Healing Gardens

Collection Notes

Restore your sense of joy with the endearing stories in the Healing Gardens Collection.

What is a collection of flowers if not a place of healing? Gardens have grown along with us for centuries. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are legendary and the Canglang Pavilion in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, China has been lovingly tended for over 1,000 years. Gardens can, of course, also be quite practical. READ MORE

Bill Dugan

Stories

Hugging

Green Redemption

I wish my brother had lived to become an old man gardener. I wish I could call him up and invite him over so I could press a beer into his hand and show him the tomatoes I have growing in my back garden.  READ MORE

The Sole in My Father’s Garden

My father was one of the greatest gardeners I have ever known. He wasn’t much for flowers. “You can’t eat flowers,” he always said. But he grew everything else—tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, asparagus, and so on. You name the crop, he knew the trick to make it grow.  READ MORE

Rundown Garden, Brand-New Friend

When I moved to a new community—Amana, Iowa—I suddenly found myself needing a new circle of friends. My job was out of town and my children out of school, so I knew friends might be hard to find.  READ MORE
Gifting Orchid

My First Orchid

The last time I hosted the family Thanksgiving, my sister Sonia brought me a moth orchid. It was nothing special, although it was pretty, and a bit of a novelty in those days before orchids took over the floral department of every grocery store in America.  READ MORE
Girl looking out the window

The Smell of Flowers

I was 10 years old when my father died. I was 12 when my mother died. That’s why I learned to hate the smell of flowers. There were so many flowers at both of my parents’ funerals that the smell of them almost gagged me. I would get a whiff here and there of the sweet Spring scent of a flower bouquet and my breath would catch in my throat.  READ MORE
Serious conversation

Life Savers

served as a British soldier for more than two decades. When I was discharged, I was physically fine but—as I realized later—mentally broken. Things I’d blocked out at the time now gave me nightmares, recurring nightmares. But I refused to accept help for another two decades.   READ MORE

The Secret Garden

Much though I love the book, as a scientist I’ve always been suspicious of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. For those gardeners who haven’t read it, this is the story of ten-year-old Mary Lennox, possibly the world’s most disagreeable orphan.   READ MORE

Scottish Lot

The old fast food-joint was a great place until it burned down. At first, the gossip in the Scottish town was about how it happened. Was it arson or just old electrical wiring? Then folks wondered if it would start up again.  READ MORE

Chronic Pain & Garden Therapy

My love of gardening is a major therapy in my life. I have had many injuries from fractious horses and one automobile accident that rendered me permanently disabled at age 33.  READ MORE

A Bag of Sugar

When you taste homemade lemon curd for the first time, it changes you the same way that homegrown tomatoes change you, rendering you incapable of ever again confusing tomatoes with those rubber balls in the produce section.  READ MORE

Budgie

My first distinct memory in a garden was about death—and I’d almost forgotten it. Yesterday I was driving through an unfamiliar neighborhood, searching for a garage sale I’d read about, and my eyes spotted a small wooden cross, painted white, beneath a tree.  READ MORE

Eight Volunteer Pumpkins

The day my husband and I moved to our new home in Maryland, I fell off the moving truck and received a severe head injury, not the welcome to the neighborhood I expected. It was Spring—I had plans!  READ MORE

Kingwood Connections

If you look in my parents’ photo albums, you’ll see pictures of a little redheaded girl toddling around Kingwood Center and burying her nose in every flower she sees. Kingwood is a 47-acre estate turned public garden, so that’s a lot of flowers.  READ MORE

My Mother’s Seed

It was insidious really, the seeds of flower love planted in my heart and soul when I was young and oblivious. My mother did it, and I think she did it on purpose.  READ MORE

A Garden Can Heal

There is probably no time when the healing power of a garden is more welcome and soothing than after the death of a loved one. Again and again, people have told me heartrending tales about the crucial role gardening played in their recovery of equilibrium after the passing of someone special.  READ MORE

Love in the Time of Corona

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, I was stunned. Everything felt surreal. Furloughed from my job teaching in a biology lab, I could no longer experience the look in trainees’ eyes when they finally understood a complex concept, or the satisfaction when I helped them overcome a problem.  READ MORE

Lilacs

The year I turned 12, I met a girl in art class. Her name was Meagan, and she approached me at the pencil sharpener. She was a bit hyper, stood a little close, and I could barely understand what she was saying because she talked so fast.  READ MORE

