A message a year later

Recently, I was going through my stack of papers and statements, preparing to pay our monthly bills, and I noticed the UVA Health magazine, Vim & Vigor.  

I am not sure how I was added to this mailing list, but I’ve been receiving these quarterly magazines for about two years now.  They always have interesting and relevant articles related to health – how to improve sleeping habits, information on cancers, screenings, and treatments, and general tips for healthy living.  

A message, a year later

Usually I would have perused and opened all my mail between the mailbox and the house. For some reason, though, I hadn’t looked at this magazine issue at all until the other day. One of the article titles on the cover instantly caught my eye – “A Message to Expectant Mothers: Understanding the signs that your baby is distressed.”  How timely in some ways and how late in other ways.

I threw my bills to the side and focused on the article.  What could I learn that I didn’t already know about what happened to Millie?  Could I really have avoided this somehow?  What do I need to know now for this current pregnancy?  Questions flooded my head as I flipped through the magazine looking for the article and answers.

The article is available online here.

My takeaways

After reading the article, I first wondered if I wasn’t attentive enough to Millie.  After all, she was a mover.  I knew to expect kicks, jabs, dance moves, flips, and even rolls.  And I felt them day after day.  I never kept track, though, of how many movements within a period of time.

After all, I was working full time, chasing a 22 month old, and tending to a farmette.  I was exhausted.  I didn’t worry about how many movements within a period of time.  She was moving and I knew it.  But I wasn’t overly observant.  Should I have been?  Did I not pay close enough attention? Should I have been keeping tabs on paper or in an app?  

Dr. Dudley advised in the article, “Tally each kick and roll and ask yourself if your baby is behaving differently than normal.”  There were certainly times when I felt movements – specifically a roll and a flip, which I didn’t typically feel. It never occurred to me that a different movement might be considered “uncharacteristic” or something to raise concern.

Later in the article, risk factors are mentioned and that has prompted additional questions for me to ask at my next appointment.  When our Doctor met us in the hospital after I delivered Millie, she said, “It’s rare for lightning to strike in the same place twice,” knowing we were determined to try again.  

The article states though, that the biggest risk factor for stillbirth is a previous stillbirth.  Is it that perhaps I am at higher risk, however, I will be on higher alert and be more sensitive and voice concerns for behaviors that previously went unnoticed? That everyone will be keeping a closer eye on me and more concerned for me and baby during this pregnancy because of what happened with Millie?

Acknowledging the baby

I really appreciated reading what Dr. Dudley mentioned in the conclusion, and want to share it here.  For patients that have had a stillbirth, he acknowledges the baby, “I will always ask what they named their baby.” 

I reiterate this here, although a previous post discusses this as well. Whenever anyone has acknowledged Millie, they have supported me. It may not sound like much, but giving voice to and remembering that little life is the best way friends and family could support me.

They didn’t shy away from the fact that I suffered a loss.  Instead, they remembered and continue to remember Millie with me, by asking about her, or telling me they share her birthday, or what they think of when they think of Millie. For those who acknowledge Millie, she is living in their hearts, too.

It was difficult when people I knew would look at me and turn away, or just give me a look of pity and not say anything.  I needed to talk.

He goes on to note that many women have experienced the loss of a baby through stillbirth.  However, we don’t realize this because, even though more mothers and families are speaking up, he says some mothers may, “either feel ashamed or embarrassed or they don’t want to dredge up those memories.”

I never felt embarrassed, although I did feel the shame, that as a mother I had failed my Millie, Mon Cœur (MC), Chouchou, and everyone else that was waiting for her arrival.

When I think of Millie, I would rather speak up than be silent. I make the choice, though, not to “dredge up those memories” – the doctor’s visit where three nurses were unable to find a heartbeat, the doctor was unable to find one with a portable ultrasound, and an ultrasound verified what was suspected. Where we numbly moved between the doctor’s office to the hospital and I waited to be induced. Where I labored for fifteen hours, and that when I delivered there was nothing but silence.

Although all of these memories make up the whole story of Millie, that’s not what I choose to remember. Those memories don’t remind me of the love that I feel for her, just the intense heartbreak I felt learning Millie would not be joining us in this world.

