Creating harmony, simplicity and peace in the landscape......

"Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help.

Gardening is an instrument of grace. "

May Sarton

Friday, July 31, 2015

A garden is first and foremost...

by Dominique Lafourcade

“A garden is first and foremost a work of art, 
with the garden playing the roles of architect, sculptor, 
musician and painter in turn. 
A garden should move visitors,
setting all their senses aquiver”.

- Dominique Lafourcade

by Dominique Lafourcade

Monday, July 27, 2015

Millennium Allium flowers-deer resistant!

My current favorite. They are starting to bloom now at end of July. So beautiful when contrasted with 'Victoria Blue' Salvia in a planter.

I took this a little while ago by my front walk.

3 Simple Garden Design Tips

Jan Johnsen garden and photo - Heaven is a Garden     

Jill Sell of the Cleveland Plain Dealer just wrote a lovely review of my book,  'Heaven is a Garden': 

"As life gets more hectic, we seek homes and gardens that are refuges from the chaos. It doesn't matter if we have a five-acre property, suburban half acre or a balcony off our apartment; a garden that provides serenity is a treasure. 

Jan Johnsen's Heaven is a Garden (St. Lynn's Press) is a gem of a little book that provides both inspiration and practical suggestions for creating our own garden sanctuaries. 

from Heaven is a Garden

A few of her thoughts:
• A cozy, sheltered corner can be created next to your home by using the rear wall as one side of the corner and a low hedge as the other side. Johnsen calls the result "a wonderful niche for a small table and chairs. "

• Plant beds shaped as spirals are most captivating, according to the author. Try compact herbs, low boxwood hedges or lavender to define the spiral shape. 

• Consider a loop path for your back yard, which "allows people to walk the perimeter of a garden, looking inward from different view points," suggests Johnsen. 

Heaven is a Garden 

"You can place different garden elements along this encircling path, creating places where people might pause. The stopping points lead people from one destination point to the next, bringing them back to where they began."

To see the whole article click here

Heaven is a Garden - Blue Wonder Scaveola

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Before and After - Garden Photo of the Day

This is a great reminder of how fast plants grow -
Golden Majoram is planted in the squares at the base of this Grape Arbor.

The photo at top is taken from one end while the after photo is looking toward the other end...

Saturday, July 25, 2015

T. Jefferson's Amazing Vegetable Garden

Vegetable Garden at Monticello 
Thomas Jefferson, the third president, was an ardent plant lover and a pioneer plant distributor. He collected exotic trees and shrubs and investigated new crops to grow in the United States. He was instrumental in introducing many vegetables into the young American culture.

For example, he smuggled rice in a tea canister from his tour in Italy and sent it to South Carolina and Georgia as a possible crop. His attempts to have farmers in those areas sow various varieties of foreign rice, were finally successful  and, in time, it became a flourishing agricultural crop.
Jefferson also sent Lewis and Clark off to explore the west and asked them to gather native seeds. He corresponded with many to have them send vegetable seeds from other parts of the globe.  

Nicholas King, mapmaker for the Lewis and Clark expedition explained, “no person has been more zealous to enrich the United States by the introduction of new and useful vegetables.”
Peter Hatch, who spent 35 years restoring the 2,400 acre landscape at Jefferson’s, Monticello told Teresa O'Connor of the great Seasonal Wisdom blog that the vegetable garden at Monticello, was Jefferson’s chief horticultural achievement.  Hatch noted that Jefferson, “...documented growing 330 varieties of 99 species of vegetables here... This experimental laboratory was the garden of Jefferson’s retirement years.”

Jefferson chose an ideal  southeastern orientation for his immense terraced, vegetable garden. More than five thousand tons of rock were built as high as 12 feet high to create level land on a hillside and offered breathtaking 40-mile views to the south and east.

Hatch’s book,  A Rich Spot of Earth: Thomas Jefferson’s Revolutionary Garden at Monticello notes that more than 20 different lettuce types grew at Monticello, including Tennis Ball, Brown Dutch and Ice. Some were eaten fresh, others were steamed like spinach.

Lettuces were harvested every month of the year because as, Jefferson wrote in his gardening calendar, “… a thimbleful of Lettuce should be sowed every Monday morning, from Feb. 1st to Sept. 1.” ( see Seasonal Wisdom for a great description of this.)
Tennis Ball Lettuce - buy seeds from Monticello

Jefferson was an inveterate foodie. He loved English peas and allocated a great deal of garden space to growing this cool-season food at Monticello. He even had spring pea-growing contests with neighbors and used branches pruned from his peach tree to stake the peas.
from Map and Menu 
He never stopped experimenting with growing vegetables of all kinds. Jefferson wrote to a friend that growing new possible food crops was essential, saying, 
"the scripture precept of 'prove all things and hold fast that which is good' is peculiarly wise in objects of agriculture."
Thank goodness Jefferson was a horticulturalist! His efforts in the plant world provided our young country with a diverse plant palette, including all-important and nourishing vegetables. 

