My garden, my refuge

A few years ago my good friend, Patty Craft (who is also the editor of Horticulture Magazine) invited me to attend Northern California’s Heirloom Exposition.  It’s a glorious event centered around the pure food movement, with gardeners of all walks of life enjoying the displays and the vast array of information (you can read about my visit here).

One thing has stuck with me over the years, though, which was a comment made by two smug women.

Patti and I were handing out complementary copies of Horticulture Magazine and when these two ladies walked over to us, instead of taking a copy or simply passing by, they sniffed “Oh, our gardens are strictly utilitarian.  We don’t waste resources on something if it’s isn’t edible”.  As they spun around and walked away I called after them “but there’s information about growing edibles in here, too!” but it was too late – they were gone.

I was sort of dumbfounded and looked at Patty, who just shook her head and said she’s encountered that before.  And since that moment I’ve heard more and more people denounce ornamental gardening as wasteful and indulgent.  In a time when resources are scarce, I understand this attitude – to some degree.

But to so many gardeners, myself included, ornamental gardening isn’t about creating a wasteful garden to one-up the Joneses, it’s about creating a safe haven for oneself.  And not just a sanctuary, but sometimes one that heals, comforts, nurtures, and protects when nothing else can.

This is the case with my own garden.

A few years ago my good friend, Susan Morrison, took an advanced film making class and decided to make this film as part of her final. For those of you who haven’t seen it, I talk about why I garden and what it means to me.  I haven’t watched it in a long time, and before I sat down to write this post I decided to watch it once more.

I can’t believe how much it meant to me then, and how it’s possible to mean so much more to me since my recent breast cancer diagnosis.

A few years ago my good friend, Susan Morrison, took an advanced film making class and decided to make this film as part of her final. For those of you who haven’t seen it, I talk about why I garden and what it means to me.  I haven’t watched it in a long time, and before I sat down to write this post I decided to watch it once more.

I can’t believe how much it meant to me then, and how it’s possible to mean so much more to me since my recent breast cancer diagnosis

When I was first diagnosed, my parents were out of the country and couldn’t return for another ten days. And even though I had my husband and my best friends close by my side, I still felt so afraid.

When my husband and I walked out the front door to meet with the surgeon for the first time (to hear the official ‘talk’), I instinctively ran to my ‘Apple Blossom’ camellia bush.

I had the immediate urge to deeply inhale the earthy, beet-like scent of it’s delicate flower.  I wanted to fill my lungs with this delicious scent of the earth, to help ground my emotions that were running out of control.

'Meerlo' lavender

I then reached down and picked a piece of lavender to take with me, holding it close to my nose like old-fashioned smelling salts. This is a new, especially fragrant variety called ‘Meerlo’ that I was given by Sunset to trial in my garden, with the most intoxicating scent.

In fact, during ‘the talk’ I ended up treating that piece of lavender like worry beads, crushing the leaves and perfuming the entire room.  I completely forgot I had it with me, when the nurse commented on my perfume – ha!

Holding that little, and now crumpled, piece of lavender with me the entire time was like holding my garden’s hand.  If I couldn’t be there with my mother, then my garden would have to do!


A few days later my husband, Tom, and I walked out our front door again, this time to meet with my oncologist for the first time.

Nerves ran wild, as this would be where the rubber hits the road – where I’d find out about my specific treatment, my specific cancer, my specific outlook.

Knowing me, Tom asked me what plant would I be taking with us this time.

I chose my delicious, lemon-scented geranium.  Realizing how nervous I become, I figured its tough little leaves would be able to stand up to my crushing, worry-bead fingers!  This became my ritual, taking a little piece of my garden with me to all of my doctor visits.

As you can imagine, getting a good night’s sleep is next to impossible right now.  One night I was up at 4:00am and walked out to the living room to try and catch up on my emails.

I was overjoyed to see one from Annie’s Annuals – one of my favorite nurseries of all time.

I spent the next two hours looking at every plant they had available and filled my in-box with plants that I’ve always wanted to try.

I scheduled the order to be delivered during the week before I’d begin chemotherapy as I knew I’d need a little ‘pick me up’.

Sure enough, the big box arrived filled with dianthus (extra, extra fragrant ones), a cup and saucer vine (which I’ve never seen in person), the cutest ‘Minnie Mouse’ cuphea, the purplest verbascum I’ve ever seen and many more.

