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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Your Garden can be a Little Bit of Heaven.

I loved watching the gardening programme on TV, Gardeners World, with Alan Titchmarsh.   He introduced us to the beauty and peace of gardening even if one didn’t have a garden of their own or were too busy with other work at hand, which for me was raising children.

Last summer after we moved house I was up early and out into the sunshine.  It was the beginning of a new season for my husband and myself.  We had left behind a big house and a big garden with mature trees.  We didn’t need the big house any more.  Our children had left home.   It was goodbye to my herb garden and Magnolia tree we had planted years before.

We brought all our potted plants with us, plants that Brendan and I had collected over many years.  It was always a surprise to see each spring what would erupt from each pot.  We had forgotten what was in each one.  Those early morning, quiet moments inspired me to give some attention to the life springing up in the pots. There was need for some care.   I watered, weeded, uprooted, divided, replanted and pruned as necessary.   I got my hands dirty repotting some that were pot bound.

Those early mornings in the sunshine was doing me good.  I was experiencing healing in my mind after all the trauma of suffering from cancer.  As Psalm 23 says, “My soul was being restored.”   I was not lying awake worrying, or nursing some grudge, or feeling depressed and not wanting to get out of bed.  When I awoke I got up.  The dawn chorus greeted me.  I looked up and saw aeroplanes on their way from North America to some destination in the east, perhaps London.  I marvelled  how God looks after all of creation.  He does not slumber.  I was up early to meet him in my garden.

I was not surprised when I came across this article on the internet about “How dirt makes you happy,” by Bonnie L Grant.  I quote,

“Prozac may not be the only way to get rid of your serious blues. Soil microbes have been found to have similar effects on the brain and are without side effects and chemical dependency potential. Learn how to harness the natural antidepressant in soil and make yourself happier and healthier. Read on to see how dirt makes you happy.

Did you know that there’s a natural antidepressant in soil? It’s true. Mycobacterium vaccae is the substance under study and has indeed been found to mirror the effect on neurons that drugs like Prozac provide. The bacterium is found in soil and may stimulate serotonin production, which makes you relaxed and happier. Studies were conducted on cancer patients and they reported a better quality of life and less stress.”

I agree.  I have found that working in my garden has brought me healing.

Our ancestors Adam and Eve’s home was a garden.  All the work they had to do was tend the garden and eat its fruit.

This year I am working in my garden.  I am getting the healing benefits of breathing in the fresh air and other good things released from the earth to help my immune system and calm my nervous system.  I get to enjoy the gentle wet rain on my face, or the warm sunshine on my back.   I enjoy the exercise of watering and weeding.  I am tired at the end of the day and I am ready for sleep.  I get the benefits as well of fresh lettuce and herbs to brighten up my meals.  In the spring I planted all kinds of lettuce, celery, cabbage and many herbs in my raised beds.  I am using bio friendly sea weed that I collect from the beach as a fertiliser.  My vegetables are flourishing.

I was reading a book recently.  The author was recounting how her parents had a stormy relationship.  Her mother died at fifty three of cancer and never lived to see the author’s success in life.  The writer had a dream about her mother.  In the dream her mother was happy tending her garden that was filled with all kinds of beautiful flowers and plants.  The dream was showing her that her mother is in happy place where there is beauty and peace, heaven.

I know there is a heaven, but God doesn’t want me to go there yet.  He wants me to enjoy heaven on earth and tell others they can have heaven on earth too.  Every believer says the Lord’s Prayer, Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.  Bring heaven on earth.  There is no sickness in heaven, no strife, no war, no crying or evil.  As the scientists have discovered get out in your garden and your mood will change.  You can have a heaven on earth in your garden, where you will experience peace, joy, healing and restoration.

Kiss of the sun for pardon,

Song of birds for mirth,

You’re closer to God’s heart in a garden,

Than any place on earth.

Author, Dorothy Frances Gurney

I attended a funeral service in my local Church.  The pastor was telling us about the man who had just died.  He had lived to the ripe old age of ninety two.  “In retirement he and his wife enjoyed gardening” the celebrant recounted.  “He grew vegetables and his wife grew flowers.”  They both loved gardening.  I hope my husband and I enjoy a long life like this couple did.

Thy Kingdom come on earth.