The Gardens in May

We have had some really unusual weather here this month. A heavy frost of 24 degrees this week was a particularly extreme (and for a gardener an unfortunate) moment. In the aftermath of this frost, the beech trees in the surrounding hills turned brown as did the young leaves on many of our spring blossoming shrubs. Out in the vegetable garden, the baby radishes, beets and collards bit the dust and had to be reseeded. The perennial gardens looked almost as if they were melted by this cold, but in the past few days, most plants have picked themselves up and begun to regrow. The abundant Lemon Balm had made an impressive and gorgeous ground cover under many Roses. I was quite chuffed by how well it all looked. Now it has bravely picked up its tattered, brown and frizzled leaves to try and regroup.

Even with this frost, the gardens are still filled with lovely and thriving Flower friends- many of whom are Flower Essences we lean on every day.

Bleeding Heart is granddaughter Grace’s favorite Flower. I remember feeling the same way when I was ten. There is something so compelling about its shape. Of course it is a vital ingredient in our Grief & Loss mix, offering much support for a broken heart and all the sorrows of life. (Bleeding Heart can also be purchased separately as its on our Additional Flower Essence list)

Leopard’s Bane is a key ingredient in Golden Armor, our beloved Essence for the protection of our energy field. Most of Leopard’s Bane’s Flowers survived the frost, but I was still glad I had made our year’s supply of the Flower Essence before the frost. Again it can be purchased separately too as its on our Additional Flower Essence list)

Today I made Lilac Flower Essence. I went around the entire property collecting Lilac Flowers from all the different varieties of Lilac we have here- a good two dozen varieties. The Lilacs in this photo are from Siberia. Lilac has such an immense restorative and strengthening energy. I love the feeling of this photo which conveys both the majesty of this Flower and also its mystical qualities. Long live Lilacs!

The Apple and Crab Apple trees are done blooming, but only just. We don’t yet know if the frost will mean no apples this year. I love the cleansing quality of Crab Apple Flower Essence. Many spring Flowers including Crab Apple have such a strong cleansing and restorative energy. They make me think of Hercules cleaning the Aegean stables.

Celandine is a Wildflower, but it thinks it should be part of every Flower/Herb/Vegetable bed at the farm. Actually that is not entirely true. I was weeding out copious amounts of Celandine in the Roses yesterday and paused to consider whether I should just let Celandine bloom unimpeded. Celandine had the grace to tell me to keep weeding as if I let it go there it would take over. So yes, sometimes Celandine demonstrates restraint. It’s a Flower Essence about cell to cell communication, and somehow I felt that it was respecting the harmony of all the parts of the garden by telling me to keep weeding.

Today the first Tree Peony opened. Tree Peony is a show stopper. This first Flower’s petals look a bit wonky from the frost but still radiant. By the time I noticed this blossom the honeybees had already found it and were busy enjoying the bliss of its abundant pollen.

I hope your May is going swimmingly and that you find many moments of peace and beauty. All of us here send you much love.

The Unique Month of May

The month of May can be both bliss for the gardener and a nightmare challenge. To say May is a busy month is an understatement. To bring this point home let me just say that I think of April as a preparation for May. If it is snowing and the ground is still frozen in April, I hack through the dirt to plant peas because I KNOW there just won’t be time in May.

When I was young, a hoary old lady gardener with a mustache told me to never ask any questions at a plant nursery in May. This stuck with me as did the concern that I too would have a mustache in my eighties. Not only do I not ask any other gardeners questions in May, I don’t have any answers to offer in May. I barely have any thoughts. I am just a fast moving basket of tools trotting from task to task with a list in my head which the Angels and Elementals constantly edit.

Thank goodness my Angelic and Elemental support team is not in overworked bodies like the folks at plant nurseries. Unhampered by physical constraints, they can take all my questions in May. And a good thing too, as May is entirely about me asking them questions.

