One of the things I've promised a lot of our friends (and never seem to get done) is that I would take the time to send them pictures of our gardens...the gardens that have we've laid out, nurtured and cherished for some years now. Actually....Les, even with all he's been through, gets the credit for what has been accomplished. Today seems to be the perfect day to keep my promise...today is my birthday and, more importantly, our 14th anniversary! Those who know us well know what a remarkable achievement that is!
Les and I met in the mid-90's after both of us had lost our spouses about the same time. We had gone to the same high school but for some reason our paths had never crossed. We found that we loved so many things in common...country living, gardening, antiques and vintage things...even German Shepherds! In 1997 we married. We would live in our old 100-year old house in the northeastern Oklahoma hills, create beautiful gardens, and grow old together quite gracefully...we thought.
Three weeks before we were to get married, doctors found a malignant tumor in the base of Les' tongue. He had no idea it was there. Different doctors had different ideas about treatment (most of them pretty drastic), so the future prognosis was pretty scary. There was no question in my mind though that we wouldn't go ahead with the wedding...I had known for a long time that he was the best thing that had ever happened to me!
After our wedding we started planning wonderful gardens. At the time I had had a flower shop in another town for almost 20 years so I had never had a chance to develop the old-fashioned gardens this gracious old house deserved. Although I had had a large garden where we lived before and moved a very extensive iris garden with me, most everything had dwindled to whatever could take care of itself (anyone who has ever worked in a flower shop understands!!) I just had never had the time.
Working with volunteer redbud trees that had been "doing their own thing" all those years plus 2 lilac bushes and a japonica (flowering quince) that I had planted when I moved, we started with a mixed bed by the patio, added one surrounding some redbud trees, then another facing it with a fountain between....and so on as we thought of more and more things we loved and wanted to include. Eventually our ideas had to be curtailed by the need to get on with the cancer treatments.
By the next February we had found the doctors we knew were right for this....at the University of Washington in Seattle. This was the beginning of a long, sometimes frightening, always interesting journey to address this unusual "critter" that had invaded our lives. Our first trip to Seattle was the beginning of another love affair...we went at the time of year the Yoshino cherry trees were in full bloom. There were great avenues of these beautiful trees at the Medical Center, magnificent ones over a hundred years old on the UW campus...we had come to a city where we were totally awestruck by the beauty everywhere. There were other new things for us to love as well, but the glory of these trees in bloom made a lasting impression on us. We would simply have to have some of our own!
This was the first of so many trips back and forth over the next ten years...the tumor was destroyed thanks to these magnificent doctors. Reconstructive surgeries however went on for some time...but each phase had the rewards of Les' progress, the friendship of a group of incredible brilliant doctors, and being able to come home each time to our ever expanding gardens.
Early on we decided that, as a tribute to each of our anniversaries and this journey, we would plant a Yoshino cherry each year until we could have our own magnificent display. Although we don't have quite the same climate that they love in Seattle, our Yoshinos have acclimated themselves quite nicely to our strange Oklahoma weather and provide a spring display that surprises people who drive down our country road!
Now our garden is a beautiful mixture of many more of my beloved lilacs, spirea, mock orange, hydrangeas, more quince, Les' peonies, crepe myrtles, daylilies, clematis, hostas, a dozen redbud trees (all of whom volunteered!), summer phlox, bright monarda for the hummingbirds, summer annuals, plus an ever-growing iris garden again.
By now the garden has spilled down a slight hillside with the cherry trees watching over each bed; at the bottom of the hill close to the road Les decided that was the place for our rose garden. After his mother passed away, he wanted to create a special way to remember this gentle lovely lady...so now the cherry trees create a frame for a garden that lies in a peaceful curl that lets us enjoy our old-fashioned roses from either side. A white arch lets my favorite pink climber frame a walkway...and each year new roses join the others. It is a fragrant garden and serene.
We have other friends that love our gardens as well...for several years we had a white squirrel that enjoyed visiting us, even getting close enough to the patio to snack at the bird feeders. There are families of barn swallows and martins that return each year to raise their new children here; house finches and the funny little goldfinches love it too. Some visit for short periods...just last week before our massive storms we had a touring group of painted buntings that felt our yard had elegant buffets for them. We hope they'll return when the weather settles down.
We have found such peace in these gardens; it has been a refuge from his battles. I've walked with him through each step, listened each time he has said, "It will get better", and watched as he has pushed to keep working and regain his strength in each recovery. I can honestly say that he is the strongest man I have ever known.
He has encouraged each new endeavor that I have tackled, he has been my voice of reason and wisdom that helps me (hopefully) make good decisions, he has raised an eyebrow or wrinkled his nose at my foibles and goof-ups, and he is always there when I just need to sit by his side. He is a strong man who know how to be gentle; he is a quiet man who shares his thoughts carefully. Above all else, he is the man who has taught me to live life fearlessly, to be spontaneous, and to enjoy each and every moment. In addition he has dreamed of a place of beauty and peace...and is bringing it to life. The line in the poem "one's nearer God's heart in a garden, than any place else on earth" is so true for us.
Thank you, dearest Les, for having the soul of an artist to bring this dream into reality, for creating a haven for us to enjoy, and for being my strength, my joy, and my great love. Thank you for these fourteen years...and for looking forward with me to so many, many more.
Happy anniversary! I love you!