Looking Good!

Except for throwing out a few wildflower seeds between snowfalls this winter, I didn’t do anything for my garden. I wanted to see what of the perennials would come up again and what annuals would reseed themselves so that I wouldn’t plant over something I wanted. Not as many flowers as I expected came up again this year. In fact, as you can see, one of the areas in the bottom lefthand corner remains a blank slate. Oddly, that was one of the areas where the larkspur came up last year, but the larkspur garden moved a bit to the right. That wild growth along the path is where the grass died last year, and now I have a larkspur jungle. It should be gorgeous when the flowers bloom in another week or two, but seeing all those larkspurs was a bit of a surprise, to say the least.

I am grateful that the greensward to the right of the path is still doing well. Some people have mental health animals — I have a mental health lawn. I often stand at the back window and drink in the green. It makes me feel good, so it’s worth the effort to try to keep a lawn going.

Some of the grass that came back from near death last year is forming clumps and going to seed. Not attractive at all! It was just one of those flukes, I think. We had days of rain last week, which made the grass grow rapidly, and the ground was too wet to mow, so I got to see what would happen if I didn’t mow. Luckily, I enjoy mowing.

A nice surprise were the Siberian wallflowers. They were in a small package of wildflower seeds I’d planted three years ago, and not a single flower has ever bloomed. Well, this year, I have dozens of plants that are just coming into maturity. They are supposed to reseed themselves, which would be nice — I wouldn’t mind a swath of these cheerful little flowers.

The lilacs I planted when I first got here are growing fast now, and the blossoms are fully mature. Last year, I did get a lilac bunch or two, but they were scraggly.

It’s too soon to tell how anything else is doing. Well, the weeds, of course are doing well, and it won’t be long before I am unable to keep up with them. But for now, things are looking good!


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Watching Things Grow

The problem with a wet spring is that the weeds are everywhere, and they grow like . . . well, like weeds. If it would dry out enough, I could mow the weeds in the yard to give me a semblance of a lawn, but in some areas of my property, I have to dig them up by hand. The biggest culprit is the end of the driveway. The driveway slants down to a gravel bed, which is nice, but at the end of the gravel is a depression where water and weeds gather. You’d think this was a swampy part of the state the way the things are proliferating, but unfortunately, when the dry heat of summer hits, it won’t make much difference. It will slow the growth somewhat, but these are all-purpose weeds. They will grow no matter what.

Even though the depression on the edge of the driveway is outside my property line according to the surveyor, the building inspector and code enforcer go by a different measure — the utility poles — so it should be possible to extend the driveway out a bit more to meet the graveled alley. I can take care of the weeds now, but as I get older, I sure as heck am not going to want to be pulling up weeds for hours on end. I suppose I could poison them, but I really don’t want to resort to such drastic measures, so I’m hoping that graveling them over will solve that particular problem.

On a more positive note, the constantly wet soil is giving the old seeds I planted a chance to germinate. The radishes are coming up in clumps, so it won’t be long before I have to thin them. Even more than having to get rid of weeds, I dislike having to pull up perfectly good seedlings. Maybe, if they aren’t too close, I can try to transplant some of them. Or leave them be. The radishes probably wouldn’t grow big enough to eat, but the green swath sure would be pretty.

Surprisingly, the Pee Gee hydrangea bushes the Arbor Day Foundation sent me in thanks for a small donation are all doing well.

They are tiny and perhaps fragile, but they did survive the winter, so that’s especially good. It’s amazing to me that any gift from them is growing because the bare root trees they send with a membership are notorious for not doing well. Mine all died, as did three of the five lilacs I got at another time. (I thought all were dead, so I planted other lilac sprigs in the same area, and two of the lilacs decided to come back to life.)

When the bushes grow up — the lilacs and the hydrangeas — it will help with some of the weed growth because the bushes take up a lot of room.

Meantime, I enjoy watching anything grow, even weeds, as long as they don’t encroach too much on areas where they could be damaging.


What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Lilacs For Remembrance

Long before Ophelia begged Laertes, “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember,” mourners would throw rosemary into graves as a symbol of remembrance.