Oh, how I cherished finding homes for my new babies that week, knowing the joy they’d bring me next year.

Two weeks ago I had my first round of chemotherapy, and as predicted it was a pretty horrible week.  Not only because of the nausea but because I developed an allergic reaction to one of the umpteen drugs I’m taking which gave me all sorts of complications.

All I could do was lie in bed, staring outside of my big windows and watch the goldfinches on their feeder.  And listen to my canaries singing outside in their aviary.  And watch the English sparrows fight with the doves and scrub jays on the other feeder.

I can’t thank them enough for entertaining me with their antics, their beauty, and their songs.

Apparently, all it takes is a single round of chemo to cause my hair to fall out within a few weeks.

For those of you who haven’t met me, I have a lot of hair, and there was no way I was going to wait around for clumps of it to fall out.

So, I decided to have my daughter fly home from college to help me with a head-shaving party.

I use this term loosely as it’s definitely not the type of party I would ordinarily want to attend!

Along with a few of my closest friends and my parents, my friend Julie also arranged for her hair stylist to come to my home to do the honors.  As you can imagine it was one of the most emotional days I’ve ever had, saying goodbye to my hair.  It was gut wrenching.

When it came time to get down to business, I was overwhelmed with sadness and couldn’t figure out where to do it.  In the house?  In the bathroom?  On the patio?

Julie, who loves and knows my garden as well as I do, knew right away where this should take place – just outside of my little shed, in the shade of my giant Bradford Pear tree.

My shed is truly the most meaningful spot in my entire garden (as I’ve said before, it’s the heartbeat of my garden.)  During the entire hour it took to shave my head, I felt my garden’s tender embrace as I underwent this transformation.   Along with my family holding my hands and surrounding me with their love, my garden was there to help to usher me forward.

I have no doubt that my garden will continue to provide solace and comfort ,as well as joy, as I go through the next year.   And I’m more determined than ever to help others create this same experience in their own gardens.

I am so glad that I’ve spent so much time creating this special place for myself, filled with layers and layers of beauty – not just color and texture, but scent and sound as well.

Those two ladies at the Expo might love their productive gardens but there’s no way anyone can tell me that an ornamental garden can’t be equally as important.  My garden has been a lifesaver for me during these trying times, and I love it more than ever.


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  • Dear Rebecca,

    Serendipitously, your Fall, Harmony in the Garden newsletter just “showed up” in my email in-box the other day. I couldn’t wait to read it, and as I read of your diagnosis, I had to write to encourage you. One year ago last month I completed chemo treatment for stage 3c ovarian cancer and am living cancer-free today. The fear that sneaks up on you in the middle of the night and grips your heart combined with the brutal ups and downs of chemotherapy treatment made the entire experience the most difficult of my life, and yet, as you have already discovered, it was also the most blessed. Take comfort in your garden, your family and friends, and your faith and know that this to shall pass. You will come through the other side stronger than ever. Just this month I ran my first half-marathon, never really having been much of a runner before, and crossed the finish line with one of my sons on one side of me and another son on the other side. Blessings to you as you walk this road. You will be in my thoughts and prayers.
    Debbie in Seattle

    • Wow, Debbie. Stage 3 ovarian cancer must’ve scared you to death! I’m so, so happy you’re cancer free now. Thank you for kind thoughts, from someone who’s been there before me. I know this will pass and keep saying ‘it’ll just be one sucky year, then ‘poof!’ it’ll be one.’ (knocking on wood as I say this) I have a friend, CAthy, would would love nothing more than to get me to run a half marathon. If she sees this post she’ll have me training already. 😉 Thanks again for reaching out to me. XO

  • Dearest Rebecca… I’m finally back online, not home yet but close. It was so good to hear your voice today and I must say that those were very foolish women, but they did give you reason to think about the beauty you are surrounded with and the peace and comfort your gardens have always given your heart and soul… your very being.
    When it comes down to it, you are one lucky woman, even though it doesn’t feel much like it right now. In reading all of these heartfelt notes from your friends, whether or not you have met them in person, you are being showered with so much well deserved love you must be ready to burst with happiness!
    My big question now is… are you embracing your bald yet? 😉 You promised me you would! And just in case you can’t see it yet, you are more beautiful than ever… and more loved than you dreamed possible.

