An Heritage of Potted Plants

Brendan and I were not given an heritage of land from our parents but we have inherited a love for plants.

When Brendan and I got married, the first place we lived in was the attic of a fellow student’s house. We progressed to other houses as our family increased.

Our first home with a garden was an end of terrace house. We moved there in 1987. A Cherry tree grew across the street. The pink blossoms were a delight in spring and the colored leaves lingered in autumn. Brendan brought more colour to our bay windows with boxes full of Petunia and Lobelia.  The benefits far outweighed the cost.  Thanks to Brendan the boxes overflowed with trailing blossoms full of colour: pink, purple white and blue. He carefully tended them with water, a touch of miracle grow and some dead heading. They flourished. Our house was the only one in town with a window display. It was greatly admired.  In primary school my son’s teacher asked the children to write about how their family helped their community.  He wrote about his dad brightening up his neighborhood with his colorful window boxes.

There was war in Northern Ireland in those years. People were distressed and their minds were far from beautiful flower arrangements. The sky was grey during the troubles and the atmosphere tense. There may have been war outside but God was giving us peace in our home and garden.  In 1998 we had the Good Friday Agreement.  We have peace in Northern Ireland.  Since then towns around the Provence have flower displays in their centres. There is a competition for the best Blooming Town.  Brendan was prophetic when he made those window boxes.  He was light in the middle of darkness.

I believe everyone should have a garden. It gives extra space to sit in the sunshine or grow flowers and vegetables. In Greece I have seen families sit in the cool of the evening outside their white washed cottages, underneath a canopy of vine leaves. I believe it is God’s will as well. God says in his word, “Every man neath his vine and fig tree shall live in peace and be unafraid.” Micah 4 v 4.

Brendan continued to work in the garden at the back of the house. It was overgrown with weeds. Before we came to live there, people would walk through, as a short cut to the shops. He put up a fence, reclaimed the land, trimmed hedgerows, planted rose bushes, fixed the clothes line, and built a patio and a treehouse.

A lilac tree grew at the entrance to our garden. It reminded me of my childhood. A tree grew in my neighbor’s garden in the country. As I walked to school each morning in May I loved to see the curly, light purple blossoms. It was in full blossom around my birthday at the end of May. Nature was comforting me and remembering my birthday.  I was inspired to write this blog this morning after seeing many lilac tree in the locality.

I am staying on the border of Massachuttes and New Hampshire. As we travel about I see many lilac trees. I asked my host about them. She told me the lilac is designated the state symbol for New York and New Hampshire. A lilac bush can live for hundreds of years.  Originally from Europe and Asia, lilacs date back to the 1750’s in America – they were planted in the first botanical gardens and both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew lilacs in their gardens. I am planning when I go home to buy a lilac tree and plant it in my garden.

Birds built their nests in the hedges as Brendan worked and the children played in the garden. Life returned to the neglected house and garden. Our family flourished in the space and peace. Brendan and I bore fruit in our Captain St home. We had six more children there. The house was a warm “nest” for our growing family.

Came time to move to a bigger home. Brendan and the children put rose bushes and other shrubs into pots. Empty window boxes were packed away. We wanted to bring with us our plants we had nurtured in the garden.

We moved to County Down. It is where I lived till I was eighteen. I grew up on a farm. My mum and dad retired to the town. Their garden was full of rhododendron bushes. Each came into flower at different times in May. I loved their garden. Sadly mum and dad had passed away many years before we moved.  Brendan’s mum would give him a cutting of a plant he would ask her about. We have inherited all the plants she grew in her garden.

I bought some rhododendron for our new garden, to remind me of my parents. Rhododendron like acid soil to grow in. The soil at our new home was not suitable for rhododendron so I have grown these plants in pots ever since.

I was watching Gardener’s World recently. An eighty two year old lady was interviewed. She was an experienced gardener. Many owners of estates had sought her advice for their gardens down through the years. When she downsized to new accommodation she brought sixty pots of her favorite plants with her.

Brendan and I are like her. We had a trailer load of all our pot plants when we moved to our present home. Our assortment of plants have increased and multiplied. We have hostas, roses, geraniums, rhodendrums, daffodils, lily of the valley, primroses, lilies, gladioli, fushia, honeysuckle, agapanthus, everlasting sweet pea, varieties of daisy, pansies, and lobelia. I have a herb garden where the rosemary, thyme, bay leaf, parsley and oregano have grown into bushes. They have space to grow when they are removed from the small pots.

