Elinor’s Garden

By  | December 18, 2012 | 0 Comments | Filed under: Golden Years

Elinor's Garden“Digging in the dirt is good for the soul,” says my mother, Edna, who still enjoys her backyard garden at the age of 80. However, the overwhelming heat these past years has made it difficult to get out. As well, her knees, at times, decide that they are staying on her gardening mat, in the crouched position – locked.

Sadly, I did not inherit my mother’s green-gene. However, with my bluish, purple thumb in hand I set off to find indoor gardening advice for apartment dwellers, and those with locked knees. With fall upon us, gardening can bring the outdoors indoors.

While on holiday in Wiarton, I trod around town to find a gardener with experience. I happened upon Katherine (Kat), whose artistic creations at the local marina have made her famous for over 17 years.

“All you need are windows!” Kat advises. “And patience.”

Kat learned from one of the best in the area, her mother, Elinor. Kat not only inherited her sparkling eyes and bright smile, but her green thumb. By the age of 75 Elinor tended a whopping 55 gardens, each started in little pots in her kitchen. I sat beside one of these last remaining gardens as Kat and I spoke at the home where her mother spent many years digging in the dirt.

“Mom couldn’t afford to buy the plants, so she seeded,” says Kat bringing out a picture of her mother standing proudly behind a wildly colourful flower garden.

Kat’s advice is to situate your burgeoning garden in the kitchen or near the bathroom to take advantage of the moist air. South and east facing windows are best, but using a cool white light (florescent) will work if windows are inaccessible.

Set newspapers between the window and planters to prevent damage from the cold. Window trays or peat pots work well for seeding. However, margarine tubs are cheaper. Covering your seeds with plastic tents will help keep in the moisture.

“The instructions on the seed pack are bullet proof,” she adds.

As we talk about her mother’s gardens and the best way to start an indoor plant paradise, I glance back at the picture of Elinor. When heart troubles set in, she was unable to continue her passion outdoors.

“It was one of the most difficult changes in her life,” states Kat.

We walk through the yard toward the house and Kat explains that letting indoor plants dry out before watering again will avoid root rot. Mist them daily to clean and refresh and turn on a fan to keep the air moving. Consistency is key.

“Just like children,” Kat shakes her finger at me with a smile. “It’s all Elinor with Violinexperimental. Don’t be afraid!”

We walk into the house where her mother and father retired to spend their last years together. When we enter, I am overwhelmed with delight and surprise. An oil painted Eden grows throughout the living area, bedroom and spills beyond into the hallways and kitchen. As Elinor watched her beloved gardens become overgrown outside, she took up her paintbrush and created gardens that would never wither or fade.

Kat continues, “Begonias and Geraniums are perfect indoor flowers.”

I listen while taking in the beauty of the paintings.

“Morning Glories bring the summer inside and Rosemary flowers beautifully in the winter. Impatiens, Sunflowers and Marigolds are summer in a pot,” Kat says then takes me to the room where her favourite pictures hang.

“We had to get rid of so many,” tears still sting from the recent passing of Elinor. “But we kept the best.”

There are over 100 paintings in the two rooms I have seen. Elinor’s brush strokes create light, colour and the filmy luminescence of petals damp with dew. Many pieces were hung in the local library.

“I remember her art work as being bold, colourful and everyone had something positive to say about her work,” says Clare from the Wiarton Library. “We’re very fortunate to have caring people like Elinor (who helped) create a warm and inviting atmosphere…”

Another picture stands in the middle of the room. A young, shy Elinor wears a gown of silver. In her hand is a violin and bow.

“Mom could have been on stage,” Kat touches the frame. “But, she wanted a family and her gardens more.”

Trading her violin and bow for a rake and hoe, then brush and canvas, Elinor made her gardens grow through all weather and all seasons.

Mom is right. Digging in the dirt is good for the soul. It makes us bloom in unexpected ways.








Shelley Byers has worked in the charitable sector for over 25 years promoting her passion through newsletters, local newspapers and various publications throughout the region. In 2007, she wrote and told stories on behalf of Pride Stables and won the United Way Speakers Award. Currently, she is working on a graphic children’s story with a local artist and hopes to one day give a copy to her mother.

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