This morning for example. Mild mannered Jim asked me what I was going to do today. It was a gentle question meant to engage us in gentle breakfast banter. Instead it lit up my brain like pinball machine. Would I prune more Roses ? Or mulch them? Or fertilize those Roses that haven’t gotten their compost and amendments yet? Or would I mulch the asparagus? Or the blueberries? Or fix that pesky leak in the Sacred Feminine pond (again)? Or would it be weeding? Were the weeds in the herb garden or the perennial beds or the vegetable garden or any garden on the property calling my name this morning? Or would there be time to deadhead the Daffodils? My pea brain exploded with possibilities to the point of meltdown. How to even pluck a possible job from the barrel of tasks in order to give Jim a civil friendly response? I was flummoxed.

So I croaked out a random answer. “The raspberries. I’m weeding the second row of raspberries this morning.”

Is this likely to be what I do? Doubtful as 100% NO. What will actually happen is I will water all the seedlings in the hoop house and greenhouse, and then my upstairs crew will alert me that something much more urgent timely than crabgrass in the raspberries has cropped up. I will then be off to do the first task on their rota.

All my marching orders come from the Angels and Elementals, and thank God for that. They actually know the weather conditions ahead and which plants and gardens need care the most. Once they give me my first assignment for the day, I will enjoy a dizzying day of bouncing from task to task as chosen by them. I do love it that as I get older, they adamantly include the task of rest. Apparently sometimes I am the Flower in the garden most in need of water and a weed job.

May is a month in which my mind could go into a crazed state, but with the help of the Angels and Elementals, it becomes a month in which I just go mindlessly from task to task and leave all the deciding and agonizing to my upstairs staff.

This leaves me free to glory in the beautiful May. Every glance up from weeding or watering or pruning is sensational. So many old Flower friends are there to savor as they spring back to life after our long winter. I love how these old friends move around the garden and have a life (and mind) of their own. They often are NOT where I planted them but have launched themselves into surprise places where they thrive. I love that. This place is a big four decade conversation in which all my plans for the gardens get tossed by the plants and my dear friends the Angels and Elementals. And because of this, the gardens are much more amazing than anything I could have ever imagined. I love this.

Editing in the Garden & Life

The gardens of Green Hope Farm are 37 years old now. The tasks I had when this place was a wide open hay field couldn’t be more different than now. Back then it was all about planting trees, shrubs, perennials, herbs and annuals. I needed them all to build a garden from the blank canvas of the hay field.

Creating structure with these plantings was a big part of the early years. With the Angels and Elementals guiding me, we made garden rooms that each have a different feeling and purpose. There is the Arbor Garden which offers a timeless sense of repose, wholeness and serenity no matter what is going on elsewhere in one’s life. This garden is a sea of spring bulbs and other spring Flowers like Hellebores, Snowdrops and Virginia Bluebells. Other Flowers are part of the garden too, so when I make Arbor Garden Flower Essence each year there are always a good forty or fifty different Flowers in the mix.

We created a Rose garden, a space that immerses us in Divine beauty within and without, Each Rose shares a numinous experience of unity and Divine Love via its presence in the garden and in the Rose Garden Flower Essences

Then there are the three vegetable gardens that take up the issues of daily life and helps to sort them out in mandalas that change season to season. We always grow our Red Shiso stabilizer in one of these gardens, rotating from garden to garden each year. Red Shiso is as daily as it gets as this plant is the foundation and stabilizer for all our Flower Essences (see About Our Essences for more on Red Shiso.)

The Rose garden is on the left and one of the perennial beds on the right.

The many perennial beds anchor the place with their steady drumbeat of joy. They connect the years and our experiences like string holding a set of beads.

The entrance garden with its ring of rock walls, abundant Thyme and central pool welcomes us into the gardens and our own heart space. This garden sweeps us into the Sacred Feminine as part of our journey of reunion with the Divine. You may remember two years ago when our pick up truck made an unexpected visit to this garden!

Today Pasque Flower blooms where once the truck sat.

And then there is the Venus Garden. This garden astounds us each year with its wildly inventive structures, timely purposes and unusual plantings. This garden is the door opener that shows us the way (and right now this year’s Venus Garden is just a circular space covered in hay waiting to be planted the first week in June).