Rosemary doesn’t mean much to me. It’s not an herb I like, nor is it a plant that has any association for me, though there is a humongous rosemary bush outside my father’s house that was once a potted rosemary Christmas tree. (Until I saw the bush and heard the story of its origin, I didn’t know there was such a thing as a rosemary Christmas tree.)

LilacsTo me, lilacs are for remembrance. I grew up in a large family with a scraggly yard. Except for occasionally mowing the lawn, no one bothered much with keeping the yard nice, though when I was in second grade, I was allowed to grow a small garden. (“Grow” is a misnomer. I planted sweet Williams, and one or two flowers even came up despite my massive neglect.) Surprisingly, a lilac bush thrived in a corner of that unkempt yard. Though no one ever took care of it, never even watered it, it managed to bring forth gorgeous and gorgeous-smelling blossoms every spring. Truly a miraculous plant.

Many years later, my now deceased life mate and I transplanted an unruly lilac bush that blocked a gate. We ended up with dozens of plants, enough to surround the whole property. Apparently there were plenty of live roots left because eventually the original bush grew to be as large as it was before we’d massacred it. Western Colorado is often visited by late frosts, so we didn’t always have lilac blossoms, but the spring before he died, the entire place was wreathed by luscious blooms, a luxury he once could only dream of.

A year after he died, I was Blindsided by Lilacs. I’d come to a desert community to look after my aged father. The vegetation was completely different from anything I was familiar with, so there were no scent memories. Then one April day, when I was walking down the street, the smell of lilacs wafted toward me from an empty lot. Instantly, I was back in full grief mode, unable to stop crying for days. Today, I felt sad and needed to feel close to him, so when I passed that still empty lot, I went to inhale the blossoms and think of him.

I’d never put flowers by his photo, not wanting it to seem like a shrine, but today I picked a sprig of lilac and brought it back for him.

Sitting here now, I can smell that lovely fragrance, and I remember.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Grief: Blindsided by Lilacs

Who knew I would find lilacs in this desert community?

My life mate — my soul mate — loved lilacs. We once saw a house with lilacs lining the long driveway, and he wanted to live there, but we couldn’t afford such luxury. Shortly after we moved to the house where we were to spend the rest of his life, we dug up the lilacs that blocked a gate and replanted them around the perimeter of the yard. When we moved to that house, it was like living in an aquarium — there was absolutely no privacy. By the time he died, it was such a lush environment, it was like living in a terrarium — and there was total privacy. And the gate was once again blocked with lilacs. Apparently, we’d left just enough rootstock that the bushes grew back.

We planted all sorts of bushes and trees in addition to those lilacs, and the thrill of watching our seedlings grow to adulthood was another thing we shared in a twinned life that was all about sharing. It should have been hard leaving the place, but I was in such grief over his death that one more loss didn’t really make much difference to my sorrow.

I still don’t miss the place, or not that much. A place is just a place. I am homesick, but homesick for him. He was home. I miss him. I miss our life together. If he were to call and tell me he was waiting for me, I’d go to him wherever he was — mountains or desert, city or country, there I would be. But he’s never going to call. For months after I came here to the desert to try to figure out what comes next, I’d listen for the phone, hoping he would call and tell me that he was well and I could come home. That feeling is finally fading, but the loss of that feeling just makes me sadder — he is gone and I have to deal with the vicissitudes of life by myself.

I have minor upsurges of grief a couple of times a day, but I try to be upbeat. I have a new book published. I am getting new clothes, trying to reinvent myself from the outside in. I have made new friends (mostly people who have lost their mates. It’s amazing how quickly you can get to know someone when you cry together). I’ve been handling myself well.

And then . . .

Today, strolling around the neighborhood (it was too windy to walk in the desert), I happened to smell lilacs, and instantly, I was back in full-fledged grief mode. People keep telling me one never gets over grief, you just learn to live with it, and that appears to be true. Grief seems to lurk in dark places, ready to gush forth when one is least expecting it. And I was not expecting it today. How could I have known I would encounter lilacs growing in this desert community?