Temporarily Sidelined From the Garden

Campanula Serbian bellflower Campanula (Serbian bellflower) and hydrangea hugging the fountain

It feels good to be back in the garden. I did something to my back a few weeks ago and for a few days the pain was unbearable. It subsided and then my neck went out. Good grief, I am so over it! It’s spring for gosh sakes. This is no time to be sidelined from the garden.

I pulled a few weeds sitting in a folding chair, making it official: I’m an “old woman gardener.”

Last weekend, in between back pain and neck pain, we got things done. Mike hung the shade sails on both patios which we leave up for six months of the year. Shade sails make the San Jose sun bearable, while at the same time creating “rooms” in the garden. Once our shade sails are up we spend more time outdoors.

I repurposed a decorative shower curtain once again to cover the swing cushions. After sewing two or three replacement covers over the years, only to see them in ruin, I no longer dedicate any sewing time to a swing cover that is generally faded by the sun and gnawed on by squirrels at season’s end. It’s a decent compromise.

I hung a few mirrors from a local shop called Not Too Shabby along the back fence. I’ve always wanted to do something like this. It creates a focal point while covering up the boring fence. The mirrors are in the shade of the fruit tree and reflect different plants in the garden, depending on where you sit.

mirrors arranged on fence Patio and garden with mirrors on the back fence. (Pictured: Mouse and Lindy)
four mirrors on garden fence Your’s truly holding the camera for a closeup view of the garden mirrors

I planted tomatoes in my EarthBoxesยฎ this year. Last summer’s crop was a bust, so I’ve moved the boxes into a more open space. Wind is more important for pollination than bees, so I’m hoping the new location on the gravel path pays off in delicious summer tomatoes.

pair of Earthboxes planted with tomatoes Pair of Earthboxes with tomatoes and red mulch

Astoundingly, this is the first time in ages that I don’t have any self-seeded pumpkins. That said, as the garden fills in, there is less and less room for the seedlings to take hold.  I’m going to plant pumpkin seeds in the front garden this year, so as the sweet peas die back in June, the pumpkins can fill in the space. It just doesn’t feel like a garden without pumpkins.

We had above-average rain this year, so everything looks healthy and refreshed.

My favorite, self-seeding flowers are back this year including Nigella (love-in-a-mist),

sweet peas,


and our state flower, the California poppy.  I liberally scattered poppy seeds at the end of last summer and it paid off.

Front garden Front garden natives mix with annual self-seeded cornflower, California golden poppies, & sweet peas

For any of you royal watchers, here’s a bit of California poppy trivia:

To commemorate Meghan Markle’s Californian origins, Clare Waight Keller included the golden poppy in the coat of arms.
Source: Wikipedia

Perhaps the most important plant in the garden each spring is the Nepeta. Nepeta, also known as cat nip or cat mint is briefly intoxicating to cats. Lindy likes to eat it, Tessa dives in head first and all three cats take turns using the plant as a lounge.

cat sleeping near cat nip Lindy snoozing between the Nepeta and the violets
native garde Back garden and patio. Lindy standing near the Nepeta
cat with nose in nepeta plant Tessa dips her nose in the Nepeta
two faced Tessa Tessa enjoying the garden

Spring. There’s a little something for everyone.

49 thoughts on “Temporarily Sidelined From the Garden

  1. Huge amounts of sympathy on the back and neck pain. It’s disabling and tiring, so I do admire your enterprise in getting out there and weeding from a seated position! I do like to repurpose shower curtains too, and my latest version is a bag to hold our swimming gear, flippers, goggles, etc. I used the bit at the top with the eyelets and strung a cord through them to make a big duffel. Your swing seat cushions are inspired, and I shall have to take a leaf out of your book when I finally get round to recovering mine!


    • Thank you, Kate. I’ve been to see an osteopath this week, and I like him. More tests to follow. I know you’ve had terrible back pain. Anyone that’s experienced it first hand, knows how difficult it can be.

