Peg and Ken were newlyweds, full of hopes and dreams of the future when Peg was injured at work from lugging tree-sized plants. Three herniated disks and blood clots in her legs resulted in back surgery and surgery to repair an aorta. She had a total of three clots: one in each leg the first time and one a year later in her left leg. After the surgery to install an aorta stent, pain woke Peg in the morning and kept her awake at night; it became her constant companion. She loved gardening but now her dreams of even decorating her new back yard were dashed. The pain medications were too strong and the pain was too severe. Peg never gave up on her recovery but often her injuries and pain were not addressed, exacerbating both.

Peg's answer came through a winning attitude, an understanding spouse, determination, her passion for gardening and her background. She states, "I came from a very hardworking family where feeling sorry for yourself was not an option. I married a man that came from the same background." Peg noticed others with worse disabilities and thought, "There, except by the grace of God, go I." Peg fought through the pain of every moment. She fought through the lack of finances since she could no longer work. She fought through the inability to even dig a small hole in the ground. She fought through the despair when physical therapy was not improving her condition. When Peg could not find a way through the mountain, she found a way around it. With the help of her husband, classical music and donated plants, Peg found a way around the pain back to her dream and her life.


The beginning.

Sometimes life was difficult for Peg but she gently pushed herself. She decided to try her hand at topiary and settled on growing furniture to honor her new husband's grandfather who had owned a local furniture store. The beginning, as you can see above, did not look like anything except a scrawny privet bush and a boxwood hedge. While working on the topiary, Peg sat on a stool when possible and stood if the pain was too intense. When tired, she went inside. The steps were small and sometimes tedious, but Peg knew that every journey begins with just one step, followed by another and another. She believes that the exercise creating the topiaries was "much more than would have been received from traditional physical therapy." Peg worked at a pace she could tolerate. Throughout her gardening, she "made purposeful movements to stretch, to gain strength and to improve her balance." Peg explained, "I refused to use electric tools, forcing myself to only use hand tools, even when I could barely pick up a cup of coffee."


Year 2: The work continues.

Peg never gave up. By year two, the backyard sofa was growing as her back and legs were healing. She experienced setbacks with her health but persevered. As you can see in the picture above, the shrubs were beginning to look like basic furniture topiary. The foundation was well established but the work was not yet complete. As the shrubs took shape, Peg's outlook improved. She enjoyed the outdoors as she listened to music while her cats watched her work. The music helped transport her away from the constant pain.


Year 3: The furniture grows.

By the third year, the bushes had grown out nicely. With Peg's constant attention, the bushes became furniture. The Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) bush behind the sofa represented a lamp. Meanwhile, Peg grew consistently stronger and her energy began to return because of the gardening. Peg continued to just go inside if she became overly tired, or if the pain was unbearable.


Year 4: Welcome to the "living" living room.

This picture shows the finished product: her first topiary dream was complete and the privet hedge was transformed into a sofa and the boxwood into a coffee table. Peg often decorates the furniture with doilies, china cups, throw pillows and a magazine. If you look closely at the picture, you may be able to see wooden legs under the coffee table. This is also a picture of life: continue through the hardships and see how much you can accomplish. During this time, Peg and her husband Ken not only created a beautiful topiary; she also became a Master Gardener, planted a butterfly, bird and hummingbird garden, planted pecan and peach trees and set up arbors.

Peg has expanded her topiary dream with a couple of roosters and a teddy bear. She advocates gardening for the young and the old because of its therapeutic qualities. Peg explained that she believes that the benefits of gardening include increased manual dexterity, improved cognitive function, exercise, release of depression or anxiety and increase of contentment. Peg took many steps of determination to change her life and she is thankful for her husband's wonderful support and encouragement. She fought through the pain to create beauty. Because of the emotional health and peace that gardening brings, Peg encourages everyone to garden through weakness, pain, despair or old age. Through it all, Peg says that the absolute best thing that has happened through creating her beautiful furniture garden is "seeing the smiles it puts on people's faces when they see it!"

When life gave Peg lemons, she made a place to enjoy the lemonade.

Other Dave's Garden articles dealing with topiary and shrubs:

  • Topiary: Art with Nature, Part 1~Historical Overview by Toni Leland
  • Topiary: Art with Nature, Part 2~How To Do It Yourself by Toni Leland
  • Topiary: Art in Nature, Part 3~Gardens of Note by Toni Leland
  • Boxwood ~ the Versatile Landscape Shrub by Jan Recchio
  • Planting Rootbound Shrubs by Lois Tilton
  • Introduction to Garden Styles: So Many Choices! by Toni Leland
  • Visiting Nong Nooch Tropical Gardens in Thailand by Geoff Stein
  • Introduction to Ornamental Figs in Cultivation by Geoff Stein
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