Healing Gardens

Those of us who have a garden know that we are fortunate ourselves. As the 17th-century poet Abraham Cowley put it in 1657:
“Who that has reason, and his smell,
Would not among roses and jasmin dwell,
Rather than all his spirits choak
With exhalations of dirt and smoak?”  READ MORE

Troubled Wayfarer

Many intrepid souls found their way over the mountain to the Herb of Grace, the small nursery, shop, gardens, and tea room I owned in the middle of Nowhere, North Carolina—some of them in want of a job. And since this horticultural enterprise owned me for an innumerable number of hours over a goodly number of years, I met each prospective employee with hopeful anticipation. A treasured few proved truly unforgettable.  READ MORE

The Last Two

My favorite Spring garden ritual is starting my tomato seeds. In late March, I fill ten little pots with a mixture of peat and earth-scented compost. Then I press down the spongy stuff and poke a hole in the middle of each pot, loving the feel of the dark fluff, even the bits that stay under my fingernails.  READ MORE
veteran standing in front of a garden

A Veteran’s Garden

My uncle was with the 8th Air Force in World War II. When he got out, he got into growing gladiolas. My dad was a Marine in Korea. When he became a civilian, fruit trees were his thing. I was a Marine in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969. When I came home, it took me years to realize what plants can do for you.  READ MORE
mother kisses her child in field of daisies

One Million Daisies

A million daisies have invaded my mother’s garden. They grow rampant among the phlox and delphinium, the lilies and the roses. She doesn’t want their scraggly disorder in her picture-perfect beds, but she cannot stand to kill anything, especially a flower.  READ MORE
older female gardener standing in flowers touching heart

Love and Daffodils Forever

They had just celebrated their 39th anniversary in April when Bill went for his annual checkup. Always in perfect health, he was unprepared for what the doctor found. Symptoms Bill had ignored as “old age” led to questions, palpations, more questions, and finally instructions for a battery of tests.  READ MORE
image of woman with light rays shining on face

Light Passes Through Me

“Weeding never ends, honey. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, one of the few things you can count on in this life.” Aunt Sadie’s words were a little hard to make out: She was on her knees with her rear end facing me, her face wedged between buddleias draped with blooms. Aunt Sadie was a whiz in the garden.  READ MORE

Strawberry Summer

Back in 1973, I lived in Oregon. It was hard times. The state had been in a deep recession for several years. My husband was out of work, and I, too, had been laid off. We had two children, ages 4 and 8.  READ MORE
Pregnant Woman

Getting Something to Grow Somewhere

I started gardening soon after my first miscarriage, though I didn’t understand it was a miscarriage until I had my second one, and I didn’t understand the timing of my early gardening life until pregnancy and miscarriages were far in my past.  READ MORE

Recycling Herself

Standing next to my compost heap, I wondered if I was the only person on the planet who would find calm and healing in emptying out white plastic bags of leftovers onto my compost pile.  READ MORE

Food, Fire, and Community

Farming has shown me that when surrounded by the absolute worst of conditions, both people and plants will work hard to survive. When our part of California was struck by the disastrous firestorms in October, the lesson took on a whole new meaning.  READ MORE

Where Did You Go?

Elizabeth Alexander is a poet and Professor of African-American Studies at Yale University. Her husband, Ficre Ghebreyesus, was a native of Eritrea, Africa who became a refugee, emigrated to Europe then America, and became a gourmet chef and abstract artist.  READ MORE

My Mother’s Day Present

My daughter Annie had moved to California the past Fall, and I missed her terribly. The youngest of my six children, she’d been the last to leave the nest.  READ MORE

Elizabeth’s Trowel

I spent 30 years of my life working in medical offices, and the best part of those years was meeting and getting to know some very interesting and wonderful people. One woman always wore a barn coat with big patch pockets on both sides of the front, even in very warm weather.   READ MORE

Hydrangeas for Frank

My husband, Frank, and I built our house in 2004. We drove by a dead-end road and saw a Land For Sale sign. It led us all the way to a huge open field. I got out of the car and set our six-month-old on my hip. As soon as my feet hit the center of the overgrown clearing, I knew I was home.  READ MORE

Yearning for a Better World

We may talk to two dozen people in a given day by fax, email, or phone. Meanwhile, we may not have touched another human hand, much less heard a songbird, smelled a flower, or tasted a fresh radish. In the garden, we meet nature face-to-face, use all of our senses, all of our physical and…  READ MORE

