July 26, 2016

Back to Earth

I am finally back gardening! It was hard to set aside so many cherished activities the past couple of months as I waited for my neck to get better. The good news is that it is improving with physiotherapy. The bad news is that the reason it was vulnerable in the first place is that I have osteoarthritis in my neck. That was hard to accept (especially when I got the diagnosis a day before my birthday) but I suppose finding that out is a good thing as I am learning to be kinder to my neck and not to take it for granted. 

Back in April, I started a big project: revamping the shady garden at the side of our house. The pathway was already there. I created it myself six years ago (paver by paver and wheelbarrow-full of gravel at a time). I still love the pathway but I wasn't happy with the garden. It was especially hard not to like it as it's the view from our dining room window. This is what it looked like in early April.

Pathway and perennial garden in early spring

I completely removed the not-so-great grass that bordered the narrow flower beds. It was a big job but Meeko helped (sort of).

My wheaten terrier Meeko helping me in the garden

I loved this photo of Meeko so much and the way he was looking at me over his back that I painted him in late April. Cutie pie.

Watercolor painting of my wheaten Meeko. Artist: Kathleen Maunder of Trowel and Paintbrush

Once the sod was removed, I added good soil, divided the perennials that were already there (bleeding hearts, astilbe, lady's mantle, masterwort, turtlehead, sidalcea, hostas) and rearranged things. I also removed a huge shrub that was past its prime. When I was doing all of this work in April and early May, I was kind of feeling like Superwoman. Well, guess what? I'm not. I'm human after all. An aging human, my neck reminded me in a not very subtle way. The garden waited for me while I adjusted my pride and learned to treat my neck better through improved posture and daily exercises. 

In the past two weeks, I was finally able to finish my garden project. I weeded, added a few new perennials (coral bells and a shasta daisy) and planted an annual passionfruit vine in a pretty obelisk that my husband Jocelyn gave me for my birthday. Some of the new additions need to fill out a little but now I absolutely love looking at this part of the garden! It feels peaceful and serene.

Garden pathway and perennials by Kathleen Maunder of Trowel and Paintbrush
Gravel pathway and perennial beds taken under the branches of a Japanese Maple tree. (Kathleen Maunder - Trowel and Paintbrush)
Tradescantia (spiderwort) and astilbe
Obelisk with passion flower vine and perennial bed
Shasta Daisy - Leucanthemum ‘Santé’

I am happy to announce that I have reopened my shop after having it closed for a month. Yay! I look forward to gardening and painting more in the weeks ahead and sharing my efforts here and on Instagram. Thanks so much for being here!

🌿 🌿 🌿 🌿 🌿


  1. Oh dear Kathleen, I'm so sorry for your neck, but happy that you got to know what you were suffering from !
    I understand it must not have been helpful during the garden remodel !
    And what a remodel !!! Wowowow ! It looks splendid !! Great job, it just is wonderful ! You'll be able to admire it all summer long !
    xoxo take good care dear friend !

    1. Thanks so much, Sonia, for the lovely comments about my garden project. I think I am lucky that the bench in that part of the garden is really uncomfortable. Otherwise, I might spend my days sitting there and admiring it!

      This whole neck thing has been hard. For a while, I wasn't sure if I would be painting or gardening again and you can imagine how that made me feel! I'm glad to be at this point, knowing what the problem is and having it responding well to the physical therapy. I feel much more optimistic about everything.

  2. Hi Kathleen, I am so sorry for your pain, both physical and emotional, as I know this first hand. It is so hard to accept that as we age, we cannot do all that we used to do. I have been struggling with those same issues. Ten years ago I was also diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my cervical spine, and also had physical therapy, which helped. Right now my neck, shoulders, and arms are causing me pain, as I have recently been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. The IBS aspect of this almost kept my husband and I from going on a long-planned vacation of a lifetime: a 3 week tour of Scandinavia. Luckily things got better, and we returned 2 weeks ago. I have been getting massages and seeing a chiropractor, doing my stretches at home, and my upper body issues are slowly improving. From having arthritis for years now, I have found (by self testing, and reading) that wheat and gluten avoidance helps so much. Just an fyi for further reading, if you wish. Hoping for continued relief for you, and more gardening and painting! It is hard to learn to listen to your body and to take breaks, just to be safe, but it helps so much! Nancy

    1. Thanks for the empathy, Nancy. I'm sorry to hear of your health issues. I didn't know how very common osteoarthritis was until reading up on it these past weeks. Learning to be kinder to our bodies is I think a good thing. I hope you continue to feel better and are able to do the creative things you love.


Thanks so much for taking the time to visit my blog and to leave me a comment. I love reading them. -- Kathleen

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