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


Sunday, May 1, 2016

Gardening by the Moon

"With the waxing of the moon, the earth exhales."
- Ute York

Lunar gardening is fun and makes so much sense! This will soon be rediscovered and followed..
Photo above is from the SpaceFellowship, Rob Goldsmith.
The gravitational pull of the moon on the earth affects water on our planet. The moon's pull is stronger than the sun because, even though the sun is larger, the moon is closer to the earth.

As the moon gets full or waxes, its gravitational pull on the earth gets stronger. And it is felt the most when the moon is full (the moon and sun pull from the opposite sides of the earth at this time). This is when the tides are at their height and lunar people such as a person born in the sign of Cancer, go a little wild.

But not only does the moon’s gravity affect tides, it also affects underground water tables. So if you plant when the moon is waxing or growing toward being full, remember the water table is rising as well.

This means water is more easily available to a plant. The increased moisture content of the soil encourages seeds to sprout and grow.

Dr. Frank Brown of Northwestern University researched this over a ten-year period of time and found that plants absorbed more water at the time of the full moon. 

Tests by Frau Dr. Kolisko in Germany and by Maria Thun also found maximum seed germination on the days right before the Full moon.

So as the new moon (no moon) grows, seeds swell with water and burst into life more quickly. This 2 week period in a month is considered the best time to plant leaf crops. 

And this period is great for harvesting leaf crops because as the moon moves towards full the plant is putting everything it has into growing and is full of nutrients.

Similarly, when the moon goes from full back to being a sliver the opposite is true.

Ute York, in her book "Living by the Moon" says
" With the waning of the moon, the earth inhales. Then, the sap primarily goes down toward the roots. Thus, the waning moon is a good time for pruning, multiplying, fertilizing, watering, harvesting, and controlling parasites and weeds” 

Now is the time when the water table drops, and it is a good time to plant root crops, such as turnips, carrots, onions, and bulbs etc.

How to know? Get a MOON PHASE widget and put on your homepage.

Tulip Time in Holland, Michigan - wow!

Do you know about Holland, Michigan,  the 'tulip town'?

The Holland Michigan Tulip Festival displays over six million of the town's signature flower every year.

Also known as the Tulip Time Festival, it is the largest tulip festival in the United States and Reader's Digest has named it the best small town festival in the country.

Indeed, Holland, Michigan was named by Money Magazine one of the top ten places to retire, partially due to its cultural assets and large amounts of green space. 

I bet the tulip festival has something to do with this because any town that dedicates itself to flowers has got to be special!

The idea of Tulip Time was introduced in 1927 at a Woman's Literary Club meeting by Miss Lida Rogers, a biology teacher at Holland High School.

 She suggested Holland adopt the tulip as its flower and set aside a day for a festival. She wanted every resident to plant tulips in their yard. The first year in 1928, City Council purchased 100,000 tulip bulbs from the Netherlands. These bulbs were  planted in city parks and other areas. Bulbs were available to Holland residents at one cent a piece.

Thus, it was in 1929 that thousands of tulips bloomed, and Holland invited visitors to come during a week in May.  The festival began in earnest in 1930 when 250,000 tulips were planted for the event. 

Now they are are planted along city streets, in city parks and outside municipal buildings as well as at tourist attractions. 

About one million tourists visit Tulip Time each year bringing in a lot of tourist dollars....

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Savoring a Garden in Spring

Early Spring is a wonderful time to savor a garden....

Just as a wine connoisseur relishes that first sip on his tongue, so can we revel in a flower, a scent or even a Spring breeze. 

Gardening and wine are similar - although not essential to life, they enrich the experience and contribute to an overall sense of well being.

Garden lovers know what I am talking about - that exquisite moment of 'stop time' when the wafting fragrance of a single rose-pink blossom captures your attention and lifts you away.

Or when, basking in the warm morning sun, the birdsong is louder than the chatter in your head.

Or that first deep breath you take when stepping outside into the budding green realm where Flora reigns.

 In short, gardens allow you to delight in the little things of life, to savor the essence of the our natural world... to see the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Other activities can transport us away from the daily hubbub - yoga, reading, running - but only gardens can be shared

. And gardeners are only too happy to share their 'dreamtime' with others. Its a gift to be able to say, "Come to my garden and be transported with me."

(Johnsen Landscapes & Pools)

How can an outdoor setting affect us so markedly? The realm of nature is not simply a nice view or a pleasant sound - it is the energetic presence that enlivens us.

Garden lovers know this - the trilling of songbirds really does lift our spirits. The quality of
sunlight does affect our outlook. And red really does stimulate!