The upcoming anniversary

When I think of Millie, I treasure the memories of her growing inside of me. I remember realizing I was first pregnant with her, and Chouchou’s excitement at knowing we were expecting again. How MC proudly shared the news with her “Big Sister” teeshirt she wore to let her friends and family know. When I first started to feel her move and all of her acrobatic movements thereafter. Imagining what she would look like- a head full of hair, brown, and long and lean like her sister. The love that everyone had for her as she was growing, and the anticipation everyone felt with me for her arrival. The night of the full moon when I experienced Braxton-Hicks so intensely, I had my mom come and get MC, just in case. I think of butterflies, I think of my father.

This Saturday, it will be a year, and it’s so hard to believe. I can confidently say I feel like I am in a good spot, and I am able to be as strong as I am because I have my village supporting me. I’ve found a purpose, tending to the garden, raising MC, and growing new life. I’ve found a voice here on the blog, expressing the full spectrum of life’s experiences – our ups and downs, our wins and losses, the heartwarming and heart wrenching moments.

We continue to be blessed by friends and family who are remembering Millie with us. People are thinking of us, knowing the date is coming up and sending their love. We’ve received cards, plants, and a butterfly kit. Others have planned to come and be with us on the anniversary.

The Morning blog had a great post recently about how to celebrate these important dates while in quarantine, and I feel like we’ve hit many of them – I finished the greeting card book which I can revisit and read through when I want, we’ve planted many flowers and plants recently in Millie’s garden, and MC surprises us randomly by turning on the candle we received at a support group for Pregnancy & Infant Loss Month.

We’ll be together as a family on Friday and are planning to spend time in the garden. We’ve had many opportunities over this past month to remember the love we have for Millie, and so I feel okay with not doing anything huge. I remember her everyday and so even though Saturday is her birthday, in my heart I am okay with not making a huge deal out of it.

Thank you

I just wanted to wrap this post up with a sincere thanks to you, dear reader, for being with me here on this blog. This has been a month full of emotion, and I appreciate you joining me on my journey. Thank you, merci beaucoup.

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Goodbye, Noble Merle, Kitty Baby

Yesterday wasn’t the best day ever.  I was stressed knowing our kitty, Merle, wasn’t feeling well, Mon Cœur (MC) was not being a good listener, I was losing patience with her, and I was scrambling to get housework done. I suspected the cause for Merle’s discomfort, and was worried about the financial cost for addressing it.

We’ve had Merle for over seven years, a cat given to us by my father-in-law, since I had complained of mice at our new country home.  Merle did not disappoint – he was an avid hunter.  He loved the great outdoors, and would often wake me just before my alarm so that I would put him out for a little early morning hunt.  He played well with our German Shepherd, the chickens, and the ducks, and kept the mice at bay for me.

He charmed all our visitors that came to the house.  Everyone loved his piercing blue eyes, his fluffy, soft coat of fur, and his way of leaning in and nuzzling for cuddles and pets.  

He tolerated MC and her tail-pulling antics.  He adored empty boxes from online orders, or any empty space for that matter, an empty cooler, holes dug in the garden, the bidet…yes. I assume the cool porcelain was a comforting contrast on all those hot summer nights.

He was often mouthy at the worst times – MC’s bedtime just as her eyes were rolling back and she was drifting to sleep or ten minutes before my alarm would go off, waking me up prematurely just so he could go outside.

Yesterday

Chouchou and I knew something was up, and we assumed that it was like before – he was blocked and needed some help.  After trying our usual at home remedies to no avail, we entrusted our local emergency vets to help him again.

The whole drive yesterday evening Merle cried, and my guilt compounded.  I had to drop him off and wait in my car.  When the doctor called with a prognosis, he said Merle was definitely blocked and it was going to cost in the thousands to fix him.  

Oh, and he added that after they fixed him, it was highly possible that this issue would recur.  The issue could present itself again maybe even in just a week.

Well, this was the third time we had to take him in for issues of this kind.  And it seemed to be increasing in frequency. I had feelings of inadequacy – being unable to properly take care of him. I thought worst case scenario, we’d have the doctors fix him once more and then we would find a better home and better fur parents for him.