The Joy of a Weed

This is the first day of Autumn. Here in New York State, the gardening season is almost over. But I’m still weeding. I will milk it out to the last possible moment, using the last bits of warmth from the sun to trick my psyche into believing that the peace of the garden is not quite out of reach. Not yet.  READ MORE

My Gardening Buddy

I never connected my little dog, Jenna, to gardening until the day she died. You see, in her last years we no longer hiked our New Hampshire mountain each day. Instead we opted for trips down the flat road, which passed right by the garden.  READ MORE

Old Jack

Sometimes you get to the very end of something. That’s where I was at—at the end. There was nothing left that could be done. There were no more lies to tell and no more fights to fight: Every fight was just the same old tired fight.  READ MORE

The Heart of the Garden

Would you like to carve pumpkins with me and the boys tonight?” Instantly my heart rate jumped. Joel’s boys were six and ten years old, but although he and I had been dating a while, I’d yet to meet them.  READ MORE

A Walk in Good Company

It is a bright and sunny morning here in Vermont. But it cannot erase the dark thoughts that kept me awake most of the night—and are now following me as I walk under an ancient maple tree at the edge of a country road.  READ MORE

The Visit

My parents divorced when I was about four. In the following years, both my mother and father were always very loving toward me, but their relationship with each other was chilly at best.  READ MORE

Finding a Garden

You see, at the moment I don’t have a garden. We had a bad house fire last December and were moved into a hotel, where we’ve been ever since—and expect to remain until June. It’s comfortable here, even luxurious, but I do miss my garden.  READ MORE

A Dish Best Not Served

Growing up, I dreamed of marrying someone who loved gardening as much as I did, and together we’d become one of those cute little old couples you see tending their fertile plot of land.  READ MORE

Black-Eyed Suzies

As soon as I shut off the engine, Mom grabbed the handle and shoved against the car door. “Hey, hold on a minute,” I said. Too late. Arms pumping, curls bouncing, my mother hurried through the gate of her favorite garden nursery, her idea of paradise.   READ MORE

The Prison Garden

In December, 1995, Donald Hutson and I committed two robberies in inner-city St. Louis. Sixteen years old, I was charged with 17 counts and sentenced to 240 years in prison. The rest of my life.  READ MORE

Miracle in Pink

Many of us pray for miracles. I know I do. However, there is a lot to be said for continual blessings! Miracles would be like supernatural interventions that occur in times of very special needs. Blessings, on the other hand, can be continuous.  READ MORE

Watching Her Garden Go

My friend is a gardener, a working gardener. At garden shows, garden tours, friends’ gardens, she is working—planning, visualizing, doing. She says her own plots hang like paintings in her mind, displaying where sun lights, shade rests, and water flows.   READ MORE

My Garden Saved My Sanity

For years I suffered from the cursed black thumb—my mother quit bringing plants to me because they always shriveled away! A few years ago, my stress levels and blood pressure were so high I was in real danger of having a stroke. (My job involves caring for patients moving from a state institution to a…  READ MORE

Chickens and Coleus

In the early summer after my freshman year of college, on a whim, I purchased a kit for growing coleus plants. It was a rectangular plastic container, with a yellow bottom and a clear top. There were markings for six holes in the top.   READ MORE

The Garden Remembers

This morning I caught my breath when I found new shoots breaking through the soil on a St. John’s Wort I’d brought home from Oregon several weeks ago. I thought it had died.   READ MORE

Grandpa’s Seeds

What brought me back was the shed, but more than that, it was the seeds. The seeds, in their crisp little handmade packets, their names written in my grandfather’s neat, cursive hand.  READ MORE

No One Told the Iris

I’ve never been much of a gardener. Nor were my mother and father. My grandmother gardened, though. I especially remember her iris. Rows upon rows of iris sprang to life at Gram’s house every year. Shades of purple dotted the landscape as I darted through the trails amongst the buds.   READ MORE

The Agnes Rose

Agnes, my grandfather’s sister, died in the 1918 influenza epidemic. She was young, married, and pregnant. My grandfather was the only family member healthy enough to attend her burial. Later that year, their mother (my great-grandmother) planted a rose on the grave. The Agnes rose, as we now call it, is still there. Her hillside…  READ MORE

The Flower Man of Sing Sing

In the 1920s, many newspapers and magazines featured glowing accounts of a man who transformed a desolate, barren, and depressing site into one of the country’s most fabulous gardens.  READ MORE