      Kate, I love your shower curtain repurpose. That’s so clever. I have one saved for lining a planter that leaks and the pretty fabric topper covers the swing. Another old shower curtain, once used exclusively for my boy’s “magic shows” is now covering the food rack at Lifted Spirits. I get so much pleasure finding another use for things.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Your garden is looking pretty abundant – everything is growing up and out. It hasn’t taken very long at all for your ‘new’ style to kick in and look like its been going for years……. abd glad to hear there has been a good rainfall to kick the season off. Cats and nepeta ๐Ÿ™‚ I can’t plant any here as Orlando kills it with love straight away and gets completely stoned! So you must have had your back pain at the same time you were commiserating with me about mine? What a pair of old crocks!! I’m good as a new one again now after taking myself in hand – feeling quite pleased ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s lovely to see your garden again. And nice to see my mate Derrick visiting here – you must have gone to check him out, I’m glad. . xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pauline, believe it or not it’s been 3.5 years since the lawn came out. A landscape designer once told me that it takes about 18 months for shrubs/perennials to reach maturity, so it’s helped me be patient. The plants are now supporting each other, while attracting bees and hummingbirds, my favorite kind of pollinators. Very few weeds take hold out back because of the dense cover, with the exception of oxalis which likes to grow under the walkway crevices and opportunistically at the roots of another plant. Most of the work now is a once-a-year pruning, removing dead branches and getting those tiny weeds out of the walkway. Weeds are more challenging in the front garden, probably because it’s not sheltered by a fence and the house.

      I have indeed gone to visit Derrick and will be a regular follower as well. Many bloggers have fallen away, so I can happily now read others. I’m glad your back is on the mend. xo


  3. I’m actually in the same boat right now so I literally feel your pain. Hubs is on his own to tend to the garden ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I can’t wait until our weather catches up to yours. I’m so ready to see something in bloom!


  4. Your garden looks fabulous–it managed without you, I guess? How clever, to have a garden that looks so good, without work! I’m hoping you’re back to yourself again–I know back and neck pain can be the worst. Your cats look so content . . . everything is idyllic!


    • Thank you, Kerry. Our kitties run the place (as I know you can relate). It’s interesting, too, having such an age range (2, 8 and 17). They’re all loves. I’m feeling better, and under the care of an osteopath. I’m hoping for good things. The garden, mostly native and drought tolerant, manages well on its own. The plants are on a drip system, using very little water, and they only require pruning once a year. Last year I pruned in the fall, but this year I decided to prune in the spring. So I had some frost damage to remove and the odd broken branch but overall I’m glad I waited to prune now. I read a recent article on pruning (I knew to prune roses in January, and hydrangea in the spring or fall, depending on where they bloom, i.e. old wood or new wood. I think a lot of the pruning I’ve done instinctively or perhaps it’s tucked away from observing my garden-loving horticulturist father (who died when I was 9). All that is to say, that I need to get out there and prune the spent azaleas and the roses for next year.


      • You really need to garden year round, with your weather. We get months off, so we’re eager to be outside, even if it’s dirty, tedious work. I’ve never really understood pruning so I do it very haphazardly . . . that might explain some of my gardening disappointments!


        • We have lovely plants year round here, but even in California, the gardens rest. I tried vegetables two winters (broccoli and cauliflower), but both failed. One bolted due to an early heat and the other succumbed to nasty bugs. Now that I have Google at my fingertips, I look up how to prune individual plants. It’s helped a lot.


  5. Your gardens are just so relaxing to see. After seeing Pauline’s comment about a stoned Orlando, I’m thinking Lindy may be in the same state. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I love the use of mirrors to reflect the plants. You have such a good eye for all of that. Love the shade sail. We had something like that when Tech Support lived here but the deck fire burned a hole in it too. ;( I’m way behind here for many of the same reasons. Back started to go out so I rested a day or two and stopped it in its tracks. It just means we are all taking on too much and our bodies are saying “give me a break”. I’m heading back out on Wed of next week. Until then, I’m watering as the temps are almost 90 here this week and weekend. Heading for the beach for Mother’s Day! Yay! Wishing you a Happy Mother’s Day too. Hugs and love. m


    • Marlene, I’m sorry to hear that you, too have been dealing with back pain. Half the commenters on this post seem to be dealing with some pain. I refuse to believe it’s age though. We’re all doers, not willing to be sidelined for long.

      I hope you enjoyed Mother’s Day at the beach. We had a nice day here, too. Hugs back your way


      Liked by 1 person

  6. WOW Alys, just wow. Your garden is so lovely. Thanks for letting us sit a spell with you. The mirrors are such a lovely idea. I am still working away at ours but it has a LONG way to go. We had to have some trees removed and I asked them to leave one stump which my plan is to FINALLY start my fairy garden. It’s a plan anyway. I hope you get to feeling better soon. There is nothing so terrible as not being able to do all that we want. Although I do take the days I’m down in my back to read. ๐Ÿ™‚ Take care my friend. Enjoy that beautiful garden and your lovely kitties.