Waves of emotions

The last time I took him to the vet for this issue was the day before I realized Millie had stopped moving.  I had spent the morning at the vets, with MC, worried sick for Merle, trying to color and keep calm with MC, and not even worried about Millie – she was safe in my womb, after all, I thought.  

Last night, after we decided to euthanize Merle, waves of emotions came back, accompanied by thoughts.  Was I doing the right thing? I should have brought him in sooner. The last time I was here, blah, blah, blah. This stupid mask is not letting me breathe as I am having this meltdown.

I was able to be with him when the vet put him down, being there in that place and watching Merle stop moving, and the vet confirm that he had passed overwhelmed me. 

I felt pains of guilt, waves of relief, and the overwhelming sense that nothing would be the same again.  My guilt came from knowing that Kitty needed help and I didn’t address it immediately.  I was relieved, knowing that I could now focus more fully on my current pregnancy without worrying about Merle.

Explaining to our toddler 

When I got back home, with Merle packaged in a tidy, white corrugated cardboard coffin with a purple flower affixed to the top, and an empty carrier crate, I asked Chouchou if he had told MC.  

“I told her kitty wasn’t coming home because he didn’t feel well.”  He wanted to spare her being scared, and while I disagreed, we both agreed we would wait until she asked questions.  I disagreed because at two and a half, she has already experienced the death of her Poopa (grandfather), unborn sister, and Papa (great-grandfather), she knows what death is and she has handled it with grace and typical toddler curiosity. 

No sooner did Chouchou leave to dig the hole for Merle, than MC asked me, “Why is Kitty not coming home?” 

“Kitty was sick and hurting and so he went to be in heaven with Poopa and Millie.  He is rolling over on his back for belly rubs from Poopa, and twitching his tail at Millie like he used to do to you.”

That response made MC laugh and smile. And it made me feel good to know I wasn’t hiding anything from her.   

Five minutes later…”Where is Daddy?”

“He’s digging a hole for Merle.”

“Why?” (This word is her go-to word, and drives me crazy sometimes!)

“Because even though Kitty’s soul is in heaven, I brought his body back to be here at home with us.”

“Oh.  Okay.”

This morning, MC woke up and wanted to go see Merle’s hole.  So after breakfast, I grabbed some seeds we had on hand.  We went out to where Chouchou had buried Merle, and I showed MC.  

Then I told her we could plant catnip or cat grass seeds on top of Merle if she wanted.  She chose the cat grass, and sprinkled some on his little kitty grave.  I covered them in dirt, and then she asked to go play in her new log cabin.

Our family will certainly miss Merle, and yet we know he’s not suffering anymore. MC and I will continue the discussion as she talks about him, wants to go visit him, or thinks of other questions to ask. We have had other similar discussions with her, and while some might not agree, I feel that I am doing right by MC by being open and honest with her about life.

Death is just one part of life, and although we’ve experienced a lot recently, there are ways to communicate the facts and celebrate the memories of those passed before us.

A greeting card book

I am feeling an overwhelming sense of accomplishment today, and I wanted to share. I didn’t do anything huge, or absolutely amazing, I just finally crossed a project off my list. One that has been on my list for a little under a year. One that I wanted to get done by the end of this month, but kept putting off because I wanted it to be perfect and I didn’t want to mess it up.

In a previous post, I shared that I can’t stand to throw away old cards. I’ve found ways to make banners, framed collage art, and wreaths. I’m a sucker for snail mail and the effort and love that goes into sending it, so I’d rather box them away until I figure a good repurposing project.

Why we repurposed

Last June through July we were inundated by an outpouring of love and shared sorrow over Millie. The card greetings and hand written sentiments mirrored our feelings, and I was comforted to read those cards. I still find comfort in revisiting and rereading them.

I knew I couldn’t throw them away, and I didn’t want to box them away. I also didn’t want to cut them like I had cut cards in previous projects. So online I searched for ways to assemble the cards into a collection that would be subtly displayed, and accessible for years to come.

