Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas: Here's to Planting the Seeds of Celebration

Several years ago my husband and I pruned off the old Christmas Eve celebration I'd participated in annually with my family. To some this may seem harsh, but I'm a gardener and am optimistic about such things, because change is good, and it almost always means growth and renewal in a garden.
An unfinished felt cactus ornament on one of the many houseplant holiday trees with our first real Christmas tree behind it.
Gardening has taught me that you can use many of its lessons in your own life and that the values found in each and every one of these lessons can add a rich hue to your life that is as enriching as any organic fertilizer.
Our first vintage Christmas has added immensely to the holiday feeling on our urban street.
Good pruning is about learning how a plant grows, knowing its needs, anticipating them, and then creating a plan to foster the best growth based upon this knowledge.
Playing with more materials.
We can use this system for people too, and performing these tasks on our own lives is commonplace whenever we hit a wall, but I want to posit that you should do it seasonally—just as you would do for your garden plants. 

For we also have our own seasons for growth, and traditionally, many of us have grown during the dark winter months in unexpected ways as we plant the seeds of celebration with those we appreciate having in our lives. 
The table was set for 14 this Christmas Eve and much merriment was made. 
It is for these people we give thanks, and as we celebrate, we support one another. At this time of year we are allowed to close our eyes and let go knowing that we have people in our lives who will catch us if we fall, and they will feed us if we are hungry, or they will give us water if our soil is dry, and best of all, they give us the light we need to survive and to keep going—but we must provide light for them too and you cannot do so if you are not at your best.
First Amaryllis to rebloom. I did it! Whew!
The most difficult part though is that we must reexamine our own lives as the new year is upon us, and we must measure our growth, take stock in our stores, and we must rejuvenate ourselves with a light pruning.
The Amaryllis was much taller this year than last year. 
This is how many of us are able to avoid that gnawing depression which can eat at our roots and rot us to our innermost core. If we do not prune, taking into consideration what is best for ourselves, what will give us the greatest integrity to grow our strongest, we will weaken over time.
My first giant floral installation.
Sometimes you're the seed that fell upon foreign ground, growing up in an environment that couldn't allow you to be your best. Often, you weren't in your best light and you never bloomed much, kind of like a lot of houseplants I know who struggle to do what they can in far off foreign places.
My Christmas Day reading arrived in the mail on Christmas Eve.
Unlike houseplants we can get up though, dragging our weakened roots behind us, and we can wander until we're able to find the home where we're meant to grow, blooming repeatedly, living in an environment that no longer threatens our growth.

So this season, if you are feeling a bit alone in the Wilderness, I want to wish you the best and let you know you're not the only one. I also want to encourage you to dust off your shovel and pruners a bit and revisit what it means to be you. If you're not ready yet to move on, at least trim off what you're able to let go of and take a good hard look at your roots. Make the adjustments needed and just like a plant in your garden, return to the problem in a few months time to reconsider your options.

I did it and survived and this Christmas was one of the best I've ever had simply because I felt free to be who I really am.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: My Garden and Life through the Eyes of a Therapeutic Foster Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Rosa "Golden Showers".
Japanese Snowbell Tree, Styrax japonicus.
Pacific or Western Bleeding Heart, Dicentra formosa.
Multnomah Falls. 
Trees in the Columbia River Gorge. 
Rosa rugosa
Evergreen Huckleberry, Vaccinium ovatum.
Clematis "Josephine".
Leopard's Bane, Doronicum orientale.
Living wreath. 
Entrance shade garden near the street and sidewalk. 
Columbine, Aquilegia vulgaris
Me with box.
Macavity—the old lady black cat.
Peace Lily, Spathiphyllum

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Vita Sackville-West on the Humble or Sensitive Plant

Last night I couldn't sleep so I grabbed a book from the bedside bookcase. I've been reading Sackville-West's In Your Garden Again off and on for the past few weeks and it has all kinds of things I always mean to mention here but, by the time I've finally fallen asleep and come to in the morning—I've totally forgotten whatever it was I was thinking about sharing!

The sections of the book are divided into the twelve months of the year and are filled with articles she contributed to Sunday editions of The Observer between February 18, 1951 to March 8, 1953.

When I read this last night I knew I had to share this on my blog. As a foster parent who works in the garden with kids, this cracked me up and I hope you enjoy it too:

February 17, 1952
       Amongst other seeds for spring sowing I order a sixpenny packet of Mimosa pudica, the Humble Plant.... So humble is the Humble Plant, so bashful, that a mere touch of the finger or a puff of breath blown across it will cause it to collapse instantly into a woebegone heap.... One grows it purely for the purpose of amusing the children. The normal child, if not an insufferable prig, thoroughly enjoys being unkind to something; so here is a harmless outlet for this instinct in the human young. Shrieks of delight are evoked, enhanced by the sadistic pleasure of doing it over and over again. 'Let's go back and see if it has sat up yet.' It probably has, for it seems to be endowed with endless patience under such mischievous persecution.
Vita Sackville-West,  In Your Garden Again
Vita Sackville-West, by William Strang

