My Garden This Weekend – 18th January 2015


As you can see the garden has had a dose of winter this weekend albeit short-lived with the majority of the snow having melted by Saturday lunchtime. I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed that it was too cold to do anything outside as all I wanted to do yesterday was hide inside.  I have been overcome with a tidal wave of grief which has crept up on me unexpectedly during the week, just like when you don’t notice the tide coming further up the beach.  It left me feeling emotional and close to tears for 48 hours not an ideal state of mind when you have to go to work.  It took  a while to identify it for what it was, going through all the usual others things, dismissing PMT, depression, concern about changes at work etc.  No it was grief, cold and hard and something you just have to accept and wait for it to pass.


I have been getting on with life over recent months, being busy, since Dad died and although I think about him a lot I have felt I was doing OK.  But grief has a habit of creeping up on you and engulfing you when you least expect it.  I suppose I am lucky in that I learnt to recognise and accept it for what it is about a year after my sister died thanks to a wonderful counsellor.  This time it was a book that bought everything to a head.  A beautifully written book, if the first chapter or two is to go by, H for Hawk by Helen Macdonald.  The book is about the author training a Goshawk but it is also about her coming to terms with the loss of her father.  Needless to say it starts with her reacting to the news her Dad had died and I suppose it struck at something deep down because I kept obsessing about one paragraph, where they are looking for the father’s car.  I can’t even talk about the story without crying but then again I don’t think that is a bad thing because I believe it is better to let these things happen rather than fight them. We do more damage to ourselves with the British stiff upper lip approach.


So the only gardening I did this weekend was to move things around in the greenhouse.  Rejigging the pots of bulbs so that those emerging have the best light and the late summer bulbs, such as nerines, are moved under the staging to rest for a while.


Sunday has been a better day.  Having recognised the grief for what it was, had a good cry, I woke up feeling like my old self again and ready to battle on.  I have been decorating the hall, landing and stairs, which means endless gloss work which I can doing in stages.  So after tackling some of the bannisters Mum and I went out for a jaunt to Ashwood Nurseries which is just over an hour from here.  My boss had given me some garden vouchers for Christmas and I had earmarked them for some more hellebores and some spring flowering shrubs.  A lot of research has been done in recent evenings and a mental wish list drawn up.


The choice at Ashwoods is extensive and always so well displayed.  I realised I have only visited at this time of year, the last time for a hellebore talk, so I must try to visit again through the year but if this is the quality of the display in early January I can only imagine how wonderful it will be in a few months.

I came home with 3 hellebores – Anna’s Red, Neon Star and Walbertons Rosemary which has been bred to look upwards, 3 heptica nobilis, a clivia and two dwarf rhododendrons that are part of my new planting plan for the border you can see in the second photograph.


We had a nice lunch, a laugh, talked about Dad, grief, glosswork (Mum is decorating too) and strangely bought a resin tortoise (a gift for my Aunt!).  We are going back in March for my birthday so Mum can treat me to something, probably for the border above.

As for the book …. it is safely back on the shelf waiting for such time as I feel more emotional able to read it.


23 Comments on “My Garden This Weekend – 18th January 2015

  1. An unexpected post, very open and honest. My father died 12 years ago but he returns to me regularly, the grief diminishes with time but love and fondness doesn’t and that’s the good thing about the passage of time, if we’re lucky the bad shrinks and the good grows, I hope it does for you.

    • Hi MF
      Thank you for your comment. I take the approach with my blog of using it for whatever I want to write about as I find it helps me sort my head out.

  2. Hi Helen,
    I have been reading your blog for some time now and really enjoy it. Your garden is lovely and I share your desire to always improve and rearrange. Here in NJ it is cold and icy today and I am itching to get out in the garden but that will have to wait for a while. Reading about your grief made me want to respond. I lost my dad a few years ago and my mom recently. All in all I am doing OK since they lived a very good, long life. Yet, it can take the most tiny thought to bring on the grief. I know what you are going through and I agree with you…just go with it and cry and accept it for what it is. It’s normal and to be expected. Certainly not a good feeling, but one that I guess we have to work through with time. My mom and dad and I all shared our love of gardening, so when I’m out there doing my “thing” I often think how much they would enjoy being with me and pulling the never ending weeds. My dad visited England on several occasions since they bred and he handled English Bulldogs. He would come home and rave about the gorgeous gardens wherever he traveled. I wish we had as many wonderful garden centers as you do in the UK. Thanks for being so faithful in your blogging. I always look forward to reading what you’re up to.

    • Hi Linda
      Thank you for your thoughtful and kind comment. I hadn’t thought of myself as being faithful in my blogging, I think I like the routine I have self-imposed!

  3. Helen, I can only echo what Mossfighter says so eloquently. It’s still very soon after your Dad died so there will be days when you feel that you can’t face the outside world. Those tears are healing ones. Going out with your Mum, laughing and talking about your Dad will certainly help you and your Mum through what is a challenging time. March is not far off now for a return visit to Ashwoods – a date to look forward to. I wonder what you will come back with then.