The DIY greeting card book project I found

I stumbled across an Austin, Texas wedding photographer’s blog, with the most amazing idea and step-by-step tutorial on how to make a book of cards. She takes orders and will make the book for you – if I could have, I would have definitely entrusted her with these cards. She has a lot more practice with this endeavor, and I am sure she would have turned it around quicker than my personal procrastination timeline that I followed.

The project seemed daunting, labor intensive, and time consuming. I kept the cards in a stack in my sewing room and the link to the tutorial bookmarked on my phone. I waited and thought about it. I dragged my feet some more. I reread the directions. I said, “Tomorrow.”

This is not a time to deviate from directions!

Then I tried to get started and I cut a corner. A huge corner. A “what were you thinking?” corner. I decided to get out my Bernina one day and machine sew the cards to another piece of card stock.

“With my zipper foot I can make this work!,” I incorrectly assumed.

Also, I began the project without referring back to the directions first. HELLO? What was I thinking?! I wasn’t. I was in a hurry to get it done.

If you decide to do this project, just follow Emily’s directions. Seriously. They did seem daunting. It was labor intensive, but in a mindful, calming way when you focus on your art. It did take time. Because I procrastinated. A lot. I finally got all the cards sewn together correctly, as per the tutorial directions.

[One thing I did do differently: I took the canvas, marked the sewing lines, then I did machine baste the lines with colorful thread so that I could see the sewing line on either side of the canvas.]

I had cut the backboard pieces (I recycled heavy cardboard from a family pack of Wegman’s fruit cups). I had my paper to cover the book. And then I procrastinated some more. I bought the white card stock I needed for the end leafs. Then I realized I needed PVA glue. I ordered it. I received it. Then I procrastinated more, because I didn’t want to mess it up.

Finally finished

Today, during Mon Cœur’s (MC) nap, I finally decided to finish this project. I grabbed the tutorial, saw what I needed to do with the card stock to make end leafs, and completed that step. MC was still asleep. Okay, I decided, let’s finish the cover.

So I got out the materials and I finished the cover. I was a little heavy handed with the PVA at first because a. I was scared the glue would dry too fast (it does dry fast, but not so fast that you have to throw it on quickly and carelessly), and b. I’d never worked with it, so I was figuring out the consistency of it. There are a few places where there are ripples.

That’s life, there are imperfections no matter how hard we try to make things perfect, and that’s what adds to the beauty of my book.

I am glad to have the weight of this project lifted off of my shoulders, and I have already flipped through and read through the cards again. I anticipate in this month I will be looking back on this a few more times at least, and I am glad that it is assembled nicely so that I may do so.

If I had one thing I would have changed about the final product, I would have custom made a page (somehow) from a sheet protector to create a “pocket” for those items we kept (such as cards from flower arrangements, etc) that were not sewn into the book. A quick fix to that would be to glue a paper envelope to the back inside cover.

Bottom line, I’d do this project again, in a shorter time frame, with more confidence, and according to the directions.

Words of comfort

I wanted to end this post by sharing just a few of the words that were helpful to me.

  • A quote from Anderson Cooper about his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt (passed on as a wish for me): “She was the strongest person I’d ever met but she wasn’t tough. She never developed a thick skin to protect her from hurt. She wanted to feel life’s pleasures, its pains as well.”
  • “Always remember that you have the love and concern of family and friends.”
  • On life: “[It] truly just does not make sense sometimes. The love, though, that you had for that little one, and the love you have for MC and with your husband always will remain and sustain.”
  • About Millie: “She will always be remembered and cherished even if our only introduction was while she was in your belly preparing to meet us.”
  • “Millie is such a beautiful name. It makes me think of warm summer evenings, fireflies, freckles, and daisies.”
  • For Chouchou and me: “I hope you will find a group of like minded souls who alone know what you are suffering”
  • “…are finding a way to begin to heal and I wish only the best as you find your way forward.”
  • On grief: “Grief never ends…but it changes. It’s a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness or a lack of faith…It is the price of love.”

Although these are personal and private exchanges from friends and family, I want to share them. At a moment like a stillbirth, I think most people are at a loss for words.

If for any reason you have found your way to this post and blog because you are experiencing the same loss, or you are looking to support a friend or family member grieving, perhaps something above speaks to your heart and helps you find the words of comfort you were looking for.

