the garden heart awakens

the garden heart awakens

I’ve gone through a bit of rough patch on the garden enthusiasm front. I’m wondering if all gardeners go through this. I think it a distinct possibility, but I’d like to know from you bonafide dirt diggers. Some of you seem to keep on chugging, no matter what. Is that my fanciful imagination, or is it true?

In my defense, we’re on tail end of a kitchen remodel. Oh sure, it’s a first world problem, but gol dang, no kitchen for ten weeks gets trying.

Before it all started, I thought it’d be easy enough to make healthy meals at home. Hah hah hah. I seriously miscalculated how long one can maintain enthusiasm for laundry-room food.

Even the photo makes me anxious. Don’t send me back there.

Thusly, we were forced to spend a lot of time checking out Happy Hours around Portland, primarily though, Santa Fe Taqueria near our son Elliot’s apartment. That’s Jacob in the photo below making Spanish coffees. Yes, we’re on a first name basis with the bartender. We didn’t have kitchen for 2½ months.

One day when we were there, I finally realized HH started at 3 instead of at 2 like I’d thought, and I was so disappointed. Megan was along, and she told Jacob, “Moms love Happy Hour.” What! Doesn’t everyone? Moms my foot.

Jacob making Spanish Coffees at Santa Fe Taqueria. He also makes a mean Margarita.

No matter how well-organized I thought I was in the beginning, eventually the whole household was disrupted. Everything ended up in the wrong spot–all topped with fine construction dust. Even with my commando vacuuming skills, I couldn’t keep up.

This is in no way meant to disparage the fabulous people who worked on our remodel. They were fantastic, and I look forward to seeing them all again–in a social setting.

E.g., access to the garden required negotiating the tile-cutting station.

And cats. They had to spend most of their days in our bedroom. Doors to the outside were constantly opening and closing, plus the treachery of tools and general construction detritus.

Mister the inspector.

Mister was a big help.

At first I thought he was just naughty, but he consistently noted every new thing each day.

Huh. I wonder where these paw prints came from.

He does denies all knowledge of the paw prints the hearthstone cement.

Couldn’t have been me. I’m way over here.

But back to my gardening woes. I’ve come to realize is that my general lack of interest in gardening may be related to loss of my sweet Pumpkin just before Christmas. I knew I missed her , but I didn’t think it was affecting my every day life. Hmmph.

Pumpkin on the Arc de Pathway. She liked that path.

That pup was my constant companion for just shy of 13 years. She was so healthy, with all her natural hair color, until the end when suddenly she wasn’t.

Mine. All mine. Punky surveying her kingdom.

It took me a while to figure out that spending time in the garden, meant time without my little redhead. It’s never like you think, this business of grief. Sweet Punky.

Too wet to go out. Too cold to play ball. We sat in the house. We did nothing at all.

But now I’m back in the garden. It feels oddly comforting to have a direct connection to the feeling of loss. Not to mention, I took the plunge and became an official foster mom for the Oregon Humane Society.

Mama and three babies. One week old today.

Another thing in my defense on the gardening front, there was horrible, no good, very bad weather. Skies darkened, plants were battered, and so much rain. I kept expecting Noah’s Ark to show up out front. And it wasn’t even warm Oregon rain. No! Cold miserable rain. Not the most enticing gardening conditions. Yet I hear, some gardeners persisted: I just wasn’t one of them.

As to my lack of interest in the garden, eventually Mother Nature was having none of that. Like happens every single year–after I’ve wondered how on earth I spent so much time and money the year before, Ma Nature winks at me. And who can resist that. Come on.

Paeonia NoID. For now, she’s dubbed “Floozie.”

Floozie is the first Peony to awaken. She’s so bright, it’s hard to get an accurate representation of the color.

Next up is this White Peony. I love it so much. Can you believe I considered taking them out when I first moved here? I fancied myself a foliage gardener, eschewing those fluffy flowers. Dear lord. Someone smack me with a badminton racket.

Of course, it’s rude to leave a beauty like this surrounded with weeds. You can see where I got started–but so much more to go. Prolific weeds this year.

If I just showed close ups, you wouldn’t even know about the weeds. I’m such a blabbermouth, but I’d also like to know if I’m in good company. I always think I’m the only one who let it get like this.

So many all at once. Those threatening to hit the ground must be picked. Right?


Fluffy Pink Peony. Paeonia NoId.

Pink Fluffy Peonies even give the men a softer edge, to their chagrin.

Elliot & Deputy Johnny plotting to take over the world–with flower front drop.

Back in the garden, I almost forget the fluffy white one. I ask you again, how could I have thought removing these was a thing? Double badminton smack. All credit for the luscious peonies goes to the former owner.

How does such beauty exist?

Dear sweet dog, aren’t these great.

Flower confection

It’s even fabulous when fading. I’m in love with this look.

Gorgeous even as it fades.

