Well there’s no going back. We are now in the thick of autumn, which means here in Seattle a wet and windy Halloween and out there – in the marketplace, Christmas decorations. Yikes. (I’m still dealing with a copious amount of candy, a rain-drenched lion, and a slimy Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle eating a copious amount of candy). Right now though, I am practicing holding onto the space of Harvest that teeters ever so delicately between these two traditionally eclipsing holidays (as much as I love them both!). Harvest season is not only a time of deep gratitude for the fruits of our labor, literal and figurative, but invites us all to find “ground” again. It’s at this time of year that we simplify and streamline with new routine and ritual, marking the close of summer; our need for continued warmth met through the meals we make, bread we bake and break, and projects we create. It is a slight and sometimes sudden beautiful turn inward.
But that doesn’t mean we stay inside.
As much as I love the exuberance of summer, all those exotic annuals we find ourselves desperately craving come April and May (what frost?), I find solace in the simplicity of fall and winter plantings. I can get easily overwhelmed by choices so, when I begin to see those flats of lacy ornamental kale stacked besides autumn fern (dryopteris erythrosaura) and creeping wintergreen (gaultheria procumbens), I feel relieved and ready to return to those enduring plants that stand the test of time. Boxwood, Monterey cypress or cupressus, Ilex “Sky Pencil.” all those rich and leafy heucheras, evergreen mosses and ferns, red, yellow and ‘midwinter fire’ dogwoods… These are often some of the same plants that often” ground” our summer plantings. But in contrast to summer, where they can often be overlooked due to those rambunctious annuals – it’s as our days grow shorter, that these ornamental perennials, trees and shrubs really get a chance to shine.
Autumn is about the elemental, a return to those things and practices that are essential to who we are or who we desire to be. It is, in a way a coming home to what really nourishes us for the long haul.
Gardening for me is one of those things. For this I am grateful.
”Notice that Autumn is more the season of the soul than of Nature.” – F. Nietzsche
Although it’s freezing outside, I’m finding myself geared up and excited for planting season come May and June. My favorite winter bulb, Galanthus (aka: snowdrops or “milk-flower”) were blooming at Milo’s preschool – a sure sign of Spring (right?)! This weekend I’m looking forward to my annual pilgrimage to the Northwest Flower and Garden Show, where I go to gain inspiration and on-going education about new plants, as well as scout out additional vendors to source unique one-of-a-kind containers. I don’t know about you but I’m ready to get my garden-on…even if I’m not breaking literal ground.
As I often tell my friends, family, and customers gardening is a year-round activity. And this is not limited to the wonderland I call the Northwest. Planting is only really one aspect of gardening. An important and satisfying one – yes. But gardening is an activity we can “do” anytime and anywhere – whether we live in an apartment, a house, or at the office. It is my belief that gardening is something that originates on the inside. We imagine, we plan, we take stock, circle our wants in those mail-order seed catalogues, and even buy a houseplant even though we are horrible at keeping them alive. We all can be gardeners regardless of what may seem some obvious constraints. This is what makes it fun and creative for me with my own space as well as helping you with yours.
So, now it’s time for you to get your garden on. Even if it is with a cup of tea and a wish for longer days…
You only have today. This moment. Live in the present. But what if your present moment is simply not where you would like to be? This is where I find myself these days. Typically, I have no trouble living in the present. It’s kind of my thing. But lately, I feel dissatisfied. Which made me call to mind gratitude. Which is also something I need right now. A while back I wrote a post about “things that make me happy.” That post was a practice in gratitude that I think I’ll re-instate for myself. A ritual, if you will to keep me grounded, present, and filled with gratitude for the things I DO have.
It would have been ideal to have posted this before Thanksgiving, which is when this happened. This is the last round-up of veggies and seasonal annuals harvested from a garden before I began my grocery shopping for the Thanksgiving holiday. And before the cold snap. Peppers: jalapenos, green Bell, banana, green tomatoes galore, lemon cucumbers shape-shifting into pumpkins, those citrusy smelling marigolds, trombetta squash, and rhubarb. I forget the variety. I am hoping it’s not too late to dig up the scented geraniums, pot them, and bring them inside for winter.