Spring and Summer garden additions

I left our last garden update with the picture above. In the meantime, Chouchou brought home one more bag of bulbs – purple tulips and calla lilies, and I purchased a few summer bulbs/ tubers/corms to try – canna lily, dahlias, gladiolus, and liatris. I still had the begonias to plant, too, from our nursery haul. Oh well, we got caught up in the excitement of beautiful weather and looking for projects to do at home.

Since planting the azaleas, butterfly bushes, and phlox, we have found a home for about thirty daffodils, twenty-ish tulips, three hyacinths, four hydrangeas, three lilies, three calla lilies, and then the summer blooming bulb/tuber/corms which I bought on a whim.

Everything seems happy in the garden with the exception of the hydrangeas, which I am still struggling to find an answer why the top half of the flowers lost their coloring, and the leaves turned brown around the edges… We planted the hydrangeas behind the boulders below, with the gardenia, and planted three begonias in front of the boulders.

Begonias

For the most part, we used the begonias in the beds, as spots of summer coloring. They were also useful as “markers” where we had planted river lilies and they have yet to sprout. I think those seeds may take longer to germinate (if they do at all – we’ve had them so long!), so having the begonias between them helps remind me where we planted them. They have formed rings around our corkscrew willows, and also provided highlights of summer color on mounds that otherwise don’t have summer color.

Begonias hold a special place in my heart, they are my favorite annual. I love the reds especially, and used them as “roses” when I was student teaching and we were reading Le Petit Prince. I briefly mentioned this “lesson” from the book in a book review of Little Prince board books.

I purchased a flat of begonias for my lesson, and before we read the chapter where the Prince discovers a garden of roses, and that his rose is not the only rose, I briefly acted out a preview. I had one begonia at the front of the room, on a barstool. The rest of the begonia flat was at the back of the room. I fawned over the one on the barstool, about how unique and beautiful and special it was. Then I walked to the back to begin the lesson and had a breakdown discovering that my “rose” was not so unique or special. The students enjoyed my quirky approach, and at the end of the lesson, I gave each of them a begonia to take home and plant.

Summer bulbs – gladiolus, liastra, and canna lilies

As we have been filling in the garden, we have some fall bloomers, spring bloomers, and some summer bloomers, but not many. I’ve expressed my enthusiasm for bulbs before, so when I learned there were summer blooming bulbs you can plant in spring and they will bloom the same year, I had to buy.

What I did not know at the time is that summer bulbs are not winter hardy like the spring bulbs (daffodils and tulips) we have. The only exception to this is the liastra we purchased – it is hardy in zones 2-9 – what a champ! So after each killing frost, for all of the other flowers, we will need to go out and dig up the bulbs to overwinter and replant them the following spring unless we want to make a new purchase of bulbs. Since bags range from five dollars to seven dollars and can include as many as 10 or as little as two bulbs, I think it’s worth the extra labor to save them. Plus, if they multiply like other bulbs tend to do, it will be worth it to dig them up, split them, and replant.

Gladiolus

Gladioli are beautiful, long stemmed, and full of flowers. We decided to pair our gladioli in clusters of five in front of the milkweed and one of our daffodil patches. MC helped plant these and remarked that the bulbs resemble pumpkins. Ever observant, she is!

These flowers prefer full sun, are deer resistant, and bee friendly. Our variety will reach a height of 58-60 inches, which I learned is the reason why we had to plant these bulbs so deep in the ground- eight inches! According to Gardening Know How, it seems that we may be able to heavily mulch these bulbs for winter and they will do fine in our 6.5 USDA hardiness zone.

They suggest to sequence plant these, every two weeks, to have continuous blooms, but we didn’t buy enough this year. I am hoping that the bulbs will multiply, and next year we can do one sequential planting. Over time we should be able to build this up.

In researching the symbolism, I was surprised to see this is my birth month flower, August. It symbolizes strength, integrity…and infatuation and remembrance according to FTD.com.

