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

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Why We Garden - Oneness with Nature

    Holy Mother Earth,
 the trees and all nature, are witnesses of your thoughts and deeds.

~  Winnebago saying

A garden is nature, bounded  -  protected and shaped by human hands.  It can be a simple balcony filled with planters, a sweeping vista dotted with trees or a small courtyard bordered by plant beds.  

Our urge to co-create with Mother Nature has been with us since time immemorial.   This impulse lies in the need to be connected to something greater than ourselves.  

Gardening enhances a heightened sense of empathy and expands our awareness of non-human life.  When we garden, we see how the lowly earthworm is as important as the forest. 

This, in turn, leads to an oceanic feeling that we are one with Nature.  Arne Naess, the Norwegian philosopher, called  this expanded sense of self,   the ecological self’:

"We are not outside the rest of nature and therefore cannot do with it as we please without changing ourselves … we are a part of the ecosphere just as intimately as we are a part of our own society.." 

photo by Jan Johnsen / in garden by Johnsen

The ecological self has always been with us.  It is this self (not the  human centered self of our Western World) that created the nature based rituals and ceremonies of Native American and Australian Aborigines;  that used monumental trees or great stones as their religious totems;  that developed the pleasure grounds of the Persians and the sacred groves of the Greeks. 

 The ecological self sees Nature as a conduit to the cosmos.  As the 19th century traveler and nature lover, W. H. Hudson, wrote in his evocative, turn of the century book, The Purple Land:

photo by Jan Johnsen / Mt Kisco, NY
“Face to face with Nature on the vast hills at eventide, who does not feel himself near to the Unseen?”

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Great Plant for Shade Gardens - Varigated Persicaria or Tovara

'Painter's Palette' Persicaria photo from Moose Crossing Garden Center

For the last 4 years, I have been creating an enchanting woodland garden for a favorite client.

It is a shady site that is very wet.  A challenge indeed.

In the course of planting up this garden I recently discovered:

  Persicaria virginiana varigata (or Tovara)
from Forest Farm Nursery

Tovara virginiana, is an easy to grow perennial plant (hardy from zones 4 to  8) that thrives in shade and offers eye catching foliage color. It grows to 28  inches tall and spreads by means of underground stems. Each leaf has a different variegation pattern of green and white. The cultivar 'Painters Palette' has maroon markings as well.    Tovara has good drought tolerance and is ideal for mass plantings where its showy color and bold leaf size make a punchy display in shady recesses.
It is clump-forming but can spread rapidly.  It self seeds like mad and should be cut to the ground each fall. The best planting location is medium shade in relatively fertile soil that can be watered during dry spells.

'Painters Palette' has straight, red stems that make beautiful cuttings in flower arrangements.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Tree Spirits, Einstein and 'Frozen Light'

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.

This similarity is true for many other trees from Ash trees to apple trees to maples.... So why do disparate cultures see tree 'personas' similarly?   Is it Coincidence or Co-incidents?

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.

Our forefathers' views that trees have spirits is the acknowledgment of this energetic 'footprint'.  

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"

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I guess I must really want an outdoor shower because I cannot stop looking at pics of them on the internet....and it doesn't hurt that right now the temperatures in my area are over 90 F everyday.

So here are a few more ideas for outdoor showers.

Show'r from Atelier Treadewinds is a mobile outdoor shower made out of galvanized and powder-coated iron tubes and a black locust wood base. (Cold water only)  Wheels are placed at the back to allow the shower to be moved easily. Just click your garden hose to the standard quick connector at the base and your garden shower is ready.  Show'r is also easily dismountable.

As I say, it is the setting that makes an outdoor shower outstanding.  Add color, texture, plants or all of the above!  Examples of showers and their enclosures below:


Paint a poured concrete and concrete block wall blue and it makes for a private 'Blue Lagoon.'


Sunset Magazine

Take some wood and box in the shower ( see at top of shower?) and Voila! a privacy screen. Add some bamboo, if you dare.

Andersson Wise Architects

What to do with all that wood from the trees you cut up? Make a privacy wall. Seal it very very well.

James Crisp architect, Millbrook NY

A lovely wooden screen fence for both the shower and changing station. Fabulous. Make the doorway wide, as shown here.