More of the Garden Makeover and, well, Reduction Mammaplasty

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Damask Rose aka Rosa x damascena.

Last time I didn’t mention why I was rushing. I’m not even sure that I said I was trying to hurry through a pile of mulch, but I was and I’ll get to that in a bit. I can’t believe I chose to have another surgery at this time of the year, but I did, and I’m glad that’s over now.

Next year I’ll be able to harvest the Damask roses for edible purposes. This year, they had to fade and their petals were sadly trampled by rain but at least I smelled them frequently as the clock ticked on my impending procedure last week.

IMG_2630 IMG_2635Just in time we cleaned up the front area but there is much left to do. I finally was able to move the Aucuba ‘Gold Dust’ and I hope that it’s happier beside its companion next to the fence.

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Lord Quincy between scenes of the Bug Ballet. He’s quite a dancer.

The day after my surgery was glorious. After resting and before returning to the surgeon to be checked out I wandered around the garden high on pain pills and the miracle of sudden weightlessness from my chest. (Don’t fret. Mom was driving me  back downtown.)

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I walked around the garden rejoicing too that this recovering would not be nearly as bad as back surgery. I was already up and walking and was even able to pull out a few weeds here and there.

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Yes, there was still a lot to do, but I thought about the victories we’d achieved before the surgery.

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I had just moved this Aucuba on the right.

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Rosa ‘Julia Childs’.

Last week I spent wandering outside for a bit each morning with my coffee before I returned to bed for a long nap. IMG_2706

Each day was full of surprises like discovering vine weevils in my  Dranunculus vulgaris.

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Although they might look a bit crooked in this photo I can assure you they’re not. It has something to do with how I was holding the iPhone.

Then there’s the whole getting to know my body in a new light kind of thing. Since this is a gardening blog I won’t go into my reasons for wanting this done, but I can assure you that they were medical, physical, as well as emotional. I wish I’d done this sooner, and if you’ve thought about doing it, do it. It really is life changing.

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After a few days of rest I ventured over to an elderly neighbor friend’s house last weekend. (Yes, it’s ok I did this. Walking is encouraged after this kind of surgery.) We talked, I admired plants along the way, took note of an arrangement she’d made in the house, and we both noted that this tiny broom she’d had for ages had finally bloomed. Of course neither one of us remembers where it came from but she bought it years ago with me.

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I also ventured out that night to attend a talk and potluck with some other hort-heads at Sean Hogan’s house. There is plenty more to tell you about that fun evening but I really wanted to show these photos of the Abutilon megapotamican. With some protection it’s hardy and I think it’s just lovely.

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With some improved weather the cats and I have been regularly going outside. Maurice only goes if it’s really warm, and well Quincy, he goes no matter what and we find him passed out in Maine coon mode in the hall on a daily basis now.

IMG_2809Just today I went out for an hour, and I saw that my Chilean guava (Ugni molinae) was blooming.

IMG_2812Before I came in to cook dinner I admired my Fuchsia splendens too.

There have been a lot of changes around here during the last few weeks and I’ve been feeling so much better. I still need time to rest though and to clear the pain. Tomorrow I leave for a weekend in the coastal woods and I’ll return to share some moments from that trip too. I’m really excited to get back to the Estancia.

(Next time I’ll also tell you a bit about having a garden acquaintance come over to help me in the garden. Oh, what a boost that gave me!)

The Fragile Spine: The Gardener’s Nemesis

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I’m baaaaack and feeling better than the last time I was here. Who knew that what this girl needed was a quick back surgery?

I certainly didn’t see that one coming!

It all started just after I walked to see my ill friend in my last post. I’d seen my doctor the day before and she’d scheduled an MRI for me. That Friday I went in, had the scan done, and then we waited until Monday. At the worst, I was expecting a cortisone shot or some pain medications and rest. But then she called and told me I needed to see a neurosurgeon. Wha!?! She explained that the scan showed some bulging and other irregularities and she hoped I could get in to see the specialist soon.

