by Theresa Snyder
Beginning in the late spring of 1996, Dad and I spent hours in our yard, planning, building and designing the garden – and getting rid of the mud! Our goal was to make the view from every window and door “bloom” for Mom. She loved flowers.
The first summer we lived in the house, I thought my 70-something father was going to work me into an early grave. Each night when I arrived home from work, he would hand me a hammer, shovel or pick and say, “I just have a little something I need your help with before dinner.”
Mom rested inside or on the deck watching and listening as we dug, hauled, tilled, amended, built and planted our way into a 1,600 square-foot, L-shaped garden wrapping around the east end of the house and all along the south-facing back.
Mother had many fond memories of the plants in the gardens of her younger days and she wanted to have every one of them in this new garden.
That wish is what led to the dahlias scattered throughout the garden – dahlias in the same riotous colors her dad planted when she was a small child. We planted honeysuckle, which reminded her of the one she and Dad watched the butterflies and hummers dance over when they lived in Tacoma.
Mom always dreamed of a wisteria. Although to no avail, Dad and I tried valiantly to keep the wisteria we planted confined to an 8 x 31-foot arbor over the back deck. We have the bachelor buttons like the ones Dad picked for her by the handfuls when they lived in The Dalles and the nasturtiums, which reminded her of the ones her mother grew by the barrels. (Mom swore her mother never had trouble with aphides – I think nasturtiums are aphid magnets.)
The garden has two decks, a porch, a storage building, a small greenhouse, a pond, two bubble pots, a porch swing, two trellises, an arbor, six raised vegetable beds, thirteen trees, a ton of perennials and a series of paths made of pavers, handmade cobblestones and pea gravel.
And yes, we have the weeping willow tree. I know you gardeners out there are gasping at this point. “What was she thinking … planting a tree that will grow to eighty-five feet tall in her 1,600 square-foot garden?” Well, let’s just say I had trouble saying ‘no’ to Mom and Dad.
Dad found the willow growing out of a piece of firewood. It was perhaps 4” tall when he buried the chunk of wood in the ground at the back of the iris bed. Five years later, it was visible over the top of the house. I have had to replace the iris with a shade garden of hosta, ferns and fuchsia. A clematis crawled up in the willow’s crown. When spring comes, the willow looks like a tall, graceful lady with flowers in her hair. I have to admit it is magical. You can imagine the delight of the “Wee People” when they get their first glimpse of it. “Wee People” are fairies and leprechauns, for those of you unfamiliar with the term. Mother was Irish. We grew up with such ideas in our heads.
The best reward for all the hard work was the glowing look on Mother’s face when she saw the garden from inside the house, or sitting in her favorite chair on the wisteria-shaded deck. Each day the garden offered something to look forward to: a bush that would bloom soon, a fruit or vegetable ready to be harvested, the sight of a bird or butterfly attracted by the enormous selection of vegetation.
Sharon Nesbit, our local gardening news columnist, had a look at our garden in June of 2001 and wrote about it in her column. I don’t think she would recognize it today. Like all gardens, it has a mind of its own. As some things grew, or a birdie planted something different, other plants needed to be relocated to a bigger space. Dad says I move my plants so often I should have zippers on them.
I have discovered that many people name their gardens. The wooden plaque I made over 10 year ago still hangs on the deck. It reads “Our Quiet Corner.” On a warm day, all three of us could be found stretched out in deck chairs under the shade of the wisteria, savoring the sound of the birds, the splash of the pond and the cool breezes of Troutdale ruffling the chimes. It truly was our quiet corner of the world. Now, on spring and summer days, Dad and I sit out there and enjoy “our quiet corner,” reveling in the flowers and remembering the joy this garden brought to Mom.
(“We 3” is now available on Kindle for just $2.99. Go to Amazon.com. Click on Kindle, Kindle Store. Search We 3. Don’t have a Kindle? You can download an app for your iPad, iPhone or Android.)
This is the fourth in a monthly series, “We 3,” which introduces VoiceCatcher readers to Theresa Snyder and her stories – sometimes touching, sometimes hilarious, always authentic – about caring for aging parents. First printed as a monthly column in the Gresham Outlook between 2003 – 2008, they were collected in book-form in 2007 (Mt. Hood Community College Press). The columns have been updated and are reprinted here with permission of the author.
Theresa Snyder has been writing ever since she can remember. In 1996, shortly after she moved her elderly parents in with her, she realized she couldn’t resist writing “out loud.” She found an audience in east county interested in reading about the challenges and rewards of being a baby boomer caregiver. Unlike other authors, she does not possess a degree or a long list of publishing credits. Instead, she likes to think she has earned her title as “author” through life experience and a great deal of reading.Check out her work at Baby Boomer Caregiver.