(Planter - Jan Johnsen)

So go out there and immerse yourself with nature right outside your door - plant that pot of flowers....spread those nasturtium seeds...prune that smokebush....

and when you do, savor the air around you - it is humming with those subtle flavors of oak, maple and a slight hint of crabapple.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Pink Muhly Grass- Frothy, Pink and Deer Resistant

Pink Muhly Grass - Spring Hill Nursery 

Pink Muhly Grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris, is a native 'fave rave' of mine.
You might say it is a 'fave rave nave'.
It is a show stopping plant in the fall with its giant puffs of cotton-candy-pink plumes.

Whether in a hedge, border or patio container, this ornamental grass offers unbelievably profuse, feathery blooms amid 4 foot stems and a cascading habit. Give it plenty of sunshine and good soil drainage, and it will do the rest, beautifully withstanding heat, humidity, drought, and poor soil!
Pink Muhly Grass, is an extraordinary ornamental grass plant for many reasons: 

  • Its flower heads appear in the fall as a frothy haze of deep pink.
  • It is low maintenance and virtually pest free.
  • It is deer resistant.
  • Its deep roots makes it a tough, drought tolerant plant suitable for erosion control on slopes and useful in xeriscapes (Although regular irrigation and fertilization will encourage the best bloom).
  • It grows quickly with narrow glossy green leaf blades.

It is not hardy in my area as its native range extends from the south Atlantic Coast down into Texas and Mexico (zones 7 -10). Some people in zone 6 can grow it but it is iffy, depending on the microclimate. I will grow it as an annual.

photo from Baltimore Sun
 'Regal Mist' is a spectacular variety with a  haze of dusky pink when it blooms. It  looks amazing when placed against a dark backdrop of evergreen shrubs or a wall. 

Plant it in a group to create a magnificent sweep on a hillside and enjoy the full effect of this grass swaying in the autumn wind.
Or plant it by a pond, pool or other body of water.

Or plant it en masse in a sunny border with Knock Out Roses and geranium 'Rozanne'. wow!

You can also cut the flowers, dry them and enjoy them all winter indoors.

Pink Muhly Grass is a thoroughly enticing, tough and beautiful native plant. Plant some for a grand show in autumn.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Daniel Burnham honors Frederick Law Olmsted

On March 25, 1893, a gala dinner was held in honor of Daniel Burnham in Chicago.
But when Burnham took the stage, he chose to honor someone else instead: 
“Each of you knows the name and genius of him who stands first in the heart and confidence of American artists, the creator of your own parks and many other city parks... —Frederick Law Olmsted.”

Then he added:
 “An artist, he paints with lakes and wooded slopes; with lawns and banks and forest-covered hills; with mountain sides and ocean views. 
He should stand where I do tonight, not for the deeds of later years alone, but for what his brain has wrought and his pen has taught for half a century.” 
A collective roar went up among those assembled.

paraphrased from:  “Genius of Place: The Life Of Frederick Law Olmsted” by Justin Martin

Monday, April 18, 2016

Hand Weeding - by Christopher Lloyd

"Many gardeners will agree that hand-weeding is not the terrible drudgery that it is often made out to be.

Some people find in it a kind of soothing monotony. 

It leaves their minds free to develop the plot for their next novel or to perfect the brilliant repartee with which they should have encountered a relative's latest example of unreasonableness.” 

― Christopher LloydThe Well-Tempered Garden

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Oak Trees and Einstein

Why do certain tree species evoke the same response from all people? 

The Oak, for example, was considered  by the Celtic Druids to be the 'King of the Greenwood' . To them, oaks represented mighty and enduring power.  

The ancient Greeks also revered oaks - groves of them were deemed sacred territory.  
And Native Americans viewed the oak tree as a symbol of strength with supernatural powers. In fact, the tradition of “knocking on wood” is said to be of Native American origin  - they would knock on an oak tree in order to avert the failing of a hopeful prediction.

Katsura Tree

This similarity is true for many other trees from Ash trees to katsura trees to maples.... So why do disparate cultures see tree 'personas' similarly?  

I think Albert Einstein figured it out.

  In  1905, Einstein, a young patent inspector in Switzerland,  came up with a simple equation that challenged the way we in Western society saw the  physical world: 

Few people, at the time, realized what this mix of numbers and letters meant but it was revolutionary to those who did. 

Einstein originally wrote the converse of this elegant equation  (M =  E/C2)  but it all means the same thing - 

mass (or matter) is a function of light and energy;

matter is energized light.

As Niels Bohr, another famous scientist, explained it, mass is basically ‘frozen light’. This applies to all physical creation, including trees and humans.