Now all our children have left home, Brendan I enjoy tending our garden. This spring we were busy repotting plants, and filling window boxes. We have time to feed, water and dead head our flowers. I am reminded of the scripture,

“The Lord will guide you always; he will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” Isaiah 58 v 11.

Our plants have increased and multiplied. This is part of the heritage we can pass on to our children.

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The First Flowers of Spring.

My daughter, husband and four children came to visit yesterday. They have to make a three hour journey from the south of Ireland.  This was their Christmas visit as life was too busy for us all to see each other then.  The children have past the baby and play school stage. No buggies or car seats to contend with. Now the grandchildren are approaching the teenage years. Long legs and reaching arms need room.  They are blooming like the flowers Shann reached me.  Mark’s people carrier Jeep has served the family well.

They all poured out of the vehicle, glad of the stretch. We shared hugs, so glad to see each other. Bags of presents weren’t forgotten in the back seat. I didn’t notice their visiting student from Spain at first. She is staying with them for six weeks to improve her English. A student exchange has been working between Ireland and Spain for many years. The Spanish like the tone of the English the Irish use.

I remembered back to when we would take our children on trips in our van to the beach, the playground or a forest. They poured out of the van and ran in every direction like calves released from the stall. Brendan would whistle and they would come back when it was time for home.

We gathered in the kitchen for lunch. The children were excited to be back at Granda’s house.

“I’m sorry they’re a bit battered and bruised,” Shann said. I wasn’t paying attention as I reached a bowl from the cupboard. There was clattering of delph and cutlery as the girls set the table.
“Did Mark have to stop and deal with the children?” I said thinking it was the children Shann was talking about.  I looked up.  She was referring to the bunch of flowers she had given me.
We all had a good laugh. I love this first bunch of spring flowers.

“Did you come across on the ferry?” I asked Mark. “Yes” he said. “The attendant informed me there was a special offer on this Sunday. If you buy a return ticket we can deal with any children who have misbehaved. We throw them overboard.” We burst out laughing again. This is Irish humour. I hope the Spanish girl didn’t mind.

On the sunny afternoon all the girls headed down to the shore. Hannah arranged a competition to see who could pick the most sea glass for granny.  That was good idea because it motivated them to search all over the place. They had the extra blessing of seeing different birds, a heron, gulls, oystercatchers, Brent geese and redshanks.

Back at the house the treasure was displayed and counted. Ten points for each blue glass, five for green and three for white. The winner was announced, cheered and rewarded. They had good fun. I have the added benefit of all that sea glass to work with.

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Meanwhile Mark, with some helpers loaded up bicycles, table and chairs he had stored with us since they moved house. He secured it to the top of the jeep. No worries with Mark. Too soon it was time to go. Mark sped off with a bigger load. I hope they got across on the ferry with no one or nothing going overboard.  A great day.

My Energy gets A Recharge

My energy levels needed a recharge after a busy season.

My husband always arranges a holiday when we both need to take a break from work and the business of home life and recharge our batteries.  We already visited Kerry at the beginning of August.  It was now September.  Ruth and Stuart offered us a stay in their cottage in Scotland.  A chance to take in the beauty of West Scotland and rest before we go on mission to Slovakia.  More recharging of our energy.

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One evening on our return from Scotland, my daughter left a bunch of flowers on the counter when she came in from a busy day’s work.  Dinner had to be rustled together for seven hungry people.  The flowers lay in the midst of someone cutting bread, or making coffee, dirty dishes and saucepans.  Life went on.  No attention was given to the flowers.  When family were fed, dishes cleared, washed, individuals filtered away to rest.  I needed to rest after a hectic day.  The bunch of flowers were still on the bench.

Another daughter was packing up to leave for university.  My fourteenth child, is starting her final year at Edinburgh Univerity.  Last minute arrangements had to be attended to.  Boarding pass at the ready, who would leave her to the port, where is my hair dryer, did you see my purse?  She came in and out of my room asking me questions.  She was getting fraught.  In the end she relaxed in a hot bath and washed away all her stress.

There was no time to get sad at her leaving.  Angela has been home for the summer and has been a blessing to her mum and dad and other family that stayed.  She introduced a summer camp for some of her nieces and nephews.  They had a great time.  The sun shone, they canoed, swam, shopped, face painted, cycled, had barbecues, and enjoyed their wee cousins.  It was the highlight of the holidays for Maggie Sue.

