Tag Archives: Gardening


Watering In


For Yule, Landscape Guy gave me Jenks Farmer‘s wonderful book, Deep Rooted Wisdom: Skills and Stories from Generations of Gardeners. I finished reading it on my last business trip. I’d recommend the book just for the pictures and for the stories about the great characters/gardeners from whom Jenks has learned over the years. Muriel Rukeyser was right about stories.

In one chapter, Jenks recommends, whenever possible, watering by hand rather than with an automatic irrigation system or with sprinklers. You know, carrying water to the plant in a watering can and standing there making it rain in just the right spot and by just the right amount. Or taking the hose (and, when we do it here in the South, a glass of iced tea or wine, depending on whether it’s a morning or an evening watering) and standing in the garden, watching it, listening to it, watering by observation. At the end of the Watering-In chapter, Jenks says:

Collect and focus the energy of moving water in the soil and air around a plant. You might call it chi, positive energy, lining-up, or paramagnetic force — whatever you call it, it pulls together your own energy with that of moving water, plants, and life in the soil.

Those simple actions and involuntary connections make life rich. One tiny action can set off a chain of scenes in our minds. Sometimes during a watering conversation, I’ll hear in my own voice an inflection, a tiny change of tone when I’m getting excited. I’ll then recall an afternoon, years ago, on a road trip with a friend, looking over a vast desert, my friend fixated, holding my shoulder, imploring me, saying “Now? Now you must be excited! Say it out loud!” Or when I water with a coffee can, I see the smooth twisting of water becoming a muddy stream of cypress pond water, pouring from the bottom of a tiny tin that my father picked up to nurse along a newly planted ocean tree seedling behind a barn that he dreamt of renovating, of making into our house.

Watering-in does all of that for me. It’s so elemental, something that builds unforgettable connections. When you teach someone to water-in, make sure it’s a fun experience, an important moment; it may be a moment they associate with watering for the rest of their life.

It’s such a sensual thing to do, watering plants. The feel of the water, the sight of the plant, and the soil, and the water being sucked into the soil. The smell of wet dirt. The sight and sound and presence of the birds who show up and want to play in the water. And when it’s hot, of course, I water myself a bit, too.

How do you water? Do you have a memory of learning how to do it?

Picture found here.

Monday at the Movies

“Patience, care, and a little warmth from the sun are our best hope.” Certainly true of every garden and, beyond that, true of most adventures. And gardens are, if nothing else adventures. (I believe it was Helen Keller who said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” And what is a garden but life?)

hat tip/ Jan

Monday at the Movies — The Queen’s Garden

It’s still Winter here in the magical Mid-Atlantic. Nothing’s blooming yet and we’re getting more snow/sleet/freezing rain. A perfect time, in other words, to snuggle up with a mug of tea and a knitting project and watch the wonderful Alan Titchmarsh show us around Queen Elizabeth II’s garden.


Monday at the Movies

OK, I know that this video is 18 minutes long. But before you mark it down as “tl;dv” or “too long; didn’t view” hold on a minute. Just about now is when way too many of us get so busy we can hardly see straight. And spending an entire 18 minutes in an English garden is a not-too-bad way to counter some of the effects of this season’s stress. So make some tea, wear your cozy socks, and give yourself permission to wander through this garden, watch how the weather changes from sunny, to cloudy, to rain, to bits of sun. Let yourself linger on the rill (which I post in honor of Landscape Guy, the Rill Whisperer), my favorite bits (the bees on the lavender), and the hydrangeas (which always remind me of my friend, E, who loves them). What parts brought you back to yourself?

First Tuesday After the First Monday in November PotPourri


* Byron Ballard, in her typically brilliant manner, refers to appropriation as “cultural strip-mining.” I couldn’t help but think of her discussion when I read Michale Twitty‘s recent take on Thug Kitchen, the hottest of the hot new cookbooks (Note the absence of People of Color). As Mr. Twitty explains:

Thug Kitchen is a popular blog and now it’s a best-selling cookbook.  It’s also a really great gimmick.  Its genius lies in both its graphic presentation, branding[,] and[,] of course[,] its Samuel L. Jackson meets Chris Rock meets Gangsta Rap (so past tense) profanity all in the effort to popularize fashionable foodieism, specifically healthy, vegan eating. If you’re a member of the Millenial generation, it’s a combination that’s sexy as fu#k.

