Exterior & Garden The Victorian House

Gardening Through Grief

I feel sad, but my garden looks great!

The roses I still have in my garden are hardy and easy to keep alive, and they’re looking great this year. The catmint and aliums are thriving and spreading, and everything else is looking pretty good too. There was a 10′ shrubby rose that almost completely died over the winter though, and since it had murder thorns (seriously, it was a danger), I dug it out. I wanted to replace it with a flowering tree, and I spent days researching varieties that could be a good fit size and style-wise.

The Lovely Garden, June 2021 | Making it Lovely

My grandmother died in late April. We were close, and complicated family dynamics (I’m estranged from my father) has made an already sad and difficult time that much worse. When I realized soon after her passing that there was an Ann magnolia, her middle name, I immediately decided that I was done researching trees; I would be planting an Ann in her honor. A local nursery had them in stock and I brought one home.

My sister came to be here for the planting, but the old rose did not go easily! She’s having another baby this summer, so that lazy git didn’t even have to pick up a shovel. :) I got most of the hole dug that day, but digging it out to be as deep and twice as wide as the magnolia’s root ball was quite a feat. I continued to work on old root removal before planting the magnolia a few days later. I’ve mulched it and am watering it regularly with a low-profile watering bag because this thing needs to make it. It’s small, but it is lush and beautiful.

Ann Magnolia and Catmint with Garden Sphere Sculpture | Making it Lovely

I planted a pink dogwood tree sapling in back too, but it is not looking nearly as good. I ordered it online because I was having trouble finding one locally and the price was low, but it was crispy on arrival.

I’ve been making more changes throughout the front and back. I got three slowmound Mugo pines from someone who was changing up their garden, and I picked up three spartan junipers to create a hedge along part of the side fence. I want more evergreens, and I want to add dahlias, anemones, foxglove, columbine, rudbeckia, hollyhocks, and baptisia. I also want more lady’s mantle, heuchera, and salvia.

There is a yew between the house and the gate to the backyard that was overgrown. It was overgrown before we moved in, and I’ve never done anything to correct that until now. OFF WITH ITS HEAD, and a good portion of the branches to one side. Turns out I’m good with a chainsaw and a hedge trimmer. But oh, it looks terrible! It will either rebound over the next few years and I shall work to form a magnificent topiary, or it will continue to look sad and I’ll yank it out next spring. I have hope though!

Edward Scissorhands Topiary

I’m still sad. And sometimes angry. Even writing this little bit about my grandmother made me want to cry. But I do feel better when I’m out there gardening, and I am spending a lot of my time out there these days.

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17 Comments

  • Reply
    Kelsey
    June 7, 2021 at 9:49 pm

    I am so very sorry for your loss and your difficult family dynamic. I had a similar loss 8 years ago, and while it does, as they say, get better, there are periodic reminders that cause some tears or where I need to go have a few quiet moments to honour her memory. I hope your garden continues to offer you catharsis.

  • Reply
    Victoria
    June 8, 2021 at 3:43 am

    Sending you my sympathies. I have a bad family dynamic and it does make things harder. Your approach to grief, of creating life and colour and scent is healthy and loving toward yourself, your family and your grandmother’s memory.

  • Reply
    French Fry
    June 8, 2021 at 10:52 am

    Nicole, you are not alone in family issues. You are an extremely talented gal and I appreciate your sharing this experience with us. What you did in your grandmother’s memory is wonderful. In my opinion, people like her are alive as long as they spontaneoulsly come to your mind in fond thoughts and memories. Much love to you during these difficult times.

    • Reply
      Marcee
      June 8, 2021 at 1:26 pm

      Hi Nicole.
      I so agree with the above post.
      Thanks for sharing your story and deep feelings.
      Very glad gardening is keeping you busy and helping. I’ve admired you and certainly Making It Lovely for many years. As a designer/decorator, I’m amazed with your magical capabilities and strength.
      Keep doing what you enjoy.
      Precious pets, family & your beautiful children will give you much comfort.

  • Reply
    Meg
    June 8, 2021 at 12:02 pm

    When my grandfather died, I spent months at my sewing machine making quilt after quilt. I am so grateful for the simple therapy of making something by hand. Now those quilts are a wonderful reminder of him that I enjoy on a daily basis. I hope your garden brings you comfort for years to come.

  • Reply
    Sara
    June 8, 2021 at 12:33 pm

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

    I almost lost my wee Boston Terrier last summer because she ate Foxglove. Her heart had stopped almost completely by the time I got her to the emergency vet. Hopefully you have somewhere you can plant yours that is inaccessible to any silly dogs Or maybe everyone else’s dog is smarter than mine :)

  • Reply
    Bethany
    June 8, 2021 at 1:56 pm

    Hugs, Nicole.

  • Reply
    Tina
    June 9, 2021 at 8:58 am

    I’m sorry for your loss. I think the tree is a lovely tribute.

  • Reply
    elsie larson
    June 9, 2021 at 3:08 pm

    Sending love to you! I’m so sorry for your loss.

  • Reply
    CJ
    June 13, 2021 at 7:11 pm

    sending you hugs and thank you for being so brave to write about this. I lost my grandma in Feb and an uncle in March and reading your writing brought me peace. Time will heal us.

  • Reply
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  • Reply
    Stephanie
    June 27, 2021 at 12:17 am

    I’m so very sorry, Nicole, for both of your losses. Losing a loved one to death is deeply painful. I have not found a word that describes the loss of a parent to estrangement. The tribute to your grandmother is lovely.

  • Reply
    Danielle
    June 28, 2021 at 10:08 pm

    I am sorry for your loss. Grandmas are a special kind of love. ❤️

  • Reply
    Anna
    June 28, 2021 at 10:17 pm

    I lost my sister last year, and time planting and gardening has brought a lot of peace and calm and times in nature help some with the healing

  • Reply
    Gigi S
    July 7, 2021 at 9:09 am

    I’m so sorry for your loss. My mother’s name was Jane and I planted a Magnolia Jane in my yard. Know that your grandmother’s spirit is always with you and she will send you signs she is. We keep both my parents, no longer with us, in our lives by always celebrating their birthdays complete with birthday cakes. Family members that aren’t nearby, sing Happy Birthday with us over the phone. Even though my children were younger when my parents passed within a year of each other, they very much feel as though they know them well and love them. At Christmas, we leave spots open for them on the sofa while we have a special time of commnuning with them in front of the Christmas tree. Mom always loved enjoying the Christmas tree. The bond of love is never broken, not even in death. Hope this helps you know you still have your grandmother, just on a different level. XO

  • Reply
    Glen
    July 13, 2021 at 11:37 pm

    Sorrow shared is a big help. Gardens help. Cats are a lot of help. I share your grief. Time helps, but it takes time to work.

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