For the past year my mum, who is now 86, has been in decline. We visited mum and dad today and I came home with mixed feelings. She smiled and laughed today for the first time in a year. Depression and indifference seems to have been all she has known as the ageing process takes a stronger hold - yet, today, her blurred thoughts and confused mind somehow caused her to forget what she's been depressed about, and she chuckled and smiled. It was good to see.... yet sad also, to look on this little old frail woman who is my mum - the person that gave me so much of what is good in my life.
Both my parents love plants and the garden my older brother and I grew up with was a joy. There was something in it for all of us. Mum and dad had their rose garden. Together, they would choose some new roses from a catalogue on an annual basis, and they would let Ian and I choose one too. My dad didn't do things by half..... he used to test the soil for its acid and alkaline content, add various organic materials to it so it would be perfect for the roses which he would prune at just the right angle and at just the right time. He even got to be quite an expert at grafting them too. He laid pipes under the soil to help with the drainage and he especially liked to take care of the lawns by carefully edging them, mowing them and then going over them with a roller.
Despite the attention lavished on the garden, it wasn't a show garden. My dad made a mini putting course on one of the lawns, complete with holes and markers.... and we were always having picnics on the grass, especially when joined by members of the extended family. We were never told to keep off the grass or not to pick this or that, etc. It was a garden that was enjoyed by the family. Against one wall was the rabbit hutch and run that my dad built. One day mum got in a panic because she thought I had disappeared with my friend, when all the time we had snuck inside the rabbit hutch along with Candy, Floss and Titch! On one of the borders was a section that was given to me, where I learned to grow my first seeds..... radishes.
Mum always had a vase of cut flowers in the living-room, taken from our garden and when I gave birth to my eldest son in hospital, dad brought me a huge bunch of roses, mixed with other garden blooms - the nurses admired them so much that he brought a bunch for them at his next visit.
I remember a navy cord jacket that mum wore when I was a child. To me, it seemed to smell of plums! Then, one day when I was much older, I was walking beside the river and I could smell that familiar scent. After a while, I realised it was coming from the Himalayan Balsam that was growing alongside the river...... the scent was just like mum's jacket! So now, the scents that I associate with my mum are plums, Himalayan Balsam...... and most of all, her favourite perfume - Coty L'Aimant (which has nothing at all to do with gardening!).
I'm so glad that my parents were not only such keen gardeners, but that they allowed my brother and I to enjoy the garden without the fear of 'spoiling' anything in it. My love of the outdoors has been gifted to me by my parents, but not only that - my faith also, for it was in the outdoors that I found it. I love you mum and dad.