Thug Kitchen is also written by two pretty ass white kids from West Hollywood.  These pretty Anglo-Saxons not only have sex, they cook together[,] too and, when they cook, they morph into “thugs,” brandishing cross hatching butcher knives to encourage people to eat like they “give a fu#k.”  They have Gwyneth Paltrow hot to trot and I’m sure they made an agent want to put a cap in somebody’s ass just because they chose to work with them to put this cookbook out and further commodify their 21st century culinary minstrel routine.

Mr. Twitty explains the origins of “Thug,” and notes that we’re not talking about:

a secret society claiming to be the children of the goddess Kali. Thugee and it’s equally interesting relationship to the colonial presence is not on trial here.”

He also discusses the origins of Thug culture and stresses that:

Tupac, no matter what his personal issues, was a thoughtful young Black man who really cared about his people and didn’t know how to answer the problems of class inequity, racial hatred and violence in his community.  He struggled with marketing an image that brought him millions with a thought life that tended towards the revolutionary culture passed to him through his mother Afeni. Tupac tried to balance his perspectives by talking about Thug Life.  Thug Life, is really key here because it was a code, a message, a negotiation between the street and civility.

Thug Life was never meant to be a celebration of criminality.  It was about the hustle, a uniquely American hustle that has been part of the African American peoplehood since 1526 and 1619.  You have nothing, you are underprivileged and disadvantaged[,] but you use what you have to succeed and prevail.  The thugs of Tupac’s imagination weren’t petty criminals (especially since we now live in the “post-racial” age of using “thug” as stand in for “nigger”)[,] they were mental and social warriors fighting the status quo.  Thug Life was an attempt to reclaim a word and a label from further linguistic destruction.

As Witches and Pagans, we are often both sinned against and sinners when it comes to appropriation. We know more than a little bit about attempts to reclaim words, (oh, say, “Witch,” for example) from further linguistic destruction. And we both resent the way that Christianity appropriated our holidays, Goddesses, Gods, and practices and we (some of us, lots of us, me) appropriate practices from other religions and cultures with abandon.

I am a devotee of the Goddess Hecate, who likely comes from Anatolia, into Greece, into Europe. I have no connections to either Anatolia or Greece, nor to most of southern Europe, but I am Hecate’s and she recognizes me. I live on stolen land and the records of the Patomak peoples, who first lived here, and of the Gods and Goddesses that they worshiped, have been eradicated. And, so, I find myself doing the originalist work of spending time in contact with the powers, and spirits, and beings of this place — as if it hadn’t already been done — in order to get to know them and to understand how to honor them. Sinned against and sinner, I stand at the crux of appropriation.

In the end, I always come back to Derrick Jensen‘s discussion of what The Land told him that it meant for him to fish for salmon. It means that he is responsible for ensuring the survival of the salmon race.

May we learn to treat each other with honor. May enslaved and colonized peoples reap the benefit from the foodways and the byways that we’ve stolen from them. May I learn to act with greater awareness.

* From the Strange and Wonderful Things Happen To Me And I’ve Learned To Go With The Flow Department:

I love to decorate my home and yard for the secular holiday of Halloween. I do a little bit for Mabon, and Yule, and for Eostara, but Halloween is when I go all out. The Witches of my circle are used to having to delay our Samhein rituals every few years in order to allow for my need to hand out candy to the neighborhood children (and, OK, I admit, to, most years, hand out mulled wine to their parents) on Halloween.

I have some unique yard decorations and, every year, a few folks stop by before Halloween to say, “Where DID you get those?,” snap pictures, take measurements, and walk around the yard and exclaim. (This year, it was only thanks to Landscape Guy that I put the decorations up at all, as my family was v. busy.)

Years ago, I bought two large, outdoor, Halloween lanterns from a set of three. The catalog selling them didn’t have the middle-sized lantern on sale, but I figured that, heck, I’d just buy the middle one the next year. Of course, after that, the catalog discontinued the lanterns and, even on eBay, etc., I was never able to find the middle one. But I’ve put out the two that I have, every year, on my steps, lighted from inside by candles and solar-powered lights, and consoled myself that no one would notice the missing middle-sized one.

