If the shoe fits, fill it with flowers...

By Sharon Brown (Sharon) on April 15, 2010

It was May, 2008 when we lost a dear Dave's Garden friend who lived in Alaska. Several of us had known Carol Eads very well through her posts on DG, and our hearts were hurting when she passed. But the story does not end there. I traveled to Alaska to build a Memory Garden for Carol, and in doing so, I discovered a whole new world filled with wonderful people and unusual things....here's my story.

Those of us who got to know Carol, also got to know Ava, her sister. Very soon after losing Carol, Ava invited me to come t2010-04-15/Sharran/ad2010o Seward, Alaska to build a Memory Garden for Carol.

I might have hesitated for..... ummmmm, maybe 30 seconds. I tried, I really tried to be gracious and humble, but I very nearly jumped through the phone, so anxious was I to say 'YES!'

It never occurred to me at the time that Alaska was a world away from Kentucky, and it never dawned on me that I only knew Kentucky wildflowers. I never gave a thought to the zone differences, the soil, or the fact that I knew not a soul in Alaska. I didn't even know much about the summer solstice, which was when the memorial service would be held. I just said 'YES!' And I didn't have a clue. 

It was still dark when the big flight day arrived, I didn't know that was the last bit of darkness I would see for nearly two weeks. I was leaving Kentucky to head for Nashville and from there, 3,000 miles and 11 hours later, I'd be arriving in Anchorage. I was so excited I can't even remember a minute of the flight. Ava was waiting for me when we flew into Anchorage, and we got acquainted on the 100 mile trip down to Seward. She stopped frequently 2010-04-15/Sharran/dded1falong the way to introduce me to the native Alaskan wildflowers.

My heart dropped. I'd never seen anything like this strange world. Snow was on the mountains, glacier run offs came all the way down the mountains and right to the highway, yet the dandelions...the only thing I recognized that I met along the way... were as huge as those mums that are worn on the left shoulder of the Football Homecoming Queen. And I did not recognize a one of the native wildflowers.

It was too late to back out now. My return ticket was good for June 24th, and it was only June 16th. Here I was, committed to planting a Memory Garden, and I felt as if I were in one of those nightmares when you're facing a test and haven't studied. We passed huge rocks along the road, and there were flowers blooming from cracks in those rocks. Plants growing out of rocks? Where was the dirt? But those plants were lush, in full bloom, and glorious.

I thought about confessing my ignorance to Ava. But what could I say when she was rattling off words, names of wildflowers I'd never heard: 2010-04-15/Sharran/bd6934Saxifrage, Alpine, Rockcress, Mossberry, Potentilla, the list seemed endless. And when we stopped to look at those that were blooming, I knew I was way out of my element, but I was too curious to admit my ignorance, so I thought maybe I could fake it. You know what? I never did recognize a single plant that I saw along that 100 mile trip to Seward. Not a one, except that huge dandelion. 

The plan was to move all of Carol's plants to a garden that was to be built beside Ava's home. I had one week to get the garden all planted for the memorial service which would be attended by most of Seward and surrounding areas. I was...to put it mildly...totally intimidated. 

We got to Ava's home, and very sho2010-04-15/Sharran/e4d7d2rtly I learned another big difference. The Summer Solstice was upon us, and it was pure daylight for about 23+ hours. The sun was still shining at nearly midnight. I kissed the darkness goodbye. We drove to Carol's house, not very far from Ava's, but far enough that we'd have to haul all the plants from Carol's to Ava's in a vehicle. We parked the car, and I took a look around me.

Carol was a delightful person, and throughout her illness, we laughed more than we cried. When I looked at her garden, my heart laughed right out loud again. It was exactly like Carol, whimsical, fun, and full of the strangest things. If I thought it odd seeing plants blooming from cracks in the gigantic rocks along the roadside, I was amazed at what contained plants in Carol's garden. Some of her plants were in the ground, of course, but most of them grew out of shoes, or wagons, hypertufa pots that Carol had made, watering cans, shells, hollow stumps, and did I say shoes? Shoes. Baby shoes, boots, dress shoes from the 70's...It was surely the most fun garden I'd ever seen.

There were trees...not ordinary trees, but some she'd star2010-04-15/Sharran/d7e01ated as bonsai, but then changed her mind and planted them in the ground. Those trees were standing on roots that were a couple of feet off the ground, and were perhaps 25 feet tall. In one of them hung a twig chair, one she had made from tree scraps that she'd found. It looked like a wonderland, and I felt a little like Alice. 

I'd checked out the soil and found it black and rich in nutrients, much like the soil of the mountains I grew up in. I felt a little more self confident so I decided we'd move the plants, but leave them in their containers. We'd fill the Memory Garden with all those containers that Carol had loved. We'd dig the others and plant them too, but that Memory Garden just had to have those wonderful containers.

And that's exactly what we did. We moved every plant from Carol's to the Memory Garden. I had a lot of help with the moving, I could never have done it alone. But you know what I remembe2010-04-15/Sharran/aad87cr most? I remember those shoes that were filled with plants that Carol had loved. It didn't matter that I didn't know their names. The ones we dug and transplanted, like the Himalayan poppies, didn't even wilt. They just kept right on growing and blooming, not caring one bit that a totally inept woman from Kentucky had done the moving. And those in the shoes, well, they just kept right on growing and blooming too, and I still love the memory of them.

Ava tells me that the garden was glorious last year, one year after being transplanted. I can't wait to see pictures of it again this year. 

You see, it doesn't seem to matter what our containers are made of. We love the plants, and they love us right back. They shower us with blooms and new growth, and so much beauty. That's what I saw in the old shoes that Carol had used as pots. To me, they were simply creatively beautiful. 

Katg has also shared with us the beauty of her containers and plants over the years. We can see the love and talent that she pours into her creations. Just as Carol's 'pots' made my heart laugh, the 'pots' that Kathy creates make2010-04-15/Sharran/43140d me want to dance across her sun room every time I see the glorious 'hairstyles' they are wearing. It's the little things like creativity and love combined with a lot of laughter that always touch my heart in a big way; Kathy's containers, just like Carol's, are filled with creativity, humor, and a whole lot of love. 

Thanks, Kathy, for giving me space on your wonderfully fun Cubit. Like a lot of others, I always come here and look at your happy containers whenever I need a smile. 


Related articles:
Alaska, cold climate plants, container gardening, containers for plants, garden, memory gardens, plant, plant containers, plants, Seward Alaska, tundra, unusual plant containers

About Sharon Brown
I am a retired Art and Humanities teacher. I paint a lot, I write a lot, and I have a fondness for gardening. I have two wonderful adult children and a 5 year old grandson. Life is good.

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
Great Story Ridesredmule Jan 9, 2011 3:40 PM 3
Thank-you. Katg Jan 8, 2011 12:40 PM 44
Carol's memory garden Magpie Nov 20, 2010 2:04 PM 6

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