    • Hi Anna
      You are right it hasn’t been long it’s just weird how it creeps up on you and catches you unawares. I suspect next time I might come back with more rhododendrons 🙂

  4. Hi Helen. Aren’t books powerful things? I experienced something similar myself with regards to my parents’ divorce, which happened when I was 11. Two years ago, at the age of 40 I started to read a book written from a child’s perspective in which her mother leaves her and her father ( my mother was the parent who left the family home). Something in the way it was written triggered some deep seated grief and loss – it felt so raw and new – I howled and couldn’t read any more. Love your blog x

  5. Hi Helen. It’s good you are able to recognize your grief for what it is. For various reasons I was not conscious of my own grief after my parents’ died, in fact I felt guilty for not grieving. It took a long time before someone pointed out to me that I was experiencing many of the symptoms of grief even though I couldn’t connect them to any event. Somehow that made it easier to manage. In any case I am glad you were feeling better today. Best wishes.

    • Hi Jason
      I do think it helps if you can work out what is at the root of something, it suddenly for some reason makes it more manageable

  6. Hi Helen. I enjoyed your post for various reasons. I’m sorry for your loss. My Dad passed away in February of last year, so I understand where your thoughts are and how quickly and without warning grief can capture you. I’ve always found working in my garden to be a great way to meditate and get my thoughts together, whatever the reason for my grief, anxiety or frustration. It sounds like your shopping trip and time spent with your Mom is just what you needed. I do these things with my Mom also, because while we do grieve together, we also have ways of making each other laugh and think and imagine that helps make the grief go away. Thanks for a wonderful, thought provoking post, and for your blog, which I enjoy regularly.

    • Hi TM
      I find working in the garden very soothing too but it has just been too cold. You are right too, Mom and I talked about Dad and it helped lots. I’m glad you like the blog

  7. You have so much green in your garden, even with snow on the ground. I walk through my garden everyday now to see how spring is progressing and it looks like it will be really early this year; the sarcococca is in bloom and the hellebores have flowered….Love your greenhouse, I am so envious.

    • Hi Charlie
      Oh I long for another greenhouse so I could have alpines/bulbs in one and things that need heat in another – we are never satisfied are we.

  8. When my mother died, 10 yrs ago now, I was so surprised that I felt fine, then 6 months later found me in floods of tears at the least little thing. Go with it , it is all part of the grieving process and will get better with time. It was good that you had a visit with your Mum to Ashford Nursery, a super place to visit. I have made the journey a couple of times and came home with far too many Hellebores, but then, they are so hard to resist!

    • Hi Pauline
      I dont think there is such a thing as too many hellebores!

  9. Strange, isn’t it, how actually identifying the source of an emotional upswell helps to bring it back into some sort of order. There are many people wishing you well..

    • Hi Rachel
      You are right, its like when you are unwell once you know what is wrong with you, however awful it is, it removes the uncertainty and you know what you are dealing with.

  10. Dear Helen, I hope you have come through the other side now. Sometimes reading a book which expresses emotions you are also going through really helps, it’s a sort of identification. My mum nearly died two weeks ago, we even had Last Rites said for her. She is 95 and had her 3rd bout of pneumonia. I am living on the edge just waiting for the phone call to say she has gone, it’s very tiring as I am not sleeping well. Gardening does help, if nothing else it takes your mind off everything. Take care xxx

  11. It’s a very powerful book, and inevitably touched a chord for you Helen but perhaps served a purpose in doing so. The fact that your outing to Ashwood followed on directly from your initial response was opportune in that it gave you and your Mum the chance to share those feelings and some laughs as well. Great haul of plants too!

  12. I’ve enjoyed your garden at a distance for 2 years now, Helen (especially the bulbs in the greenhouse). Also your thoughts about continuing (continually!) to develop the garden. Your approach is admirable, because you are so honest – and yes, a faithful blogger, as someone else has said! It’s wonderful that you and your mother were able to visit such an exciting nursery and both enjoy plants, as well as sharing your memories of your father. You are so right – we don’t heal properly if we keep it in. (And yes, no one can have too many hellebores!)

  13. Helen,
    I can relate to this, having lost both my parents in a five week period just over two year ago. As you say, the grief can hit at any time, but I think gardening is probably the best way of dealing with it (for me at any rate).

  14. A good friend of mine recommended H for Hawk, but said I might find it an emotional experience. Maybe it’s one for the summer months!
    I know winter can have a depressing effect on me, but I don’t think this is due to lack of sun, but more to a feeling of powerlessness. You can’t get on with anything in the garden (my usual refuge in times of stress) and life seems to come to a halt. Perhaps going out and buying plants made you feel subconsciously that you were taking control. Spookily enough, I have been considering dwarf rhodos (in pots!) after being inspired by James Wong’s programme the other night. I might have to pay a visit to Ashwood Nurseries.

  15. I was sent to your blog by someone who follows you because I recently wrote a post concerning grief. I also am named Helen and he suggested I check out your blog. I am a brand new blogger and I see that you have been at it for quite some time. I think it is an absolutely beautiful blog and I am glad that I have seen it. Grieving is a process which takes time, as I am sure you know, and I wish you the best as you work through the emotional adjustments. The post where I expressed my feelings is here:
    And the wonderful person who referred me to you has the following blog: His name is Mossfighter and I see that he commented up above on this post.
    Best wishes to you as you work through the grieving process…and with your beautiful garden.

Please feel free to leave comments as its always lovely to get feedback. I try to respond to comments as much as possible but sometimes life and work get in the way but I will do my best to respond especially if your comment is a question.

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