Scilla in Mom's garden.
It's the first week in May. It has been a tough week and a really long day, but phase one is complete and my parents have been moved from their house of over fifty years into their one bedroom apartment at the Berkley.
Now in their nineties, my parents have putting off making any kind of change for years, but a stroke in early spring left my father unable to manage the stairs. Despite his limited mobility, it was my Dad who continued to be determined to stay in the house, even at great cost to my mother, who had health issues of her own. However impractical, the house was safe and comfortably familiar for both of them. It has taken months of dogged negotiation to make them see that it is finally time to make a move.
Pulmonaria in Mom's garden.
I sit on a corner of the bed and look around me at the half-empty room. It's taken the last of my energy to make up my bed for the night, which is a mattress and box spring sitting on the floor of what was the family room. For years the huge undertaking of closing the house served as an excuse, so to make the task less overwhelming for my parents, my brother and I convinced my parents to grab what household things they felt they needed or wanted, and to leave the rest behind to be disposed of properly at a later date.
I feel no particular nostalgia for the house where I grew up. I haven't lived in Nova Scotia for almost thirty years. With my parents gone, it feels even less like home. It's just a half-empty shell that already feels cold and impersonal. The dated decor looks shabby and I worry how saleable the house will be.
As I look around the family room, the remaining furnishings are an odd hodgepodge of things. There's no house phone, no radio, no tv and no internet. My room for the night feels like it has all the charm of a prison cell. Exhausted, I climb into bed and wonder if my parents, who are probably just as uncomfortable in their new bedroom at the Berkley, will get even a wink of sleep.
Mom's rock garden in better days of old.
When I arrive at their apartment the next morning I find my Mom, who usually gets up at nine, has been up since seven moving things around the apartment, and rearranging her houseplants on the stand that we setup in front of their new living room window. I feel encouraged that this is a sign that she has started to accept their new circumstances.
When I find my Dad in the bedroom however, he seems a bit lost and bewildered. Together we all head down to the dining room for their first lunch. Dad, who has lost ten pounds since the stroke, eats every bit of the three course lunch with relish. The coming months will be an adjustment, but I feel more convinced than ever that we did the right thing.
On the plane ride home to Toronto, it occurs to me that when the house is sold in the fall, I'll have nowhere to go home to. While the house of my childhood has not felt like "home" for years, it was a safe harbour to which I always returned.
Euphorbia 'First Blush'
After doing a post on properly pruning clematis, I look with dismay at the clematis it is now too late to prune. With the sudden heat and dry conditions, I worry that I have already missed the perfect opportunity to move perennials around.
Cowslip Primrose, Primula veris 'Sunset Shades
Euphorbia 'First Blush' in behind with Euphorbia 'Bonfire' to the left.
Geum 'Mai Tai' in the foreground.
Geum 'Mai Tai' forms a low mound of course green leaves. In early spring, soft apricot flowers are carried on tall branching stems. Removing faded flowers will encourage new buds. A hard pruning after it finishes flowering will also refresh the foliage. Divide in fall. Average garden soil and moisture conditions will work for this plant. Height: 40-45 cm (16-18 inches), Spread: 30-35 cm ( 12-14 inches). USDA zones: 5-9.
Sweet Rocket in front of a Dogwood tree.
Weedy Sweet Rocket
Pinks over top of Thyme
False Indigo, Baptisia
I get to work, but its hard to know what to tackle first. It seems everything needs my attention. Which fire to put out first?
I like to begin at back of my deeper flower borders and work to the front. By summer the beds are always so densely packed, it's a safari into a dense, mosquito-infested jungle to do any weeding. Better to get the weeding done early when plants are just emerging from the ground. Edging the beds to keep grass out and mulching are also high on my list of priorities. I couldn't manage a garden of my size without mulch to keep the weeds somewhat at bay.
Lupins I grew from seed.
Before I know it, the lupins are flowering. They are past their peak by the time I find the time to take pictures, and a little over a week later, the fuzzy pea-like seed pods have formed.
The white peonies in the back garden open and the flowers smell divine! I had hoped to move them early this spring, but now it will have to wait for fall.
Usually the display of peonies in the front garden is one of June's highlights, but for some reason the buds on peonies in the centre of the flower border have shrivelled- a mystery that I will have to puzzle through and solve.
Geum triflorum: Height: 30 cm, Spread: 40-60 cm. It tolerates most soil types, but like most perennials, it will be happiest in well-drained soil that has been enriched with some organic matter. Full sun is best. Once established Geum triflorum is pretty low maintenance and is very drought tolerant.
Foxgloves I grew from seed.
Jacob's Ladder, Polemonium caeruleum: forms a low mound of ferny foliage with star-shaped blue flowers on tall, upright stems. It can self-seed prolifically given the right growing conditions, so deadhead it after flowering if you wan to limit seedlings. Average garden soil is fine, but Jacob's Ladder likes the soil to be moist. Height: 45-80 cm (18-31 inches), Spread 30-45 cm ( 12-18 inches). USDA Zones: 2-9.
Most magnificent of all are the pink roses along the fence marking the entrance to the backyard. The display of blooms has never been as lush.
Explorer Rose 'John Cabot' : This rose has arching stems that can reach 3 meters in height and can be used as a climber. It has glossy foliage and pink rose that are lightly fragrant. Its thorns are quite lethal!
With the house to be sold in the fall, things will never be quite the same. The safe harbour to which I will now return is a place of childhood memories.
I will be travelling for a few days. Have a wonderful weekend!