Tuesday, September 24, 2019


I am a part of my garden. When I am not there my garden suffers and when I am not out in the garden I suffer. This is how it has been for the last 3 months.

I left the garden for the longest I have ever left it this summer. Two whole months. Early August I came home to a mass of overgrown plants, dead plants and weeds.

Retirement came shortly after we started the gardens in 2001, and we began to travel, so I was used to leaving it for 6 week intervals and the work involved in getting it back in shape again. But I was not prepared for what came next.

Within 3 days of our return I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Then 3 days later crossing the corner of the pool I miss-stepped right into the pool resulting in some significant injuries to both my legs and an ambulance trip to the ER. Now I couldn't go out into the garden at all.

Oxblood lilies begin to bloom

My life had changed for ever. It has now been more than 7 weeks since this all began and much has happened. I have a team of people working on saving my life so I can garden again. Two surgeons, oncologist,  incredibly dedicated nurses and staff at Texas Oncology and St David's hospital, radiologists, geneticists, pharmacists. I have already had two 'chair days' as a young friend calls them, which is usually my best day as it is the end of a 3 weekly chemo cycle when some of the side effects have started to subside. I will have 6 in all followed by a further 6 less toxic infusions with some kind of surgery in the mix. It will take a year. As the doctor said, "We have our work cut out for us" but the prognosis is excellent. Last week I lost my hair. It wasn't as scary as I thought it would be. In fact it was a relief. I found a lovely wig which is so easy to take care of and I am now more comfortable walking around the house with my shaved head. Rather like old Scrooge I wear a night cap.

The Mandevilla vine is starting to bloom too
The good news is that the garden, garden videos, garden podcasts, garden magazines have been my lifeline to the future. Countless hours of sitting on the settee, for someone as active as I am, first with my legs and then with exhaustion, do not come easy. Our bright and sunny house with large windows affords me views of butterflies and hummingbirds on the liatris and birds at the feeder in the back garden. And for short periods in the early morning I am able to get outside and do a little here and there. I have started some chard and kale seeds indoors and they have already germinated and are now under grow lights. And with fall on the way I see the garden begin to take on new life just as I am doing. I am delighted by going outside to see a new clematis bloom, rain lilies, oxblood lilies, the first flowers on the Philippine violet.

Clematis climbing the lime tree
No one could have a more dedicated husband than I have. He has chauffeured me countless times, made breakfast and lunch, cleaned the kitchen shopped and taken on gardening duties as well. And my neighbors, gardening and bridge friends have brought hugs, flowers, and delicious meals. We have regular FaceTime visits with our far away families. All this will make this journey easier.

Texas Oncology even took care of my footwear needs when I forgot my socks last week. A little note inside said " You are toe-tally strong! The stars at night in Texas are big and bright and so are you!"

 cancer patients keep their feet warm with socks donated by Triumph Warrior
I wanted to share this because many have already learnt how both the garden and the soil itself has healing properties not just for the body but the mind too.
And for those with no garden or housebound a simple plant to care for inside the house is a good substitute.  A friend of mine, who is not a gardener and is currently in hospital, was looking at photographs on Instagram this morning and saw my photo of the oxblood lilies. She emailed me about how uplifting it was to look at photos of flowers rather than hospital walls.
I hope to spend more time in the garden as the weather cools. I am not going to miss one of the best gardening opportunities of the Texas year.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019


Texas is about to tuck another horrible summer under its belt. Undoubtedly the number will climb but as of yesterday we have had 51 triple digit days. I wish someone had kept a total of the 99s as well, because I am sure we have had plenty of those. But it is the lack of rainfall that has compounded its detrimental effect on many of our plants. But not the agaves.

It is the first time in a month that I walked out to look at how the front of the house had fared during the summer. This area is without irrigation so I was really pleased to see it looking so good. Those Agave weberi are truly the mainstay of my garden. I love the way they just push up under the rocks. I could never place them so well.
This is the very spot where David took down the dead live oak this year and I find I don't miss it at all. I will admit that David did work on removing the oaks sprouts that had come up over the summer. Probably a life long task.

I transplanted a few liatris corms out there last fall and there is a rather spindly Pride of Barbados which might now benefit from having a little more sun.

And plenty of Lindheimer senna has seeded in the dry creek. The larger area of decomposed granite is dotted with native lantana, a couple of Texas sage, some gopher plants, and once again this year two plains zinnias, Zinnia grandiflora.

There is also a small clump of Agave lophantha. 

Spring will bring bluebonnets to this area, as well as Mexican hats and a sprinkling of blanket flowers. But for now the Agaves hold the fort.