Tonight, there was a gentle knock on my door and a woman I didn’t know stood on my stoop with the missing middle-sized lantern. She told me that she lived a few streets over and always enjoyed my decorations. She’s in the process of downsizing and thought that the one lantern that she had would look good with mine. And she hoped that I wouldn’t think that she was crazy. No, she wouldn’t take any payment, not even herbs from my garden or a glass of wine. She just felt moved to come over on this windy-clouds-scudding-against-the-almost-full-Moon-night and give me the one Halloween decoration that I’ve been missing for several years.

Sometimes, I specifically ask the Universe to surprise me in a lovely way. And, sometimes, it does.

May it be so for you.

* My regular readers know that I’ve worked hard to turn my commute into a major part of my spiritual practice. I deliberately take a (slightly longer) route that brings me past the Potomac River and through some of D.C.’s loveliest monuments. I focus on cultivating a relationship with the trees and other plants along the route. I try to practice loving kindness to the other assholes drivers along the way, even when they cut me off, don’t move as soon as the light changes, shift lanes just at the box. As Christine Kane says, what really matters is “Are you gentle, are you kind when you’re stuck in traffic?” And so I was delighted to see this WaPo article about mindful commuting. So many of us say we have no time for our daily practice and so many of us have long commutes. And, as the article notes, there are even apps for this.

May it be so for you.

* I’d love to visit this garden:

* Next year in Edinburgh, next year in the Holy Land.

Picture found here.

Litha-time, and the Living is Easy

It’s been said and said that this past Winter was brutal here in the Magical MidAtlantic. The snow came far more frequently than we’ve learned to expect and, worse, there were days, and days, and days of bitter, bitter cold. The weather kept us indoors and damaged even the plants that it didn’t kill. Every Witch I know shakes her head when asked about her rosemary: “Didn’t make it. Had to plant new.”

And Spring, when it came — and it was slow to come — lingered on longer than it often does, with cool days and cooler nights. Even after I grew brave enough to plant some of the front porch planters, I’d step out in the morning and find the sweet potato vines withered up and unhappy over how cold the air had gotten overnight. They came back, well, all but two of them, but it took them a while.

But now, here, just before Litha, we’re finally getting what I think of as some real Virginia heat. It’s already in the 80s when you wake up in the morning, even early in the morning. (The birds have been “at it,” as we say here, for several hours already.) And you have to wake up early in the morning if you’re going to get anything done outside. (Well, I have to. I’m an old woman who spends most of her days at a desk, inside an air conditioned office. You can acclimate to working outside in this weather; Landscape Guy and his crew were over yesterday and then the lawn guys were here. But they’re young, and strong, and they do it every day, and even they are happy to stop for water.) By eleven o’clock or so, the sun is intense and I need to escape to the spot on the screen porch, directly under the ceiling fan, glass of ice water with mint at hand.

I was outside before six this morning, hoeing weeds out of my wee vegetable garden. How so many weeds can fit in such a little garden is one of life’s mysteries. It’s as if my garden is a tardis for weeds. The peppers, and squash, and cardoons, and Swiss chard, and bok choy, and lettuce that I started from seeds back in March are now big plants, a few of the peppers already beginning to turn red, the pattypan squash sporting giant blossoms that make me consider: fried squash blossoms now or actual squash in a few weeks??? So far, actual squash is winning, but I could always change my mind. The mint is out of control; the basil is huge; the parslies are finally beginning to grow; and the new rosemary bushes are beginning to branch out.

And just as we say that the Winter was “brutal,” we say that the heat is “oppressive.” Once the birds settle down from their crack-of-dawn concert, the world does get quiet in this heat and it is a different kind of quiet from the frozen silence of a mid-Winter morning. On days like this, we’re always half-expecting rain; it’s how, as often as not, the world resolves all this pent-up energy, here in the MidAtlantic, by late afternoon or early evening. And it matters because, when the temperatures get this hot, if it doesn’t rain, we’ll need to go water. Plants need more water in this heat. And, so, after I had battled the weeds to a blister on my thumb, I spent a lovely half an hour watering the Empress Wu hosta and the wisteria, the sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus), the datura, the toad lilies, and the ferns. If we don’t get rain tonight, I’ll have to hook up the sprinklers and do the woodland garden and the front beds.