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Willow Arbor in Winter

A week or so ago my husband trimmed up our willow arbor in the back garden. It is a task that we neglected to do last year and we paid heavily for it this year. Much of the growth that could have been harnessed for the structure's integrity was lost, but next year, this won't be the case. The arbor has been streamlined. 
I've ordered a super sized tarp to temporarily cover the arbor for a spell this winter. We have so little space indoors at times, and only a small front porch, so it seemed important to do so. 
The tarp will be red. I love the color and it always looks nice with green. I just did not want a blue tarp. 
Maybe if I pull out the fire pit I can sit beside it and warm up as I work on winter garden tasks. I've been so busy indoors that I am beginning to want to go back outside again. 
Next year, my plan is to have a nice fence to block more of the apartment building from our view. I am not a big fan of having folks that close. My childhood, surrounded by woods and water, spoiled me. 
I love out willow arbor, don't you? It's 10' x 10' and the heart of our garden. Maybe it was a bit ugly for a few years, but when it's covered in Clematis blooms and the branches sway and block the bright sun, it's simply heavenly. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Why I ♥ My Garden Journal (Made by Attic Journals)

This is not my first garden journal/notebook, nor is it my only garden journal, but currently, it's the most special garden journal in my collection. If you need a journal, or if you'd like to give one as a gift this holiday season, I highly recommend those made by  Attic Journals.
I know for a fact that it was made with a lot of love. That's because I know the folks who made it.
They are a local (and extremely hard-working) Portland, OR company who inspire everyone they meet. I know I was inspired and I 'm pretty sure I'm not the only one.

My garden journal has fulfilled all of the requirements I have for an ideal garden journal. 
It has been used as a sketchbook and as a place for me to write garden quotes.
There are collages I've pasted onto its pages with ideas I've liked from gardening magazines.
It also has inspirational art I've collected for ideas, and design shapes for things I might make in the future, or, for things I will make in the future.

The journal is full of lists too, but I didn't want to bore you with images of those. (I don't have the handwriting of an architect if you catch my drift.)

And why, oh why, do I just adore my journal  * * *  t  h  i  s     m  u  c  h  * * *?

Well, it might have something to do with the fact that my Etsy shops would never have been created if I hadn't had a chance encounter with Attic Journals back when I was looking for someone to walk with from time to time in the neighborhood.

Every time I touch this journal, dreaming my dreams of creation and artistry, I remember those days before Milton's Garden Menagerie and I know that I will never go back.

Now I want everyone out there to feel as good as I do, and to have their own journal to flip through, to fill with their own hopes, dreams, tasks and designs. You too can forge your own future, and never have to go back, not unless you want to, but it all begins with a recycled vintage book journal—followed by a few blank pages.

O Pioneers! Onward!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

In the Weeds

This has never been a how-to garden blog, but maybe in this case, I'll make a grand sweeping exception. If there is one thing I can teach all of you to do, it's how to be in the weeds in your garden. With the grace of my rough and rebellious American hand we'll brush off the argument that my garden is a mess, and I'll show you how to do so from the zero gravity chair I pretty much live in for the majority of the gardening year. So yes, today, I am playing as the armchair garden philosopher. 
Our passion vine (Passiflora caerula 'Blue Crown') is a bit wild. I blame all of those young adult mystery books I read as a child. I think this might be called Scooby Doo Chic. 
If there's one thing I've always been good at it's been taking on far too much. As a kid, I'd often have to give up an activity or two, but up until the last decade, I'd usually toss everything up into the air and over time, it would all work out.

When I was in college this nasty little habit of mine helped me to get my work done. Integrating unrelated information worked for me, but in the art history department I pushed beyond its unstaid envelope everyday and not all of the other students enjoyed or understood my work, and a few of the professors tended to think of my presentations more as mental acrobatics than as real academic work. And to this day, I will never understand why not a single art history professor ever assigned a philosophy book. Since the entire field has its origin in aesthetics, this was always very sad to me, but the same thing goes for garden design. Yup, it too is based on aesthetic theory and philosophy too. (Don't groan. I can hear you and the chorus of other groaners out there.)
I am in the weeds.
And here we go, I'm at it again. I'm about to wrap this egg roll right up though so hold on tight.

I realize now that stasis (in a Greek philosophical sense) has always been important to me, but I didn't know what to call it until I was introduced to Giovanni Bellini's St Francis in Ecstasy and the study of ontology in high school. I could write a tome about this painting, but I will attempt to resist in this post, and save that for later. 
I was able to go on a little pilgrimage to The Frick Collection to see this painting with an art history classmate while she was still living in New Jersey. She'd moved to the NYC area to pursue her graduate studies and I am so proud of how far she's gone in her career. (I am also happy she's now a gardener.)   
I find that I now tire of the same thing in garden design that I used to find dull and problematic when I studied art history and that it's not just illness and broken fingers which has led me to being in the weeds. Instead, what's been holding me back is my inner battle with mimesis.

Internally, yes, I struggle, and with this post, as well as a few others, I've exposed myself as a bit of a navel gazer who prefers to build her castles in the sky rather than on dry land, but that's because of my struggle with beauty, representation, design, art and reason. 

Like that overwhelmed server in a busy restaurant, I am so far behind in my garden that our green customers have overwhelmed me and are attacking. Well, so what if I'm in the weeds in my garden? Maybe I want to be the oldest kind of garden designer of all, not a farmer, but the kind of person who let's nature grow up against her. It just so happens I'm in a city though, but I'm not afraid of the chaos of nature and you shouldn't be either. We've been mimicking her since to dawn of man and I'd rather mimic her than the newest garden design fads.

So that's enough for now. We'll flog this not yet dead horse again soon. 
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