Each of these gardens required planting many different plants to see what was meant to be there. I gathered plants from roadsides, plant nurseries and gardens of friends with great enthusiasm. Once the bones were in place, I continued to grow an exuberant amount of annuals, herbs, vegetables starts and perennials in the greenhouse space and other window ledges that get enough light. Growing seedlings is part of every spring. For example, here is the passageway into the office right now.

The greenhouse is also full with tropical beloveds and flats of baby plants. Yes, the Tomatoes are getting the best light and steamy warmth in the greenhouse. As you might suspect from the last blog, they have gotten good light and especially tender care since 1993.

The hoop house, (built by Rex Miller and therefore called the Rex) receives the baby plants that are tough enough for colder conditions. I spent this morning beginning to fill the hoop house with baby plants and flats planted with seeds.

So yes, there is an annual process of growing more plants but in truth, at a certain point of garden creation, the work shifts almost entirely from gathering plants to editing the garden. I loved the gathering years, but editing work is when a garden becomes something essentially true to itself.

In part this is because a garden edits itself. No matter how hard I tried, some plants didin’t stay after I planted them. For example, hundreds of Lupines have departed this garden. Bearded Iris too. It’s not all departures. Without my volition, plants multiply and establish themselves with vigor, declaring that this the perfect spot for them.

The editing of comings and goings gives me a feeling of deep partnership. The garden has its own soul that has expressed itself over time. It helped the garden’s soul that I worked with Angels and Elementals to create this garden, because I suspect without this partnership I would have delayed the garden’s self expression. But I think this process of dissolving away human personality ideas and having something essential arise happens in most older gardens. It happened here, and I am grateful it did.

As I was thinking about this topic, it was hard to miss that older people like an older garden grow into a certain authenticity as life pares away some things and other things continue to thrive. And once again, I like that this process is a melding of our own efforts and the grace of life.

While society may encourage us to to keep our tentacles out in the world reaching for everything new and more at an undiminished (even accelerating rate) to the end of our days, life itself takes us in a different direction. Life encourages us to accept the paring down and let thrive what really matters and what is real.

And what is real and what is just illusion and diversion? What are we here to do and what is just a waste of our time?

The gardens give me my own answer to this. Love, beauty, peace, generosity, flow and acceptance. Love most of all. As Darwin Shaw said, “Divine Love is total significance.”

And how sturdy are these verities? As we clean up from a winter that pared down just about every shrub and tree on the property, I am heartened to feel the rock steady vibration of the place. The years of pouring love into each garden space means that even as some very large trees and shrubs are gone, there is still a palpable Green Hope Farm feeling of peace and calm, love and infinite blessings. And I do not think this is unique to Green Hope Farm. I think this is true of everyone and every place when other stuff is stripped away (either by life or by our own efforts). Its not just that love is total significance, love is the only real thing.

Tomatoes and Tomato Flower Essence

This morning I transplanted my Tomato seedlings. Mortgage Lifter, Ukranian Purple, Brandywine, Moonglow, Sungold, Dester, Nebraska Wedding, Redfield Beauty, Black from Tula, Paul Robeson, Amish Paste, Yellow Pear, Crynkovic, Dr Wyche’s Yellow, Sheboygan……Seedlings of all these varieties and more went into 4 inch pots where they will grow until June when I can plant them in the ground without worry about frost.

I love working with Tomato plants. I love their strange fragrance and their promise of sweet fruit. As I potted the baby plants, I thought about Tomato Flower Essence. Tomato Flowers make a powerful Flower Essence which clears our field like Hercules cleaning the Aegean stables. Tomato Flower Essence breaks loose and releases….well….literally our inner crap and sends it on its way. And what is this crap but illusions that we are not loved or lovable or connected with Divinity.

The first time I made Tomato Flower Essence I had this vague idea it was a cleanser. Rather nonchalantly, I gave a bit to a constipated friend who just happened to be there next to me. A couple of drops and this person had to race to the bathroom. Wow! Flower Essences can sometimes surprise us with their literal gifts! In years since I have seen it support a major clear out of emotional and mental stuck energies as well. When the cleanse is accomplished, light and love can pour into our systems and illuminate us the way we are meant to be illuminated.