    • I agree, Sheila, I am one lucky woman in so many, many ways. The love that has been showered upon me is almost overwhelming and has given me so much strength. Truly – it’s just amazing. Re: my bald head, yes I’m embracing it. It still has a little stubble all over it giving it the illusion of hair, which I really like. I’m sorta dreading it all falling out so then there’s nothing big ‘head’. But I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. Thank you for your love and friendship. XOXO

  • Your garden is so deeply layered with love and family history. I first came across your blog when you wrote about your garden office and how you have filled it with so many symbols of your loved ones. It touched my heart then as it does now. If we allow it, the earth can send such healing energy up through our bodies and our souls. I have been having a “slow” fall which means there is much to do in the garden that is not getting done, but I have allowed myself time to sit on the porch listening to the birds, watching them flit from tree to tree, while I watch the butterflies feed on the flowering shrubs. Our gardens provide sanctuary and food for more than just us mere mortals. I am so sorry that you are having to experience this physical and mental trauma and I am keeping you in my thoughts. Thank you for sharing so generously of yourself and your garden.

    • Even though its been a ‘slow fall’ for you, Barbara, I bet you’re feeling restored from your time resting and appreciating your garden. Good for you for taking time for yourself! Thank you for your kind words, too, I really do appreciate them. XO

  • Beautiful post. There are no words to describe the emotions I felt reading it. While I do grow mostly edible flowers and plants, I do agree what pure beauty has a place in this world as well as anything that brings you comfort.

    • You’re right about that, Lisa. Whether its rows of corn, a formal topiary garden and everything in between if a garden makes you happy then its all good. Especially with a few chickens in it, right? 😉

  • Rebecca,
    I found your site through a link posted on Facebook by P. Allen Smith. I share your view of the garden as a refuge and sanctuary. I also completely understand why you took the lavender with you. So nice to find another kindred spirit. I wish you a speedy recovery and hope you are soon back in your garden!

    • Thank you for your good wishes, Felecia, and I’m so happy you stopped by. 🙂

  • It’s all I can do to sit here and type without crying…at the beauty of your post, at the truth of it…at the simple knowledge inside of me that for most of my life, my garden has been my refuge, my connection to the Universe, my sanctuary, the thing in life that completes and informs me every single day….my husband understands that bond and that is a special comfort to me as well. I wish you cool breezes and safe journeys and healing….Thank you for this gift….

    • Thank you for your comment, Laurie. It means a lot to me. I’m so glad your garden means as much to you as mine does to me – aren’t we lucky to have them in our lives? There’s a cool breeze blowing – I think it’s from you! 😉

  • I have followed Harmony in the Garden and found inspiration and beauty in your talent with all things floral and growing. When I heard you would not be presenting at the recent Succulent Extravaganza, I was disappointed to miss the opportunity of meeting and hearing you speak. A few days later, you shared your recent news. May the roses and geraniums, the lavender, sedums, hummingbirds and squirrels keep you good company as you journey back to good health.

    • Thank you Donalyn, it was so hard to have to miss that fantastic event – I would’ve liked to have met you. Darn. Thank you for your good wishes and yes, I think my garden and birds and squirrels will definitely keep me company throughout the next few months. XO

  • My very best wishes for a speedy recovery. Thanks for sharing your journey with your readers. Only a gardener can understand the comfort we get from our plants. I hope you continue to get well quickly and continue to be comforted by family, friends, online friends and your plants!

  • let the Earth bring forth… sprouts and seeds and fruits… and it shall be good… :))

  • Dear Rebecca,

    Thank you for sharing this piece and part of your journey. When my thirty six year marriage died I survived, even thrived, in my gardens. I was in the middle of my third lasagna book when my daughter died from small cell lung cancer. I didn’t remember some of what I had written when I read the galley. I lost a son this August. I have sought solace in my gardens most of my life but this time I am having some trouble with my knees and gardening is painful so I am looking for inspiration. When I found your post I read it as if it might hold some insight to get back to my self. It did! Thank you and God Bless.

