Sunday, September 28, 2014

All who enter...

I have always considered my home to be a living breathing entity. A heart beats within it.
 I love home. I feel full with possibilities and reminders of those dear to me in my life. This is my sanctuary.

This special sanctuary extends to the garden. I did not completely understand that until I began viewing it differently; when I began to garden through new eyes. As I work with the different elements, I find that the garden is extremely sensitive to methods used to tend it and emotions carried by those who enter.
There are things to consider when work is to be done. It all requires much thought, particularly if you are bringing in people to help. Those paid to work generally think about how quickly the tasks can be accomplished and how much they will be paid, without much thought to how the tasks are executed or how they are feeling as they carry out the work. We know that our emotional state affects our day and all who we encounter. I am learning that it is important to convey one's rules to people who help out in our gardens; nothing cut unless pre-approved and care taken in traversing through it and appropriate time taken so that movements are not careless.Unless you have helpers who are familiar with your garden and your beliefs, supervision for every step of the way is a necessity. I have experienced my garden recoiling after haphazard work was done. I was in tears. It took a few weeks for the garden and myself to recover. Now I know how I will approach this issue in future, as I do need help in many areas. People simply need to be taught awareness.
We must treat our outdoor space as we do indoors. Its guests must be greeted in joy and be respectful recipients of all that nature gifts us.

I was going to mention tools later this year and may do so again. I want to remind all of us that a quality tool is money well spent. I highly recommend Hida Tools in Berkeley, CA.
For artists who enjoy woodcuts and Linoleum printmaking, they have lovely tools for carving blocks, also.

As we are in the Autumn of the year and we have certain chores to do in the garden to prepare for more restful months ahead, it is again time to consider the spine. We tend to punish it; bending, lifting, more lifting...I; personally need the weekly help and guidance of a good chiropractor. Mine also is well-versed in nutrition, which go hand- in- hand. If you, my reader, live on the Monterey Peninsula, CA, I recommend  Dr. Francine Michaels, DC on Carmel Rancho Blvd., Carmel. She listens, is thorough, and nurturing. 

A favorite gift from nature is the delightful Acorn. My property is filled with and surrounded by California Oaks, or by what I call Mother Oaks.

This is a very special Acorn. It is a handmade ceramic acorn by Sandy Kreyer; a dear friend. It resides in my garden year-round!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Autumn Solstice

The garden and her spirits ground me. This is where I belong; eyes upon the earth and my hands; in it. This is when my season begins, more than any other. Autumn Solstice or Equinox, is upon us and tonight; Mabon.
Tonight, I bless my surroundings and ask for protection for it and all its inhabitants. I proclaim all that I am grateful for and seek guidance for the stewardship of this land and other, for my way of life and bow my head in gratitude for the family I have. 
My centerpiece is filled with harvest; Quince and Grapes, Clementines, Sweet Potatoes, Raven feathers, Acorns and Apples.

I will raise my glass of Cider and breath in deep appreciation as I ask to mirror the balance that this Second Harvest and Equinox bring; equal measures of the light of day and the darkness in night.
I await the sunset to light candles and watch the magic begin.

On this evening, I dedicate my garden to Gloria. She was one of our Angels on Earth. How I wish I had understood to be a better friend when she was still amongst us. I put work before friendships and have lost almost everyone. I think of her every day that I am in the garden, so that is almost every day. I see her everywhere. She was truly glorious and devic.

 It is time to say goodnight to the Green Man who will re-emerge in Spring. May he have a good rest; he will have a lot to attend to!

Have a thoughtful Solstice September 22

Monday, September 15, 2014

Landed Estates

As I have mentioned before, I watch a lot of films; mostly older and primarily English. I referred to "Brideshead Revisited" in my last post as one that featured beautiful gardens. I must change that to grounds. They consist mainly of expansive lawns which are lovely as the foreground to the grand manor. I am viewing it again now and realize that it is indeed, Jeremy Irons who is memorable; not so much the grounds shown, which really are little more than an example of monoculture on a grand scale. Is is truly beautiful, but would have liked scenes showing a kitchen garden and various other gardens typical within an estate; not to mention the vast forest. 

