Gardening with MS

Love spring rain and cool, cloudy spring days for it brings the green of life. — Anonymous

I’m writing this at the end of May after all my annuals have been planted or hung on hooks, creating an instant garden where there was only barren earth and debris. By now, my perennials have leafed out and started blooming, too. Together they bring a festival of color to the eye of anyone who passes. This is partly why I make the effort every year. For the simple pleasure a flower can bring. Not one person is immune.

Indulging my passion

I’m very lucky that my own immune system allows me to indulge this passion. Although I’m allergic to certain kinds of pollen, the things I plant are not among them. And on the autoimmune side, my MS symptoms limit my gardening activities but don’t prevent them. Heat keeps me from working outside for very long. Bad balance and weak legs, too. But a few adjustments can still allow me to make my dreams a reality each spring.

Asking for help

For one, I’ve learned to ask for help. My brother and boyfriend did the heavier work. Without them, the flower beds would have gone without new mulch; the heavy concrete birdbath would still be in storage; the new climbing rose would still be in its pot. I appreciate them all the more because we are in our sixties now, and they have physical limitations, too. The older we get, the more level the playing field becomes. It’s a beautiful thing to see the light bulb of understanding blink on in people who were able-bodied until recently and didn’t understand how MS affected me. When three disabled people work together they can get an awful lot done.

Feeling pride and satisfaction

I’ve had MS for so long now that I’m used to gardening for five minutes at a time followed by 30 minutes of rest. It takes all day to do a small amount, but it does get done. Why do I bother? I’m going for the pride and satisfaction of sitting back and seeing this beauty where there was none an hour before — and knowing I did it myself.

How gardening is like golfing

For those of us who are passionate and obsessive, gardening is a lot like golfing. Always troubleshooting a problem and never really getting a handle on it is like catnip for us. Years ago when I first learned to golf, I went to the driving range and hit two buckets of balls: the first for woods and the second for irons. By the last ball my hands were hamburger. Overkill didn’t improve my driving distance. When I told my golfer dad what I did, he laughed heartily. One bucket is enough, honey.

The joys of gardening

Those of you who are gardeners know these pitfalls all too well. We first learn which beds get full sun and which get mostly shade, and we purchase our plants accordingly. Seems simple enough. But then our full sun plants shrivel and die, so we replace them thinking we bought a sick plant. The next summer, the same thing happens. We amend the soil, try a different fertilizer, to no avail. We give up on that particular plant and then get livid when a neighbor plants the same thing in their garden and it thrives every year!

But that’s the fun of it. Learning the quirks of our own little plot of dirt. For example, I can grow shade plants in a certain little area of my full sun bed and they don’t burn up. I have a hosta and a jack frost that defy logic in this way. I assume they are protected from the sun, sitting under a double shepherd’s hook with gigantic hanging baskets throwing shade on the ground a few hours a day.

Ah, the mysteries of nature. Hope you enjoy the photos of my little paradise.

Gardening with MS
Gardening with MS

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Comments

View Comments (9)
  • Jilljm
    9 months ago

    What a beautiful piece of Paradise . We have downsized but I think all of your potted plants are a doable option for me. Thanks for the inspiration❣

  • Azjackie
    9 months ago

    Your plants are beautiful. You’ve inspired me to dust my gardening journal and plant a little. I do miss it so. The utter joy planting vegetables and eating them fresh off the plant…

  • weezy
    9 months ago

    Kim, I read your article with amazement and understanding. I love to “play in the dirt” as I call my gardening. I also plant around the sunny areas and limit my time outside. I have also been known to plant at dusk or even in the dark with the outside lights on. Your plants are lovely and I can see why you continue to garden despite your limitations, keep at it!

  • Suze
    9 months ago

    I love your little paradise! Thank you for sharing it with us. For years I had my own summer paradise, until I advanced to SPMS two years ago. Last summer was the first year I can remember that I didn’t plant one flower. All I had was my yellow rose bush, which just wasn’t enough to lift my spirits. I missed my beautiful flower garden so much that I vowed to never go through a colorless summer again! It is harder now, of course, but putting the effort in makes it even more special. After all, God created all those different beautiful flowers just for us to enjoy. Just to make us happy. And they put a smile on my face each time I see them.

  • potter
    9 months ago

    Beautiful hard and soft landscape. I have been struggling with my gardening this year. We had a hard winter this year and I lost over a dozen plants. Big grasses and yuccas. I am having trouble with my right knee and left foot, I can’t hardly walk in the yard. My husbands intends to help but bags of mulch are still laying all over the back yard. We have bought 4 yuccas to replace the 7 I lost. He dug a hole for one tomato plant, then rabbits quickly demolished it. I now have some volunteer plants left to water. It will be interesting to see what they are. My dad had a acre size garden and it was our job to take care of it all summer. Can’t seem to get the need to garden out of my head. Potter

  • Julie
    9 months ago

    I love your garden. I’m trying container gardening. It seems to be easier than getting on my hands and knees. No way to get up from that position!

    So it’s interesting to find how to grow vegetables in containers. Flowers are easier. The heat is another matter. Why can’t flowers grow in the freezing winter?

    It’s all about adapting I suppose. Raised beds instead of getting on the ground. Containers that can be moved. I do have to watch how long I stay out in the heat. It really zaps me and makes me want to lay down the rest of the day.

    So everyone be safe in the summer heat! It can be a mean bear!

  • OliviaJ
    9 months ago

    I share your love of this particular pastime. Shortly after I was diagnosed, my husband got a stool, a hose, plants, etc., etc., but after only a few moments, I tripped and slid several feet through the mud and swore off my gardening hobby forever. Years past, the disease progressed but my darling husband built me a small greenhouse off our deck and I’m back at it, even in my wheelchair. I live in a cold climate, but in the greenhouse, it doesn’t matter. Tomorrow morning, I’ll take my cuppa out there and get back at it. Thanks for your column and happy gardening!

  • gardenguru
    9 months ago

    Such a lovely piece AND garden. I am in your MS and gardening camp. My PPMS arrived later in my life so I got a head start pursuing the joys and challenges of my garden. It’s more challenging now ( and I’m older) but it’s still my place of promise, fulfillment and serenity.
    Happy blooms to you
    Linda

  • dhortho1
    9 months ago

    Kim,
    Your little garden is beautiful! I certainly get the part about golf and catnip — but I’m still trying.

    David

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