When I was a young woman, living in Melbourne I started to garden. I decided to create something beautiful from pain. For every memory of childhood trauma, for moments of sadness and angst, frustration and blame, I planted a flower. I figured if I did this, it would turn into something beautiful and I wouldn’t have to run from it anymore.
Somewhere in sweet earth and compost, somewhere between fork and trowel, the snip of secateurs, my pain started to recede. With each blossom came a smile, a sense of release. The garden started to heal me.
Nature shows us the simple pleasure of reciprocation: the more I gave the garden, the more it gave to me. Beauty, food, perfume and purpose.
This morning I was sorting through things in the cool room in my apothecary. I have a big basket full of paper bags of seeds I have collected over the last couple of years. A roll call of delight and wistful words of cottage gardens: aquilegia, poppy, larkspur, calendula, hollyhock. But in among my bags, were my mother’s bags; some seeds from her garden as yet unsown. Her handwriting… and I am taken back in time.
A roll call of delight and wistful words of cottage gardens: aquilegia, poppy, larkspur, calendula, hollyhock
My mother died nearly six years ago. It’s hard to believe really. It feels like yesterday and yet it feels like an eternity. She came to gardening late. And she loved it. She created beauty out of bare paddock. The garden was a place where we could connect through the this and that of plants we love. The successes, and the failures, and the pleasure of seeing the plants find their own places of comfort amid our plantings.
I recall one day, as her health was declining, I arrived with my pruning saw and neatly shaped some hedging for her. Who knew that something so mundane could become such a moment of pure unconditional intimacy.
And after she died, and my father had left the home for rest home care, I packed up their house, and then I packed up the garden. Alone, but with her voice in my head, I gathered seed. I looked at the memories made in that earth and I placed seeds of memory in brown paper bags to plant in new soils.
Gardens can be so many things to so many people. For me, they are places of great beauty and great healing. Each plant a character on the stage of life. A being to connect with. A memory, a dream. July is the time for planting the trees that will one day bear fruit, the flowers that will herald the onset of spring. Life and seasons spinning onwards, my mother’s bags of seeds still to be sown – a legacy I accept and, with such tender gratitude, I’ll await their summer blooms.