 Thomas Jefferson wrote, "The greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add a useful plant to its culture". We are so lucky he felt that way. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Nature has a reminder for you....

Love is everywhere

Children and Hands-On Learning

Stack some stones with kids!

The fiber artist Renate Hiller was interviewed about handwork and kids. I thought it addressed the value of children and gardening perfectly:

"In the past there were all the professions of the shoemaker and the tailor and so on, and that’s also being lost. 

If you do practical work somewhere on the school grounds, there is practical work going on. The children will all go to that. 

They’re really drawn to that. They want to experience it and however the reality is that there’s less and less of that. In the home, you know you can use already bought vegetables, all chopped up and ready to eat. 

There is very little activity like kneading the bread, and you know children grasp first an item and then they grasp with their mind.

 So if they have very little to grasp other than plastic readymade toys then what their mind grasps is very little..."

Renate Hiller

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Removing Invasive Plants : Japanese Knotweed

Japanese Knotweed in flower 
Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) is a highly aggressive and invasive plant.  It is the closest thing that you'll find to Godzilla in the plant world.

It spreads by underground rhizomes, especially in wetland areas and along rivers. 

The plant originated in Asia and was introduced to the U.S. to control erosion on disturbed sites.

photo by Tom Heutte

And that is where our troubles began:

Japanese knotweed  can grow almost anywhere and spreads like crazy. .

Michael De Rosa
writes, "Cutting and removing standing vegetation is a beginning, but without removing the root ball completely, the plant will re-colonize the area within the same growing season. Moreover, the plant will regenerate into an entirely new plant from broken stems, leaves and root parts.

Knotweed will generate new growth from broken stems and rhizome parts. This is what makes knotweed such an insidious plant. It is able to clone itself from broken parts as well as aggressive rhizome growth."

Some people use it in salads! click here

Oh No! You cut it down and new plants regenerate form broken parts - stems, roots, leaves. Kind of like the Terminator in the movies. 

De Rosa says that he has removes knotweed in 2 ways: 

"The first is the harvesting of the standing living plant material. This is manually cut at the stem base and used as natural forage for particular herbivores at Zoo New England’s Franklin Park Zoo. (Zoo New England is the non-profit organization that manages Franklin Park Zoo in Boston and Stone Zoo in Stoneham, MA.) 

The roots are then harvested with the assistance of a machine or backhoe and either stockpiled and burned or buried at depth (e.g., greater than 10 feet) below grade and beneath a geo-textile barrier. "

Dig a giant hole

You must bury it deeper than 10 feet! Oh my. I am getting depressed. He writes about the 2nd way:

"The second option includes the harvesting of the standing living plant material and use as forage for Zoo New England’s residents, but it does not include the root removal. Oftentimes our sites are located in areas that preclude the use of heavy equipment. In these situations we will continually harvest the knotweed on a routine basis, typically every 3 to 4 weeks. 

We are continually stressing the plant and forcing it to utilize stored energy in the root system to produce more stems and leaves without getting much energy in return. These new shoots are excellent forage for the Zoo animals  and  contribute  to  their  winter  and summer supply of forage plants.

This option can also be augmented with a chemical treatment in the fall of each year when the plant is transferring energy to the root mass for storage in the winter dormancy period... Without sunlight and the ability to photosynthesize, the hypothesis is that the plant will not be able to grow and will ultimately senesce."

What chemical treatment? I don't know...probably Round Up but he doesn't want to say that word. Just a guess. 

 See more at:

 Or you can eat it! Make mass quantities of Knotweed and Ginger Jam:

Knotweed and Ginger Jam  - click here for recipe

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Changing it Up - Garden Photo Title Page

Hello !

I have decided to change the photo that appears at the top of this garden blog often.

I hope it doesn't upset some...Life is changing rapidly these days and I thought, 'Why keep it static? That is 20th century'.

If you like the idea of me changing the title photo often - I would love to hear it...It is an experiment.

BTW, in the same vein, what is it with the coca-cola cans with people's names? 

Monday, July 20, 2015

TULSI - India's 'Holy Basil'

Tulsi - Holy Basil

I am sitting here, drinking a lovely cup of Tulsi tea, and I realized I should share tulsi with all...Tulsi tea provides a calming effect and its anti-stress properties are well known in India.

Also known as the Queen of Herbs, it is the most important plant in the Hindu way of life.

What is Tulsi (Holy Basil)?

TULSI  (Ocimum sanctum), known as Holy Basil - is the sacred herb of India. (Please note it is a different plant from the pesto variety of Basil, Ocimum basilicum.)


It has been revered for over five thousand years as a healing balm for body, mind and spirit.

The leaves, flowers, fruits, root, branches and the main stem and everything about Tulsi is sacred in India; even the soil under the Tulsi plant is holy. ( Padmapurana 24/2)

The Tulsi Shrub

Vana Tulsi

Tulsi  is indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. It is a bushy shrub about 18 inches high with oval and serrated leaves (the leaf colors range from light green to dark purple, depending on the variety). In the wild, tulsi is an annual, but it can be kept as a perennial by trimming it before it forms seeds. The plant has delicate lavender-colored flowers, and its fruit consists of tiny rust-colored nuts.

