Flowers from my garden for the Queen, and my mother-in-law Joan.

Cosmos Psyche White (grown from Johnson’s seeds)

Flowers are the first thing we think of when we want to pay tribute to someone. Today’s flowers are in tribute to the Queen, and also my mother-in-law Joan. Two people from the same generation, both in their 90s, both sharing the same values in their love for their families and their sense of duty, loyalty and service to the community. Very different lives lived, but the same values and beliefs.

Rosa Timeless Cream and Bridal Star carnation.

For the past six years I’ve been writing about growing cut flowers for my wonderful Joan who suffered from dementia. We shared a love of flowers and flower arranging, and my hope was to keep a connection for as long as possible. Flowers were my only weapon against dementia. There’s no effective medical treatment. It’s the cruellest of illnesses. It deprives the sufferer of one of the main comforts of old age, the knowledge that they have a close and loving family. Faces and names are simply forgotten. There was such sadness when new grandchildren arrived and Joan could not join in our excitement and joy in the latest additions to the family.

Gladioli ‘Wine and Roses’ mix from GeeTee Bulbs. Flowers 100 days after planting.

I want it written down, as a record of our times living through the covid pandemic, that we struggled to keep a connection with our relatives suffering from dementia in care homes. During lockdown, we couldn’t visit at all, and agonisingly, Leicester stayed in lockdown for months after the rest of the country opened up. Then, after lockdown was over, we stood in car parks, waving through the care home windows. We were not allowed in. I’ve got these moments indelibly printed like postcards in my brain. Memories I can’t seem to forget. When we were eventually allowed to visit, it was in the garden only, with everyone wearing plastic aprons, blue plastic gloves, masks and face shields. It’s no wonder anyone with dementia would fail to recognise the person sitting two metres away, not allowed to hug, voices muffled from the masks. Time limited to half an hour. For someone with poor eyesight and hearing, it really must have been impossible to understand. Saddest of all, was the decision that no presents could be taken in, flowers included in this rule, such was the fear of passing on the virus. So my last tiny hope of Joan recognising me was gone. There is absolutely no criticism of the care home. They didn’t make the rules. They cared for our relatives in the most magnificent way, and we will always be grateful for everything they did. Life for care home staff must have been unbelievably hard as they tried to keep everyone safe.

Dahlia White Onesta (tuber from Wilko’s)

So today, the connection between the Queen and Joan springs to mind. The Queen because of her 70 years of service to her country. She was someone I greatly admired. Steadfast, loyal and hardworking. Joan too, from the same generation, cared first and foremost for her family, but also quietly and without fuss or expectation of reward, undertook charity work. Joan volunteered for Age Concern until her late 80s and she also helped with fundraising at the Methodist Chapel in Cosby. Joan particularly loved creating flower arrangements for the chapel and her husband Keith played the organ for every Sunday service and for weddings and funerals. It must have been over 60 years of service for them both. Joan was always making cakes or knitting something for chapel fund-raising. She knitted hundreds of teddy bears when the chapel launched an appeal for sick children of Chernobyl. She wanted them to have something to give them comfort during their suffering.

Calendula Snow Princess (Mr Fothergill’s seed)

Today, the Queen leaves her home, Buckingham Palace, for the last time as her coffin travels to Westminster Hall for ‘lying in state’ ahead of her funeral on Monday. Joan too is making her last journey today. Her ashes are being conveyed to Skiddaw in the Lake District. She will join her husband Keith at last. His ashes were taken there in August last year. A wild and beautiful landscape they both loved. May they all rest in peace.

Calendula Touch of Red (Mr Fothergill’s seed)
Calendula Snow Princess

Thank you for following my flower-growing journey. I have been a bit lost these past few months. I felt as if grief knocked me to the ground, and I haven’t been able to get up. However, I’ve watched fascinated at the activity following the Queen’s death. There have been so many ceremonies and procedures, her children and grandchildren haven’t had time to stop and think. Maybe this is the answer and a way to deal with death- keep busy and do something. When Joan died, I felt defeated. After so many years of trying to ‘think of something’ there was nothing else I could do. Now I’m ready to start again. Maybe I could volunteer at the care home in the garden. I’ve already put together a box of seeds and plants to donate to the garden.

Agapanthus Fireworks (Wyevale Nurseries) Long-lasting cut flower. Keeps for 10 days in a vase.

And my flower-growing will continue, but for a different, happier reason. My youngest daughter is getting married! I have decided to grow and arrange the flowers for the wedding, and I can’t wait to get started. I hope you’ll continue to join me on this new journey I’m making in life. And I hope you have enjoyed the flowers I’ve grown and arranged, shared here as my tribute to the Queen and Joan today.

29 thoughts on “Flowers from my garden for the Queen, and my mother-in-law Joan.

  1. It has taken me a while to attend to this post. Hearing the news today that scientists have had positive results with drug trials in delaying the onset of dementia may be another reason to be uplifted. It’s not a cure, however, it may lead to other successes. Meantime, if the treatment can extend quality of life, that will be a huge benefit.