    • Oh, Patricia. I’m so, so sorry for your most recent loss. I can’t imagine losing a child. In fact, when I was going through the initial stages of grief, compounded with each new week bringing a new part of the diagnosis (there’s not one, but now two spots of cancer, and then the very real possibility of a mastectomy when it’s all finished in February)it forced me to keep re-defining what ‘a nightmare’ truly is. And all I could say is ‘this isn’t a nightmare. A true nightmare is losing a child, so I’m fine.’ And here you are living the nightmare not only once, but now twice. My heart is so heavy and goes out to you, hoping you find the strength to survive this blow.I remember meeting you once after I heard you speak at a GWA event and was so impressed by your upbeat, positive and absolutely charming personality. I pray you have the strength to pull through this grief to help you get back in the garden so it can try and do its part in your healing. Sending you much love and comforting hugs, Rebecca

  • Rebecca,
    Beautifully expressed.
    Heartfelt healing thoughts to you.
    For us gardeners, our gardens are our sanctuary.
    And just wait till all that soft shiny hair starts growing in. It’s so soft at that phase. Tom will have a hard time keeping his hands off you. Well, I bet that never really ever stopped.
    In friendship,

    • Michelle, you’re so sweet. I have to laugh at your comment about my hair. It’s not completely gone yet, but hanging in there at about 1/8″ ala Sinead O’Connor and every time Tom passes he can’t help but rub my scratchy head. He keeps scrutinizing my hair to see if it’s all falling out yet – he can’t wait. He’s so happy that he’ll finally have more hair than me. Nice guy, huh? At least it hasn’t crushed our sense of humor.

  • I have watched your video so many times and will never get tired watching it. You touch my heart Rebecca. Praying for your fast recovery and always thinking of you. Thank you for sharing photo of your hair shaving party. You have so much hair that when this is all over, you may end up with twice as much as you had. Ha! ha!. It is like when we cut our perennial shrubs, they come back beautiful, and healthy. Big hugs.

    • Thank you, Laura. I’m afraid you’re right – I’ll most likely end up with more hair than I had. Lord, help me if that happens!

  • While I agree for the sake of our offspring that conservation and changes do need to be made with our landscaping preferences, by all means a living, breathing garden whether in pots or a plot of land is needed for our soul. I have written about the importance of digging in the dirt a couple of times here’s one instance.
    Courage to you and long live your passion for gardening!

    • Thank you – I’ll need plenty of courage and appreciate your kind words!

  • Thank you for writing this beautiful post. Since the last one, I have thought of you often. How I enjoy your articles, and I refer to Refresh Your Garden Design often. I wish you the very best.

    • Thank you, Carol. I appreciate your kind thoughts the past few weeks and am so glad to hear you’re enjoying my book!

  • This is one of the most beautiful posts I’ve ever read. I share your belief in the power of the garden to comfort, distract, energize and restore us. I can’t imagine living without a garden of some sort and I’ve certainly spent a fair share of time in my own, seeking solace from the worry and pain that life can bring. I’m very sorry to hear of your diagnosis but I know that enjoying the peace and pleasures that nature provides, as well as the support of loving friends and family, is the surest route to recovery. Best wishes. You’re in my thoughts.

    • Thank you so much, Kris. That’s quite a compliment and I appreciate it very much. Even though I have a rocky road ahead of me with the love of family and friends such as yourself, not to mention my garden, I’ll be better in no time!

  • Rebecca,
    The spirit in your post comes through loud and clear my friend! I feel the same way about my little garden as you do about yours and I would defend it the same way. PLUS, who says it doesn’t have utility? It held your hand so far through happy and sad both spiritually AND physically with your scented, leafy “worry beads”. That right there seems like a plenty big payoff at a minimum.
    Peace and love Sweet Rebecca!

    • Hi Christina – ‘plenty big payoff’ is a great way to look at it. I wouldn’t trade it for the world and am feeling so much more grateful for it than I ever have before.

  • Being a farm girl, I have grown up looking to each spring as a new awakening. Planting a seed to watch it spring forth into new life. I love the smell of fresh tilled soil. God planted us here to trust that we will make the most of our lives. Where but in a garden is this more evident. Just to see a flower blossom forth is living proof. Where ever we find peace it is a part of the big picture. I think we all use our gardens for many reasons. Now yours is peace. Even God went to a garden in his time of need. I think your sharing will be far reaching. Praying for you and healing.

