Harmony in the Garden Blog

Heavily Pruned

iris confusa bamboo lily copyToday my mother and I took a little field trip to Palo Alto’s Elizabeth Gamble Garden.

Even though it’s still early spring here, with our unseasonably warm weather, we couldn’t wait to see what early surprises we might find.

As was expected, there was plenty to see in this early-spring garden.

Like the Easter-egg drifts of ‘Lilac Wonder’ species tulips that seemed to carelessly meander throughout the garden…

Species tulip 'Lilac Wonder' copySpecies tulip 'Lilac Wonder' copyGreenBarchorizema 'bush flame' copy


Or the brightly colored flowers of this chorizema ‘Bush Flame’ (which I found out later is hardy into the mid-twenties!  Yes, I’ll be adding one to my garden…)

GreenBarVelvet Groundsel (roldana petasites) copy


Or the Velvet Groundsel shrub that I’ve been secretly coveting ever since I first saw it in Andrea Testa-Vought’s gorgeous garden…

GreenBarsalvia confertiflora tequila copy


Or the zillions of fluorescent red flowers of the towering 10-foot salvia gesneriflora ‘Tequila’ that the hummingbirds (and I) just couldn’t get enough of…



GreenBarCoral tree

But to be honest, each time I’d photograph one of these beautiful treasures, my eye would be drawn to the heavily pruned Coral Tree that seemed to loom above the entire garden.

GreenBarCoral treeThe type of pruning it’s undergone is called pollarding (which people seem to either love or hate) – but that’s beside the point.

What tugged at my soul was the strength it had in the strong lines of its gently twisting limbs, the deep grooves from its aged bark and the commanding presence it exuded, despite being completely barren.

I could relate to this tree as I, too, have recently been heavily pruned.GreenBarbirdhouseTwo weeks ago I traveled down one of the final roads of the cancer ‘detour’ I’ve been on and had a bi-lateral mastectomy. And since I’ve been openly sharing my journey with all of you, I thought I’d let you know where I’ve been these past few weeks.

As imagined, the first two weeks were pretty rough, but with each passing day I’m able to spend more and more time in my garden – at least enough time to take a morning walk, or sit and watch the birds as they begin frantically building their nests and finding mates.GreenBar

bulbsOnce I knew the dates of my surgery, one of the smartest things I did was to know myself and predict just how frustrated I’d be forced to lie in bed for several weeks while recovering. During spring, no less!

So I decided to create two big containers filled with a mix of brightly colored tulips, dainty tazetta daffodils, and heirloom pheasant-eye narcissus ‘Firetail’ and ‘Poeticus Ornatus’.

GreenBartulips plantedblooming tulipsGreenBarplanted containers

And just like clockwork the bulbs began blooming a few days before my surgery and have been showing off ever since.

Oh, how I love these containers of mine.  They’ve helped keep my sanity, reminding me to be patient, for as soon as they begin to stop blooming I should be feeling good enough to grab my pruners again.GreenBarDisclaimer: It was a new gardening friend of mine  who came up with the term ‘heavily pruned’, letting me know that just like a shrub or tree I’d end up stronger and healthier than ever. I just love that phrase – sort of morbid, but so funny at the same time. And she’s right.

Just this week the doctors have told me that they didn’t find a single cell that indicates there’s any cancer anywhere! So yep – I’ll be stronger and healthier than ever.GreenBar



In fact, I’m feeling better already!

As some of you may know, I’ve been managing the Facebook page for the upcoming San Francisco Flower and Garden Show (something I’ve been having so much fun doing while recuperating in bed.) In fact, if you haven’t checked it out you should head on over as we’re offering ticket giveaways every week until the show!

But I’m thrilled to say that I’ll also be speaking at the show again this year (Saturday, 3/21 at 3:30)GreenBarCoutre garden

With the drought that’s upon us, yet again, my topic couldn’t be more timely: ‘Incorporating succulents into everyday gardens’.

The emphasis of my presentation is to show how to blend low-water succulents into more traditional-style gardens, as well as how to use them as functional problem-solvers.

