A garden for Harriet
When Amanda Goode lost her daughter to cancer, and the much hoped for baby she was carrying, it was her garden that helped Amanda find respite from her grief and started her on a journey to recovery. This is her story…
There’s always a future with a garden.
A hope, and then a certainty, that something positive is going to happen. There’s a growing plan, there’s something to nurture and to tender and then, of course, something to rejoice over and share, especially when the promise of new life is finally revealed.
The Gardener’s Lodge, in Shropshire, has been my home for many years and, of course with an address like that it’s something to live up to!
After we’d completely renovated the house; taking the roof off, digging out the soil floors and making good everything in between, I took up the challenge of designing the garden suitable for a family. Over the years my interest grew, I enjoyed seeing the land alter and flourish through its many guises, until the day when my life was knocked completely off kilter in September 2015.
My only daughter, Harriet, recently married, and now expecting her first baby, was diagnosed, out of the blue, with terminal bowel cancer. She was thirty two years old.
The much loved and hoped for baby died, on my birthday in October, and Harriet died five months later in March, just one month before she would have celebrated her first wedding anniversary to Richie, her wonderful husband.
We were, and remain, devastated.
Friends and colleagues at work (I am a designer of textiles and university lecturer) so generous in their support and care, kick-started my gardening lifeline by gifting to me, dedicated in Harriet’s name, an olive tree. This fascinating, gnarled and aged specimen brought back loving memories of a six-week drawing and research trip, we had taken all together, when the children were small.
Driving 4,000 miles around Spain we captured the landscape and eventually, excitedly, arrived at the Alhambra Palace in Granada, to the solace and perfumes of the beautiful courtyard gardens.
And, it was when Richie shared with me a piece Harriet had written, poetically and joyously describing the day, in Croatia, when he had asked her to marry him; the sticky burrs from the surrounding plants catching on her dress as they made their way along a winding path to a rocky cove, I knew the seed was sown and I knew what to do.
It was from these key moments that the garden took on a new significance for me. I knew I had found my new direction. Something to absorb me.
The garden became, and still is, one of the key contributors to my ongoing handling of, and gentle recovery from pain, stress and grief.
The garden infrastructure, already in place, was sound and easy to revise and develop. I didn’t feel immediately able, willing or confident to undertake this transformation but there was always the sense of at least a glimmer of positivity to look forward to. I just wasn’t quite ready. I knew I had a connection to the earth, the garden and gardening. I just had to carefully reignite it.
Eventually, I began to feel more capable and the garden offered me the tranquillity of walking, thinking and planning, allowing me also the respite I needed from the grief brought on by the enormity of our recent loss.
Physical labour, mental quietness, a sense of proportion and achievement, an aim and ambition, these were all positive goals and challenges for me, especially when everything else seemed so futile. Exhaustion from something other than worry, laughing when I knew it was silly to be worrying about the garden. It certainly helped put life in perspective.
Influenced by my daughter’s love of writing and travel I will continue to take inspiration from her words, translating and interpreting her vision into the essence of, for example a Mediterranean patio or a Sri Lankan terrace; all the time encouraging family and visitors to conjure up, share and enjoy their own scenes and scenarios inspired by the developing areas within the garden.
And so started my new journey. A journey that will, without leaving an English garden, take me, my family, my friends, and my soon to be welcomed National Garden Scheme visitors, quietly around the world and back again. But, most of all, my garden will allow me to reflect and give thanks for the life and times of my daughter Harriet Charlotte Clarke.
Amanda’s garden opens for the National Garden Scheme – for more information click here
To watch a virtual visit to the garden filmed in lockdown 2020 click here