Speaking of English estates, I am often asked why many plants in gardens fail or have no lasting power and why the overall appearance is not spectacular on a daily basis. I refer to the conditions on an estate which included (and still does, in some cases) a head gardener and assistants and woodsmen who worked the land every day. Soil was made, plants were propagated and all was tended by hand, from the upper canopy trees to the bulbs which poked their heads out after the last snows.

Our rushed and "instant" lifestyle disallows for that kind of time and money to be poured into the garden. We tend to ourselves daily, our homes, our work, our bills... But the very thing that feeds us, in its beauty & functionality; is left to limited attention, but expected to visibly thrive each day.
I think that is why many find the "mow, blow, go" crews, appealing. By the time they have done the above, there is little left to tend to. The plants and hedges are treated as one and the same. They are sheared within an inch of their sad lives, over-fed with commercial fertilizers, sprayed until they are choking and leaves, that would otherwise become a mulch, are blown with great gusto either against the house; well-hidden or into the street or those who feel they are being conscientious, bagged and taken to the dump or a side-street somewhere. The following week or month, the curtains are lifted and the play begins again. This scenario tends to be affordable and looks acceptable to the passer-by. This is what I consider to be an example of limited attention and improper care.

I am well aware that I don't belong in this era. I love my romanticised view of the landed estate and its gardening methods. Hand-forged tools; well-maintained by Alan Bates, a greenhouse filled with plants newly propagated, forests, fields, lakes, controlled wilderness and gardens; all tended with a watchful eye and thoughtful practices; again, by Alan Bates (Sir Arthur Alan Bates).

This is where I pause and swoon.

Below is a link to an interesting blog: Maintaining the Grounds of a Landed British Estate

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I admit that I, in my maintenance service, do use a blower (usually electric) and gas-powered lawnmower, have used pesticides (gentler labels), herbicides (bad) and commercial fertilizers. I do not agree with these methods, but, in business, feel pressed to consider time vs finances and comply with my clients wishes to green up, grow, get rid of pests, expel disease and tidy up as rapidly as possible. I have advertised the use of hand tools only and natural methods for ridding a garden of pests and disease. I got no takers. I think and hope that my clients would indeed love to have my non-invasive methods used, but feel that it isn't financially feasible and quite slow. I understand, but feel so very strongly about The Slow Gardening Movement; Unprocessed Gardening; something like the Slow Food Movement. I can only hope that things will shift and allow me and others to garden in beneficial ways and be compensated for it, in business and heart.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

For me, when the temps hit even 70, it may as well be 90. I linger quietly indoors doing all that I have to do such as minimal housekeeping, food prep, bookkeeping & all other business-related tasks. In addition, I do more than my fair share of research about the garden & land. These things occupy me while I wait to get back to my garden. But in heat, the closest I will get to the wheelbarrow will be if it is filled with cool water and I could lie in it!
I will be emptying my pots of spent Tomatoes onto my planting areas; plants and all, this weekend and will plant my Comfrey that I was lucky to get my hands on. Also, I brought home a Salvia reptans 'Willow Veil' that I just discovered; a delicate specimen.

I have yet to shift 2 Fig trees after discovering that in my particular garden in their present location, they are exposed to far too much heat and soil that is too poor. This is why it is so important to take a year to study your property for sun, heat, wind and so forth. Though I have taken time to listen to the garden, I really did not study the elements and how they are working. Lesson noted and learned.

The main thing that I am keen on doing very soon, is to get a few bales of Hay and Straw into the garden. I plan to mulch 8-10" deep over the entire garden. It will even become a planting medium for vegetables.

