Memories of My Father’s Garden – 2022

FlowersThe old house in Cabra holds many happy memories for me, but the heart of my childhood lies in my father’s garden.  The garden was a special place; it was here that my father could always be found in good humour.  The garden was somewhere my dad was at peace, and it was where you could come and talk to him about any problems you had.  You always knew dad would listen and advice was given – whether it was asked for or not.  If he was weeding, we knew to stay away as he often took his anger out on the weeds, pretending they were someone’s head as he pulled and bashed at them.

The house was built in the 1930s but has been home to four generations of my family at different stages.  Over time, the garden has seen many changes and served many functions.  My grandfather, as were many of his generation, was a very practical and self-sufficient man.  He grew vegetables and reared chickens here to provide food for the table.  But to my father, it was his kingdom.  It was part of who he was and contained a part of all our lives, and every plant had a story to tell.  In either corner of the back wall stood two large lilac trees bought for each of my brothers as small children.  These trees grew with us and provided a den for us to play in during the long summers.  There were rose bushes bought to honour various occasions, a white one for my first holy communion, peach for my confirmation and a red one to mark the day I was married.  From the lilac trees on either side of the wall, ran a line of flower beds providing a cacophony of bright vibrant colours and smells and a home for a multitude of wildlife.  The flowerbed was a riot of colour in the summer; there were pink and red fuschia dancing like ballerinas on their stalks, vibrant pansies and orange and sunny yellow mimulas with monkey-like faces smiling, and of course the regal lilies which bowed their heads as you passed by them. Enclosing the cascade of bedding plants was a deep green, perfectly manicured box hedge.  In front was a sloping path leading past a row of granite rocks which shimmered when the sun shone on them.  The little hill proved a great ramp for toy cars and bikes and made a great slide in frosty weather.  But the pride of my father’s garden was his luscious green lawn.  Many an evening after work was spent pushing his lawn mower back and forth until it was to his satisfaction.  On the left side was another row of box hedging and dad’s prized dahlias blowing like coloured spiders in the breeze.

As the years moved on, the garden saw many changes including the building of a new kitchen extension and raised patio.  The patio contained two lavender bushes with chairs on either side.  This was my dad’s pride and joy and a place where he sat surveying his kingdom and where mam would sit and read her books.  The grey back wall was now hidden by a wooden shed which gave many hours of fun as a playhouse when his beloved granddaughters were visiting.

I saw how much pleasure the garden gave dad and decided to share his hobby. He was my mentor and guide, but gave me free reign and a patch to plant what I wanted and I graduated to a flower bed of my own.

More precious than the garden was the time I spent here with my dad.  He taught me everything I know about gardening, but at the same time he taught me many life lessons.

In order for a garden to grow and flowers to bloom, it must be nurtured.  This holds true for many important aspects of life as well.  If we want strong and lasting relationships with others, we must tend to those bonds, spending time nourishing and cultivating them.  We will then be rewarded with a beautiful, blooming friendship.  My dad’s garden was a place you could go if you were angry or sad and knew you would find peace among the memories.  It was a place where we had lots of fun and laughs. In that garden, I learnt about nature, the names of birds and plants, but the most precious thing cultivated in my dad’s garden was the very precious relationship between a father and his daughter.

In memory of my dad