I love these long, hot days. I love the humidity. I love the welcome relief that even a bit of shade can provide. I rejoice in the lightning bugs and the way that what I eat has more to do with what absolutely must get picked NOW than with anything else. Today, the Swiss chard has got to be picked, so I’ll be making a recipe that my friend Ina gave to me.

Cook some pasta. Sautee chopped Swiss chard w/ some onions and garlic. Chop up some basil and the zest of a lemon or two. Drain the pasta, mix in some ricotta and the Swiss chard. Top with basil and lemon zest, as well as some red pepper flakes, if you like. Eat immediately.

What are the days just before Litha like in your landbase?

How to Plant Goldfinches in Your Garden


My new seeds came today.

Well, some of them. Optima lettuce (a kind of butterhead lettuce), and lovelock lettuce (with splashes of red on the leaves),and forest-green curly parsley, and flat-leaf Italian parsely, and sweet Genovese basil, and Russian mammoth sunflower (which I grew last year, and which is truly giant, and which the birds, especially the goldfinches absolutely love; I’d grow it again just for the joy of watching the goldfinches for long stretches in the Summer sunlight). I’ve ordered from several other seed companies, but Seeds of Change got here first, a welcome surprise along with the bills and circulars that my mailman trooped up the steps to deliver.

The garden is still asleep under a foot of snow and the meteorologists are threatening another cold snap next week (with maybe more snow — but I’m going to hope VERY HARD that they’re wrong about, at least, the snow part). So it’s too early to go outside with my trusty green-handled trowel and dig holes in the dirt and plant seeds. (To be honest, I’m kind of longing for the feel of my trowel in my hand. A friend sent this one to me years ago and it feels just right in the palm of my hand. It has a pointy scoop, and wicked serrated sides, and it’s really a joy to use.)

But I may, this weekend, when all the snow has melted between my back door and the garden shed, go get some little pots and some soil and start, well, maybe the basil inside, just to get to plant something. Basil will transplant reasonably well; the first several years that I gardened, I bought basil seedlings and transplanted them, until I learned how easy it is to grow from seed. And I have enough seeds to sow several plantings worth so that, all Summer long, as I harvest the basil for pesto, or to eat with mozzarella and tomatoes, or to chiffonade into Sunshine tomatoes, which I eat by the gallon from Lughnasadah through Mabon, I can scatter more seeds and have recurring crops.

Gardening, it occurs to me, is like spiritual growth. Sometimes, it can seem as if the work is just work, as if we’re waiting a long time for something to “happen.” When the garden’s covered with snow, all we can do is sit inside and plan, order seeds, clean and oil our tools. But sometimes, just a little thing can give us the boost we need to go on.

A small, successful dance with one of our shadows. A meditation that restores us. A moving practice that leaves us with that good soreness in our muscles, bringing us back, each time we stretch or stand up, to our purpose in doing the work.

Lettuce, parsley, basil, and sunflower seeds. Knowing what to start inside. A memory of goldfinches, on gold flowers, in the golden, Summer sun.

May it be so for you.

Picture found here.

Some People Play Fantasy Football; I Play Fantasy Gardening


I had dinner with Landscape Guy last night and we were commiserating with each other over the plants we’ll likely lose due to this deep freeze. Nothing to do at this point but sit inside our snug cottages and hope.

Well, of course, that’s not entirely true. Most gardeners spend the Winter months plotting and planning the coming year’s garden. And, right on time, the garden catalogs start showing up in our mailboxes. This week, I got my Dutch Gardens catalog and found myself enjoying the fanciful plant names. It would be fun to have a garden full of plants with Pagan names.

Various Goddesses and Gods could be represented by Lady Liberty Dahlia and Lady Liberty Peony, Green Goddess Calla, Jupiter’s Beard, Coyote Mint, and Mars Magic Alcea.

Purple Dragon Lamium, Firespinner Ice Plant, Bonfire Euphorbia, and Dragon’s Blood Sedum for our love of the Elements.

Maybe Pagan Purples Delphinium next to the Purple Dragon Lamium? Blue Moon Wisteria growing on a trellis with New Moon Globeflowers at the base?

A nod to the Summerland with the Apple Blossom Dahlia Mixture and a shout-out to Samhein with the Pumpkin Dahlia Mixture. Old Court Shasta Daisies in honor of the Old Ones?