    The nationwide containment of residents in care homes was a very hard call for families. I hope it is not ever going to be repeated. I agree, the pressure on care staff was also phenomenal, and sadly, still is.

    Your carefully selected flowers in this post are poignantly beautiful as are your written words.

    I wonder how many trial runs you will have in making your daughter’s bridal bouquet. What an honour and a wonderful delight. Will it be one for throwing to whoever may catch it, or one for a keepsake?

    xx

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  2. The flowers and foliage are so beautiful and so was the story what was the silvery foliage please? I have seem similar stuff recently and thought it might be nice to have some in my garden

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    • Thank you Christine. I’m so glad you too have found solace in your garden and flowers. I keep hearing the quote by the Queen: “Grief is the price we pay for love.” Gardening and growing flowers does keep our mind occupied and helps to stop the grief becoming unbearable. I’m glad it’s been a comfort for you. Thank you again for reading my blog and for your very kind comments, which are much appreciated. Karen xx

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  3. What a moving post, Karen – you have had such a difficult few years, with so much out of your control. Hopefully choosing and growing flowers for the wedding will focus your attention and bring some of your spark back – but please take care of yourself
    Ps we went to Melborne Hall a couple of weeks ago but didn’t get to see the garden this time because we had a very talkative guide taking us around the house…

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    • Thank you Cathy. Thanks for reading my blog, and for you kind and supportive words. Yes, the last few years have been rather overwhelming. It’s fascinating that the Queen’s death has been a turning point for me. I can’t say that I’ve understood all the rituals and procedures for the state funeral, but it was so interesting to watch. Amazing to think that the Queen herself dictated every moment of the funeral, and the family followed all the instructions she set out. She even designed the state hearse so that everyone would be able to see the coffin on its final journey to Windsor. It’s been a poignant moment, with Joan’s ashes being taken to the Lake District at the same time. As you say, it’s time now to get my spark back. I’m really excited about the wedding and all the planning is taking up a lot of my time and giving me something lovely to focus on. I’m glad you visited Melbourne Hall, a favourite place for me. I’m emailing about a garden visit as well. Thanks again for your kind words, which are much appreciated. Karen xx

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      • Thank you Cathy. It felt like the right moment, with everything going on in the country for the Queen. Luckily the weather was beautiful and you could see for miles around. Videos and photos were taken for family members who couldn’t climb the mountain. Karen xx

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    • Thank you Anne. I’m looking forward to a new challenge. Currently I have lots of 12” pots in the greenhouse with tiny seedlings of love in a mist, larkspur and ammi majus. My daughter wants just white flowers and grey foliage, so it will be interesting to see how much I can grow for an and of May wedding. I’ve got next spring as a trial run to see, as the wedding is the following year. Thanks as ever for reading my blog and for leaving a comment. It’s always appreciated. Karen x

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  4. I’ve followed with great interest and sadness as you’ve told us of your flowers for Joan. I felt immense sadness when they couldn’t be delivered. two days ago I cut flowers for the Queen from my allotment and placed them with others, reading children’s letters and realising what the Queen has meant to touch so very many lives. Joan touched many lives through your sharing Karen. I know Skiddaw and the Lakes District well. it’s a stunning place to end her days. I have some of my mum’s ashes still to scatter on Pendle Hill, where she walked as a girl. I think the death of the Queen has made many of us think of our mothers and grandmothers. I’ve so wanted to talk to mine about everything that has unfolded and know it’s the same for others. grief shared in this collective way is somehow more comforting. Chris Bx

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    • Thank you so much Christine. There’s something soothing about cutting flowers while thinking of the person they are for. It’s a lovely, calming occupation. Like you say, reading the cards alongside the flowers, brings home just how much the Queen meant to people of all ages. Like you, I’ve been thinking a lot about relatives who are no longer with us. I would dearly love to sit down with a cup of tea and cake and have a real good long conversation with my grandmother and my mother-in-law Joan. Such a simple thing as a little chat is so dearly missed. And I would love to tell them about the happy news, the wedding plans, and all about the flowers planned. Today was such a lovely sunny day on Skiddaw. I couldn’t manage the walk, but my family sent photos of the scenery, with the poignant message “Grandma and Grandpa, Mum and Dad, reunited.” Such a comforting thought. I hope it gives you some comfort too, when your mother’s ashes are scattered at Pendle Hill. Take care, and thanks again for reading my blog, and for your kind words, which are very much appreciated. Karen x

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    • Thank you very much Eliza. Today marks the turning of a page. Joan is laid to rest, and I must concentrate on the future and try to be happy. Thank you for reading my blog and for your thoughtful and kind words, which are always appreciated. Karen x

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    • Thank you Lynne, I hope my words may have helped someone else grieving for a loved one. Thank you for reading and for your kind words of support. They are always much appreciated. Karen x

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