We also have Cherry Tomato Flower Essences on our Additional Flower Essence list. Here is how we describe Cherry Tomato Flower Essence on this list: Cherry Tomato is a different sort of cleanser than full sized tomatoes- not so much one that might physically clear the system but one that helps us when we have chains, links, webbings, skeins, networks, knots, or anything tying us to situations or people that do not serve
us. It is great at untangling ego personality chains in particular.

I learned a lot about Tomatoes and Tomato energy in the summer of 1993. I’ve shared this story before, but it’s a story worth repeating. 1993 was the year when the gardens were open to visitors. The four of us gardeners who decided to open the gardens expected a few dozen friends to visit. Instead thousands came to call. The four of us depended on the guidance I got each day from Divinity to help us manage this unexpected and wild ride.

One of the most visceral experiences we had during our spring preparations had to do with our Tomato plants.  We had mapped out more than a dozen garden spaces, all with complicated mandalas of different plants. Each garden needed annual Flowers, herbs and vegetables and a lot of them. The farm greenhouse is 16′ X 8′ so we didn’t have room for all the plants we were growing. To handle this situation, we found various greenhouse-ish spaces for some of our plant babies. The Tomatoes went to a solarium at nearby Kimball Union Academy. This solarium space appeared to be sunny enough when we put the Tomato seedlings there in March, but as the trees began to get their leaves, the solarium became much too shady for the Tomatoes.  When we went to get the Tomatoes in late May to put them in the cold frames at the farm, they were wispy four foot long plants. Each was limp, almost branchless and a very peculiar almost white green.  They looked more like lifeless threads than actual plants.  We were horrified.  None of us had ever seen such unhealthy Tomatoes.  In my daily guidance after we retrieved these sickly plants, this was what Divinity had to say about these Tomatoes:

Let us consider the nature of Tomatoes.  They have a very robust energy.  They bring vitality and pizazz to many dishes and most situations.  It is no accident that women have been referred to, even if in a derogatory way, as Tomatoes. The heart of Tomatoes is a very strong life force and a ripe, visceral connection with the Earth.  As a Flower Essence it is a cleansing Essence because it offers to blast the weak places in a system with its robust energy, almost hosing out what is not strong in favor of its own vital energy.  This is the nature of Tomatoes.  What was happening to your Tomatoes during their sojourn to the solarium?  Tomatoes have this energy because they are connected to me.  They are free to express themselves because I provide the life force energy for them to be their true selves.  These Tomatoes were temporarily cut off from an appropriate connection with me.  They did not get the light of the sun, my way to bring them my energy.  They did not get the breeze, my way of continually whispering to them my love and guidance.  They were sealed off from a complete connection with me.  They would have died had they been sealed off entirely, but there was enough of a break in the flow to reveal to you what happens with my creations when they are unable to work with me moment to moment.  All of this was a metaphor for you. 

When you asked for volunteer plants to go to the solarium, the Tomatoes went in service to you, knowing that it would be a lesson in what happens when I am not with you every moment, when your ego illusions wrap around you and create separation.  You are like those Tomatoes in the solarium.  You are like the Tomatoes returning to the light of a greenhouse.  You have all been cut off from everything I can give you.  You have received enough to live but not enough to be your true whole vibrant selves.  I call you to let the example of the Tomatoes motivate you to open to a full connection with me, your source.  You are a planet of Tomatoes in a dark airless solarium.  The way out is there, and together we can find the vibrant wholeness which is your birthright and your destiny, but only together.

This experience with our Tomatoes shook us deeply. First there was our regret about how we had neglected these plants.  Then there was the stark moment of truth when we were told we were like these Tomatoes.  It was shocking to look at these sickly plants and take this truth to heart.  The experience motivated me to try much harder to stay connected moment to moment to Divinity.