    • Hello Amy! Thank you for visiting. I’m excited to see your fairy garden take hold. A new tree stump is the perfect back drop. Last week on one of our walks I saw a tree with a split from ground level to about six inches up. I keep thinking I’ll head back under cover of darkness and tuck in some moss and a few chairs. Wouldn’t that be fun?

      I’m sorry to hear that you, too, have back issues. I’m seeing an osteopath now so I have some renewed hope.


  7. I’m glad you’re back is better – I’ve got a sore hip at the moment – it makes you realise how much we take our usual mobility for granted doesn’t it?
    Love all your cats but the one of Lindy on her nepeta and violet couch is my favourite.
    I love Californian Poppies, they are so cheerful aren’t they? We have clumps of self seeded red poppies everywhere at the moment which are lovely but I always link them with Remembrance Day so are a little poignant too.
    I hope your back and neck troubles are gone for good so you can enjoy your beautiful garden on two feet rather than in your ‘old woman’ gardening chair ๐Ÿ˜‰


    • I’m sorry to hear about your sore hip and yes, agreed. It’s hard to lose one’s mobility. My sister has MS and has a steady decline of mobility for twenty years, so I’m trying hard not to wallow in mine.

      Lindy is such a love and always happy to lounge about for photos. They all take turns there, but she is always the most serene. Red poppies are beautiful, but I can understand the poignancy too, given what they represent.


  8. Your garden looks so inviting. And all that profusion of plants out front is marvelous. I hope your neck and back stay well and don’t speak to you in unfriendly ways in the near future. I bet the pumpkins will be happy to grow after those sweet peas die back.


    • Thank you, Lisa. I saw an osteopath this week so I’m feeling hopeful. He’s ordered an MRI and some nerve tests. PT didn’t help and made some things worse. My GP doesn’t really seem to have enough knowledge. Do you ever grow pumpkins in your garden?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I hope the osteoporosis man helps. I never do grow pumpkins. They take a lot of space and a long time. If I had more space, I’d grow them, because they’re so cheerful.


  9. The front garden looks so pretty again this year Alys. Californian poppies are a favourite but I have only managed to grow them once, in my very first garden. I shall try again this year too. One day it must work! Great idea to put the pumpkins in the front to fill out after the flowers go over. And your patio area looks really cosy and relaxing too. Hope your back/neck pain gets better soon. xx


    • Thank you, Cathy. Do you know if the California poppies are zoned for your area? One of the things I’ve noticed here as that they seem to thrive on neglect. I see them growing out of sidewalk cracks, on the edge of walkways and of course wild in the foothills. Maybe you’re pampering them too much. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Last year I scattered the seeds (not even planting them, just scattering from spent plants) and I have several more plants this spring. In any event, you have one of the most glorious garden(s) I’ve seen, so whatever you’ve been doing, keep doing it. xo

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Alys! ๐Ÿ˜ƒ๐Ÿ™ƒ I will try scattering some more seed in the paving cracks here too! LOL! I think I probably do too much weeding and pull up seedlings without realising, but we do have a weed here that looks remarkably similar and I think I know how to identify that one now! ๐Ÿ˜œ


        • I’ve done something similar. In fact, poppies sometimes look like carrots or nigella at first. I’ve been trying to reduce the nigella so that the poppies have room to take hold, though I love the nigella too. It’s doing just fine!

          Liked by 1 person

  10. I love looking at your garden, and I’m sure it’s a lovely place to sit and enjoy! We are “full speed ahead” on our gardening projects this year. Typically we are a little further along, but with it remaining cold and wet a lot longer than most years I have been behind. I, too, am hoping my tomato crop, as well as the other veggies, is more abundant than last year. So far it seems like we may be ahead! Take care of yourself and get your back and neck feeling better before you completely overdo it! But an avid gardener does seem to find a way to keep going, and I know you will. We love our shade sails, too, but keep them up all year. Occasionally we have to loosen them to eliminate some leaf accumulation, but we have enough more heat in SoCal that we just need them! Hope you have a great week, Alys. Enjoy the spring sunshine…I hope it sticks around!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Debra, It’s been an unusual year for rain down south. Really something, actually. It’s raining here today and again later in the week which is also so unexpected. Let’s hope we both get a bumper crop of delicious tomatoes this year. I’m ready!