    • Louise, you always have such a thoughtful way of phrasing things. Thank you for this, and for all the support you’ve given me. XOXO

  • Rebecca, I am new to your blog but from this point will be searching it daily. I will also be praying for your complete recovery. I garden in west central Texas, which is in the middle of a severe drought so my garden will look nothing like your lovely and peaceful one, but I have learned that much water can be recycled by catching water in the shower as it warms up. By doing this I can catch enough water daily to keep many potted plants blooming beautifully. Having a lovely is impossible here at this time but I have had a lovely and peaceful spot which has brought peace! I enjoyed the video and viewing your fabulous garden. Those two ladies were so wrong, our ornamental gardens do truly feed our souls! I wish you the very best as you journey toward recovery!

    • Hi Charlene and welcome to my blog!And I’m so glad to hear that at least you’ve carved out an area of beauty by re-using your pre-shower water. Sometimes it doesn’t take much to make our hearts sing, does it. Just a few containers in the corner will do and I hope they continue to reward you with lots and lots of blooms. We’re having our own drought in California and it’s been pretty grim around here. Here’s praying you and I both get a very wet winter! XO

  • Rebecca, that was so beautifully written and heartfelt. Would that everyone could understand the connection some of us have with our gardens. I may get immense pleasure out of mine but I also know that I’m providing a refuge for so many insects, birds, lizards, etc., that it’s way more than just “mine.” May your garden continue to provide you sanctuary through this journey of yours. It was my favorite garden on the Fling last year. 🙂

    • You’re so right, Jean, in saying that your garden is so much more than ‘yours’. I’m glad you appreciate and love your garden as much as I do. Thank heavens we have them, right? Oh, and thank you for saying mine was your favorite last year – that means the world to me. It was such an unbearably hot day I felt my whole garden was as wilted as everyone getting off the bus. So I’m glad you could see through the heat! XO

  • I hear you loud and clear Sistah! My garden, my peace. Glad you have yours. I’ll consider taking lavender with me on doctors appointments in the future. Good idea. Love and hugs. ~~Dee

    • I know you do, Dee. You and I are sisters. And yes – you must get ahold of that lavender when its available. It’s the most fragrant that I’ve ever seen/smelled. It’s called ‘Meerlo’.

  • What a beautifully written piece–straight from the heart. I’m sorry to hear about your diagnosis but so glad you’ve got your loved ones and your garden to comfort you. Years ago I went through a terribly emotional crisis and, like you, my garden was my sanctuary. If I could talk to those naysayer women I’d tell them, beauty IS utilitarian! Best wishes as you continue your journey.

    • Thank you, Grace. I wish those two women hadn’t completely caught me off guard and I could’ve said something but I guess in hindsight there’s not a darn thing I could’ve said that they would’ve understood. There’s no right or wrong type of garden, it’s what makes your heart sing and what brings you comfort in your darkest days that counts. I’m glad you also have a garden that’s helped you through life’s tough times. XO

  • I’m glad that you are reveling in the restorative nature of your beautiful garden. Thinking about people who allow nothing beautiful in their gardens makes me feel rather sad for them. They deny themselves so much. Far too many studies of late have shown that a garden can have a powerfully positive impact on individuals, no matter what challenges they are facing.

    I am thinking all good thoughts for you and believing that you will be completely whole and healthy again soon.

    • Thank you, Becky. I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? As long as one can go out and get peace and comfort from their garden, despite its function or style, is what matters. But for me – it’s not rows of corn that bring me hope and comfort. 😉

  • Rebecca: I so enjoy your posts. Sorry to hear of your diagnosis. I live in Dallas. The Dallas Arboretum is one of the jewels in our city. Their motto is: “Let Nature Nurture You”. That resonates with me. Gardens do not need to be utilitarian to be worthwhile. Healing energy to you.

    • Thank you, Brenda. I love that motto – it definitely resonates with me, too! Thank you for your healing energy. Hugs – Rebecca

  • I’m glad you have your beautiful garden, to hold you up and give you strength. Our gardens are our friends. And, we all need our friends.

    Prayers go up for you each day.

    • Yes, Linda, our gardens are indeed our friends. Thank you for your prayers – I need them! 🙂

  • Dearest Rebecca~
    Ornamental gardens nurture our hearts and souls as edible gardens nurture us physically…each being just as important and vital as the other. I’ve always felt a strong relationship with my own garden as you do with yours…we care for it and in return it cares for us. As in life, a garden experiences and changes with the seasons and as we encounter our own “seasons of life” we too, experience change. Although you’re in the “Winter of life” with your health, Spring will come and with it a new beginning…Wishing you a ‘mild Winter’~ Hugs

    • Thank you, Cindy. Yes, I’m in the ‘winter of life’ but with the love and support from my friends, family and garden I’m sure it’ll be a mild one with spring right around the corner again. Hugs to you, too, my friend.

