Tag Archives: Rose gardening

Only Child finds solace in her garden

Part of Only Child's rose garden in front by the sidewalk

Part of Only Child’s rose garden in front by the sidewalk

I’ve been seeking solace in my garden to get away from all the crap that has been shoved my way the last month or so. That is when one of these stressors – weather, i.e., heavy rain and winds – hasn’t gotten in the way. And the crap keeps piling up. Now the CRA messed up my tax returns on the notice of assessment and when I called they admitted their mistake and it will be fixed. Meantime, “the system”  won’t know this and so unless it is fixed before early July, the amount the Notice of Assessment says I still owe (but don’t) will come off my GST rebate for July and I won’t get my provincial tax credits (also July) until the situation is fixed. All for some clerical error at CRA. Not fair. I need that little extra to survive, or once the property tax and utility bills are paid, I do without somewhere (read health expenses for one).

My garden is my lifeline to comfort and some food. When I walk out into my garden and see they symmetry of the perennials, the shrubs, the raspberries starting to form, the onions and other vegetables coming up – even the ground where recent seeds were planted – I get some solace. The blend of colours – some white, red, yellow, blue, greens, silvers, and lots of shades of purple – the only spiritual nourishment in my life as I get no spiritual nourishment and help elsewhere such as traditional or non-traditional religion and faith. Faith and trust don’t seem to be in my vocabulary these days and it’s not by choice but from what’s been happening.

So I go out into my garden and absorb – sight, sound (birds), fragrance. I literally smell the roses which are now just beginning to bloom.

But there is a dark side to when I’m in the garden. Pulling weeds and digging are good ways to vent your anger and frustration. Each weed I dig up or yank out symbolizes the people, etc. who make my world worse. The pulled weeds are placed in the yard waste bins for city “garbage” collection to be dumped somewhere to go back to the earth. Appropriate. When we die our bodies disintegrate (if not done for us with cremation) back into the earth. A fit place for my stressors.

Sitting out in the garden in the sun or shade, reading a book, eating meals on the patio, or just taking in all the garden or collecting flowers are (along with writing) how I cling to sanity. Whatever sanity means these days.


Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Gardening, Gardening health benefits, Healing through gardening, Income Taxes, Life demands, Only child, Rain and wind storm, Roses, Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child finds problem solver from roses

Only Child finds deadheading roses leads to a new way to deal with problems

I spent more time this morning in my garden than I had planned and I’m glad I did. As I deadheaded the dead roses on my rosebushes, I pretended each dead flower I snipped was a problem. Yes, I did run out of problems and was still clipping away.

But I found a tactic to deal with some of these pesky problems that seem to have no answer.

You probably know The Serenity Prayer – God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the ones I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

While in my rosebushes I thought of fourth and fifth options…”the courage to know which ones I can delay and the courage to delay them.” For me this applies to answering email whose content is imposing on my time now and in the future – I have to answer them sometime, but I don’t know what to say; waiting for answers to important emails I sent; and waiting for payments for work I’ve done. With the latter I seem to be getting screwed by the powers that be. Two cheques from clients, already processed and sent out, have not arrived. A few months ago a client from a city not far from me mailed me a cheque. It took a month to arrive by regular mail. But the one that may take the stupidity cake is a money Interac transfer that got lost in cyberspace. The sender had to redo it and resend it. That second one arrived. At least with Interac transfers, the money doesn’t come out of the sender’s account until the recipient correctly answers the sender’s question.

For the money delays, my hairdresser says there is something in the energy worldwide with money. Probably true, but I have other ideas for the personal level. No matter, I’m trying to put this one in the “delay option.” Not easy.

Does anybody else follow the ideas in the Serenity Prayer for all the stuff coming at them? Or does anyone have another way to deal with these roadblocks to getting on with your life?


Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Decision Making, Decisions, email overload, Gardening, Home and Garden, Horticultural Therapy, Life learning, Only child, Overwhelm, Problem solving, Problems, Roses, Sharon Crawford

Only Child muses on raspberries and roses

Burgundy Iris among the white roses in Only Child’s front garden

I’m discovering new ways to relax in my garden. I don’t have to just sit out in the garden, looking and reading. I can relax while I’m doing. Just as well because my raspberries have appeared two weeks early this year because of our early summer weather. So for the next few weeks I’ll be out there almost daily picking raspberries.

