It’s springtime, the birds are chirping, the days are getting longer, and the flowers, plants and trees are blooming. 

Ahhhh! There’s nothing like shedding those winter blahs and getting out in the spring air. Gardeners are out in full force tending to their beds, spreading mulch, getting rid of weeds, planting annuals, pruning perennials and putting in their vegetables. 

There’s evidence that gardening is good for one’s health. It’s good exercise, it gets everyone outside soaking up a little sun to manufacture some important vitamin D, and can be a great workout. There is also mounting evidence that it can make us happier and can add meaning to our lives by helping us feel “grounded.” Gardeners also report of getting into a “zone” when they are digging in the dirt, much like runners do when they are running. 

But can gardening help with the loss of a loved one? 

Peggy Wallace of Champaign says that it can. She’s a gardener. She turned her entire lawn into walkways, flower beds, English rose gardens, berms with hostas and shrubs, sitting areas, water features, a pond and repurposed art. At every turn, there is beauty. A feast for the senses. 

One would think that perhaps her lawn is a huge parcel of land. Not so. Her lot looks to be the size of a standard Champaign city lot.  

Wallace, a devoted wife and mother, lost her husband. It was sad for her when he passed away. Ever the positive person with a can-do spirit, she started the renovation of her yard into the elaborate and lush gardens that are in place today. 

“I have done all of this since Bob died,” she said, waving her arms across the threshold of the slate walkway into the pond area. 

Oh, and one more thing: Wallace is in her 80s. Looking at her, with her short denim bib overalls and perky straw hat, one would never guess she is even close to that age. 

Does Wallace think gardening helps keep her young? Is there really something to the power of flowers? 

She said that it has actually been a wonderful stress release. She gets great pleasure from gardening. She loves to watch her plants grow and develop as Central Illinois’ seasons progress and change. There’s a continuity in the cycle of plants — like all living things — that helps us all, she said. 

 “It takes me about two hours to water it all,” she said. 

She uses rain barrels to help with water consumption. She has them placed at every downspout. They are terra cotta-looking pots that have flowers cascading from them in all directions. A cute garden gnome frolics at the base of one rain barrel. Yard art, painted stones and even some plastic dinosaurs — for the grandkids — are nearby as well. 

“I never have water in my basement with these four rain barrels in place. It’s really helpful,” she said. 

Her children and grandchildren always give her a special gift each spring.

“Every Mother’s Day, they all come out and do a spring cleaning for me,” she said with a big smile. 

Last Mother’s Day they laid the slate for the pond, she said. She wonders what they will do this spring. 

She was a little sad about losing a tree the day we visited her, but that is part of it. The cycle of life.