  • Oh oh oh. Yes, the garden is my church – a place of meditation and repose, a reminder of the power of warm earth and gentle rain, of frosts and damage. I run away, and toward, the garden. I am so glad you will not shut yours out during a time when you may need it to be along side you. My thoughts are with you.

    • Thank you, Naomi. I really like what you wrote: ‘I run away, and toward, the garden.’ I’ve done that so many times yet I always return. And am so glad I do. XO

  • Rebecca…I don’t know you and yet I do. I went through cancer and treatment over 5 years ago at a piece of property that my husband and I built from the ground up. House, gardens, wells…all came out of our vision and passion. 3 years ago we decided to leave that home of 37 years to be closer to family and mutual support. We purchased a home that was smaller and the yard was a mess. It was quite a shock the day we moved in when my eyes were really “open” . I remember saying out loud ” what was I thinking?” But slowly we have begun the process of transforming the yard. We brought over one of almost everything that I had at the previous house and I have babied them along here in our new place. What a joy it is to walk through the garden and say hello to the lilac bush my Grandmother had given me, the Deodor cedar from my friend Bob who passed away a few years ago, the Japanese maples that I couldn’t leave behind, the Iris that were passed down to me from my Grandmother year after year. And so many more. Each time I am outside in my garden it brings memories to me as well as life…life I am living right now and the lives iof those I have lost. But the memories remain. Your garden does that for you. I can feel it when I read your post and I can see it too. And your husband as well as mine has enriched the beauty by what they have contributed as well. My husband built me a wonderful tool shed outi of doors that I saw posted on Sharin Lovejoy’s blog. I had an art studio built which reminds me of my favorite Uncle who passed away. My husband just recently completed a couple of bottle trees for me. Our gardens are collaborations. And they are also places where we rejuvenate, relax, contemplate. Life is a difficult journey but our gardens can give us a respite and safe haven from what ails us. I send you much love and healing energy…from my garden to yours.

    • Oh Teri – your garden sounds so inspiring and amazing. Where do you live, I must see it!! I’ve recently been reading your blog and I find it so interesting and beautiful. In fact one of these days I need to send out my Fall Newsletter and I was going to mention your rock post – it’s so sweet and I just love your fondness of rocks. Thank you for sharing your story with me, and for describing the deeply personal plants that have found a new home in your garden. My husband and I often talk about moving to Sonoma when he retires, and while the thought of leaving my home is just fine with me, I can’t stand the thought of leaving my garden and shed behind. But like you, I’ll be taking one of everything and quite possibly my shed (he doesn’t know that yet!) It can’t be easy starting over, but I admire your positive attitude and outlook. Thank you for reaching out to me. XO

  • Dear Rebecca-

    I have a lump in my throat after reading your article. It is magnificent, heartfelt, and is so meaningful to all of us–but especially for those who have dealt with tremendous obstacles in life.

    Although we’ve never met, I have always felt your extraordinary soul thousands of miles away. Your garden, garden designs, words, and the essence of who you are brings happiness and beauty to so many.

    When i come out your way next spring, I look forward to finally meeting you in the flesh. With admiration and a big hug- Fra


    • Fran, thank you for sending me a copy of your newest edition of Digging Deep. You and I see life through a similar lens and I so look forward to reading it while spending umpteen hours in the infusion chair. It’s the perfect thing for such a day!! Please let’s make sure to get together when you’re out here – I would love to make you lunch in my garden. XOXO

  • Oh Rebecca!
    When I gave you that lavender we had no idea what was in store for you…. Please worry bead it to pieces, I’ll bring you as many as you need!

    • Little did you know, right Janet? I LOVE that lavender and it has grown (for obvious reasons) be hold a very special place in my heart. I only wish I could remember the name of it….Meena? Something like that?

      • Close – ‘Meerlo’. Don’t ask me – I didn’t name it!

        • Aha! I was close! I thought it was Meena or something like that. Okay – heading over to correct my blog post. And Janet – that is the LOVELIEST scented lavender I’ve ever smelled. Thank you for giving it to me!

        • Meerlo – thank you, Janet! I’ve made the correction to my blog. LOVE that lavender – it’s a winner!