Then there are the roses. The white ones in front were spreading their branches and flowers all over the place including over my driveway. I don’t drive but some of my friends do, so to avoid any vehicles brushes against the roses, I cut the bushes back.

It hurt me to do so. But as I trimmed them back, the process turned into almost a meditation, a ritual. And this morning when I went out in full raspberry-picking gear (long pants, long sleeves and wide-brimmed hat to avoid getting scratches from the branches) much the same thing happened. Instead of rushing through it all like I was battling time, it turned relaxing – even when I dropped a berry; I thought, “That’s one for the birds.”

I’m not sure my late mother actually sat and relaxed in her garden, except when I was a toddler –and here the photos tell that story. Mom was always out in the garden picking red raspberries, beans, and currants, until she persuaded me to do so. I loved picking beans and raspberries, but not the currants. They don’t taste good raw and they seem to attract bees. Mother’s busyness in her garden paid off in the many fresh raspberries, plus her own version of canned currant jam and jelly and mustard beans – the latter I’ve never been able to find since. And unlike me, she pruned her raspberry bushes properly so she didn’t have to pick in a maze the next season. I use the “hit or miss” procedure although I do keep in the new shoots for next year’s berries and cut back the deadwood – what I can reach. Somehow I don’t get it as smooth and clean as Mom did.

Maybe, Mom did relax in her garden after all – by picking berries and trimming the bushes.

Then there were her rose bushes – but that’s for another post.

For now, those of you in Canada, enjoy the July 1 Canada Day holiday weekend coming up and those in the United States, enjoy your July 4 holiday…in a garden, if possible. Next week I’ll get more serious. Meantime, I’ve added a few more pictures of my garden.



Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

Fushia pink roses by the sidewalk of Only Child’s house

Poppies popping up among the chives by Only Child’s veranda

Front view by steps to veranda shows yarrow, coral bells, chives under the boxwood. Raggedy Annie among the rosebushes is in the background.

Only Child as a toddler in the backyard with her late Mom who is sitting in the Muskoka chair.

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Filed under black raspberries, Fruit, Gardening, Home and Garden, Memoir writing, Mother, Mother and Child, Muskoka Chair, Only child, Raspberries, Roses, Sharon Crawford

Only child goes out into the garden

Only Child and her late Mom in the backyard garden. Mom is sitting in a Muskoka chair.

This morning before starting work I went out into the garden. I do this every day to relieve the stress before it gets to me. The plan was to transplant some basil, nasturtium and a coleus, and put the hose away because we are supposed to finally get some rain. Then I planned to sit out on the patio and eat breakfast.

Instead I stared at some of the many weeds and started yanking them. I know weeding is therapeutic (especially when you pretend the weeds are your problems and/or the problematic people in your life). However, weeding is turning into a routine almost every time I head out into the garden. This helps with decreasing the weed population – for now. But there is more to gardening than pulling weeds.

I am enjoying the lush early display of roses thanks to our early hot weather and snapped a few photos this morning. I do “tour” the garden (and snatch up weeds as I walk around) and I do sit out in the garden and actually do nothing but drink wine or water and read a book. And eat my meals out on the patio or on the veranda while sitting in my new Muskoka chair (a holdover from my childhood when that’s what you sat on in the backyard or on the veranda).  Maybe the weed yanking is also a family holdover. My mother was a gardener and she did a lot of weeding. She also grew beautiful rose bushes, including red roses climbing around an archway.

Still, I can’t help thinking that I need an attitude change here. I need to go into the garden to enjoy it – whether I am weeding or reading or planting or touring. This is my escape from the harsh realities of my life. Heck, most of the time I don’t even take the cordless phone outside. If anyone wants me they can leave a message – unless they are telemarketers – they can go, to put it politely, where the sun doesn’t shine.

And speaking of gardening and reading. A study at Wageningen University and Research Center, The Netherlands featuring people spending time in the garden and spending time reading shows that gardening relieves stress more than reading. I wonder if reading in the garden would relieve stress even more. Check out the study published in 2010 at http://hpq.sagepub.com/content/16/1/3.abstract

I did transplant the nasturtium and basil but left the hose lying in the driveway. We’ve had so many wrong forecasts of rain in the past two weeks. I’ll believe it’s raining today, when it actually rains.


Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

Only Child’s late Dad under Mom’s rose archway

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Filed under Gardening, Gardening health benefits, Healing through gardening, Home first memoir, Mom and Dad, Muskoka Chair, Only child memoir, Problems, Reading, Roses, Shopping

Only Child on writing memoir from photos

Only Child's late father under the rose archway

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. So if you’re stuck or flying all over the place about what to write in your memoir, you might want to look at old family photos – one at a time.  In my Memoir Writing workshops we do a couple of exercises with photographs. Some participants who don’t bring a family photo get to pick one of mine and superimpose their own family situations on it. And it is surprising what they can remember even with someone else’s picture. In one workshop, a woman was moved to tears looking at a photo of my parents and me in front of my childhood home.

And that’s what we do with the first exercise – no not cry, well, not at first. We look at the photo and list the memories it evokes and the feelings we experienced with it. As we do this we can ask ourselves questions as prompts. I list the memories and their emotions on a flip chart and we talk about them. In the next exercise we write the actual scenario as it might appear in a memoir using both narrative and dialogue and our own unique style. That is, if we haven’t done that in the first exercise which often happens. This means the photo has really sent us deep into our memories. Then we read some of them out loud. Many are very powerful.

Let’s look at the photo of my late dad under the rose archway situated at the entrance to the backyard where I grew up. My list of memories and emotions include:

Dad –  How does he appear? Like a guard to the rose garden. Old, like he was my grandfather.  Emotions/feelings: love, security, and even sadness (at both my dad and the rosebushes long gone. The deeper emotion is that it is all in the past, all gone, except from memory and the photo).

The archway and rose bushes – more my mom than dad because the rose bushes were her babies. Mom fussed over blackspot, cut off the dead roses and pruned the bushes. And the colours (the archway ones were a deep red) and fragrance. I also remember another rosebush on the other side of the yard by the neighbours0 driveway. I write about this in my memoir:

“The leaves have too much blackspot,” she says. “And this rose is finished.” Snip, snip go her clippers, then, “Oh, good morning, Mr. Swenge.”

I stand beside my mother and nod a “hello” to Mr. Swenge. Old, heavyset, and banished outside by his wife so he can smoke, he stands silent in his driveway on the other side of the fence. Between puffs on his cigar, he nods, and continues to stare at us. He gives me the creeps; he’s like a harbinger of what’s to come on our side of the fence. I stick my nose in the rosebush, but all the sweet flowers in the world won’t overpower the cancer connection with smoking. The multiple rosebushes and the other scented bushes seem like a rectangle of protection my mother’s subconscious dredged up. However, smelling the flowers doesn’t keep the black spot from attacking my Dad’s lungs and brain. Why are daffodil sales used to collect funds for cancer research? If it’s their colour, yellow, supposedly the colour of healing I can tell these researchers that it won’t work. Although yellow is the colour of the radiant sun, the yellow roses, forsythia tree and tulips my mother grew didn’t keep cancer away. When I combine the paltry results of my mother’s tulip-bulb planting, the life cycle of the forsythia (yellow flowers first, leaves second), the roses (red, rose, pink, white and yellow), maybe mother’s garden was sprinkled with omens of the disease and its future colours of hope. Certainly the cause permeated throughout, not just the neighbour’s cigars, but the cigarette and pipe smoke my Dad inhaled and exhaled. As a garden grows based on what you put into the soil, so can cancer grow from what you (or your environment) put inside your body.

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2011 Sharon Crawford)

As you can see I got carried away into the narrative. Everyone’s memories and narrative will be different in perspective and in what actually occurred. Even with common denominators such as the writer’s age, era he or she grew up in, etc., something will differ. And the telling will also be different – it could be humorous, serious (or both) filled with dialogue, mostly narrative, told in present tense, told in past tense, perhaps include some poetry, and the emotions can range from anger to laughter to sadness. The characters will all be unique and the situation will come from your memory and your perspective in looking back.

So haul out an old family photo, immerse yourself in it, and start writing.



