Halving The Fairy Garden, Doubling Down on Peace

Miniatrue Buddha

Miniature Buddha

The dictionary defines peace in a couple of ways:

“freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility” or “freedom from or the cessation of war or violence.”

My personal mantra for attaining peace is a mixture of what we all learned in kindergarten coupled with the moral philosophy of the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Simple, eh?

Yet here we are in a fractious and complicated world, trying to keep our heads up and our eyes open. I struggle finding the balance between remaining informed and drowning in the daily assault of depressing, maddening and unwelcome news.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been mentally planning a miniature peace garden. While it’s true that merely being in the garden is peaceful and uplifting, I wanted something more. I craved a touchstone for my own inner peace.

I started with a miniature Buddha, long a symbol of peace and enlightenment. I discovered my Buddha on a website dedicated to gardening in miniature.

Alyssum, Thyme, Baby Tears, Buddha

Buddha surrounded by sweet Alyssum, Thyme and Baby Tears

I bought a pair of shallow, glazed pots in a soothing green at a local shop.

miniature peace garden

Peace garden on the deck near our front door

Buddha sits under a tree of Lemon Thyme, with Alyssum on each side. I carpeted the rest of the garden in cool Soleirolia soleirolii also known as baby tears. Other than the boulder-sized stones, the rest of the items came from my fairy garden stash.

The cool colors and the lovely honey-scented  Alyssum are a balm to the nerves. As the summer wears on, the Alyssum will fall softly over the edge of the pot.

Across the log bridge you’ll find a small bench at the top of a path, and a few blue glass stones to suggest water.

Miniature Peace Garden

Across the bridge, a cool pond and a bench for quiet reflection

A simpler version of the fairy garden, reduced by half, sits on the wall along the walkway. Our Little Free Library is undergoing some renovations, so the books are temporarily in a purple bin.

Fairy garden and Little Free Library

A smaller fairy garden, moved to the front of the garden; our Little Free Library undergoing a renovation; LFL books are in the purple bin

This small garden brings me moments of peace. I hope visitors will gather a moment’s peace as well during these trying times.

I’m sending hope and light and love out into the world. Without them I’d be lost.

Miniature peace garden at dusk

Miniature peace garden at dusk

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Looking Back at the Corner Garden

Earlier this year I removed a small patch of lawn, a corner near the sidewalk facing the house. Originally I thought I would plant annuals and perennials, but decided annuals would be more fun. Perennials, once established, require little maintenance. I wanted a bit of action in my new flower garden and it’s action I got.

sidewalk corner

Corner near the sidewalk

April:

After removing the grass and preparing the soil, I planted seeds, including Sunflowers, Bachelor Buttons, Cosmos and a Spring Mix of assorted purple plants.  I covered it all with a portable green house. The goal was to keep digging critters away from the seedlings to give them a fighting chance.

It half-worked. None of the critters were able to dig, but I couldn’t keep it well-watered either.

The seeds didn’t get enough consistent moisture, and next to nothing germinated.(I did get one sunflower).

green house covers

April, 2013
Seeds tucked in for warmth and safety

May:

Disappointed but not defeated, I headed to the nursery and bought a few cell packs. I picked up a dozen sunflowers as a compliment to the one that grew from seed, my signature annual Alyssum and a few flowering annuals.

sunflowers and annuals

May, 2013
Sunflowers, Alyssum and assorted annuals

June:

In early June, I drove up to the house in an unseasonal windstorm, and saw the fruits of my recent labor (the sunflowers) bending in the wind. I dragged a bench, a folding table and anything else I could think of and braced all the plants. I’m sure the neighbors wondered why I would move the bench to the edge of the sidewalk, but desperate times (sunflowers in peril) require desperate measures (in this case looking foolish). That said, I’ve gone out to lunch with girlfriends wearing a wig and false eyelashes so I suppose my concerns about looking foolish are moot. Ha!

sunflowers and bench

June, 2013
Sunflowers staked to the bench

July/August:

The summer heat settled in and then this happened. The Bachelor Buttons, Cosmos and assorted seeds took off.  Every week something new popped up.  What a joyous experience. As the sunflowers died back, the annuals filled in. This also became my test garden. I bought (and forgot) about three pink zinnias and left them to suffer the heat out back.  I replanted them in the sidewalk garden and they flourished.

sidewalk garden flowers

September:

The Bachelor Buttons started going to seed, testing my resolve. The orderly me wanted to deadhead the flowers and trim back dying branches. Daily visits from the birds kept me in check. It was nice to see them swoop down and grab a bite. Another plus, re-seeding. As the birds and squirrels drop seeds, they’re likely to regrow the following season. We all win!

I planted most of my garden peas in the curb garden, but since I had plenty, I planted a few among the summer annuals. As the annuals died back, the peas could take their place.

zinnias and cosmos

October:

October was all about pumpkins and Halloween. Drip irrigation and a warm sun kept things humming along.