          • Over four years ago Kathy said “find me a Lavender”, which was a tall order. So glad you like it!

          • Well, found it you did, Janet! Little did you and Kathy know just how meaningful that little lavender would be to me! XO

  • So beautifully written! I cannot live without my garden, truly.

    • Thank you, Jen. I’m glad your garden brings you as much joy as mine does for me.

  • I so agree with you about the sanctuary of a garden. I believe it helped save my sanity during the worst times of my life. I can’t think how I would handled the upheavals without being able to commune with nature in the garden, get my hands dirty with soil that is teaming with life, or cut a few flowers and foliage to bring my garden inside. Your inner beauty shines in your garden Rebecca and I will follow your journey that you share with the world. I am pleased that when you talk about your garden, I had the privilege to tour with other bloggers, I know the trees, the birds and your studio that you are writing about.

    • I’m so glad you were able to see my garden, too, Debbie. Even though it WAS one of the hottest days of the year – ugh. I had a really good day yesterday and was able to spend several hours in my garden and getting my hands dirty was the best medicine possible. I even enjoyed accidentally running into a potato bug (never thought I’d say that!) 🙂

      • Oh so hot that day, but your garden actually felt cooler and was a welcome change under the shade trees after a long day of sweltering heat. It’s the little things in the garden that can give us such pleasure when we let them–even the bugs!

        • I’m so glad to hear you thought my garden felt a little cooler, Debbie. I felt so bad for everyone!!! XO

  • Rebecca, This post was so eloquent. I’m so very glad you have such a beautiful garden to find solace in, and that the birds entertained you while you were undergoing your first reaction to chemo. Mine is my temple and my refuge too, from everything that worries me. Hugs to you.

    • Thank you, Alison. The birds have been a huge part of finding peace in my daily life. There have been some days when it’s all I could do to get through to the next 15 minutes, and focusing on the birds was a great way to accomplish that. Sort of like meditation, I guess. I’m so glad you have your own temple and refuge. XOXO

  • Your post resonates so much with me Rebecca. I could not agree more about what “ornamental” gardening gives to a persons soul. My daughter was hospitalized for 5 weeks this spring and when we came home there was so much rehabbing to do but every chance I got, I ran outside to do exactly what you did. Recharge, reconnect, find peace. Be well, lots of prayers for you & your family.
    p.s. you will love cup & saucer vine. I grow it annually in Colorado. I got it started late this year so it’s only now loaded with buds. I hope it makes it to bloom before frost. Your plant order sounds fabulous for uplifting spirits.

  • I imagine the same people who pride themselves on utilitarian gardens also think studying the liberal arts is a waste of time, too. Maybe they only have bodies, not souls. Or maybe, poor things, they have never been in a garden that spoke to them. I remember having a similar experience after surgery many years ago. Thank you for explaining most eloquently from your own experience how an ornamental garden can heal and sustain the human spirit. This should be required reading for decision makers at every hospital in the country.

    • Thank you, Kathy, and again for giving me the heads-up that your lovely comment ended up in the spam folder. How dare that folder! I think they just haven’t been in a garden that’s grabbed their soul before. Which makes it all the more important to create those types of gardens so they can hopefully have an ‘a-ha’ moment one day. I appreciate your kind words, my friend.

  • Rebecca, we do not know each other personally, but I feel like I know you just a wee bit via the internet and was so looking forward to your talk a couple of weeks ago because I was finally going to meet one of my favorite writers! There will be a next time. I had to write this morning because as I was standing in my kitchen looking at my garden, I thought of you. I don’t know why, but you were very present. Then, I opened up my computer and there was your first post since chemo day. Just wanted you to know that even those of us who only know you through your writing are pulling for you!

    • Hi Cathi, I’m so sorry I wasn’t able to meet you at the Succulent Extravaganza. I was deeply disappointed that I had to miss that event. I think Susan mentioned to me that you were attending (I’m hoping you’re the right Cathi that she was talking about?) and I was looking forward to meeting you as well. Yes, there will be a next time. Or, if you’re ever down in my area (I live in Los Altos) give me a ring and maybe I could give you a garden tour! Funny how you were thinking of me and there I was. I love when that happens. XOXO

  • Rebecca you are an angel and the beauty you have created in your garden is a part of you….just little and sweet reminders of your life’s meaning and all you cherish.

