Shared Love for Gardening….

Goodding's Verbena (Glandularia gooddingi

Some daughter-in-law’s don’t have much in common with their father-in-law. 

In my case, when I married my husband 25 years ago, I wasn’t sure if I would have any shared interests with my father-in-law…..he was a dentist (I was deathly afraid of dentists), he ran 3 miles a day (I got a ‘stitch’ in my side if I tried running to the corner), he was very orderly and meticulous (I am neither of those things) and he was soft spoken (while I can be a bit loud).

I knew he loved me and I him, but sometimes conversation would lag because besides the kids and family, there wasn’t much else to talk about.

That is until I started to become interested in plants and landscaping.  You see, my father-in-law always had well-designed landscapes filled with beautiful plants.  As I decided to pursue a degree in Urban Horticulture, he was very supportive.

Urban Horticulture

Urban Horticulture, Goodding’s Verbena (Glandularia gooddingi)

Even better, we now had lots to talk about.  Our visits would often include visits into each others garden.

I would show him my newest plant acquisition and he would in turn, ask me questions about a few of his plant problems.

Urban Horticulture

Red Yucca  (Hesperaloe parviflora)

A few years later, he and my mother-in-law made the trip up to my newest job location, took me out to lunch and asked me to show them around the landscape areas I was in charge of.

Urban Horticulture

Blackfoot Daisy  (Melampodium leucanthum)

When he retired, he asked me to design the landscape for their new home.  He had some ideas of what he wanted and then let me go at it.

Urban Horticulture

Damianita  (Chrysactinia mexicana)

 I enjoyed working closely with him, in coming up with a design and the plants that he liked.

Urban Horticulture

Purple Prickly Pear  (Opuntia violaceae)

While I enjoyed visiting and seeing his landscape mature, I didn’t always agree with the way he like to prune his shrubs…

Urban Horticulture

His style gardening was orderly and meticulous, like he was.

We would sometimes tease each other because our styles were vastly different.

Urban 'Torch Glow' Bougainvillea

‘Torch Glow’ Bougainvillea

But no matter our landscaping styles, we still enjoyed going out into the garden together.

Last October, my father-in-law was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).  

Phoenix Bird-of-Paradise  (Caesalpinia pulcherrima 'Phoenix')

Phoenix Bird-of-Paradise  (Caesalpinia pulcherrima ‘Phoenix’)

In a very short time, he was robbed of the ability to speak, swallow, eat and the use of his hands.

Now, unable to work in his garden himself, he had to rely on others.

Urban Horticulture

I considered it a privilege to help him where I could.

'Rio Bravo' Sage (Leucophyllum langmaniae 'Rio Bravo')

‘Rio Bravo’ Sage (Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Rio Bravo’)

He endured this horrible disease with dignity, a sense of humor and through his faith.

Mexican Fence Post (Pachycereus marginatus)

Mexican Fence Post (Pachycereus marginatus)

This past Saturday, after 2 weeks in hospice care, he passed away.

Urban Horticulture

We were all blessed to be by his side as he took his last, labored breath.

One of the last things he wrote was,

“My race is almost over.”


I think it will be awhile before I can step into his garden without shedding tears.

I will miss sharing our love for plants together…..      

Tour of Sustainable Southwestern Landscapes: Part 1

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a author, horticulturist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."
27 replies
  1. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    This is a lovely post and very touching. I am sure he treasured a daughter-in-law like you, the way to a FIL's heart is through his flowers. Noelle i just like you to smile a bit, we all go into transition, one at a time. You did not say if those flowers you posted are your dad's favorite, but if you dedicate them to him, they are all very organized which he will like. I hope we can still appreciate flowers in heaven!

  2. rosiemomma
    rosiemomma says:

    I've been following your blog for some time and I am so sorry to hear about the passing of your father-in-love. He was blessed to have a daughter as attentive and loving as you. I will lift your family in prayer.

  3. debsgarden
    debsgarden says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. This post is a loving tribute. My prayers are with you. I suspect your father in law is exploring a new garden even now, too gorgeous for words and no weeds!

  4. D
    D says:

    I live in Gilbert, too, and really enjoy reading your blog. This was a beautiful post. My deepest condolances and sympathies go out to you and your family.

  5. Aimee H.
    Aimee H. says:

    This is beautifully written, Noelle, and you have honored Bill's life and memory well. What a special bond… over plants! Maybe, in time, the garden will bring smiles instead of tears. He ran that "race" very well.

  6. Pege
    Pege says:

    My deepest condolences to you and your family Noelle. May your love and memories of your father-in-love keep you all close at this time.

  7. loveithandmade
    loveithandmade says:

    It's a beautiful post and tribute and I am very sorry for your loss.

    It brings tears to my eyes reading this and even now, thinking of the loss of my mother a year and a half ago.

  8. HolleyGarden
    HolleyGarden says:

    This post made me cry. I am so sorry for your loss. I can understand your not being able to face his garden for a while, as his personality is all around. Eventually it may bring you peace, and I hope when you do return you will feel the love he put into his garden and had for his family.

  9. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I am so sorry for your loss, of a terrific man! God bless all of you through this time and know you are all in my prayers. PLEASE – let me know if there is anything I can do.


  10. Bluiedprincess
    Bluiedprincess says:

    My soul goes out to you and your beloved family. I am saddened for the loss of your father in law. I lost my step dad to ALS in a very similar pattern by this disease. As I've read your posts it took me back to a similar place I have been. There are no words or sentiments to make any of the pain diminish, but you do have each other and the greatest of memories to share amongst you. He will remain in your heart and always be with you. On some days that's not good enough-but better than nothing. I send my love, prayers and a hug to his wife, you and your family.

  11. Msrobin
    Msrobin says:

    Noelle, I'm sorry about your FIL. I lost mine in November, and even though we were so very different, of course I loved him. My prayers are with you.

  12. Balisha
    Balisha says:

    What a beautiful tribute from a daughter in law. Just think, you have all these wonderful memories to think back on. I'm sure he enjoyed watching you "bloom" as you grew into the gardener you are today. Blessings to you and your family.

  13. Rohrerbot
    Rohrerbot says:

    I'm so sorry for your loss. He will not have to suffer anymore. What's really special about this post is that you have a garden to go to and remember him by….After my grandparents passed away, there wasn't much of their garden left except for a stubborn patch of rhubarb that they could never get rid of….today it's the ONLY thing that remains on that piece of land where their garden once was and it makes me smile. Warm thoughts being sent your way for your family.

  14. jeansgarden
    jeansgarden says:

    Noelle, I'm just catching up with your blog after too long away, and i was sorry to see this post (although I knew it would be coming soon). I want to express my belated condolences to you, your husband and all his family in this loss. In time, I think being in your father-in-law's garden and seeing plants he loved will make you smile as they make him present with you. -Jean

  15. Linda Pitzer
    Linda Pitzer says:

    I would like to have some red globe mallow seeds. I have orange all over the property but I would like add some other color. I would also like to have some of the prickly pear in the purple. I think these are usually started by cuttings. I’m also interested in Mexican primroses. I live in the desert on a creosote flat. I do have mesquite growing naturally and some palo verdes that we have put in. These pretty much suck up the water from any plant that is not suited for the environment. I would also like to know how to access your blog. Thank you.

  16. says:

    Hi Linda,

    I should have some red globe mallow seeds for sale in about a month – contact me in late April and my red globe mallow should be finished blooming and filled with seed.

    To access my blog, you can add your email address and it will be sent to you whenever I creat a new post. The sign up is on the right side of the blog, just underneath the social media icons.

    I hope this helps!

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