The last harvest is a ritual I welcome. It’s a time to sort and assess, make notes for the garden to come. Nothing urgent is happening. We “lean” into the gifts of winter: cinnamon-colored bark of my newly planted oak-leaf maple, the fire-red stems of dogwood – some, I have rooted first in water or simply stuck in the damp earth. It’s time for new forms. I just picked up some Euonymous ‘Greenspire” to use as a solid evergreen centerpiece for some holiday containers across town. I think I will plant one in my front yard this week. Our front garden bed, as I look out our dining room window looks sparse. The rich green color and upright habit of the Euonymous ( I love saying this word. Spelling – not so much) will give me something to work with throughout the year. However, I think winter is it’s season to shine.
I have other tasks: move the compost bin, untangle some Christmas lights so I can be-dazzle our two Monterey cypresses, contribute to the leaf mulch pile, start forcing narcissus. I am confident there is more…
Welcome sweet winter and your offerings. Remind us to sit tight and relish the warmth that comes from the heart and home.
Green Lake is a feast for the eyes right now. No, I’m not talking about all those power-walking “Bob-Mom’s.” I’m talking about the trees. Have you seen them lately? Living in the PNW, it’s easy to take trees for granted. We’re surrounded. I mean, our city gives us trees to plant for heaven’s sakes. I love it.
My favorite part of my run or walk around Green Lake is the north end – that is, if you are heading counter clock-wise, before you hit the wading pool. There’s a grove of river birch that make me pine and conveniently stop to catch my breath and linger.
I’ve noticed, that at the lake wherever there are river birch trees there is a bench. You can see why. The lovely textured bark, the long lean limbs, and delicate shelter these trees offer really invite you to observe them and receive their embrace.
You have all heard of a tree-hugger. Well, trees also do some hugging by creating form and dimension to your landscape or garden. Fall is the time to plant them too. As the weather above ground becomes mild, the ground below becomes full of activity, fostering hearty root growth. Come spring, your plants will be stronger and ready to put out (or leaf out) what you have been putting in (Mother Nature’s rainfall, compost, leaf mulch…)
So plant those trees and shrubs now. Perennials too.
On another note, there’s a saying that knowing the name of every plant doesn’t make you a good gardener but knowing where to find the answers to your plant questions, does. I have a feeling that that adage applies to any career, but I’m not afraid to play the good gardener card here. To confirm my birch identification I came across Arthur Lee Jacobson’s website which lists the names of all the tree species at the lake. Fun stuff. He seems to be an interesting guy too.
Seattle Parks and Recreations also have some interesting documents for you peruse online if you get a kick out of reading up on Green Lake’s vegetative history. Go Parks!
Now, go plant those trees.
The garden is, in a sense, a cosmos in miniature, a condensation of the world that is open to your senses. It doesn’t end at the limits of your own parcel of land, or your own state, or your own nation. Every cultivated plot of ground is symbolic of the surprises and ramifications of life in all its varied of forms, including the human. Is the cycle any easier to accept in the garden than in a human life? - Stanley Kunitz
I had been rummaging and rifling through all sorts of books and poems in preparation for the women’s retreat that I was asked to present at last weekend and was quite glad to have found this nugget by poet and avid gardener, Stanley Kunitz. This one is a keeper. I love it.
The garden is quite the teacher. It offers us a language to talk about our experience. Abundance, lush, drought, thirsty, fallow, compost. These words can describe our own interior landscape, sometimes mirroring the one outside. Or not.
The retreat was an invitation to reflect on landscape, how it sculpts and shapes the interior and exterior self, and how we can create a sense of home, of safety, wherever we are. Sure, we may not all be able to live in Tahiti (is that really a destination for people?) or own a home, but there are some things we can do to create a space that nourishes, that feeds our spirits.
I did a container garden presentation to illustrate one way we can create sacred space. I lugged a good-sized pot, a bucket of soil, a wooden crate full of delicious plant material, along with some passion to North Bend and we all created a fabulous time, I think!
Thank you ladies for your engagement and questions, as well as welcoming me into the rich conversation. I left inspired!
Here is a list of the plant material I promised to post:
Carex testacea (Orange sedge)
Anemanthele lessoniana (Who can pronounce that? I say Pheasant tail grass)
Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’
Comprosma ‘Roy’s Red’
Heuchera ‘Georgia Peach’
I also threw in some winter pansies, variegated ivy, and golden creeping jenny.
