Garden Photo of the Day

Darlene’s Healing Garden

Gardening as therapy

My name is Darlene O’Neil. I live in a small village in Moravia, New York. I had volunteered and donated my time with the VFW Auxiliary for years. This kept me busy year-round, and I would squeeze time in for everything else. I finally decided I needed to step away and spend more time with family, friends, and my home, but first I needed to focus on me. I’d forgotten how important it was to do that. How do I heal?

Therapy? Meds? Yoga? What would do the trick? The answer finally came to me: my yard.

As each week passed, I would work in my flower beds. Most people my age would cut back on the flower beds and yard work, throw some grass seed down, and just mow. Not me. I added three more flower beds this summer. I realized midsummer how my yard was my therapy. Without realizing the mood I was in, I’d head outside. Weed pulling would be the bad days, and digging and planting would be the good days. No pharmacy can put that in a pill. There were many more days of digging and planting than weed pulling. We got new neighbors into the horseshoe this last spring and they are wonderful. We shared blossoms, plants, seeds, garden tools, gardening tips, and even mulch!

I have a neighbor who would dig up something that he would no longer want. I’d see him walking across the street with a bush, a box of perennials, even houseplants, and with a grin he’d ask, “Do you want these?” He didn’t need a verbal response. I’d grab what he was holding and run for my shovel. Sometimes he’d ask, “Where are you going to plant it? It will spread.” “I’ll find a place,” I’d reply. My house being in the bottom of the horseshoe means I have to keep my yard and home up on three sides. Six homes view my home from their front windows. I will not disappoint.

I’ve had work done on my home over the last 15 years. My front porch was probably the one that pleased me the most. My porch is styled for each season.

I won the Street View Beautification Award in 2021.

Shrubs anchor this bed with a variety of shapes, textures, and colors.

Red hardy hibiscus (Hibiscus hybrid, Zones 5–9), pink Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ (Zones 3–9), and yellow sunflowers (Helianthus annuus, annual)

My neighbor’s son-in-law lives to build things from pallets and scrap wood. A couple years ago he built me a wishing well. I would see something he’d build for my neighbor and I started putting in requests. Besides the well, he’s built me two birdhouses, a potting bench, a wide trellis, and my favorite—a pergola!

The front porch is decorated for fall.

I had to have some huge limbs cut down over my roof and shed, so my friend thought it was a good place for a birdhouse. Voila—the Airbnb (bird and breakfast).

A closer look at the birdhouse

Other plant lovers can surely relate to the sentiment expressed on the sign.

Red hardy hibiscus with a brilliant rose

This pretty pink geranium (Pelargonium hybrid, Zones 9–11 or as annual) pairs perfectly with variegated plectranthus (Plectranthus ‘Lime Light’, Zones 10–11 or as an annual).

Enjoy my pics. I love my home and yard. Fussing with it over the summer was good, clean, and cheap therapy!


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View Comments


  1. sandyprowse 11/14/2023

    Darlene: I loved reading this story of how you took out time for yourself and headed, shovel in hand to the garden. You are right, best therapy ever. Your porch and gardens are a delight to look at. A lot of love shines through. Thank you for posting. It was heartwarming!

  2. User avater
    user-7007816 11/14/2023

    I completely agree with he power and joy of garden therapy. I have had a similar experience.
    Lovely gardens!

  3. shereads 11/14/2023

    Your house and gardens are so cheerful and welcoming. Glad that you found something that makes life an adventure. So happy to be on that adventure as well. Happy Gardening!

  4. pplat 11/14/2023

    Wow! I would love to have a neighbour like you so that I could constantly feast my eyes on the beauty that you have created at your house. I firmly believe that a garden is for everyone to enjoy and you exemplify that in all aspects. Thank you so very much for sharing and keep up the great work!

  5. btucker9675 11/14/2023

    Utterly charming!

  6. User avater
    simplesue 11/15/2023

    So charming! A delight to see!

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