I was going to show you a few other marvels from the garden, but this is getting kind of long. And I haven’t even shown you a close-up of puppies. Plants or puppies?

I know, tough choice. Fine, puppies.

Pinky Pie sends her love. That’s little boy Birdy to the side.

In conclusion, apparently life can be rich in perfection, and once in a while, I even remember to take note.


p.s. Maybe one more shot of garden goodness. Something of a happenstance, but I can take credit for plunking them in the ground.

  • Tim Vojt

    That last combo, happenstance or not, is wonderful. Seafoam has got to be one of the coolest plants around.
    I wax and wane in my gardening enthusiam, but as a moody gardening, it sort of fluctuates rapidly on a manic-depressive cycle: from ‘what was I thinking, this isn’t important, oh my heavens this is so much work’ to ‘this is the most beautiful place on earth, plant more plants, destroy weeds.” This can happen in the matter of an hour…..
    Home remodeling can kill the buzz of just about anything. Lorraine now tells me that if we need one more thing done to the house that includes dry wall dust, the house is going on the market and condo-town here we come.
    Glad you left your peony floozies to work their magic on your eyes and heart. Love them, and as a consolation prize to the foliage-first gardeners, I think the foliage is actually rather nice and good green foil throughout the season.
    Have a great weekend and process your sorrows and frustration in the open air and beauty of your garden!

    • Patricia L Cunningham

      Hi Tim.

      Thanks for your kind words. I’m so glad to hear about your manic-depressive cycle. That is a lot like my thinking, and yet your garden looks so fantastic. I’ve kind of accepted, now that I’m back out there, it’s a year for weeding and mulching. Trying to stay away from the nurseries, so I don’t clear a little spot and shoehorn plants in–as is my wont. Of course, I’ll probably make a prevaricator out of myself before long.

      A condo? What’s the time line? I hope you can find one with good garden space–and neighbors who will be happy to let you encroach on theirs.


      • Tim Vojt

        No condo in our near-future. That’s just Lorraine’s threat to keep us from doing any more major improvements on the old house. Of course I use that same threat at the possibility of deer becoming braver and leaving the ravines in our neighborhood and coming into our yards. I doubt that it would happen, but the verminous squirrels give me enough hysteria that I can’t image larger marauders!! Take care and enjoy all of the good things in your life and yard! 🙂

        • Patricia L Cunningham

          You had me worried there for a minute. Lorraine is tough! We’ve seen a bunny in our yard a couple times in past year. And I know we’ll rue the day, but it was exciting…

  • Kris Peterson

    I’m so sorry to learn that you lost your beautiful Pumpkin. Kudos to you for fostering another dog. As to the peonies, *sigh* so beautiful.

    • Patricia L Cunningham

      Thank you. She was a good girl, except when she was terrible. The new puppies are awesome. Of course, they aren’t mobile yet…

  • Jane / MulchMaid

    I’m glad the peonies are helping to heal your heart, Patricia. A functioning (gorgeous) kitchen helps, I’m sure. And those spuds of puppies go a long way to completing the circle. I’m a little bit manic as a weeder, but I regularly fall down on the plant design and management part of gardening. Spring did not help. Now that it’s almost summer, I’m worrying it’s too late to fill the voids. So I ordered mulch and I’ll just cover up the spaces with dark goodness. It might at least look tidy.

    • Patricia L Cunningham

      It is nice to have a kitchen again, but boy, I’m out of practice for whipping out a meal. I’m kind of getting into weeding gear, but there are so many. I plan to follow your lead on the mulch front. And, dammit, I’m going to think about what I put where so I have access to actually keep up on the weeding.

      Thanks, Jane.

  • Alyson CooperWilliams

    You are overwhelmed right now. This too shall pass and in a couple of years you will look back with relief. I’ve been working full time and contending with full time weeds…such a challenge to execute what is in one’s mind with the reality of weather, etc. Love those white peonies and your fur babies. Looking forward to more photos as time progresses.
    I now refrain from sharing my house/garden project ideas with my husband as he states it “makes his head explode.” LOL! So I calculate right time, right place, right phrasing.
    BTW, I love your house exterior. I have the same kind of mid-century, cottage-ranch bungalow with the same shingles. I appreciate how that style can go cottage-y, Asian, rustic, or very mid-century contemporary.

    • Patricia L Cunningham

      Hi Alyson,

      Thank you for your kind words. I know you’re right, it will pass. And I’ve actually reached a pointed where I can at least get myself out into the garden. And once that happens, the old instincts kick in. Plus we have a functioning kitchen again–though I’m a little slow to get back in the swing of regular meal prep.

      Our previous house was an English Tudor, and I thought I’d never get over missing it. Hah. We love this place. It’s way easier to live in, and much more oriented to the outdoors. As far those projects go, I’ve learned not to try to “process” ideas with my husband. He tells me he’s tactical–just the facts, Ma’am!

      Love hearing from you.