Liatris/Blazing stars

I am super excited about the liatris mixture I purchased – it was one of the less expensive bags, had twelve corms, and is winter hardy. It’s deer resistant, attracts butterflies and is a tall flowerer, reaching heights up to three feet! Our mix includes white, creamy pink, and opal purple flowers and will bloom mid to late summer. I decided to pair a row of liatris and a row of purple tulips at our entrance to the garden to give some color there throughout spring and summer.

According to A to Z flowers, liatris symbolizes happiness, and joy – feelings that this butterfly garden gives us as we honor Millie’s memory. It can also represent a desire to try again – which is a profound feeling in our hearts right now, too.

Canna Lilies

I had never heard of Cannas – they are not actually lilies, just like Callas aren’t really lilies. The one bag that was left had two rhizomes of “Happy Emily.”

This name reminds me of our doctor, who is always bubbly and positive for us and has been with us through each of our pregnancies. We simply adore her, and so I thought it only fitting to add some flowers that would honor her.

These beauties flower late spring into fall and are deer resistant, bee friendly, and attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

They are not winter hardy in our zone, so I will dig them up this year and hopefully they will have multiplied. Since there were only two rhizomes, I’d like to split them if possible for replanting next year. I planted these cannas in a bed filled with tête à tête daffodils (the daffodils with the dainty, petite yellow blooms). These should pair nicely, as the daffodil will flower early spring and canna should follow shortly behind with their flowers.

Over the years as the rhizomes are split, I hope to fill in the whole middle section of the flower bed and create an impressive show of summer cannas. According to The Spruce, cannas are an impressive and showy flower – even watching the leaves sprout and unfurl is a sight to see.

Calla lilies

Calla lilies are associated with the Greek goddess, Hera, and I appreciated HGTV.com’s post as the most comprehensive explanation of the history and symbolism of this flower. They mention broken calla lilies as an image on tombstones symbolizing someone who died before their time. These flowers are a choice for Easter to symbolize rebirth, and also can express sympathy when in funeral arrangements.

The calla lily is not winter hardy, so we will need to dig up the rhizome in fall. However the beautiful flowers will last months, so we will be able to enjoy the blooms almost all summer long.

I decided to place the three callas opposite of the the azaleas, as I read they prefer partial shade in warmer climates. They seem to be very happy here and have perked up since being planted.

Tulips

Chouchou brought home enough orange tulips to be split into twenty or so plantings, and enough purple tulips to be split into twelve plantings.

We’ve paired the purple with the liatris at the garden entrance and the oranges with the asclepias (butterfly weed) on one mound and with daffodils on another mound.

Although they are done flowering for the season, I imagine a colorful display for next spring.

FTD.com offers interesting stories and histories about the tulip as well as symbolism of the flower – deep or perfect love, especially for red tulips. I prefer BloomNation’s interpretation for the colors purple (rebirth, as well as nobility/royalty, which don’t really apply to us!), and orange (happiness, energy, enthusiasm, mutual connection).

We haven’t planted the dahlias yet, since I read it’s not recommended to plant right before rainstorms, and we’ve had some heavy rains this past week.

After the dahlias, we may purchase one plant for Millie’s birthday this year, but we are done adding for the summer. We want to enjoy (and learn to care for!) the plants and bulbs we’ve purchased, so future updates should include lots of blooms and lessons learned!

I also need to give my body a rest, as I can tell by my sore muscle and pinched neck that I probably pushed myself a little harder than I needed to. It’s a labor of love and I put my all into it, but I am welcoming the break to observe new blooms and developments in the garden. Stay tuned!


For previous garden updates, check out the links below:

  • You can read about our nursery haul here;
  • December additions here;
  • fall additions here;
  • the end of week one progress here;
  • check out the grotto in progress here;
  • read about the chopping of our cherry tree here;
  • and see what we started with in our before pictures here.

Nursery Haul

Have you ever felt like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew? We often feel this in the springtime, as we begin our garden. We go overboard, romanticizing images of a full, flourishing garden.

With the spring weather, we have been looking forward to adding some flowers to our butterfly garden. But this time we are looking at it as a journey, a process, something that we don’t want to rush to fill.