Only Child Writes

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Only Child finds changes in Mom’s garden

The rosebush I thought had died

Someone once said that change is the law of life. I don’t deal with change well, especially when it seems to just come at me from out of nowhere. Maybe one of the hardest changes is to see what happens to the home you grew up in after you move out. One of my blog readers after reading my last week’s post on my mother’s gardening. e-mailed me about her late mother’s rose garden and that she felt sad about it when her dad sold the house.

I think I did too when I first returned to the house where I lived as a child. The first time was when my son was eight and we were visiting his paternal grandparents in the same area.

On a hot summer day when my son and I visit these grandparents, I decide to show him my childhood home…. I chicken out going the direct route and we come in via the crescent along the ravine. When we reach my old street, I look closely to see if anyone I used to know is about. But you could shake the marimbas down the street and no one would even open the drapes.

As we near 139, I stop. A gas barbecue replaces Mom’s rose arbour in the back, but the rickety garage still stands.

“This is where I used to live,” I tell my son.

“Can we go in?” he asks, and without waiting for an answer he runs up to the veranda where a cat lounges.

“Hey, you can’t just go on the property,” I say. “It’s not ours anymore.” My eyes dart to the draped windows and I expect someone to peek, then come charging out the front door and ask, “What do you want?”

But the silence yawns like the cat in the sun. Martin pets the cat and rejoins me at the end of the driveway. We continue down to O’Connor and then over to the park where I used to play and then we return to his grandparents’ apartment.

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Part Two, Copyright 2010 Sharon Crawford)

I think I was insulted that someone would remove my mother’s rose arbour and replace it with a barbecue. It looked so drab and colourless. I didn’t like the change – it was more than my Mom’s pride and joy being erased. She was gone and so was my childhood. But that’s change and you are supposed to deal with it. I did  – in steps – you wouldn’t believe the number of times I had to “sneak” back to my  old neighbourhood for a looksee at the old place and at the same time try to remain inconspicuous. And I didn’t do it right after this episode with my son. I waited until 1998 when I decided I was moving back to the area I grew up in.

But I did get back to the house – inside and out. It was pure serendipity,  thanks to a couple of impulsive actions, first by me, followed by my cousin Gene from Michigan.

But that’s for a future post. In the meantime I’ve had to deal with what I thought was the death of one of my favourite rosebushes where I now live (see photo above). Come spring it appeared to be deadwood except for one lone branch that turned green; then it died. I dealt with that change by hacking off the dead branches to a foot or so above the ground and planting a new rose bush in front of it. And I do have many more rosebushes on my property.

But today, when rushing in from running errands, I saw a peach-coloured rose, rich green foliage and more buds on that supposedly dead rosebush. I touched the rose and it didn’t go away. There are lessons here – besides the obvious – stop running through my life and pause to smell the roses. Change is a multi-faceted animal. Sometimes you really haven’t lost what you thought you had.

Now I hope the old and new rose bushes won’t fight over territorial rights.



Only Child Writes

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Filed under Death and Dying, Gardening, Memoir writing, Only child, Roses

Only child gets gardening gene from mom

Dad standing under Mom's rose archway

I’m convinced I got the gardening bug from my mom – with a smidgeon from my dad and his proprietary outlook on lawns and trees. In spring, summer and fall I live for my garden so you can imagine how I feel in the bleak days of winter when everything is dead outside. Sure new-fallen snow is beautiful but it is nothing compared to the colours of flowers, the fragrance of herbs and the yummy vegetables and fruit in my garden. Right now I am above head level in black raspberries and I don’t even mind going out in the heat (well, early morning and late evenings) and picking them. I give away some of the extra raspberries  to my friends and also freeze some raspberries. My neighbour’s six-year old son has developed a fascination for picking berries and it is not uncommon for him and his friends to bang on my front door and ask, “Can we pick some raspberries?”

It all started when I was little -maybe around three and a half when I remember Mom and Dad digging in the garden in spring and I would watch…

On this April day in 1952 Mom and Dad are halfway through their spring ritual of turning the soil from fence to hedge. I cart out my small shovel and dig in, but I make only small dents compared to Mom and Dad’s efforts. Mostly I remember hovering, watching and listening.

“Albert,” Mom says. “Be careful around the strawberries.”