Oh, and this visitor:

butterfly collage

November:

The peas are growing among the summer annuals and will need to be staked soon.  Still lots of color but the zinnias are starting to decay.  Nightly temps in the forties signal the end of summer weather, even when it does make it to 72 F by mid-day.

going to seed

November, 2013
Going to seed

garden peas and flowers

November, 2013
Garden peas grow among the flowers

DSC_0021

What’s next? Time to collect seeds for next year. I’ve snagged a few here and there, but I need to make a concerted effort now before our promised Monday rain. Oh wondrous rain, how I’ve missed you.

Then on to planning for next year. Happy weekend. I’ll see you Monday.

A Winning Combination

sunflower sideview

Sunflower

Earlier this year, I dug out a corner of the lawn and replaced it with a variety of flower seeds. The corner faces my kitchen window and sits at the curb, allowing maximum viewing enjoyment.

I started with assorted new and leftover seed packets, then added seeds saved from last summer.  Growing from seed is risky business around here, thanks to a healthy population of squirrels. If the seeds manage to stay under wraps long enough for germination, they face the next hurdle: noshing snails.  Those mollusks love tender shoots.  What’s a gardener to do?

Lacking a greenhouse of my own, I hit upon the idea of ‘tenting’ the corner with a cover I spotted in a garden catalog.  Boy, was I feeling smug.  I planted my seeds, then erected the barricade.  I staked the corners, then added rocks for safe measure.  I checked each day and sure enough the barricade remained sound.

Every other day, I unzipped the cover to water the seeds, then stood back, waiting for them to grow.  Nothing seemed to be sprouting.  I checked with our local nursery, and received sound advice: if the seeds don’t remain moist at the time of germination, they never be viable.  In the past I either started seeds indoors or sowed directly without benefit of a cover.  My attempt to thwart the squirrels ending up thwarting the germination as well.

I went back to the nursery and bought a few bedding plants instead, so I could get a jump-start on the garden.  I bought half a dozen sunflowers, some Alyssum and a couple of small bedding plants.  I added a bright pink Cosmo to the center of the triangle and called it a garden.

Then lo and behold, the seeds began to grow!  Just as the sunflowers were reaching their full height, lacy green foliage emerged below.  Soon blues and pinks joined the yellows.  Bachelor Buttons commingled with Cosmos.  Forget-me-nots were next on the scene producing a brilliant dark purple flower.  My garden corner is now what the garden centers like to call ‘a riot of color.’

Come join me for a walk on the bright side…

magenta cosmos

Bright Pink Cosmos (bedding plant)

golden sunflower

Yellow Sunflower (bedding plant)

bachelor button purple

Emerging Bachelor Button (from seed)

bachelor button blue bending

Bachelor Button (from seed)

bachelor button pink

Soft Pink Bachelor Button (from seed)

Forget-me-not

Forget-me-not (from seed)

garden triangle collage

Planting the Strip: Three Cheers for More Dirt!

Mighty Mouse offers up his own opinion

Mighty Mouse offers up his own opinion

In early January, I polled my readers on the pros and cons of re-planting the sidewalk strip. I wanted something other than lawn. The vote was split down the middle.

We’ve lived in this house for 17 years, adding trees, flowers, shrubs and vegetables, but that boring strip of grass never changed. I thought of planting summer vegetables in the strip or  veggies and a few flowers.

It’s not that people disliked the idea. The no votes worried about doggie deposits or thieves in the night. Others feared vandalism (they’d seen it before) or easy access for neighborhood cats.

The yes votes suggested flowers instead of vegetables (less tempting to passersby) and one reader suggested a raised bed. Head slap!  What a great idea.

My husband was happy with the status quo. I was ready for a change (and more garden). Once he knew what it meant to me, he agreed to the idea *and* built the planting bed.  It’s 16 x 4 x 1 feet or (5 x 1 x .3 meters)

grassy sidewalk strip

The sidewalk strip, planted with sod

Planting bed 4 x 16

Planting bed, newly delivered potting soil

What fun I’m having with all that extra space! I can’t wait till things start filling in. Plants include:

  • Status (transplanted from the back yard)
  • Nasturtium (started from seed in my kitchen window)
  • Cosmo (another transplant); and
  • Nursery finds including Candy Tuft ‘Masterpiece,’ Chocolate Mint, Heliotrope Blue, Lemon Thyme, Snapdragons and Verbena.
planting bed

Newly planted, irrigation installed

Yellow snapdragons

Yellow Snapdragons

Candytuft 'Masterpiece'

Candytuft ‘Masterpiece’

Feline

Feline Neighbor

Another reader comment suggested removing some of the lawn on the property side of our lot.  I did that as well, planting sunflowers, Alyssum and Forget-me-nots.  I covered all of it with a pop-up tent to keep the squirrels and snails at bay.  Nothing grew!  Finally I removed the cover and planted bedding plants instead.

Low and behold, the seeds are now sprouting and everything is filling in nicely. Apparently they weren’t staying moist enough to germinate.  Lesson learned.

Planting the corner

Planting the corner

So far, so good on the planting strip.  My neighbors are giving it a thumbs up and other than the character in the photo, above, no untoward behavior other than cat-napping between the plants.