The Benefits of Tulsi

According to Indian Ayurvedic medicine, Tulsi promotes purity and lightness in the body, cleansing the respiratory tract of toxins and relieving digestive gas and bloating.

Tulsi leaves offer a rich source of essential oil, containing eugenol, nerol, camphor, and a variety of terpenes and flavonoids. The oil is a strong antiseptic against many kinds of disease-causing organisms, including bacteria, fungi, and parasites.

The oil is also an antioxidant and is used for pain and arthritis. Recent scientific reports have confirmed its healing potential in medical conditions ranging from diabetes to cancer. Furthermore, Tulsi may even possess useful antibiotic activity, have a blood pressure lowering effect.

Tulsi Helps Soothe Stress

 A number of studies of animals have shown that tulsi protects healthy cells from the toxicity of radiation and chemotherapy and it seems to influence the neurochemistry of the brain in a way similar to antidepressant medications.

If you are taking tulsi for stress relief, some people recommend growing your own plant from seeds or cuttings and nibbling on a few leaves every day.

this photo is from the Seeds of India website -check it out for Tulsi Seeds

In India, Every Household Grows Tulsi

Holy basil is sacred to Lord Vishnu and is an incarnation of the goddess Tulsi, offering divine protection. Many Indian families keep a living Tulsi plant in their homes – tending to it with great care and reverence.  It is typically grown in an earthen pot in the family home or in a the garden.  

Tulsi plant adorned, from tulsi tea website

Lord Shiva described the power of Tulsi, saying'

" ....Every house, every village, every forest, wherever the plant of Tulsi is grown, there misery, fear, disease and poverty do not exist. Tulsi, in all aspects and places,  is holier than holy.

Where the breeze blows through Tulsi plants, it spreads Tulsi's fragrance making the surrounding area pious and pure. Lord Vishnu and other gods shower their blessings on the people who worship and grow Tulsi....

Those who plant and nurture Tulsi in the Shiva temple or in any other place of worship,.... are twice blessed by the gods.... "

So enjoy of cup of Tulsi tea or maybe two...

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Plant Finder - A Great Resource!

The Missouri Botanical Garden (MOBOT)  offers an online resource that I love: The Plant Finder. (Click on name for link)

Look up, view a photo and read about the over 6,800 plants which are growing or have been grown in their Kemper Center display gardens by scientific name, common name and/or selected plant characteristics.

TheWilliam T. Kemper Center for Home Gardening opened in 1991 and spreads out over 8.5 acres. There are 23 demonstration gardens filled with ideas for home gardeners. 
    • You can also call their Master Gardeners and get personalized answers to your specific gardening questions, 9 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday. Call (314) 577-5143.

    • Kemper Center Plant DoctorsBring in a sample of your sick plant and let the Master Gardeners at the Plant Doctor desk diagnose your problem and provide treatment recommendations. This is a walk-in service from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Service is free with Garden admission. Try to include leaves and flowers representative of the entire plant.

    • Plastic Pot Recycling - Learn about the Garden's innovative program that turns discarded plastic gardening pots and trays into timbers for building retaining walls and more! Information on how to order is also found here.

Monet's Giverny - A Quote

Monday, July 13, 2015

Unplug in the Garden - Garden Trends

In 2010 Husqvarna and Gardena released a Global Garden Report and identified the FEEL GOOD GARDEN as one of the top gardening trends in the world...

They wrote:

"...individualism in the garden is on the rise, replacing conformity. 

jchants photostream - Lake Forest Secret garden tour

Gone is the obsession with keeping up with the neighbors’ ... 

it’s now about expressing yourself using your outdoor space, encouraged by on-line friends."

Leaves on Sticks....

That's me - your on-line friend! And I encourage you to keep expressing yourself in your 'feel good' (FG) garden. 

Here is what the Global Garden Report said specifically about FG gardens:

Julianne Moore's City Garden - a verdant retreat

The Feel Good Garden

"As we continue to live stressful lives, there is an ever increasing need for a safe haven at home. 

Globally more of us are turning to our gardens for the peace and tranquility that nature is perfectly suited to deliver.

...We will be looking to our garden spaces to unwind after work, relax and ‘recharge the batteries’ and most importantly reconnect with nature which traditionally has a calming influence of our lives."

Jan Johnsen - garden 

I couldn't have said it better myself....that is what my blog (and my book) is all about - 

Inspiring others to create garden spaces that help us unwind and 'recharge the batteries".  

It also answers another garden trend that has been identified in a different analysis 

'info lust'.

coleus, double impatiens and more

People want knowledge - plant info, on line how-to videos, classes, lists and special events. 

So what makes you feel good?

Lush vs. Controlled? overflowing vs. spare? Boxwood vs. Rhody? Palm vs. Plumeria? Colorful vs. monochromatic...or all of the above? 

To paraphrase something from my 'hippie' adolescence  : 

'if it feels good, garden it...'

Allium Millenium by Laura McKillop