29 Feb 2016

Yellow flowers in a grey world

I've just been reading back through the comments left on my last post about my Dad and shedding a few more tears.  I was so moved by the shared experiences of others who had gone through the same thing and the messages of sympathy.  Thank you, everyone; your comments have touched my heart.

As expected, the funeral was very sad but a good many people came from all over the country to say last farewells. Despite the sombre occasion, it was good to catch up with old friends and family members who live far away - my father's cousin turned up with a treasure trove of past family history and old photos, a subject that I find fascinating especially as I've never managed to get further back than four generations. It's a sobering thought to know that I'll never be able to get either of my parents to tell stories about their lives again although I made frequent notes in the past - my mum loved to talk about her family and the tales she'd heard as a girl.

A week on and back in the garden I'm seeing lots of signs that spring has sprung - at least in my London microclimate. (The benefits of having nearby heated buildings!)  It's still cold but, my gosh, it's good to be spending the entire day outside again. As in, not getting rained on. Daffs are out, cowslips and primroses are out, snowdrops are still out and, yesterday, I spotted a tulip bud behind a lavender bush. Brave, but stupid. That flower might regret popping up so early if we have any more frosts; then again, I might be pleasantly surprised.

Leaves from last year's tulips are providing an overnight feast for snails and slugs (actually, the tulips are from the year before last - this is their third flowering!) Bog standard red pelargoniums are flowering now, after their third winter in the garden. (Yes, in the UK! Awesome.) When I picked them up for a couple of quid several years ago, I thought they'd be pot fillers for one summer. I'm guessing they're helped by being planted in the borders with a good root run rather than drying out in pots. That, and I deadhead regularly.

I'm trying to resist seed catalogues until I know how much space I've got.  That's a weird thing to say, given that the veg patch is now in it's seventh year but there's been changes afoot.  Half of my raised beds have rotted, allowing soil to seep onto the paths, so I've chucked them out. Rather than replacing them, I've created larger borders by edging the path with scaffolding planks.  I planned to grow lots of cut flowers this year alongside the veg and cleared a space for the purpose. But … we all know how nature abhors a vacuum and that area has quickly filled up with perennials and biennials that I've moved. I'm sure I could still squeeze in a few annuals though.

I dug up all the Autumn Bliss raspberries, an action that I'm not regretting in the slightest. (Tra-la-la!)  I've bought five more Polka canes which have been temporarily planted until I figure out the best place for them once I've finished the overhaul of the patch.  And the supermarket sweep has started already.  I'm such a sucker for a bargain.  I bought a blackberry cane for £2 last week and went back this week for a bush rose for the same price. (Next week: possibly 2 apple trees for £10! Woohoo!) It might seem weird adding a rose to the veg patch but my logic was twofold - one, I'll get beautiful scented long-stemmed deep pink roses for cutting (if the box is to be believed) and, two, the petals are edible and can be sugar frosted for cakes.  Roll on summer!

But there's more.  I've taken on another garden space, this time two floors down under my window.  This is going to be a major renovation project as there are hedges and shrubs to be brought under control, ivy to be cleared and ground to be dug and improved.  Thankfully it's not a huge space. So far I've only managed to prune a Kerria japonica. But I'm sure it will all be wonderful. Eventually.

This is where the project starts… the surrounding hedges are over 15 ft tall. 
Because I've embarked on this garden renovation project, I'm linking up with Helen's End of Month View over at her blog The Patient Gardener. With fair skies and a following wind, I should be able to chart the progress of the garden in the months to come.

16 Feb 2016

Coming up for air

Well, hello again. I stepped away from this blog unintentionally almost eight weeks ago and have found it blissfully easy to choose life over blogging in the interim.  It would be an easy habit to slip into.

Truth is, I find it easy to blog about the daily delights of the garden but when something of enormous significance is happening, my brain doesn't want to connect with my fingers. And that something is that my dad got ill just before Christmas Eve and died at the end of January.  He had to be hospitalised when his chest infection escalated into pneumonia and pleurisy but, in the last two weeks of his life, was reunited with my mum, the love of his life over six decades of blissful marriage.  As she has dementia, she hasn't fully understood that he's gone but I think that's a blessing, given the grief she would otherwise be experiencing.

Dad, Singapore, 1961

I've written in the past of my parents' dementia. My dad had a form of Alzheimer's which seemed to affect his co-ordination more than memory.  Although increasingly frail and unsteady, he remained welcoming and interested right up to mid December when he seemed to make up his mind that it was time to go. He was 84. He'd been moved into a care home in November as he could no longer look after himself; there, he was without my mum as she'd been taken into hospital. They'd been together for so long, propping each other up.  He'd accepted the move with his customary good grace but without her, what was the point? 

Dementia is a cruel disease, slowly stripping away the brain's essential functions.  My Dad recovered from lymphatic cancer at the turn of the millenium only to very slowly circle the edges of dementia, spiralling inwards until, in the last year, the illness steadily pulled him down into the vortex.  He was a loving father and husband to the end, always the polite gentleman.

The family has had a long time to watch the gradual living loss of our parents and, as such, the grieving process began months back.  I'm saddened by my dad's demise but not mourning; I still have my mum to think about.  My lovely dad had a wonderful life, full of love and laughter, travels and interests, family and friends and he found time for them all.  What more could anyone ask of our time on this earth?

Mum and Dad in happier times.

If you've read to the end of this post, thank you.  It not only explains my prolonged absence from blogging but has helped emotionally to be able to write about my dad's passing. His funeral is this Friday. Death comes to us all but life goes on and I'll be back soon with news of my winter gardening exploits and a new project that I'm involved in. They say gardening is the best therapy and I'd have to agree.
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