My Broccoli leaves are lovely, but no heads are present.  They are planted in full sun, so hopefully, as the weather changes (soon, please!) I hope they might produce. I will feed them Epsom Salt and water also. I was so eager to get plants into my new terraced beds, that I forgot to think about the sun and heat. Refer to above lesson noted and learned.
My Nectarine has Peach Leaf Curl. Badly. I sprayed it with Baking Soda & water, but did not stay current with my spraying. It will shed its leaves soon, but should resume spraying it. My Peach tree simply looks sad. I am a novice, even after gardening for 31; plus, years. I am used to flower gardens.
My local nursery; Valley Hills Nursery, here in Carmel Valley- Carmel, is having a plant sale through this month, so I think I will get 2 more fruit trees to hold aside.
Usually, I go there on Fridays to browse & purchase for myself, which I've labeled "Greedy Fridays! I strongly believe in the reward system.

As my favorite time of year approaches, I am switching out pots to blend with Pumpkins. I chose 'Cleopatra' Echinacea; a deep buttery yellow which is so pretty with a dark blue Salvia. Both can be transplanted into the garden amongst the vegetables in time, along with the Pumpkins that I toss over the deck to re-seed as they do.

This week's book that I am only too happy to recommend is:
"Gardening Without Work: For the Aging, the Busy and the Indolent" by Ruth Stout. I especially like the word Indolent.
I could easily read this book in its entirety in one sitting, but am savoring every page. I will re-read it in order to take the time to highlight and make notes. It was published about 54 years ago and has not lost its relevance. It is both entertaining and filled with wisdom earned from experimentation and experience and it fits right in with my beliefs and plans.

I spend a good amount of time watching films while I work indoors. I gravitate toward English films and look for those that feature lovely gardens. Have you seen the series; "Rosemary & Thyme"? It is about gardening sleuths who solve mysteries both in the garden and at the crime scene.  "Brideshead Revisited" is a movie staple. Beauty abounds; not only in Jeremy Irons, but in the manor's classic formal landscape.

Later today; much later; I hope to start planting my Narcissus around each fruit tree with the inevitable help of my constant companion, Sir Galahad. It is Galahad for short. We only use "Sir" at coronations and such.

He's not going to watch and then dig them up tonight; is he?

I leave you with my painterly photo of Rose and Neptune, Carmel, CA

Coming; a time of reflection and of equal balance of light & dark
 Autumn Equinox begins Monday, September 22 at 7:29 P.M.and Mabon, the mid-harvest festival, will be September 21st.

Monday, September 8, 2014


As I had already brought up the subject of Permaculture, I will recommend a priceless book about it. Many of the blogs that I follow mention it. It does not require a degree in Science to read and comprehend its pages, which is a blessing to someone like me!

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In the newly evolving area of my property that I am first devoting to this method, I have planted the bare bones, as in my fruit trees. My vision includes loads of vegetables and herbs along with companion plants and plants to draw in Bees, Butterflies, Birds and other forms of life. I plan on filling every space possible in-between my California Oaks.
This garden which began as empty space waiting to express itself; remains a challenge. It is sloped and slippery and the Gophers loved to tunnel there. The soil; less than desirable,has been amended with a manure-greenwaste mix. I am adding more straw to the planting areas and will now purchase a bale of hay to add, so that there will be a nice thick layer of mulch. This challenge enables me to look at all layers of life through new eyes.

I am also dreaming of a platform/deck around an Oak, from which to contemplate, surrounded by different varieties of Japanese Maples and more edibles. The thought absolutely thrills me! However, it will remain a dream for a while longer. I cannot spend anything more on the garden until next year. It is time to begin its savings account again!

I have other books written by Elizabeth Murray and recently ordered her newest. Its arrival was timely, as I was in dire need of some gentle guidance. 
I purchased one copy from and another from The Secret Garden in Carmel. As a bookshop manager in my past, I like to support our local businesses and independent bookstores.