Other events this summer have included our son Isaac’s wedding in Canada, our first grandson’s Confirmation, a grandchild’s baptism, our son Patrick’s wedding in Scotland, a new grandchild, our forty fifth anniversary and my sixty fifth birthday, family visiting from Canada for the wedding, visits to Kerry, Arran and Tarbert,  having two American families stay at different times, and hosting a Gathering in Corrymeela.

I’m taking a deep breath just now.  But Praise God I am alive and not dead from cancer in the grave.  I am alive to see my children married and see my children’s children.  God has been gracious to our family.  I am being restored in the midst of life.  It is not a time for me to put my feet up.

Later that night I went down to the kitchen when the house was quiet.  The flowers were still on the bench unopened.  Everything else was cleared away.  I undid the wrapping, fetched a vase, cut off unnecessary leaves and arranged my flowers into beautiful display.  I admired the gift my daughter brought home for me.  There was no celebration to mark.  Just to show me her appreciation and love. This touched my heart.

“Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him.”
Psalms‬ ‭127:3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I often receive rewards from my children and husband, especially gifts and holidays.  I have been enjoying the roses after the dust of the summer has settled.  They all help to recharge my energy levels.

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Colourful Crocus

When I listen to the news about world issues it is easy to become discouraged.  Tragedies, famines and other crises are news headlines.   Clouds of doom and gloom can descend over my mind.

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Jesus said, “Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in me.”  John 14 v 1
It was a beautiful, bright, sunny day today.   I took a snap of these crocus that opened up in the heat of the sun.  The sun dispersed any dark clouds.

These little blooms cheered my soul.

Containers filled with Blossoms That Open to the Sun.

I use window boxes as containers to  display flowers on my kitchen window sill.

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No this photograph was not taken in Greece, Italy, Spain or other sunny destination.

The colourful daisies open up in the brilliant sunshine.  If it is cold or wet they don’t show their faces and stay tightly closed.

We are a bit like these flowers when someone loves us.  We open up when someone is warm and encouraging to us and we feel safe with them.

Jesus is described in Malachi as the Sun of Righteousness who rises with healing in his wings.

God is love and there are no shadows with him.  His love causes us to open up like the flowers and become beautiful like my display of flowers.

It was taken in my back yard, where I live in Northern Ireland.

Ireland is known for its forty shades of green as mentioned in the song written by the Man in Black Johnny Cash after his first visit to here.

We have a high rainfall in Ireland.  But where I live at the moment is in the shadow of the Mourne Mountains so the clouds have dropped all their rain before they get this far.  We have many sunny days.

The bright display is cheery on my window sill and will keep on blooming till autumn.

Then I will empty and store my containers till next spring.

 

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People are Like Flowers, they will Blossom in the Right Conditions

 

My husband and I love working in the garden.

We often pick up bargains of plants at markets at the end of the growing season. 
We look out for exotic plants at the local supermarket.
It is exciting when spring comes round, to see what appears in the pots from bulbs and dried up roots we planted in the late autumn.
Our last home had a big garden with hedges, walls and trees.
I could position plants that suited the different conditions.
When we moved house recently we could only bring our pot plants with us.
We now live near the sea, no trees for shade but it is warm and sunny.
Our new climate has advantages and disadvantages.
Strong, salty winds blow in the winter and hinder tree growth and plant life.
A neighbour said he spent a fortune on plants for his new house and they all died in the winter.
He warned me that “Nothing will grow here,” as I planted out my window boxes in spring after I moved here.

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Okay, I have not lived through a winter yet, but I am determined to make the most of the hot, sunny, long days of spring, summer and autumn.
 Lilies have blossomed a month early in the same pot, but in their new setting.  They never flourished like this before!

My roses are doing well in the sunshine and free flow of air. 
Before they were shadowed by trees.
Plants need good soil, water and light to grow.
Jesus told the parable of the farmer and the seed.
Where the seed fell on good soil the plants grew up and produced thirty, sixty and a hundred fold.
On the rocky stony soil the seed died soon after planting because of dryness and lack of nutrients for growth.
We can flourish in the right conditions to remain healthy, and grow.
Jesus is the Light of the world. 
When he shines on us he brings healing.
The Holy Spirit is symbolised as water.
The Word of God is symbolised as Bread.
Plants need light, water and good soil with nutrients to grow.
If we are nourished by the spiritual symbols light, water and nutrients, we will flourish body, soul and spirit.
Jesus is the Good Sheperd. Psalm 23 promises The Lord will lead us beside still waters and green pastures to restore our souls. 
I am being refreshed in body, soul and spirit in this new land.