I waited through another long weekend. I’d made an appointment for early Monday morning and honestly I was curious about what was going on. By then I was experiencing constant pain, numbness and a pins and needles sensation in my left arm. The pain was making me miserable so I stayed away from blogging. Instead, I worked on the garden even though I was hurting so badly. It kept me busy and I did see some great results. (More on that in another post.) Maybe it wasn’t the wisest decision, but it helped with my worry too.

Dranunculus vulgaris looking lovely this year.

Now, all gardeners know back pain, am I right? It’s just what happens to us after hauling, digging, and sifting through the dirt. The pain is our Badge of Courage. We’re proud of our backs.

My back has been a wreck for a long time and I honestly cannot recall when it all began. What I can say is that it’s been getting worse and worse for the past few years and working outside has been exhausting for me.

The pain begins and I’m simply spent. I retreat indoors in defeat.

The front garden is partially a riot of color right now and I’m sort of in love with it.

Since my relationship with pain is rather complicated I didn’t really know if what I was going through was a problem or not. I blamed my swelling disease. I blamed falling down the stairs. I nursed it as best as I could but I just decided at some point that sometimes my back hurt—a lot.

I found this Magnolia grandiflora ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’ bloom in my garden the day of my surgery. It’s my first and I’m a proud Mama.
I also have high pain tolerance and that’s become detrimental, hence, back surgery. This past year I’ve been more regularly declaring my back issues to my doctor and she seemed to agree that as long as I walked and stayed active it would cause less pain. I thought I’d been keeping it honest so-to-speak but I guess I still didn’t describe my experience as accurately as I could have but I didn’t stay silent either. I tried. I honestly tried.
Even when I did these preventative measure though, they didn’t work. Or, I should say, over time they stopped working for me altogether. Things just kept feeling worse.
Lovely Begonia leaf.

Pain is already part of my chronic illness condition. Swelling causes pain. I know that type of pain though and it’s lessened a lot since I was prescribed my new medication several years ago.

The back pain I felt—especially after returning from Italy—was different. I could barely stand up and I just wanted to cry. It was excruciating. Thinking things through, this sort of explained the urgency, but I still didn’t really understand what was wrong with me and how it had happened.

Lovely Bletilla striata about to open.

On Monday the neurosurgeon examined me, then we looked at my scans together. When I saw my spinal cord being pinched by a collapsed spinal canal, I nearly jumped out of my seat. It was clear that my spinal cord wasn’t happy and the herniation caused by the narrowing in the spinal column explained the pinching pain when I moved my head. And of course, the pressure from this was pinching my nerve.

Ok, I got it. So I looked at him and said, “What do we do about it?

Lathyrus sativus azureus. 
Well, I recommend surgery,” he said.
I’d expected a cortisone shot and this far exceeded my expectations. I was surprisingly both shocked and thrilled. Then I wondered how much longer I’d have to wait. I’ve never heard of anyone getting back surgery quickly. I just did not think it was possible.
How soon will this happen?” I asked.
Right away,” he said and we walked down the hall to make the appointment at the front desk.
I was ecstatic when I found out I’d only have to wait 7 more days.
The front garden on the day of surgery. John and I both laughed at the lone orange lily in the boxwood hedge.

Well it’s true, “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.”

I had one week to prepare for 1 month of little to no upper body physical activity. For a gardener in the month of June this isn’t exactly easy when you’re the primary gardener in the household. I’m working hard to recover quickly though. I can begin going on nice walks again soon and I’ll focus on that first.

Many of my garden plans for this summer had to be folded up and put away but I didn’t mind. I’ve never been so desperate to feel better and I was truly at the end of my rope.

Flowers John bought from Quinn in the City Flowers. These were just what I needed during my overnight stay in the hospital.

It’s not completely clear to me when the debilitating pain began, but I suspect that when I fell down the stairs in the front of my house nearly 3 years ago I seriously hurt my back. At the time I was more concerned about my swollen ankle. Weeks later I discovered after the Fling in Seattle I’d broken two fingers too but I continued to believe that my back pain was only temporary and I chose not to have it examined.

The injury lingered and remained consistent throughout the divorce and remarriage. While working as a caregiver, it made my job impossible at times. I ended up quitting because of it.

