, weeding or trimming was a challenge, as the kids needed tending instead.  When they were toddlers, the priority was to keep an eye on them.  As the girls grew slightly older,  I could, at last, turn my back on them to do a bit of gardening.  Only then, every time I turned toward soil and plants, I'd hear, "Mom, watch me do this! Watch me do it again!"

Lavender torenia, in one of the pots on the porch.
My garden was no longer receiving prompt attention from me, and my heart was very sad.  I gave up on it.

Purple torenia lives in another pot on the opposite side of the porch.
The kids grew older still, and now there was more time to garden, but the desire was no longer there.

Sweet potato vine (ipomoea), geraniums, ivy and Gerbera daisies by the stairs.
My husband grew impatient with me, because plants had just taken over, throwing seeds anywhere, and new plants sprang up in unwelcome places.  Weeds happily set up residence, too.

In the back yard, a glimpse of a peony, iris leaves, and true geranium (cranesbill).
Last year, our family dealt with big issues, as our daughter became sick with anorexia, and I had a hysterectomy.  Gardening was the furthest thing from my mind, as card-making had replaced it as my form of meditation and therapy in the previous couple of years.

Lavender by the dining room window.  It is one of my favorite plants.
In the winter, my husband strongly urged me to come up with new ideas for the flower beds, and gave me free rein at the garden center.  I spoke to a nursery expert, and she helped guide me to the right plants for our needs.

Thunbergia vine, in a patio pot out back.
The hard work began more than a month ago, as we once again ripped out plants we no longer favored, dug up sod, and created new shapes and textures in the garden.  

Thyme, sharing space in a patio pot with thunbergia.
This past weekend, I spent many hours shopping and planting annual flowers, both in the front yard and the back.  As they grow and fill in, I would love to share pictures of them with you.

My beloved blue hydrangeas, for which this blog is named.
 With all the hard work we've done, the way the garden is shaping up again, I feel a renewed interest in spending more time outside with my plants.

Lady's mantle, transplanted around a hydrangea.
As I watered everything this afternoon, in the quiet hours that the kids were in school, I had time to reflect on things.  

Lavender in the afternoon light.
My gardening tale mirrors my life.  When the girls came along, I devoted all of my time to raising them.  I neglected the garden, and I neglected myself.  My weight crept up, my health declined in some ways, and I didn't do enough things to make ME happy.

Love the way the sunlight illuminates this.
After years of neglect, both the flowers and I are enjoying a resurgence of health and positivity.  I have lost 22 pounds since early February this year, I try to do yoga at least twice a week, and I feel stronger all the time. The clothes I've worn no longer fit me, and I'll soon need to get new ones (but not too many; I have many more pounds to shed!).  I take more pride in my own appearance, and certainly that of my yard, considering all the effort put into it.

When I realized this connection today, it made me humbly grateful for all that I have.  I count my blessings in the thousands, from a roof over my head and a loving, tightly-knit family that I am proud of, to the sun that shines and the rain that falls.

I also count my blogging friends among these blessings.  I treasure the relationships I've developed with you, and thank you for them.

Peace and blessings to you,



Karen McAlpine said...

Lovely photos and musings. I have come to understand that we do neglect ourselves. My remedy is to make sure that I do things that bring me joy. Like singing, gardening, making cards. Loved my stroll thru your rejuvenated garden. I have some photos of my garden too.

Benzi said...

I just saw this on my sidebar and had to get a glimpse of how things are looking in the garden. Wow! Fantastic job and everything is really shaping up. Looks super! Torenia is one of my favorite flowers. If I ever find time to post my gardening photos, you'll see some of mine.
That porch looks very inviting.

Jennifer said...

Your porch does look very inviting! What a gorgeous garden and such beautiful pictures. Makes me wish I could just swing by for a chat and tea. Your story touches me at the heart. Being a mommy to a little one (almost 3) I am feeling a little lost with who I am but I know that it doesn't have to be that way. Congratulations for re-finding yourself, your garden and the things you love! Thanks for sharing!

Carol Lucas said...

Beautiful garden. I enjoyed your lovely flowers. I, too, love hydrangeas: my great Aunt Julie had several beautiful bushes because her favorite color was blue. I think of her every time I see one. Thanks for sharing your story, too. We certainly do have seasons in our life don't we?

Emily Keaton said...

A beautiful post, Colleen. I saw echoes of our last conversation throughout this post. It was wonderful to see you fully flesh out your thoughts! I loved seeing all of your beautiful garden photos and I'm so happy that you've found joy in gardening once again!! Congratulations on the progress in your weight loss, too. That is fantastic news!!

Andrea Ewen said...

What lovely photos, I feel like I just went on a leisurely stroll through your gorgeous yard! Beautiful cclors and fantastic photographs!

Ellen Wolf said...

Colleen....I have known you long before the house, the kids and the garden. You have always been a beautful flower who finds a new way to bloom no matter what the conditions are!!!

Your friend always, Ellen

Bev J. said...

Your porch and flowers are so pretty. Glad you have found your old love again and congrats on the weight loss!

Kathy said...

Lovely photos -look forward to hearing/seeing more photos and stories -this blog post was good for my soul.

lynn said...

everything is just beautiful, colleen:) wtg on your weight loss,-its' not an easy path, i know:) love ellen's comment:)

Bonnie said...

Thank you for taking us on a stroll through your garden. A beautiful garden, and a beautiful friend!

Marisa said...

Well done on the garden reorg :) Looks gorgeous and I wish I was closer so I could come and sit on that beautiful porch and enjoy looking out on the garden as we chatted. Well done on the weight loss too!! Keep up the good work on both fronts ((hugs))

Linda R said...

Your garden is beautiful. Oh how I would love to grow hydrangeas, But I don't think they do well here in the desert. You photos look gorgeous and I love reading you Gardening story. Thanks for sharing it with us.


Linda Beeson said...

I can see you are having as much fun in your yard as I am. I am loving seeing the various plants bloom and grow. Great pics.

Annette said...

wow what a beautiful yard...love all those amazing flowers...

Maria said...

What an amazing inspiring story that you shared, Colleen! Big congrats on your lovely garden and losing weight! We as mothers so often put ourselves last on the list. I'm so happy that you have the love of gardening back again to enjoy! I love flowers, but am just a beginner. My Mom and sister are pros at gardening. I'm ashamed to say that I have beautiful plants, but cannot remember their names...lol. Anyways, I loved looking at your beautiful photos and reading your lovely story here today! You're a beautiful person inside and out, Colleen...hugggsss!!!

Carol (Gingerbeary8) said...

What a beautiful post Colleen. Maybe that is what I need to do to shed some of my pounds....lol I did gardening while I was laid off-but now do not have any time. Your garden is so beautiful-I love the pink Hydrangea so much. What a beautiful home you have. I am so happy for you and feel blessed that you shared your thoughts!!!

Sandie Edwards said...

I can only echo the words of those before me ... I so enjoyed reading your post, learning about 'you' and your hopes and dreams .. a gardener you are! I am so envious, you really do have a green thumb, and certainly an amazing home, that looks as if it would fit straight into a magazine!

Pearly Craig said...

A shed surrounded by those beautiful flowers will be perfect! Too bad that i am not a green thumb.

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