Who wouldn’t want a Black Sprite Centaurea in the garden? Maybe in the center of a bed of Goblin Gaillardia?

I wonder what plants would go in a Tarot garden? (It’s going to be a long Winter.)

Picture found here.

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

Spent time going through all of this year’s photos in order to make my annual “G/Son Calendar” which I gift to his ‘rents and other grandparents. Kept coming across garden pics that made me happy. Here are a few of my favorites from this year’s garden on my Bit of Earth. I hope you enjoy.

Jack in the Pulpit

Jack in the Pulpit

White Heron Iris

White Heron Iris

Black Iris

Black Iris



Garden Dragon

Garden Dragon

Queen Anne's Lace in Front Cottage Garden

Queen Anne’s Lace in Front Cottage Garden

First Basil Harvest of 2013

First Basil Harvest of 2013

Autumn Camellias

Autumn Camellias

Photos by the blogger; if you copy, please link back.

Gardening with Mystery


Garden Rant is one of the best (if most erratically-scheduled) garden blogs. Today’s post is especially thought-provoking. Here’s a sample:

Here’s one of my beefs with lawns: where is the mystery? We live within this awe-inspiring natural world, teeming with diverse creatures and plants. We have a built-in fascination for other living things. Why would we construct our daily environments in such a way that we avoid being fascinated by them?

Instead, why not kindle this fascination in our everyday, ordinary experience? Research shows how important the experience of natural landscapes is for children’s healthy brain, body, and emotional development. Wouldn’t our adult lives be richer from these experiences as well?

As I gaze across a vast, unbroken sea of lawn, it practically shouts out a need to rein in wild nature’s unpredictability and mystery. Why would we want to do this?

Perhaps we are acting instinctively to create open spaces that give us an uninterrupted view, because that feels safer. But does it really? The groundbreaking work of architect Christopher Alexander, among others, shows we are more likely to feel safest with foliage at our backs, standing at the edge of a clearing (or, indoors, in a doorway or alcove surveying the room). That would mean we need, somewhere on our property, foliage substantial enough to provide us with shelter.

For many of us, especially those not used to spending time in wild places, too much “nature” in a place can prompt fears of getting lost, of encountering snakes or mountain lions, of being unsafe or uncomfortable. During the course of giving my talks about lawn alternatives, I’ve spoken with many a person who is reluctant to walk in ankle-deep turfgrass, much less ducking inside a thicket of head-high shrubs.

Avoiding any wildness does restrict our chances of contact with these perceived dangers. But in accepting denuded landscapes, shorn carpets stripped of life and diversity, what are we giving up? What potential experiences are we trading for our certain safety?

We are not only trading the satisfactions of exploring and observing other forms of life, but also the truly awe-inspiring experiences that nature can offer: of feeling tiny and inconsequential in the face of its grandeur and of feeling a splendid sense of belonging as part of its expansiveness.

I say this is an extremely poor trade.

When we explore a natural landscape, we get the satisfaction of solving small-m mysteries, such as “hmmm, I wonder what’s behind that hedge?” But that is just the beginning of our fascination. Spending time in such a landscape, opening ourselves to its surprises and unpredictability, we start to form connections with that place and its flora and fauna. We begin to learn their quirks and characters, and in knowing them, to see ourselves in relation to them. This fosters a sense of belonging, a certain possessiveness. [There’s a quote in Le Petit Prince about this.]

Now we are talking about big-m Mysteries, as in arcane knowledge of how the world works—including some knowledge about how we ourselves (being part of nature) work. This knowledge cannot necessarily come from scientific study, but from personal experiences that prompt a more emotional/spiritual understanding of the world’s patterns and lessons and our place in it.

One of the lessons that I’ve learned from Landscape Guy is to garden with an eye towards making the person experiencing the garden move forward, getting them to explore behind a corner, or along a curve, or behind a veil of fig branches. There has to be a place where you want to go and sit or stand and see the garden from that vantage point, which will be different from all the other vantage points.

And, in the end, the study of magic’s like that, too, isn’t it? What’s best is what draws us in, gets us to experience things that we wouldn’t have known were there if we hadn’t gone barefoot in the long grass, introduces us to the big-M Mystery of ourselves.

May it be so for you.

Picture found here.