Departures and convergences

Yesterday, the scent of the basil I’d picked for our daughter to take back to Halifax lingered on my fingers for a long time. She also took with her some sage (advice), rosemary (for remembrance) and a golden zucchini from her aunt Sarah’s allotment – all the better to help her celebrate her last week before art school begins.

Our mother also went to art school, and was a medal-winning textile artist before she became a full-time mother. She was also a gifted botanical painter. Today, would have been her 80th birthday. In one of life’s strange synchronicities, our mum was about my daughter’s age when I was born, and she was about my age now when she died.

Unlike Helenium or Helen’s flower for Frances of Faire Garden, I can’t plant a flower called Jean Eleanor or Bunty in my mother’s name – unless someone can tell me that one exists. Instead, I remember her with a bouquet of flowers that she found special: geranium, marigold, or petunia (for her many balcony gardens), columbine (her father’s favourite), scarlet runner (a “perennial” in all her gardens), China aster (the birthday flower she used to plant for me).

For a while when our mother had an in-ground garden, I was at university, too, and she would send me off after a visit with herbs, flowers and the occasional monster zucchini. Somewhere in space and time, she’s probably out there hunting up new zucchini recipes or making lists of bulbs to plant for spring. A package of mail-order Asiatic lilies was the last gift she gave to Sarah and I. Some of them were still providing fodder for the lily beetles this summer.

Happy birthday, Mum. Let me just put on the kettle, and we can have a cup of tea together in the garden.


  1. Dear Helen and Sarah, the post in honor of your mother's birthday was heartfelt and heartwarming at the same time. Planting her favorite flowers is wonderful way to celebrate her life. She was obviously a very good mother, to have produced two such as you all. Good luck to your daughter with her own zucchini in tow as she begins her own adventure. Thanks so much for the link love too. 🙂

  2. There are lots of parenting/gardening analogies, but it's clear that the love you received took good root in the two of you, and now on down the generations. Congratulations and happy birthday. . . I'm sure there are very well-behaved zucchini wherever your mum is.

  3. A lovely tribute to your mother, her mother and your own mothering. Our mothers never completely leave us and isn't that grand.

    You've reminded me of when I planted a Witch Hazel in honor of my mother. Not for the obvious joke, but because she blossomed in the winter of her life…just like the WH does.

    I hope your day is peaceful and filled gardening. gail

  4. Helen and Sarah, This was a very timely post for me. My mum died last year, and Saturday was her first grand daughters wedding. As the bride lit a memorial candle (for her grandmother) during the wedding ceremony, I thought about how much my mum would have enjoyed the day.
    I planted a garden for her this year, her favourite tree (cornus cousa), snowdrops from her mothers garden, and cerstostigma plumbaginoides (which she would make me pronounce, over and over again, giggling every time). They are truly always in our hearts.

  5. What a lovely way to remember your Mom. As usual,beautifully written too. My mother died many years ago, when I was 12. I do not know what her favourite flower or plant was, but I am inspired now to plant something in her memory.

  6. Hi Helen and Sarah
    What a nice posting about your mother. And planting to remember someone is always a nice way to express your fondness for them. Our family always has a yellow rose to commemorate my paternal grandmother.
    And what would a trip home to see mom without a zucchinI!

  7. Hey there Helen and Sarah!
    I finally finished my Meme post! an EPIC! Thank you for thinking of me!

    Your post made me cry. I lost my mother when I was 17, and I wish so much that I could know her now – that she could sit in my garden with me and enjoy the whimsy. She was very much like the plants I love – sharp, tough, no nonsense, strong, and a little silly. Thank you for the memories that flooded back.

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