She thrusts her shovel, no nonsense-style into the soft sand. Her black oxfords sink deep and the once-white socks are splattered with sand. She hides her body under a flowered housedress. Having a baby at 41 and the indignities and intricacies of middle age has remodelled her into Fraulein Frump.

You couldn’t blame her for taking precautions when digging. The boys behind us, including Tom in my class who defended me against The Bully, stole the strawberries and raspberries, or so mother said. She never caught them in the act, but the remains not present the day after added up to more than a hungry posse of black birds or sparrows. And years later, when Tom and I reconnected, he admitted to the deed.

Then the planting begins. My clumsy digits bury the tiny carrot seed in the row of sand, which my mother carefully indents using the rake handle. When she hauls out the bean seed packet, she has her instructions ready.

“This is the top of the bean.” She pats it with her index finger. “See, it’s curved in. That’s where the bean plant will sprout. You plant that part up or the bean will grow down.”

And so, I swallow my impatience and become the obedient daughter – please the parent and the world will bow to you. I have a lot to learn but I suppose my young age and the results of my gardening actions could excuse my naïve expectations in life. The beans usually grew…up, up towards the heavens, if you believe in fairy tales like Jack and the Beanstalk.

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home, Copyright 2010 Sharon Crawford)

I guess it was Mom’s farm background that pre-disposed her to growing a lot of vegetables and fruit. And yes, she had many raspberry bushes but hers were red raspberries and she just knew how, when and what to prune. Me, I know when (fall) and sort of know what (the dead branches, obviously) but whatever I do or don’t do the bushes seem to increase the next spring –  not complaining – I am grateful. I don’t know where Mom got the original raspberry bushes, but mine grew wild in my Aurora backyard and when I moved back to Toronto, a friend helped me dig up three plants and transplant them to my Toronto backyard. The strange thing is these bushes grew to below my knees in the Aurora backyard but here, well as I said above, they are giants. What do I expect living on a street with the word “garden” in it? I have truly come to my calling, my avocation.

My Mom didn’t just grow edible plants. Sometimes I think her rosebushes were her babies.

The rosebushes spread everywhere – front, back and if Mom could nurture roses through asphalt, the driveway would no doubt harbour a rosebush. Below the veranda, in the corner by the driveway, Mom has installed a trellis. When I sprawl in the green Muskoka chair on the veranda, my nose inhales the sweet aroma of the yellow roses poking through the trellis.

In the ‘50s, we could hold a wedding in our backyard at 139 – the deep red roses climb and entwine around the white archway attached to the white picket fence beside the driveway. As I yank open the gate, the fragrance overwhelms me. But my kid eyes absorb the colour, and as I skip through the backyard, I count the rosebushes winding through trellises against the back of the house, the side of our garage and the neighbour’s garage. My mother’s roses grow high and their scent permeates my nose, skin and right into the core of my heart and soul. She constantly frets over a hybrid tea whose blossoms exemplify the species name, although I don’t recall the actual name of the rose, just Mom standing by the fence and fingering the rose-coloured petals.

“The leaves have too much blackspot,” she says. “And this rose is finished.” Snip, snip go her clippers.

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home, copyright 2010 Sharon Crawford)

My garden is a mixture of perennials, including roses, vegetables and herbs and like my mother’s garden, my garden is all over. But I mix. One of my tomato plants grows next to a rosebush in front; I have lamb’s ears, yarrow and black-eyed Susan in with my vegetables. Although I have a herb garden with lavender, parsley, sage, oregano, echinacea, basil, blue flax. chives and rosemary, I also have chives and sage growing in my flower bed at the bottom of my veranda and basil, rosemary and leaf lettuce growing in a big pot on my veranda just outside my front door. This makes it quick pickings for dinner garnishes, especially on rainy days.

I think I’ve expanded this gardening gene I inherited from Mom. But the fruits of this inheritance may have stopped with me. My son has no interest in gardening. That is left to his girlfriend – she has the potted plants on their balcony, including a nasturtium and pepper plant I gave her.

As for Dad’s proprietary gardening, let’s just say he kept the lawn cut and watered and gave my girlfriends and I “hell” when we yanked the leaves off the trees for “food” for our dolls. At least we didn’t steal the strawberries.

Pink Yarrow and Red Rose by curb



only child writes

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