      We love our shade sails. They’re such a practical, flexible way to bring shade to different areas of the garden.

      I saw an osteopath on Monday so I’m feeling hopeful. He’s ordered a couple of nerve tests and an MRI, so we’ll see where that takes me. Thanks for visiting and for your kind words.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. The sun shade looks great. I need to look into that option – it looks far less intrusive that the umbrella we currently use. I love the mirrors, and the cats. I’d like to plant Nepeta again but, while my own cat mostly left it alone during her brief morning jaunts, one of the neighborhood cats ate it to the ground within days (twice).


    • Hi Kris! How nice to hear from you.

      We love our sailshades. It’s nice not having a structure for shade. We put them up and forget about them till the autumn rain and wind. As for nepeta, here are a few ideas: cover the plant in the early stages so it has a chance to grow. Ours have grown up to three feet in height and width. Let them go to seed and you’ll never be without again. I have one in the back garden, a second in the side garden and two or three more out front. I now give clippings to our neighbor’s cats too. The one pictured here is generally mauled by late summer. It looks dead, but springs back year after year. Best of luck if you try it again.


  12. What a beautiful garden. All those cozy nooks to rest, contemplate, have a glass of whatever. Sit and rest and enjoy your garden!


  13. Good grief, getting in the garden has been such a challenge, sorry you’ve been suffering my dear. I was just saying to Jim yesterday, after 6 or 7 hours of yard pampering, that we may need to hire a gardener next year. I too felt completely busted, broken and bruised. I’m a bit too ‘mature’ to crawl around on my knees, moving gravel to and fro and bending over a zillion times. I never thought to add a chair to the mix. You’re a clever girl ๐Ÿ˜€ I used a heat pad last night to rest on and slept like a baby, ha!

    Honestly, please don’t sell yourself short Alys. Committed to community service, two boys moving from collage home, daily appointments, a business, a cherished friend to many and this stunning garden !! I’m out of breath reading that, ha! Your kitty’s live in heaven ๐Ÿ˜€ I really appreciate you stealing away to spend time together since I know how much work you’ll have when you return. I just bought some plants today. If you’re not into camping, it’s what Canadians do on the May long weekend. I plan to do some planting before work. It’s all a bit banana’s here in spring. Actually, it only ‘just’ finished snowing two weeks ago, LOL. Bring on da flowers!! xoxox K

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Alys, I’m so sorry to read of your back and neck problems…and to be so late finding out about it. I’m amazed at how lovely everything looks despite your being sidelined for awhile. Your flowers are all beautiful, but the Sweet Peas are probably my favorite among the ones featured here. My Sweet Pea seeds didn’t come up at all. I guess I need to find some seedlings to plant. I have fond memories of growing California Poppies when we lived on the Central Coast. Everything grew so easily there but the Poppies, Calendula and Cosmos were totally new to me and I loved how easy they were to grow. I wish you luck with your pumpkins this year. The tomatoes too! I hope you have a “bumper crop” that makes up for last year. Thanks for sharing your garden (and the sweet kitties) with us. I feel refreshed just looking at the pictures.


    • Hello Julia, I’m sorry to read that your sweet peas didn’t come up this year. I’ve learned a lot about growing them, things you may already know, but most significant is that they need to be planted in cool earth in the fall. The cooler the better. They sit in the ground for months with all the action happening below the earth. They emerge in the spring (at least here) and by April they put on a show. Try again. They’re worth the effort.


  15. i just discovered your blog (growing pumpkins for the first time this year). i read a whole book on tomatoes (overload) and one of the suggestions he had was: when you see alot of flowers on the tomato plant, give it a little shake. the shaking actually pollinates the flowers. hope you feel better by now

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Alys – your garden is stunning! I have some of the same instincts as you do – I have been getting rid of more of my lawn every year. I’d much rather have gardens. And I like to decorate fences! My husband likes lawn and plain fences – so it’s a bit of a compromise. So wonderful to see your lovely work!


    • Ah yes, lawn wars. It took some convincing but now he loves the garden too. California is semi-arid. We have no business growing lush green lawns and six years of drought drove that message home. This garden makes me so happy.


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