A week or two later, we planted these strange creatures in the gardens by laying flat the entire four foot branch on the dirt then covering the whole plant with soil with only the last tiny bit of sickly leaves above ground.  We had no idea if we would have a single Tomato to offer at our vegetable stand.  We tenderly nursed these sad plants, wondering if our ministrations would be enough.  In the precious sun, they found vigorous health and beauty. We were astounded.  The Tomatoes’ recovery was a constant reminder we too could find this life giving connection to source.  Along with a rainbow of Tomatoes, the tale of the Tomatoes became one of the stories we shared with visitors.

My Friends the Deer

I know we all have more pressing and complex issues on our plates than poorly behaved deer, so I can only hope my rant blog gives you a diversionary guffaw…….

On our front porch sits my backpack sprayer unit already in use with a hideous concoction of rotten garlic water that even the deer find unpalatable. Usually this sprayer unit becomes a gardening accessory much later in the growing season as in when the snow is gone and the growing season has actually begun.

However this year, on the rare day when the snow has temporarily melted in some garden beds and before the next nightly snowfall, the deer have ripped up the beds and eaten all the tender young spring bulbs everything that remotely resembles a plant.

The carnage is one thing. The mess is another. Both provide me with an opportunity to practice my temper tantrum skills detachment. That is apparently what life gardening is all about. The pillaging behavior is unlike anything I have experienced before with our resident deer.

When I first stumbled on the damage (difficult not to since it looked like a back hoe had ripped through the gardens) I inspected the damage and considered the losses. Then I search very, very hard and found a few places where the deer had not found some spring bulbs . Naively, I figured these patches of Flower glory were safe. Then the deer found these places. The beds had been sifted for any shred of living plant material until they found these survivors damage was done, but there were a few spots where they had missed one or two bulbs and some places where deeper snow had protected some bulbs. This was when I got my sprayer going. Yes, to use a metaphor here, I basically shut the barn door after the cows had escaped the barn.

The last two days I have doused every garden bed with garlic spray. A brisk wind on both occasions meant that I got to wear this fragrant spray too.

Whenever I find a spring bulb they missed, I drown it spray it with particular care and hope for the best. I’ve even taken to spraying the snow where I know spring bulbs have yet to surface. (Note to grandchildren- Don’t eat the gray and odiferous snow) I also give a shout of thanks that deer don’t like Snowdrops or Daffodils. The Winter Aconite, Grape Hyacinth, Iris Reticulata, Chionodoxa and Crocus may have been deer appetizers, but there will be some color in the spring gardens. Here’s hoping anyways.

I am concerned for the honeybees that love these early Flowers as much as me. Will they enjoy the half dozen Crocus that survived the rampage even if they smell like garlic? These are questions I ask myself. I only hope the fragrance won’t put the bees off as it did the humans when I walked into to house last night. After their long cold winter the honeybees deserve all the nectar and pollen they can find. Me too, come to think of it- Thanks deer!

Last night at dusk as I wielded my sprayer, a large cohort of deer gathered in the hayfield below the gardens to watch my foolish attempt to slow their roll to wait for me to go into the house for the night so they could begin their evening feast. Besides slathering everything in garlic spray, I also gathered some of the lilac branches broken in the last ice storm and used them to protect the Hellebores aka Flower crack for deer.

This morning, fresh snow or garlic or something seemed to have inhibited the deer slightly, but they still managed to pull back the lilac branches to test nibble the Hellebores. Fingers crossed. It looks like the garlic spray was enough of a deterrent, but it’s early days.

Speaking of early days, in the early years the deer stayed out of the gardens. I would like to know what Elemental was keeping them in check and I would like to hire him or her back. Nowadays the deer break down fences, eat every fruit tree branch they can reach, wreck gardens that are literally a foot from the house, and do so much digging that someone might pay them for their excavating services. I try to convince myself that dealing with the deer now gives me a lot more opportunities to wring my hands meaning learning lessons, but do I ever miss those early days when for whatever reasons the deers were polite and well mannered.

It’s always something with life gardening and for me this season it’s deer. No doubt the arrival of the woodchuck in a few weeks will remind me that I should have been deeply deeply grateful when it was just deer eating the plant life. I’m working on it. I really am.

As a community of Flowers, Angels, Nature Spirits, Dogs, Cats and even some People, Green Hope Farm can be a funny place……and I love telling you all about it!