  • Oregon Russ

    Regarding the remodel,we went through the same. A couple of folding tables in the basement supported our toaster oven, microwave, hot plate, and a refurbished electric skillet obtained from a thrift store (three hours to refurbish involving lye to dissolve baked on decades of bacon grease).
    The winter dispirited me: a 150 foot tall two-leader fir split and one half landed on my 26×36 foot two story shop building—dealt with water and snow intrusion for several months. Weeping sequoias and Nootka cypress bent over with snow load and now they are arches. Can they be straightened out? Guy wires all over the place for the next few years? Start over? But, on the other side, my hollyhock plantation, started from seed last year, came bouncing back like nobody’s business. And I take great solace in that my elevation and shade allow me grow many varieties of edible pod peas all through the summer. And nothing can kill a big patch of petasites japonica, which my Japanese sister in law has informed me that the stalks are actually edible when young, before anything else in the garden is! Focus, focus, focus!

    • Patricia L Cunningham

      HI Russ,

      Dispirited. Now that’s the word. Your poor trees–and shed. That’s bad. I planted that Petatsites one year in the other place. A neighbor gave me some. But I got scared it would take over the world, so I yanked it. Chicken of me, I know.

      I have every confidence you will get all your ducks back in a row. Keep me posted. And thanks for writing. It’s always great to hear from you.


  • Alison

    You are not alone, believe me, Patricia. I have never done a kitchen remodel, ever, because I knew what it would entail and I didn’t want any part of it. In Massachusetts, we lived in a 50s ranch for 25+ years that had the original kitchen. I’ve also gone through the lack of enthusiasm for gardening too. It comes and goes, last year it was gone for months and months, because of health reasons and medicine side effects. I couldn’t summon the will to care if plants lived or died. Many died. Right now I have three little tiny plugs of that Seafoam, I really should get them in the ground. I can only hope some day they look like yours!

    • Patricia L Cunningham

      Oh Alison,

      I wouldn’t say I’m exactly happy to hear it happens to you too. But I am comforted. It seems so much gardening is about life.

      I will say, if you can summon the urge to get your Artemesia in the ground, they’re pretty damn groovy. I know you did a fine job of prepping for the Spring Swap. I’m in the same town and couldn’t pull it off. Fall, though, lookout. I hope.

      Cheers. Love hearing from you.

  • Evan

    Oh Patricia. I’m glad you’re working through your grief and taking steps like becoming a foster mom for the Humane Society. Glad your kitchen remodel is finally finished, too.

    I’ve had periods where my depression makes anything more than binge-watching Netflix beyond my energy or interest, and even that is more to have noise and something to look at than to actually watch and take in. Gardening in those periods has always been neglected along with everything else. And there are less severe episodes where I just don’t find the garden inspiring and want to rip it all out. In fact, currently the garden feels more like a burden than a balm. There’s too much to do, and not much of it is fun. It’s all digging bed edges, and then maintaining those edges; weeding, more weeding, and watering (not right now, of course). Did I mention weeding?

    Part of it is that I’m trying to separate myself from the garden. I’m trying to not even call it “my garden” anymore and think of it as my parents’ garden. So, this time, I’m intentionally taking my heart out of the garden, so I can focus on studying and moving out. The houseplants and other potted plants are getting a bit more love as a result, because they’ll stay “mine”.

    • Patricia L Cunningham

      Hey, Thanks Evan.

      It’s comforting to know–like I said to Alison–that other gardeners go through it too. I’ve been getting out there & yanking weeds for the past couple weeks, and I’m actually enjoying it. Trying to stay in the moment, and look at the little parcel under my nose instead of taking in the whole thing.

      And this is a little off the wall, but I watched “What’s With Wheat” on Netflix. If you’re at all inclined, worth a watch. My whole sleep business has vastly improved post-concussion, as irony would have it. But I’m also wondering if all that bread and pasta that used to make up my diet had something to do with it. I’ve gotten a little sloppy in the healthy eating department over the past 10 weeks, and seeing the inflammatory results. One of the things they mentioned is that the wheat problem can manifest in all sorts or ways, including depression. Gives one pause–since I’ve certainly struggled with that in the past too

      Sounds like a good plan to start detaching from your parents’ garden. Seems like you’re ready to chart a new course. Good luck to both of us!


      • Evan

        Oh, so all I need to sleep better is a concussion! Lol. I’ll work on that. I’d been thinking of watching that documentary, and finally did a couple days ago. Definitely some things to think about, even if I don’t have any obvious sensitivity to wheat. I keep wanting to do an elimination diet so I can see if anything I’m eating is bothering me, but it’s hard to do when you share groceries and at least one meal a day with two other people, who would treat you like you’re being silly instead of supporting you.

        You have the right attitude. Stay in the moment and try not to think about the whole garden and everything that needs done. Keep at it, Patricia. I hope your full garden enthusiasm returns soon!