In essence, Einstein realized that human beings (and trees) are ‘energized light beings’

 This revolutionary equation brought modern physics to the border line of science and spirit. 

Einstein alluded to this interface when he described the awe that inquiring scientists feel when confronted with the  inner workings of nature:

“…[it is] a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority, that compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection. 

 This feeling is … closely akin to that which has possessed the religious geniuses of all ages.”

  (Albert Einstein, the World as I See It”, p.29)

   If we, and the physical world around us, are ‘energized light’ then the idea that electromagnetic auras surround our bodies is not as improbable as once thought.    

Ironically, Science, in its own way, has validated the Renaissance paintings of the saints by confirming the existence of halos...

            Plants and trees are also energized light and they, too, have an energetic aura.

Once you see the world in this way, thanks to E = MC 2 , a garden is more than a verdant retreat - it is also a conglomeration of chlorophyll filled, light catching balls of energy!

As Rumi, the 13th century Persian Poet and mystic, wrote:

"Once we were particles of Light, now we are beings of

Light, radiating Love"

P.S  There are no coincidences - just co-incidents.  So I had to share: I posted this blog post this morning and now, about 9 hours later, I am reading a book on art called, Refiguring the Spiritual by Mark C. Taylor.  He talks about Turrell, Barney and Goldsworthy but then, in the second half of the book he starts to talk about gardening and then about the root of the English word 'matter':

Here is what he wrote that pertains to this post:
"hyle in Greek does not originally mean matter, it means forest...Romans...have translated...hyle with the word materia...Materia means wood..."

Sp I guess my choice here to use trees as a stand-in for the 'matter' that Einstein referred to in his famous equation is a good one! 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Hanami - Annual Cherry Blossom Viewing Time in Japan

Weeping Cherry blossoms at NY Botanical Garden - photo by Jan Johnsen   
 The Tradition of Hanami
When I lived in Kyoto, Japan I was lucky to see Hanami in action.  In Japan, the seasonal blooming of cherry trees is celebrated nationally in an event known as hanami (flower-viewing). 

The practice of hanami is centuries old; it began during the 8th century, when it referred to the viewing of the ume, or plum tree.

 But  later hanami was synonymous with 'sakura' - cherry - and the blossoming of the cherry trees was used to predict the next year's harvest.

Photos of the Hanami in Yokohama

Hanami was a time to perform rituals marking the start of the planting season. These rituals ended with a feast under the cherry trees, and this persists to today.  

 Starting in late March, television weather reporters give the public daily blossom forecasts, tracking the "cherry blossom front" as it progresses from the south to the north.  Families, coworkers, and friends rely on these to quickly organize hanami parties as the cherry trees begin to bloom locally.

"Hanami -- The traditional Japanese custom of enjoying the beauty of flowers. Young people make merry under the sakura (cherry blossoms) late into the evening."  << What a beautiful word - am impressed that words exist to describe the joy in an event.  I hope you all have Hanami and make some merry today :)
Hanami at night

 Parks like Tokyo's famous Ueno Park become crowded with picnickers, and rowdy nighttime revels take on a festival atmosphere. Hanami at night is called yozakura, literally night sakura. In  Ueno Park,  temporary paper lanterns are hung for the purpose of yozakura.

Why the cherry? The delicacy of the sakura blossom has captivated the Japanese for centuries and you can find it in many forms of Japanese art.  But the flower's delicate quality lends it a melancholy air, as well.

 After the cherry tree's buds open, it's just a few short days before the blooms vanish entirely -- the lovely petals all fall in a spectacular pink flurry. The blossoms' ephemeral beauty adds to its quiet allure.

Sakura in the city
sakura in japanese city

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Spirit of Stone - My talk at Tower HiIl Botanic Garden April 2

Spirit of Stone - Jan Johnsen 

Stone is so often overlooked but it is an integral part of our landscape. 

 I will be presenting my popular powerpoint talk, Spirit of Stone, at Tower Hill Botanic Garden next  Saturday, April 2. 10:00 am - 12:00 pm

During the informative and captivationg class, I will share the secrets of stone placement in the garden and talk about how to use stone in innovative ways.

Register for a  chance to learn how to create sublime gardens that feature both plants and stone!

Click here:

Monday, March 21, 2016

O sweet spontaneous - by e.e. cummings (an ode to spring)

 O sweet spontaneous
by: e.e. cummings (1894-1962)

 sweet spontaneous
earth how often have
fingers of
prurient philosophers pinched
has the naughty thumb
of science prodded
beauty, how
often have religions taken
thee upon their scraggy knees
squeezing and

buffeting thee that thou mightest conceive
to the incomparable
couch of death thy
thou answerest
them only with