 A box of trial plants from Terra Nova Nurseries arrived the day I came home from the hospital. It felt a bit like Christmas.
Ok, so what’s the takeaway?
Honestly, I just want everyone to take care of themselves and to use caution when they’re walking. I might be a klutz, but all it takes is some uneven ground and an unsteady gait. What I’ve also learned from this is that when I fell and broke my tailbone and two vertebrae many years ago, it’s likely I caused light nerve damage in my legs and feet. This is likely how my balance has worsened along with my gait.
This is what a Posterior Cervical Laminectomy looks like a week after surgery.
I’m fully committed now to returning to the gym to improve my life. I can’t keep this up. I don’t want to live like this anymore.
My nurse often sleeps on the job but he’s been with me 24/7 this past week.
There is no nerve pain currently in my left arm and my fingers are no longer numb. I can tip my head back to look at the ceiling and there’s no stabbing pain from the pinched herniation. I’ve been dealing with that sensation for years and I won’t miss it at all.
My view from bed could be worse.

These things take time to heal, and seeds of change must be planted, so as I lie here in bed, I’m just reading gardening and plant books. This is a nice time to reflect on the past and while moving forward to a healthier and brighter future.

I’m so excited.

My life just keeps getting better and better. I’m so thankful. I just cannot say that enough.

St. Expeditus.

A friend of mine returned home for a visit to New Orleans before we knew about the surgery and she didn’t return to Portland until after it had happened. So, she bought me this statue of St. Expeditus while she was there as a souvenir. Seeing as he’s the patron saint of emergencies and expeditious solutions he’s more than welcome to look over my garden and I until I’m well again.

So far, I think he’s doing a great job, don’t you?

Wordless Wednesday

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Dianthus barbatus ‘Sooty’.
Unknown Abutilon.
Allium christophii.
Unknown lettuce leaf in a lettuce mix I grew from seed (Lactuca).
Dragon Arum aka Dracunculus vulgaris.
Fresh store-bought chickpeas (Cicer arietinum).
Father’s Day Dinner ikebana with Beech, Asparagus, Feverfew, and Dianthus. 
Hollyhock (Alcea rosea).
Lilium columbianum. 
Tradescantia pallida with a friendly Heuchera bloom.
Unknown Peruvian lily (Alstroemeria).

Planning and Watching the Garden in June

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Unknown Cistus from the neighborhood.
Finally started walking around the neighborhood again. I cannot say enough about how badly chronic back injuries need to be moved. It is amazing how intensely my back can hurt and yet a nice long walk can make it all go away.
Still waiting for the Dracunculus vulgaris to open.

Right now I’d love to show more of my garden but it’s a bit messy yet. Right after this post is posted I will go back out there to weed, trim, and plant away. Finally, I hope to list some more plants on CL too.

Fuchsia procumbens ‘Variegata’.

Still been busy indoors with “life responsibilities” so it is so great to go outside to see little blooms here and there.

Alpine strawberry, (Fragaria vesca.)

Often I stop to munch on things as I walk by since they truly are so tasty. For instance, I am such a lover of alpine strawberries.

The front porch flowerbed.

I think that it’s time for me to begin giving real tours of my actual garden. Next time we’ll be starting with this bed. I show it here a lot since it usually looks ok. I will rearrange it and post pictures after this weekend. Finally, I will be blogging again about playing with some plants.

First bloom of the year on my Begonia boliviensis.
I am really looking forward to talking more about the plants I’ve grown from seed too. This Begonia is a good example of that!

It’s been fun playing with my photos recently too. I do love photography. In addition to reading books about gardening and plants again, I’ve been thinking a lot about photography.

La vita è bella!

Sketching Ahead, Studying the Lines

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Italian ceramic piece that finally found her home in the garden.

My little cabbage child now greets me as I walk to my front door. She is cheerful and light—and maybe a tad bit creepy to some of you. To my mind she is just what I need now as I continue to garden while my life sorts itself out and calms to the pace I find comfortable.