It’s been a little less than a year, but having this garden has helped me to grieve, and I don’t see the sense in filling it all in at once, because grief is a process. Each shovel full of dirt moved has helped me feel a little stronger, each hole dug has given me a little bit of solace, each seed sown has provided a promise of beauty to come.

I won’t be done grieving just because the garden is filled. I want spaces to come out to each birthday and plant a new flower for Millie.

Finding Plants for the Butterfly Garden

Recently we took a family trip to an outdoor nursery to pick a few flowers for Millie’s garden. I love our local nursery – The Gardener Nursery. The owners are knowledgeable and friendly and they always have a great selection of flowers, plants, and shrubs. They even had some annuals so we were able to buy a few tomato plants.

Mon Cœur (MC) just enjoyed the car ride. She was so quiet I thought she had fallen asleep a few times. It’s these little things we forget we miss in the midst of self isolating during a pandemic. When we got to the nursery it was a nice cool morning and very few customers, so we were able to roam around freely, looking at the inventory and figuring out what we wanted for our garden.

MC decided she would be in charge of carrying the garden map and the pencil, and when I wasn’t looking, I caught her inspecting the flowers around her:

I almost melted, watching her smell each different flower. We picked out just a few new flower specimens to add to our garden. We were looking for specific areas of the garden to fill as well as specific plants to buy. In particular, we wanted to fill a shady spot and find deer-resistant plants, as we just recently noticed some nibbles taken from the camellias and gardenia.

Azaleas

I was especially interested in finding plants that were shade loving for a hill we have in the garden. We found three azaleas: George Tabor, a beautiful light pink; Formosa, a bright pink; and Girards Pleasant White.

Azaleas aren’t specifically mentioned as butterfly attractors, however, they are beautiful, flower prolifically, and do well in the shade. We decided to go with one-gallon pots of azaleas and spaced them about 5 feet apart.

Depending on the culture, azaleas portray different meanings. According to flowermeanings.org, in Japan and China, the flower symbolizes home or homesickness. In Victorian times, it was a sign of temperance. It has many other meanings, among them: taking care of oneself and others, and caring deeply for someone.

Azaleas are NOT deer resistant, and as such, we are keeping them in cages until we can figure out if deer are going to be a true threat to our garden and until the azaleas are better established. As MC and I ventured out the following morning to plant the azaleas, we noticed a bright green hummingbird perched on the wire of the cage. What an amazing way to start our morning garden adventures!

Phlox

Chouchou really wanted to get some phlox for ground cover, to help keep weeds down on the hills. One feature of the garden is some mounds of dirt we placed throughout the garden to serve as a canvas for flowers.

He wanted the path to be meandering and for the mounds and flowers to help surround us with wildlife. For those walking along the path to be in the moment, and not just looking ahead to where they go next. Until we are able to fill all the hills, phlox is a great way to take up space, since they are supposed to spread 18″.

They also have beautiful little blue and pink flowers. According to perennial-gardens.com, phlox symbolizes harmony. We would have purchased more, but the price for a gallon plant was a little expensive, so we will buy seeds next year and plant them throughout the garden.

Butterfly Bushes/Buddleja

We both wanted to add a couple of butterfly bushes. We decided to go with full size plants, as they can reach heights of six to eight feet, and will provide plenty of shade and food for butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.

We found one that will produce pink blooms, Pink Delight, and another that will produce dark purple blooms, Black Knight. They are only about two feet tall right now, but in our experience, they grow quickly. The nursery advised us to cut back the butterfly bushes to about 2 feet in late winter/early spring, which will help the butterfly bush continue to grow prolifically.

According to Theresa Dietz’ book, The Complete Language of Flowers: A Definitive and Illustrated History, Buddleja is a symbol for tenacity. Fitting, since as I was researching this there are many articles that say how invasive this plant is. Additionally, I remember when Chouchou cut down a butterfly bush that had grown taller than the house and really taken over the front of our house. It came back with a vengeance the next season.

Other sites have cited rebirth, new beginnings, and peace after struggle as symbols for the butterfly bush.

Shortly after we planted our nursery haul, Chouchou came home with some amazing buys on daffodil and tulip bulbs as well as a few hydrangeas. When we find homes for all these beauties, we’ll post another update!