Today’s photos come from Brenda Parent in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. Brenda says, “My grandmother had a farm in North Carolina where I spent a few weeks each summer with no TV, and my father always had a big vegetable garden. Growing up, I’d much rather be out there with him than inside with my mom cleaning or washing dishes. That was what my older sister was for.
“I broke my neck in a car accident on an icy road in New Hampshire while on my way to work as a bank auditor on December 13, 1983. I was told that I would never be independent again. Definitely a life changing experience for a 22 year old. I spent about 5 years in and out of therapy until I realized that if I built my shoulders up anymore, there would be no clothes that would fit me. I became very independent and in 1987 had my son. I moved to South Carolina in 1990. I dealt with some other real life issues–death, divorce, etc.–until I met Kevin, my husband, in 1997.
I worked as a consultant on accessible public transportation, and had gone off to Denver for a trip. When I came home my husband had planted some mums around a dogwood tree that was in full sun! I was hooked. The garden grew, the dogwood was eventually removed, and as we have aged we have added more flowering shrubs and completely redesigned the yard. I had only been able to get to my backyard a few times because it was difficult to push through the grass, and it sloped down towards the marsh. We hired a landscape architect to help deal with some grading and erosion problems, and to help design a walkway completely around the yard.
“I found myself involved with all of it, and mostly with the design. It had to work for me. Slope and grade are critical for someone who uses a wheelchair, and who spends a lot of time in their garden. I wanted very little lawn and I didn’t want the same old, boring plants most people use. My list of likes and dislikes were very specific. Adequate spacing of the plants was very important for me to get around. I own every long-reach tool manufactured–a lot anyway. I would still like to add some additional meandering pathways with flag stone spaced fairly closely someday, but for the most part, I can get to where I need to go. I’m good at pointing too!
“After 20 years working as a consultant on almost every issue involving accessibility, I decided to focus my efforts on my passion. Just this past year I went through and passed our state’s Master Gardener program. Accessibility to outdoor spaces, gardens in general (public and private), has now become my focus. I started a blog too, because I think I have something to say that other gardeners may be interested in. This is the part of access that I really love. I know the regulations, but they’re simply minimum requirements. I go beyond them with my suggestions.
“My next step is to pursue a Master’s Certificate in Horticultural Therapy and to volunteer with a program locally. There is always more to learn. As our population ages, they are sharing the same issues that I’ve been dealing with for the last 28 years. When I see an outdoor space, I ask “how can everyone enjoy this?” For me, in my home garden, it has been a way of life. Quality moments with family, and quiet solitude after a stressful day.”
Wow, Brenda. You are an inspiration. Thank you so much for sharing your story and your garden with us!
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