What makes a space “sacred”? This is a question we will pondering at a women’s retreat next weekend. I have been reflecting on the question today and I came to this simple conclusion: sacred is whatever gives you life. Gardens and gardening give me life. My task as a garden designer is to listen to clients and help them discern what gives them life and to translate these needs into the landscape. For some this is the sound of water, for others, it is incorporating plants in a design that memorialize a phase of life or a tender memory from childhood. Trees always come to the forefront here. For someone small, trees provide shelter, a refuge, safety. We never outgrow this need, do we?
Thus, we create gardens that nurture our spirits and souls.
Form follows function, the saying goes. But many of us don’t have the liberty to create our own forms. We may rent, live in an apartment, have just a windowsill for outdoor space. In this case, function follows form. We work with what we have. This is what I hope to address in the retreat. What can we create given our limitations?
Limitations are an invitation to be creative. To think outside of the box. Come join the conversation!
I’ve never really defined my blog. Plants and gardens are the obvious primary threads. Yet, I think it just so happens to be a place for me to share about things I love. Nothing unique there (what blog doesn’t do that these days?), just felt like I needed to preface this post because what in the world do paint-by-numbers have to do with outdoor spaces? Nothing, except that I can’t seem to live without either of them. I lucked out and found these at a garage sale one neighborhood over. I had to fight for them and I won. But I also won a new friend! And you know what’s horrible? I was so excited about my paint-by-numbers, my new tank tops, and a few other discretionary items,(not to mention how friendly and fun the garage sale hosts were) that I forgot my bestie’s name! You told me, I know. I feel terrible.
“What still amazed me about the desert was all the life it had in it. I had come to Arizona expecting an endless sea of sand dunes. I’d learned of deserts from old Westerns and Quickdraw McGraw cartoons. But this desert was nothing like that. There were bushes and trees and weeds here, exactly as anywhere else, except that the colors were different, and everything alive had thorns.” – The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
It was almost fourteen years ago that I packed up my Honda Civic Del Sol leaving friends (with the exception of my best friend in the passenger seat), family, and the 365 days of sunshine behind for the Pacific Northwest. Seattle was my destination. I tend to lean towards extremes.
From the outside it was for college. On the inside it was for my spirit. The damp earth, the evergreens (a-hem - conifers), even the heavy grey sky offered a vibrancy that the San Diego sunshine never could possess. I needed to leave to go home. And having just returned from a trip from San Diego, I find myself saying it again but in reverse. After all these years there are still bits of sand under my nails.
Not all of San Diego is a desert I am learning. Regardless, the desert is alive. There are parts of us that to our mind’s eye look dead but only lay dormant. It’s amazing what a little bit of sun can do. I was able to see some color in those blue skies and softness in the thorns.
This ain’t my grandmother’s mobile home. But why COULDN’T it be?
Look at the romantic clematis armandii clinging, the corrugated metal adding a modern urban twist, the retro colors. Oh, and the foxglove – a cottage favorite. Leave it to Bainbridge Islanders to redeem this traditional American classic. I mean *some* of these Islanders’ can go a bit overboard like telling us that it’s a shame Milo’s hat doesn’t match his red white and blue romper. (I am only telling half of the story. It ended well with a foot in her mouth: mine). Which is why if I were to move to Bainbridge Island I want to live here in this trailer park. Just enough garden. Just enough house to clean. I think I might also be a kinder wife. I’d only be next door.
We stopped to chat with a few owners out tending their veggies growing inches away from the asphalt drive and soaking up the 4th of July summer sun. Both have lived in their trailers for a long while. Can’t remember the number but I think over 10 years. Both also took great pride in their gardens, one neighbor playfully adding that she took up trowel so that her neighbor across the street wouldn’t succeed in making her yard look bad. Gardens beget gardens. A little friendly competition never hurts.
I can see it now. A trailer park garden tour. Let’s manifest it. Why not? I think both my grandparents would be proud.
P.S. This post is dedicated to my besties Ben and Deb who make island life beautiful and enticing and who savored their very first home grown poached egg yesterday.