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Gardening

Yoga in the garden

Yoga in the garden

When naming this blog, the concept was simple. I love gardening and achieve a sense of absorption and harmony when my hands are in the dirt.  The philosophy of nirvana is beautiful: the consciousness releases, and the mind becomes aware in a way that is totally unconstrained by anything in the conditioned world. The act of gardening is the closest I’ve come to that experience.

After a rough week, I could think of no better way to sooth my soul than a bit of exercise, followed by hard work in my garden.  I spent the morning pruning the topiary dinosaur, dead-heading several azaleas, raking dried leaves and topping off the compost bin.  I filled an old planter with the rocks I unearthed from the planting bed, then pulled weeds around the Chinese Pistache.  After hand-watering the smaller pots, checking the tomato seeds and smiling at the volunteer potato, it was noon.  I still had an hour to spare, so I high-tailed it to the nursery for some plants.

No-Go on the Flowering Seeds

My seed planting extravaganza was a complete failure this year.  The packets suggested direct sowing of cosmos, poppies and sunflowers.  How simple!  Out back, my vegetable garden practically planted itself, but the flowers are another story.  I finally removed camp ‘squirrels-stay-out‘ when weeks later nothing came up.  Okay, nothing is a bit of an exaggeration, but when you plant dozens of seeds and only manage to germinate one, it sure feels like nothing.  Perhaps I can blame it on the blackened fingernail I smashed in the door.  No green thumb in sight.

Off to the Nursery

I said a quick hello to my friend Doug at Almaden Nursery, then loaded my cart with sunflower, Alyssum and Cosmo starters.  April came and went, so no time to dillydally with new seeds.  A few impulse purchases made it into the cart, including a gorgeous orange-flowered geranium and some Vinca to fill in some bare spots.

Back home, I planted, planted and planted some more.  I apologized profusely whenever I unearthed a worm, quick to return them to the cool, moist soil below.  They deserve their own sense of nirvana like every one else.

What do you do when the going gets tough?  How do you regain your center?

gardening [ˈgɑːdənɪŋ]
noun: the planning and cultivation of a garden

nir·va·na (nîr-vän, nr-)
noun: An ideal condition of rest, harmony, stability, or joy.

Kitty Update

We’ve made a couple of visits to the Cat Hospital this week.  Our kitty is looking good, eating well, and ready to come home.

Beijing

Beijing sports a Tony-the-Tiger bandage

Marauding Leprachauns: A Race Through the Fairy Garden

Mischievous Leprechauns passed through the fairy garden yesterday. Guess what they’ve been up to?

For starters, they turned the garden path a glossy emerald. No stone was left un-greened.

Leprechaun Path

Follow the emerald-green path

As they skipped along the path they tossed Mardi Gras beads hither and yon. I missed the parade! Our precious little deer caught a few baubles. She looks surprised at the turn of events and wonders if she should have stayed in Canada.

Festive Deer

Festive Deer

Nah…she’s having fun! Really.

Those crafty Leprechauns turned the garden furniture upside down, then dotted the path with sparkling shamrocks. I sure hope the fairies have a sense of humour. I think I spotted a pot of gold but no rainbow. Months with barely a drop of rain means the pot of gold is at the end of a dry, brittle twig.

St. Patrick's Day Fairy Garden

St. Patrick’s Day Fairy Garden

I wonder if Leprechauns negotiate? I’m willing to return the pot of gold for a week of spring rains.  Sounds like a fair exchange to me. Let me know if you see a friendly Leprechaun dashing through your garden.  I’m ready to make a deal.

A glimmer of gold

A glimmer of gold

Pot of Gold at the end of a very dry stick

Pot of Gold at the end of a very dry stick (no rain, no rainbows)

St. Patrick's Day Fairy Garden

Sea glass, Alyssum, pot of gold, tiny cyclamen, fescue, and a fashionably dressed deer. Lantern by Tim Holtz

Many thanks to Boomdee for the charming ceramic deer.  You can see her cousins Grace, Alyster and a couple of charming gnomes at Boomdeeadda.

 

Sweet Alyssum: Growing a Namesake

Alys Milner (Lancaster)

Alys Milner (Lancaster)

Sweet alyssum is easy to grow.  True to its name, it has a light honey-scent, with tiny white flowers that grow close to the ground.It’s intoxicating.

Alyssum is an annual, starting small, then spreading a foot in diameter by late summer. When I want it to grow in a certain spot, I’ll buy a six-cell pack. It easily self-seeds, so I often scatter the spent flowers around the garden in the fall, then enjoy what comes up and where the following year.

As I was plucking weeds in the side yard this week, I noticed at least two dozen alyssum seedlings. I’m sure I pulled out one or two in my zeal to rid the dirt of pesky weeds before I realized what they were. I made a hasty retreat.

My garden is not complete without Sweet alyssum and here’s why:

  • I’m named after my father’s sister, Alys, a fashion mannequin in the 1920s.
  • My father was an English horticulturist.
  • My former boss called me ‘Sweet Alys’

What better flower to honor my father and aunt than ‘Sweet alyssum.’

alyssum

Sweet Alyssum

What’s in a name:

  • The spelling of Alys dates back to the 1600s. In Welsh the name means ‘of the nobility.’
  • Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima) originated in Greece.