My Muse

The very first time I had a garden on a public tour it rained. A steady, all-day rain, something to be much appreciated after a long, hot summer. That said, I had just spent about six weeks in exhausting heat, beginning August 1, whipping the place into shape for that tour, so I was not one bit appreciative of that admitted blessing.  READ MORE

Nature Heals

I’ll bet you’re going to go home now and have a glass of wine." That’s what I said to my friend Deb after we toured my slightly chaotic prairie gardens. “Oh, no,” she replied, “I’m going to need the whole bottle!” We giggled. Deb is my compulsive, type-A friend.  READ MORE

My Grandmother’s Ring

My grandmother used to love gardening. She lived alone in a rather small house here in Jorvas, Finland (“the cottage,” we used to call it), but had a fairly large garden which she nurtured almost like a much-loved child. She spent hours caring for it every day.  READ MORE

Dandelion Wishes

The alarm went off, woke me up—and I realized that my hand wasn’t on my baby’s chest! Then I saw that the bassinet was gone. That meant that my husband, Paul, had taken the baby to give me a break. Relief washed through me.  READ MORE

Who Would Talk to the Plants?

After his retirement from the bank, Mr. Kumar moved in with his son Ravi, who lived on the 17th floor of a condominium at the corner of Mumbai’s Nepean Sea Road.  READ MORE

Getting Better

I had the Zoloft. I needed to take it. But I was just standing in my kitchen, staring out the back door at my garden—looking at it but not really seeing it. How could this pill be strong enough to pull me out of this hole I couldn’t get out of on my own?  READ MORE

Bush Hogs, Berries, God

We feast this day the death of death,” we chant as the tractor chugs down the driveway. We are beginning Lauds of Easter Saturday, the seventh day of the Octave dedicated to celebrating Easter joy.  READ MORE

The Power of Plants

This drawing practically drew itself: Tennyson poems feel very personal for me. The day my Dad died, I was getting clothes from his dresser (I thought he’d be going to the Vet’s home the next day instead of exiting this earth).  READ MORE
Eye

Spring Time

Beets, radishes, and spinach are easy to grow in colder or milder climes. Their seeds are among the first that can be directly planted into the garden bed in early Spring. These seeds will survive colder temperatures and a little frost. Unlike other root vegetables with tiny seeds, the beets, radishes, and spinach are the champions of early Spring, and their seeds are big enough to space easily. Carrot, onion, and leek seeds are planted at a lesser depth, and thus need to wait until things warm up.  READ MORE
Visitors Welcome

Visitors Welcome

I recruited my granddaughters to paint the sign. Sofi, the 10-year-old, was enthusiastic and started right away to take the paints from the cabinet. Bella, the 12-year-old, was skeptical.  READ MORE
Tap-in Tomatoes

Tap-in Tomatoes!

I love golf. I love watching it, and I loved playing. So why would I write a story about gardening? Well, ten years ago, my wife Jennie started having memory issues from MCI (mild cognitive impairment). It has progressed slowly, but three years ago I decided to quit golfing and spend more time as caregiver.  READ MORE
Two ladies walking

Spaces

The sky is that piercing, heart-wrenching, soul-lifting blue found only on a clear Wisconsin Summer day—and walking in the clinic’s parking lot, I am keenly aware of the clarity of the world around us. Just ahead of me, my husband Ed’s parents, Harry and Grace, walk arm-inarm, while I stay discreetly behind, giving them a little space of their own. We have just been told by the doctor that Grace’s cancer is not operable. Treatment would be devastating and debilitating.  READ MORE

The Scent of Lavender

Lavender is an herb with magical properties. The tiny flowers, growing plentifully on the straight, dark, up-reaching stalks, hold a secret inside—and release it into the air as a gift to anyone close enough to breathe it in. The secret? The scent of lavender soothes the soul and calms the restless human heart.  READ MORE

Feral Marigolds

Feral pigs I could understand. Feral cats or dogs even. But feral marigolds? You just don’t expect to see feral marigolds. Yet there they were. A few small golden flowers just peeping from under the clumps of wild, windswept, tall grass. The flowers had gradually lost their bright, domesticated brashness and reverted to their tiny wild size, but they were still yellow, still clearly marigolds.  READ MORE

Comfort for Every Sorrow

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely, or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature, and God.  READ MORE

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