    • Thanks, Lisa. You’re such a good friend to me. 🙂

  • I’m a stranger, but so have loved your writings and am praying for you on your treatment journey. ( My mother is a 16 year survivor!!

    • It cut off a few sentences….you have led me to see such JOY in gardening…I enjoy all your writings….. Thank you!!!

      • Thank YOU, Rosemary! I’m so glad you enjoy and love your garden, as well as my writing. Makes me smile from ear to ear. And I’m so happy to hear your mother is a 16-year survivor – gives me hope! 🙂

  • Dear Rebecca, I want you to know you’re in my thoughts every single day. I know exactly what you mean about a garden providing a sense of peace and safety, and I’m glad you have yours to help you through this, as well as a loving family and so many caring friends.

    Isn’t it strange how some people scornfully dismiss the ornamental garden as simply as waste of resources? I ran into this with a commenter on my blog recently. There was so much judgment in every comment she left, whether it was about using paint in the garden (bad!) or growing pumpkins for ornamental purposes (not a food crop, so precious water is wasted — bad!!). I understood what was behind her comments: a deep concern about the environment and fear of human waste of limited resources. Both are valid concerns, which I share. And yet…and yet, there is something so necessary about creating beauty and joy through gardening. It gives us hope and makes us smile and helps us connect with others, and that’s a GOOD too, though less tangible. A world without beautiful gardens would be a sorry world indeed.

    • Wow, Pam, I didn’t realize you received a spanking from one of your readers. Bad, bad girl!! I, too, understand what some of these people are saying – they just go about it with a hammer versus a gentle touch. I’ve found that for most of us, despite what type our gardens are, they bring us joy and hope. You’re so right – a world without beauty would be a sorry world indeed. I’ve been enjoying your NYC posts but have been too sick to leave intelligent replies. I’m heading back over to your site now that I feel better! XOXO

  • Rebecca, I am in awe at your openness about your diagnosis and treatment. One of the things that I noticed when I saw you presenting to the Marin Master Gardeners was your beautiful hair framing your sweet and beautiful face. I can’t even imagine what you are going through but I feel your pain, your fears.

    My garden is turning into a mostly utilitarian garden too, but it is not just edibles, but also plants for the wild life. One plant I can’t live without though is iris, I always “steal” a little tuber every time I see a new color. They bring me such joy in the spring and remind me of my grandmother. I also have a lot of shade and we know edibles don’t grow in the shade much.

    Your garden provides a lot of energy and peace to you, so it is very utilitarian, we need to feed our soul too, right?

    Sending lots of hugs your way, and positive thoughts as well.

    • Thank you, Laura, for such kind words. The fear and pain has indeed been a bit much, but one thing I’ve discovered is that it passes. I’m amazed at just how much a person can actually handle. Especially when NOT given a choice! I’m glad to hear about your iris collection and how much joy they give you. They also remind me of my grandmother and though I don’t have many in my garden, I do have the deepest, darkest purple one that came from my own grandmother’s garden. And you’re so right – gardens feed our soul just as much as they can feed our body!

  • What a beautifully written piece, full of vulnerability, warmth and hope. Praying for you these months Rebecca, as you go through this challenge. Even though we’ve never met your openness makes me feel I know and care for you. Thank you for sharing your heart with us. Also loved the video!

    • Thank you, Rhonda – I appreciate your kind words. And I’m glad you enjoyed the video, too – Susan and the film crew did such an amazing job! 🙂

  • Oh, Rebecca–I could feel your heart in those words, my friend. There is no preparation for this road you are on–it’s frightening and unbalancing, as if the entire axis of your world has been shifted. But this I know: You have created a life of beauty around you, with people who love you and will do anything for you, and a garden that wraps its arms around you with everything it has. I love you, and we will all get you through this.

    • You’ve been by my side, Jenny, even though you’re across the country. Thanks for being such a caring friend and helping me with your words of wisdom. XO

  • Dearest Rebecca, You and Tom have been in our thoughts everyday. Now, you really understand the love I have for my our garden and how it helps me everyday, enjoy life to its fullest. Your garden is always there for you, waiting and welcoming you whenever you walk through and enjoy its beauty, Thank you so much for sharing. Much love to you always, Freeland and Sabrina

    • Thank you, Sabrina. Yes, I can only imagine the love and comfort your own garden gives you both – and it shows. That’s what makes your garden one of the most beautiful, magical places I’ve ever seen. XO

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