If I have to wear a mask, this is the mask I will wear because I think we all feel a bit naive and innocent sometimes—even as adults. Reentering the world after what I’ve been through still often has me feeling quite fresh and new. I don’t ever want to be as crusty and hard as those I’ve seen who’ve worn too proudly the calluses life has inflicted. I want my sight to remain open.

Jack-in-the-pulpit, (Arisaema triphyllum).

It is with those eyes that I annually witness returning blooms anew.

I removed the planted ring of succulents from the bird bath but not I must center it so that the water doesn’t all flow to the back.

For the first time I’m looking at the garden in light of design and am making changes. I never wanted to design the place, but here I am doing a better job of it. Designing means making choices (a lot of them) and when you’re very stressed, I’ve learned that for some of us, we simply stop being able to make many choices easily. For someone like me, that makes getting by while still feeling like yourself very difficult.

Mona sunbathes while I wait and wait for the Dracunculus vulgaris to bloom.

It is funny to wait so impatiently for a flower to unfurl that smells so much like rotting meat, but it is truly quite a show stopper. Each year I like to remind my neighbor that if he smells something rather putrid out back its just my plants blooming.

Jasminum parkeri.

This tiny Jasmine from Cistus Nursery was a really fragrant edition to my Mother’s Day flower arrangement on the table this year. It has not been in my garden for long but I’ve already found that its compactness of form is quite nice in my small city garden.

Ledum groenlandicum.

My native plants never let me down during the springtime, although the heat we recently had blasted the blooms on a few of the plants. Luckily this Ledum really kept its head together. It had more blooms than last year and I think it really looked quite beautiful this past month.

Dark Columbine, Aquilegia atrata.

I sold seeds for this plant in my Etsy shop and then I ran out. Last year the plant didn’t really do much or produce any seed, but this season, these will be back in stock. I like that when that happens.

Hybrid roses from the garden of Gina—my boyfriend’s mother.

On Mother’s Day it made me very happy to receive roses from a seasoned gardener. I spent a week watching their tight buds open and the house was filled with their fragrance. They were truly a real treat for me since I’m unable now to care for my roses.

It reminded me of my old rental home in the old Italian neighborhood in SE Portland where I’d planted nearly a dozen hybrid roses and I pruned and pruned them as my health worsened. I learned a lot that year in the garden and it led me to where I am now.

Pasta with Peas and Bacon.

Lastly I’m going to close with more food. If you have any delicious fresh peas, I highly recommend making this pasta. (Sorry for not adding the recipe. I will do that more in the future. In the meantime, just do a search on this and you’ll find lots of recipes. The one with lemon is good too.)

So, now it’s back to the drawing board. This girl needs to continue to reinvent herself and a new form of employment is in order. Wish me luck!

Wordless Wednesday: While some things change, others remain the same…

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Iris suaveolens.
Muscari macrocarpum ‘Golden Fragrance’.
Adiantum venustum.
Bergenia cordifolia.
Happy Macavity the Cat.
Vinca minor.
Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’.
Ranunculus ficaria ‘Brazen Hussy’, Helleborus orientalis, Doronicum orientale.
Fritillaria meleagris.
Narcissus. 
Acer.
Pregnant Helleborus.
Fritillaria meleagris.
Spathiphyllum.
Mona waiting for the sun to return.

Dragon Arum aka Dracunculus vulgaris

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Last week the big stink around here was briefly in the backyard. Each year I watch and wait as this lovely bloom emerges. Sadly this past week it was trashed by heavy rains so it’s not looking nearly so nice right now.  (Oh, the ephemeral beauties of the garden that we plant weirdos cherish!)

I tried to get up close and personal with the bloom to show where the many different bugs were busy working. The reason these gorgeous flowers stink like month-old garbage is to attract the right pollinators. This bloom may have been short-lived, but it did its job well. I saw at least a dozen bugs in there while I was leaning over inspecting their activities.

Standing this close to the bloom was not pleasant so please forgive me for not having zoomed in more.

I also suggest that you never attempt to use this bloom in any kind of floral arrangement unless it is displayed behind thick glass.

Do you have these where you live?