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One area of personal interest to me was that of Life Mapping. I devoted a hallway wall to drawing it out and filling in, as well as beginning a wall-length vision board, not a new concept, but again; a timely one for me. Elizabeth's chapters are a delight to read and her photos and drawings warm the heart. I would love to take a workshop from her when I can. She is definitely one of our Angels on Earth. I have made personal notes for each chapter in a notebook to work from. Every section is a reminder of the bounty that we all possess. We sometimes forget to access our resources and at times; need to re-learn how.
Through  my intention of understanding these things, I am beginning to clarify what I want to do as I turn new pages in life, or as I sometimes say; when I grow up! In business, I am clear about how I want to proceed. However, I am concerned about how to reach clients who are interested in my new services: Landscape Project Management & Garden Coaching.
I am anxious to become involved in both aspects of this new gardener-client-garden relationship. 

I will leave you with the  Ampelopsis brevipedunculate 'elegans' variagated. Its common name is Porcelain Berry vine.
I have 2 of these spectacular vines left in my garden. I lost my variegated vine, like this one shown. I borrowed this copyrighted photo from Dave's Garden website and it was contributed by: gonedutch.  I have photos of mine, but they are buried.

This vine is considered to be quite invasive, but not where I live. I do cut them back approx. 10' or less, per year in January. Years ago, my 1st one had an amazing display of berries, but when I moved it, it ceased to produce. I do have it on my 2015 plant list. The leaf itself, is gorgeous!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Day

It is Labor Day and I have my list of labor to dive into for the good of my garden. There are spent plants to add to my Hugelkultur planter(concept meaning "hill-culture"). This is a planting bed built upon tree stumps and branches; layered as one would a compost bin. I am on a wood chip layer right now, ready to add to it. I no longer use actual compost bins or a yard waste disposal can. I can use and re-use everything on the property.
The reason for this method is that it is built on wood which will break down, holding moisture and providing nutrients for plant growth. It is the ultimate in garden recycling! This planting area is a part of my new Permaculture food forest. 

I had help to build some terracing to better handle my sloping property. This is a view from my deck.

I added fruit trees almost before realizing what I wanted to create. In this area, I planted  'Pink Lady' and 'Granny Smith' Apples to be near an Apple of a forgotten variety, a 'Burgundy' Plum, a 'Bleinham' Apricot, a Nectarine, Peach, male and female Kiwi and Pomegranate. I had already planted 3 Figs, an Apricot, Quince and 4 'Meyer' Lemons in the front of my garden.
When it was clear that I intended to create a Permaculture environment, I began to add more vegetable starts, began underplanting the trees with Roses, Salvias, Lavender, Bee Balm, Lemon Verbena, Scented Geraniums and Herbs. I dug swales to catch water where I could. I planted 3 Leptospermum laevigatum and a 'Ray Hartman' Ceanothus as a wind break on one side.
My neighbors had Oak trees trimmed and the chips were saved for me. I felt secure in using them in my walking areas through the garden because they were from local healthy trees. My nephew-in-law spread them for me in a very respectful manner, as well as being a joy to be around.
I have some minor chores to do before putting the garden to bed for Fall and Winter, except for putting in some late vegetables and doing regular maintenance. I plan to continue in January, 2015. I hope to add a lot more vegetables and companion plants to act as natural fertilizers and pest control. I do have 4 bird baths and want to install a moving water feature and insect habitat.
It is wonderful to finally understand and implement how I want to live on this piece of Earth.

With this knowledge, my answer to how I want my garden landscape business of 31 years to shift, is clear. I will continue a full-service business at this time, but am adding Project Management and Garden Coaching. I have enough experience in these areas to offer my services to clients who would benefit from having their outdoor projects handled for them or simply learning how to properly care for their own gardens or having their maintenance crews guided toward better methods. I set my intention toward these positive changes.

Off to the garden, this Labor Day!

I will leave you with my new favorite Rose. It has not stopped blooming since I discovered it at the nursery in the "woe-begone" sale area and planted it! It is a climbing "Mermaid". Wear gloves!