I hope to see some of you there!  If so, please make sure to stop by and say hi (but please – no big bear hugs quite yet.  ha!)GreenBar

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  • YAY!!! the worst is behind you and now time to rebloom. such a blessing and such good news! I am looking forward to your visit to San Diego and your talk at the San Diego Hort Society later this year!

  • Heavily pruned — it IS funny but also makes me wince a little. I love that you find humor and strength in the imagery, Rebecca, for both are your trademarks. What a great idea to have potted up those bulbs beforehand as a treat to enjoy during recovery. And I’m so very glad to hear the good results post-surgery! Continued good wishes for getting back to full strength and health!

  • I am just thrilled about your being cancer free, hope you feel better soon, and I wish you a wonderful spring season. Love your books and blog.

    • Thank you, Carol. I’m so glad you’re enjoying my blog and books. And yes, I’m having a fabulous spring which will only get better as my health improves! 🙂

  • I’m in the ‘hate’ camp of pollarding, Rebecca, but I love your ‘heavily pruned’ analogy. How clever of you to plant bulbs to cheer you after surgery! I wish you continued good health! And how I wish I could come to your presentation, but being on the eastern side of the country …
    Congratulations on your recovery! P. x

  • Rebecca, I have been in Arizona since the beginning of February. My brother Fr. Kevin died shortly after a bad fall. He had been suffering for a few years from mild Dementia, until after the fall, and then it accelerated. What a blessing he didn’t suffer too long.So, because of this I have been negligent in my E-mails. I will not be home for many events, and wonder if you are going to tape your talk at the Flower and Garden Show, in case I have to miss that also
    Now Last but certainly not least is that I am so thrilled that your Cancer is gone, it just shows that God has not finished with His plans for you yet, which is wonderful.
    It is my dearest wish that I can sit awhile with you in the near future when you have time and have a chat with a cup of tea. I have kept the newsletters that I have not been able to read. It is truly amazing how caring for and saying good-bye to a very much loved one can be so difficult. don’t forget to rest and take time for Rebecca, Love and Hugs, Jean Gillette.

    • Oh Jean, I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your brother and the grieving process you’ve been going through. My grandmother had dementia for 8 years and I remember well the immense toll it took on my father and mother. I wish I was able to tape my talk, but unfortunately they don’t allow that. But there will lots of other times that I’ll be speaking and hopefully we’ll see each other then. In the meantime, please take care of yourself and give yourself lots of time to continue to grieve and recover from the trauma that you’ve been through. And if you can, spend some time in a garden, just sitting if necessary, and see if it can help soothe your soul. xoxo

  • You are food for the soul, Rebecca! Heavily Pruned! So apt and clever. And a heavily pruned plant should not require as much water for our drought ravaged area – what do you think?

    The bulb pots are delightful and such preparation for so timely results. Wishing you a speedy and uneventful recovery!

    • Ha! Yes, Priscilla – I should definitely be more drought tolerant this year. Hadn’t thought of that, but you’re right! Thanks for the morning laugh…

  • Rebecca, congrats on your successful surgery! Love the new term your friend has coined for this along with your Coral Tree, morbid perhaps, but so clever and humorous at the same time. Glad you had the forethought to plant the containers of spring cheer, what a great cheerleader to get thru hard times!

    • Thank you, David. I’m glad you liked the morbid (but funny) term, too. Gardeners are a great lot, aren’t they?

  • What a journey this has been for you – taxing physically, mentally and emotionally. Congratulations on your very positive results and best wishes with your continuing recovery!

    • Thank you, Kris. Yes – taxing on all levels. And for my poor family, as well (who have been amazing, I might add!) Hope all is well with you!

  • Rebecca, Thank you for this wonderful update on your blog. I’ve been thinking of you every day since your surgery and am sending an air-hug to you from Bainbridge Island.
    PS I recognize the beautiful succulent garden in your photo above, amazing!

    • I thought you might, Gigi – you can be sure Kathy’s garden will be in my presentation! Thank you for your good thoughts, too, (and your sweet card). I wanted to tell you that my mother is in love with your painting. She comments on it every time she visits (which has been for a long time since she’s been taking such good care of me). I love it, too. You’re so talented – when are you going to put up a website? 😉

  • You are incredible, Rebecca! I, too, think the phrase “heavily pruned” is perfect, and will also never think of it the same way again. You’ve described some very interesting plants and I love your specialty mix of tulips and daffodil containers – happy visual therapy as you recover 🙂 Virtual hugs to you!

