Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Cancer Survivor’s Garden – What Died

The most important part of the What-Died topic is that I survived, which means my garden will survive.  While I was sick, it just so happened that we had three unusually harsh winters in a row.  The harsh winters, combined with neglect, decimated parts of my garden.

What-Died includes the whole east border.  First of all the invaders took out some young shrubs including some viburnums, and a mock orange.  I had brunnera and hostas in a shady area that was eaten by ferns and trailing blackberry.  Even about half of the daffodils died out. 

The biggest tragedy in the east border was the eucalyptus tree.  Plant adventurer and gardener extraordinaire Dan Hinkley tells us that the harsh winters killed twenty-six eucalyptus at Windcliff.  There is a difference between his garden and mine.  His garden has two healthy men to tend to things such as dead trees.  They removed their dead eucalyptus.  My tree still stands barren and broken but not alone.

I really need to write a tragic love story about my eucalyptus and acacia.  I planted a supposedly hardy acacia beside my eucalyptus.  It was damaged in the first hard winter.  Both plants died to the ground in the second winter and they died completely the third winter. 

I am convinced that the eucalyptus and acacia had a special relationship.  The acacia was planted on the southwest side of the eucalyptus in order for it to receive full sun. That plant grew toward the shaded northeast and the eucalyptus.  The eucalyptus could be forgiven for growing southwest toward full sun, but it was thickest and healthiest where its branches mingled with the acacia.  I am certain there was something about those two that caused the acacia to grow away from the sun.  They died a tragic, frozen, icy death and stand together in my garden with their branches still touching, lovers in death as well as life.

Onward through the east border, we come to the perimeter, walking trail.  This trail followed the fence line around the perimeter of my property.  Most of the trail meandered through Douglas Fir woods.   It was a peaceful place to walk.  My border gardens shielded the path from the house.  The path was lined with ferns, salal, huckleberry, and elderberries.  The sun was never too hot.  Alas, the blackberries invaded while my back was turned.  The native plants grew into the open trail and choked out any sign of a path.  My beautiful, peaceful trail is gone.

Leaving the east border and walking trail, we enter the sunken garden.  This is the lowest place on the property.  This area is open to the south so it gets good sunlight. It warms up the earliest of any area in my garden in the spring.  It is sheltered from the wind.  I planted daffodils to come on early in the sunken garden.  I made a bed for roses, dahlias and lilies on the south-facing slope of the sunken garden.  The daffodils fell to the riding mower when hubby didn’t realize they should not be cut down yet.  The dahlias didn’t get dug in the fall so they froze in our third hard winter.  The blackberries and wisteria have tried to choke out the roses.  Through this tangled mess the lilies grow six feet tall and bloom--filling the whole sunken garden with their fragrance.

I could sing a long mournful song about the perennials that didn’t make it, monarda, penstemen, holly hock and phlox, Jacobs ladder, verbena,  astilbe, and sage, clematis, and salvia .

I lost more than my perennials and flowers.  One of the asparagus beds suffered a severe dandelion attack.  The dandelions have crowded out and choked the asparagus.  Those crowns that didn’t get choked out died when we disturbed them repeatedly trying to get the dandelion out of their bed.

This tale of death and destruction could end on a sad note for all my lost darlings.  I am at heart a gardener.  I will go out and buy new things I haven’t tried before and pop them into all the empty places in my garden.  I am scouring friends’ gardens for just a few starts here and there.  I am not quite ready to remove eucalyptus and acacia just yet. They will remain as they were for a few years yet.


  1. I live in the Pacific Northwest, and we had a terrible snowstorm, followed by ice and wind this winter. So many beautiful trees came down! In our case, we lost some lovely lilacs, part of a pink dogwood, and several perennials, as well as some branches. However, I'm trying to look at this positively. Like you, I'm looking forward to replacing the lost plants with new ones as soon as the weather warms up a little. I predict that we'll both have beautiful flourishing gardens come summertime! Let's plan on posting photos of our blooms.
    (NOTE: I found you through LinkedIn's "Got a Blog Site / Post It Here" group.)

  2. What a beautiful post! I was definitely out there with you longing for the restoration of your eucalyptus and acacia. I had some really memorable experiences during my cancer journey, but one of my favorites was the four hours of total energy I was given to plant all my annuals before I returned to the nausea and the "blahs" again. I was then able to look out my window at all the vibrant colors all over our backyard which most definitely helped to keep me going during the remaining months of the nausea and the "blahs." Wonderful blog!