Friday, 14 November 2014


We look after the gardens of a number of retirement properties, a few of which go back to the day we started out on this venture some 17 years ago. One such place is in Christchurch, and we went there yesterday.

There are about thirty flats, and mostly single elderly people that live in them, as their partners passed away beforehand. I don't know why it is, but they often seem to choose gardeners for their contact. It's not fair. We spend years getting to know these 'strangers', only for them to leave us at some point.

When we first started working here, we were asked to please not walk off the job by the house manager, as Ingrid is just a difficult lady, and will be talked to about her attitude. We were new, and had weeded and hoed her little area, which resulted in some unbelievably bad language and insults from her. She was a very difficult lady to deal with. In her late seventies then, and definitely fully mobile, when asked to apologise to us, she did, and said that it's just her german way. I gently reminded her that my father was german, and her nationality had nothing to do with her attitude. We became better aquainted after that, and the next fifteen years had it's polite ups and downs. A couple of years ago she developed cancer. Her family living in Germany, she was on her own over here, and would come out to talk more and more. Towards the end she admitted that she was scared, and tears would well up as she spoke. In the end, I hadn't been to the place for about three weeks, and I noticed that her little area just didn't look quite as tidy as it should. 

Someone else in the building would secretly leave us chocolates on every visit. In that post there is mention of a hot cross bun. It was from Ingrid.I never found out who gave the chocolates, it was quite a mystery, and last year no more came.

Yesterday we turned up ready to sort the place out, and the house manager asked if we could not use any machinery, as a funeral was taking place there shortly. The place was wet and windy, and we grabbed a couple of rakes and some bags to do some leaf clearing. There was a man in a dark suit in the flat of a very dear resident. Amanda looked at me and said 'Oh no, it must be Renee'. I checked, and sure enough this lovely lady had also passed away.

Renee was the first to greet us when we started, with a cup of tea and a smile that was never failing. She was in her nineties at the end, but always made us feel good inside as soon as she opened her door to the garden with a greeting for us. It was while working here that we learnt about the 9/11 tragedy. She called us into her lounge to see what was unfolding on television, and we sat there for over an hour watching in stunned silence.

Renee was a very special lady indeed. One of a kind. The last thing I spoke to her about was how well her Wisteria was doing, and she was looking forward to seeing it flower next year. Apparently she lay in hospital, and just told family that she 'is ready now'.

Goodbye Renee. God bless you!


  1. I'm sorry for your loss of people from this part of your job. That would be hard to take. They become like family after seeing them for so many years.

    Nice tribute ~ FlowerLady

  2. You do much more than garden. You develop a personal relationship. You are appreciated much more because of the good relationship. My sympathy to you for your loss.

  3. God bless Renee. Nice post Gary.

  4. A sweet post. Sorry for your loss. We are never too old to make new friends. So glad you all found each other.