    • Why thank you, Anita – I appreciate all of your kind words! Virtual hugs to you, too! 🙂

  • Such wonderful news for you! What a journey you have been on. I hope you recover quickly from this latest assault on your body. Clearly you are soldiering on! Happy Spring…for you and your garden.

    • Thank you, Jo. I’m looking forward to ending this leg of the journey (hopefully in April or May – still a few surgeries left) and get back in the dirt again! I hope your garden is starting to wake up like mine is – it seems spring is definitely here!

  • Wonderful metaphor, Rebecca! May you stay cancer-free. Re the SF F&G show, I’m afraid you’re going to need a suit of armor to fend off all the hugs coming your way.

    • Thanks, Debra. I’ll try and keep Susan close by to help fend off the ‘bear-huggers’. 😉

  • Wonderful news Rebecca! I loved seeing the follow up to your bulb planting and how they are providing so much cheer just when you need it.

    Have fun at the show and I can’t wait to hear more from your talk.

    • Thank you, Shirley – does this mean you might be coming to the show? If so, I hope to see you there!

  • Another beautifully written article Rebecca, you have such a talent with words and flowers :0) Spectacular news, no nasty cancer cells! Enjoy the show! Maybe next year you will come speak at the Seattle show? :0) I would love to attend one of your presentations and meet you! The ‘Lilac Wonder’ species tulips are gorgeous, I have added them to my “plant lust” list :0)

    • Thank you so much, Rachel. This was the first year in several that I had to miss the show and it was SO HARD! Next year (fingers crossed) I’ll be there and would love to meet you, too. I’ve added those beautiful tulips to my list as well, they’re the cutest things I’ve ever seen!

  • Rebecca, I’m so very happy to hear that they didn’t find a single nasty cancer cell! I love the term “heavily pruned”, now it’s time to start growing and blossoming again!!! I so wish you the best.

    • Thank you, Lynn. Yep – not a single nasty cell to be found. Hooray!

  • I’m so happy and grateful to hear that you received the “All clear!” Continued blessings and much love to you. I’m searching for one of those ten foot salvias for my hummingbird friends.

  • Congrats on the great news! My mom went through the same surgery, and I was surprised how much physical therapy was required. I think I mentioned before that was back in the 1990s, and she lived to be 91. You were so smart, and organized, to plant those bulbs. Enjoy giving your seminar, and going to the show. Some day I’ll make it down there for that.

    • Thank you, Alison. My physical therapy will begin soon and I know it’ll be for quite awhile. I can’t believe how stiff I am, not to mention how unbelievable weak I am after lying low for so many months due to the chemo. I hope I’ll live as long as your mother – fingers crossed! 🙂

  • Wonderful news of your cancer-free report. You must have a master gardener working on you! Love your container of tulips!

    • So funny, Joan – yes, I definitely have a most talented master gardener working on me! 🙂

    • I, too, will never think of that phrase the same way either. And next time I prune my trees I’m going to be extra, extra gentle with them…

  • You sure know how to bring a big smile to my face, Rebecca. I was over the moon when I read your post today! There was no doubt in my mind that you would be cancer free after this long journey, but I am pleased your doc’s had the good sense to agree 😉 The birds must be flocking to your gardens to sing sweet songs of joy. YAY!!!

    It’s probably a good thing Laurel and I aren’t coming to the San Francisco F & G show, it would be torture not to be able to physically give you a big hug. But, the topic of your seminar sounds absolutely perfect and would also apply to containers 😉 Okay, virtual hugs coming your way… I’m off to find out where I can order the ‘Lilac Wonder’ species tulips for a fall planting!

    • Thank you, Sheila. Yes, it would be HARD to not hug you two! I’m not sure who’s singing more loudly, me or the birds. I’m a happy, happy girl these days!

        • You’ve given me a most excellent idea, Sheila. Shhh…..don’t tell her. I’ll need to spring it on her gently so she doesn’t come up with an excuse to not stay with me this year! 😉


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