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  • Writer's pictureKaren L Kurtz

Back to the Garden

Updated: May 20

I've always loved perennial gardening. Especially here in Canada where the prolonged winters can leave one's soul parched for spring colours. Over the last decade our flat yard has gradually morphed into wildish mounds of rich hues and textures.


My mother was an avid gardener all her life―the serious kind who put up an acre's worth of produce in her canning jars every year. She also liked to plant dozens of flowers in the spring around the perimeter of her vegetable patch and amongst the perennial beds throughout her Ohio farm. I learned from her that colours should be enjoyed from any window in the house. She had her favourite flowers, and I had mine. I often added images of blooms from my garden in the letters I sent to her.

In her late 80s she needed help planting her spring flowers. I enjoyed going down to the farm for a May weekend to be her assistant gardener.


We slowly lost Mom to dementia over many years. When she died in early spring at age 99, it happened quickly. There was not enough time to travel there in person. The only thing I could think of was to sing a "flower" song for her that she had taught us when we were young: "White coral bells upon a slender stalk, Lilies of the Valley deck my garden walk. . . ."

My sister held the phone to Mom's ear and said she smiled. I hoped that she felt my presence, but who knows? Death is a mystery.


In May that year, when the snow melted, I was dismayed to find an invasive plant popping up everywhere in my perennial beds, particularly along the brick walkway. I tried to dig it up, but it appeared to be a rhizome that had spread extensively beneath the surface. Then I noticed the same "weed" had invaded my perennial beds all around the house. I didn't have the energy to do battle with it. In fact, I didn't work in my garden at all that spring. Grief was a full-time job.


In June, I realized I needed to get back to the garden. I was stunned to see a bank of new greenery along the walk. It had crowded out the other perennials that usually bloom there. The "weed" that had shown up mysteriously in May was now in full bloom. Lilies of the Valley, indeed, decked my garden walk!

There was no rational explanation for the full bed of Lilies of the Valley appearing in my garden that spring. I had not planted them. The synchronicity of it eased my grief.


I like to imagine that Mom was letting me know she had received the song I shared with her when she died. I like thinking about how she was a gardener throughout her life. And beyond.

~K L Kurtz









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