Memories Flourish in a Fragrant Garden

The author and her mother in Italy

Recently I spent the day painting with a friend in my mother’s garden and was reminded of an article I wrote for San Diego Home and Garden Magazine  several years ago. It seemed like a good time to revisit those memories.

Azaleas and camellias greet me like old friends as I approach the entry to gardening author Pat Welsh’s own garden in Del Mar. The aroma of wisteria fills my whole being and beckons me to open the garden gate. A flood of memories  suddenly envelopes me. As the gate closes behind I am pulled into a dream world of color, sounds and delicious fragrances.  It’s the world of  my childhood. Pat Welsh is my mother.

The garden is different than when I was a child, but its meandering paths and secret spots still reflect the wonderland that fostered my young imagination. I never remember a time when my mother was not gardening. Her career as a gardening expert began after I left home, but gardening always has been a way of life in our household.

An Outdoor Room in Mama’s Garden

“I grew up playing beside the streams and in the heather on the moors of Yorkshire and wanted my children to have similar experiences,” Mother recalls. “I encouraged you and your sister to play imagination games and, as you remember, the whole neighborhood  usually would join in.”

The lower garden was left wild like a fabulous park with eucalyptus (E. globulus), Monterey cypress and lots of wonderful dirt. My mother was given some bamboo from a neighbor and she built a tepee for us. We used palm fronds to weave baskets and made clay pots out of the natural adobe found in one corner of the garden.

A bubbling fountain and patio now replace my swing set but I still remember the wonderful sense of freedom I felt swinging high above the ocean. Mother reminds me that while swinging, I would sing at the top of  my lungs. She adds, “And you would make up songs about what was going on in our lives.” There were no family secrets kept from the neighbors.

My sister and I each had our own vegetable garden and I loved experiencing  the miracle of tiny seeds turning into edible plants.

My Old Climbing Tree

When one of our Monterey cypress trees was stricken with bark beetle, my mother climbed up and sawed off the top of the tree. She gave it a shove and it fell to the ground leaving a level seat high up in the air. It became my favorite place to go to retreat from the world and solve life’s problems.

Today a profusion of flowers replaces the Algerian ivy, agaves, dracaenas and eucalyptus. Rose arbors and pergolas create separate outdoor rooms. As in a well-decorated home, my mother decorates in nature. Colors and plants are repeated and carried throughout the garden.

I notice a mockingbird sitting quietly on a birdhouse as if to say “I am delighted to live here.” I also was delighted to live here. It feels good to be home.

Bye for now,




Sunburst, Painting by Francesca

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