Published on Thu, May 19, 2005 by Barbara Wean

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By Barbara Wean

This week I am going to wax philosophical. Question: Why should we care about gardening, growing things, life?

If you have been inspired by some of the photos in my articles, you will be interested in the person that has taken many of them. She is a hospice nurse helping people to transition from life to death. She, at the same time, cares for her 96-year-old mother-in-law, an invalid and living in her home; she is my sister, Carol McMurtry.

Carol’s garden is the most magical place I have ever seen. She has had no formal training in garden design but is fearless in experimenting. Her garden is beautiful, yet she redesigns and continues to experiment with plant combinations and locations every day. She is also an inspired untrained photographer, who will wait hours to take lots of shots for the perfect study of a butterfly, perching on a buddlia flower.

I mentioned Carol’s lack of formal garden and photography training twice to emphasize that you do not need formal schooling to create a garden or photograph that is soul satisfying and beautiful.

With the stress of caring for her mother-in-law and helping a lot of people in the last stages of life, Carol’s release is her garden. She is renewed by the living structures that inhabit the world. Seeds germinating and becoming a live plant, interesting creatures that inhabit the rich environment of her varied plantings, the contrast of life and beauty against often suffering and death as she tries to help people transition. Carol’s garden is a world we can all experience in our daily lives.

Carol has the most unbelievable photographs of flowers and creatures. If your life is stressful (and whose isn’t) and you need a release, growing plants, nurturing a living “being or thing” may help you overcome the stresses of your life.

Carol is a prime example. She can’t imagine not having her garden to plan, plant, weed and water at the end of her day. The garden you plant may be a garden of sustenance; vegetables picked fresh for dinner; or for beauty, gorgeous flowers for the table. Hopefully, it will be both.

I was thinking of my sister and how much she does for all of us with her work in hospice and wanted to acknowledge her contribution of beauty to the human race through her hospice work and sharing her photographs of her garden with us.

If you have an older family member or friend that is a shut-in, or want to volunteer at a nursing home (I’m sure there is a need, just call and ask) you can arrange it where you bring the “ingredients,” a pot or hanging basket, some potting mix and fertilizer, some four inch potted plants, gardening gloves and newspaper and set up a planting area for your friend. Help them where they may need help or just sit back and enjoy their concentrated effort while they get lost in the joy of the moment.
My daughter set up this exact scenario for my 93-year-old aunt when she lived with us. She was wheelchair bound but that didn’t stop here from having time of her life with Christy cheering her on as she plunged her hands in the soft potting mix and planted her own garden. Have fun!