The Joy of Gardening for Others

Those of you just tuning in might be surprised to learn that "my" garden is actually thirty minutes away at my mother's house, and that I'm only able to tend to it once every one to three weeks. I can't pull weeds as soon as they appear, I always visit just after the rosebush has finished blooming, and I quickly learn which plants are truly maintenance free because everything else dies by the time I return a week later. My mother is the only one who gets to enjoy it, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

I feel much more fulfilled when I know that my garden is bringing happiness to someone other than myself, especially when that person is my incredibly awesome mom. The garden I've planted for her is like an enormous hug that envelops her every time she looks out the window, and it's an excuse (and a reminder) to visit her often. I really do look forward to having my own garden (apart from my balcony) but something is definitely missing if I'm not sharing that joy with someone else.

If there's anyone in your life that would benefit from a little patch of paradise in their backyard, this is a call to action. Offer to cultivate a patch of dirt for your neighbor or relative and plant some low maintenance plants so that they can enjoy a little bit of beauty to get them through the day. Offer to visit every couple weeks and use your gardening duties as an opportunity to cultivate a closer relationship as you listen to their troubles and give encouragement when nobody else would bother.

For the last couple months my mom has been in the ICU and a rehabilitation center recovering from a host of Lupus related infections. In those months gardening hasn't been quite the same for me, because my mother hasn't been here to enjoy the garden for herself! She can only listen to my stories about the flocks of butterflies and see my photos of every new bloom. Well, tomorrow she's finally coming home and I'll finally have someone to garden for again.

And what a garden she'll come home to! The trees that I've planted are finally maturing and look like proper trees for once, and the garden finally looks like it's established and settled in. The lemongrass is massive, the turmeric gingers have taken over like they own the place and there are countless lizards, treefrogs and butterflies to keep her company.

If you think that the plants are the only ones who've been getting in shape for my mother's return, I've been getting a lot of exercise myself out there! I've spent the last two days taming the passionflower vines and grooming the bottlebrushes so that they look like presentable upstanding gentletrees, and the patio was swept clean, rearranged and beautified for her morning bible study time. My wife even helped out! She thoroughly cleaned the whole house while I played around in the 96 degree heat. We make a great team.

The whole time I was toiling away, this guy was reclining and watching me sweat my butt of in hopes that some of the mosquitoes swarming around me would end up in his mouth. This skink has been living under the wheelchair ramp for a few years now, and it's been a comfortable co-existence. He supplies the pest control and we supply the entertainment.

This morning I spent a paltry sum of cash on herbs for this elevated container garden so that she can harvest her own fresh flavors from her wheelchair! She promises to water it, and now that those aromatic leaves are within reach and ready to be enjoyed I'm sure she'll treat it like a dear friend. I've included rosemary, (her favorite) red basil, lemon thyme, oregano and stevia. If I picked up a lesser amount of the very same herbs from the grocery store they'd cost a small fortune!

Gardening for someone else is a beautiful thing. It's a regular excuse and a gentle shove to connect with that person, a reminder to love others as tenderly as you care for that garden. A garden is one thing in life that you can change for the better, one little patch of land that you can make beautiful, and one way to give serenity to others when there is no other way.

Sometimes people can surprise you with their compassion during windy and turbulent times. I recently found out that my mother's landscapers have been providing their services free of charge for quite some time now. Yes, the same landscapers that I whine about every year after they "crepe murder" my crepe myrtle or weedwack my perennials have been keeping the lawn beautiful with no payment for months. Since my mother has serious health concerns and is handicapped, her only source of income is in teaching piano and art lessons... and she hasn't made a penny the whole time she's been hospitalized.

The landscaper's kindness have left me almost speechless, but "thank you" are two words that come naturally at a time like this. Tomorrow my mom will come home to a beautiful garden that was made possible by a well cared for lawn and the kindness of strangers.


  1. You are the kind of son any Mother would hope to have. Your Mother is a very lucky lady in that respect. I am so glad that she is getting to come home and that you have such a great present for her. I am sure that your garden really helps with her well being.

  2. That's nice to hear that she is leaving the hospital and coming home to a beautiful garden.


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