Working it out: Gardening creates a path of tears, healing and love

August 2014 Posted in People
Sharron Mills-Green said gardening has helped her cope with life’s challenges.

Sharron Mills-Green said gardening has helped her cope with life’s challenges.

By Brenna Wiegand

It had been a long time since Sharron Mills-Green had done much gardening.

The suffering and death of her mother and her husband Patrick’s brush with death and nine years of serious health complications and surgeries demanded her passions fall by the wayside.

“My mom lived with us for over two years before she passed away and I wasn’t able to get outside very much and do anything,” Sharron said. “Mom loved gardens. One day when my sister was here taking care of Mom, I came out and dug this first flower bed out of pure frustration. I had to get outside and do something. I just chunked into the grass and created this little space but that’s all I did for awhile.”

Her mother, Doris “Dodi” Mills, died Dec. 10, 2012. Her husband Patrick Green was seriously ill and she knew many dark days. The months passed slowly, but eventually spring knocked at her door. And Sharron answered by really  “digging up the dirt.”

Today there are multiple island gardens, each with its own theme, with paths that reveal them in a gradual fashion.

“One of the things I love about gardens is the continuity from generation to generation or plants your grandmother grew that you remember,” she said. “I used to have roses all along here and I’ve got jars and jars of rose potpourri because my grandmother taught me how to make it. I smell that and it’s just nostalgia.”

Though her garden’s creation has largely been a solitary journey, Sharron made the paths wide enough for two. Destinations include her parents’ 50th wedding anniversary bench under an arch; a garden swing, and a table and chairs for afternoon lemonade or evening musings.

“One of the things I’ve learned is that when you build a house, there has to be somebody that is the keeper of the dream who just focuses on exactly what you want in that home,” Sharron said.

Reaching a stand of peonies, Sharron smiles at their beauty. “That Chinese pink is just heavenly; it reminds me of raw silk or something. Patrick loves to have me cut the flowers; I have a beautiful bouquet of red ones in the house.”

There’s a blue and orange garden, one that’s evergreen and yet another that is predominantly pink. Each contains a modest growing tree, shrubs, perennials and, if she can conquer the slugs, colorful annuals.

Patrick is improving slowly after surgery and there’s family nearby; her sister’s next door, her brother two doors down. Precious are the summer evenings she and Patrick spend in the garden. From one of the benches they gain new perspective. They can look farther afield and see mammoth trees and shrubs they planted together since they bought the place in 1989. Before them is the young garden, and sometimes Patrick just can’t help but lend a hand.

“It is being outside and doing something he enjoys to do and touch,” Sharron said. For her, gardening has been a lifesaver.

“I started working outside again just to remember my mom and work through grief – such a beautiful thing for such a tragic time,” Sharron said. “It’s a physical outlet … so that you’re exhausted at the end of the day and that’s good. And it’s also a mental outlet. You’re just thinking about that person or thinking ‘Oh, Mom loved this.’

“So it’s been a labor of love and we’re going to have a family reunion in August. I want to dedicate the gardens to her then.”

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