Red Shiso Mystery

We try to do everything here with as much love as possible, but we are always finding that we can do things with even MORE love. Why? Because sometimes more love is necessary!

This year it is the Red Shiso that is getting the leaf by leaf super love treatment. Never will our stabilizer have been more full of love.

To back up a step….with the Red Shiso, I listen extremely carefully to all guidance and do everything I can to follow the letter for letter guidance because, while I can mess around with ugly geraniums, WE NEED THE RED SHISO! It is quite literally the life blood of our Essences!

This year we were guided to sow the Red Shiso at the beginning of June. This later date is because the crop is very frost sensitive and especially this year, we had frosts up until then.

Additionally, we were guided to grow the Red Shiso in three different gardens. I figured out the running footage for all these different gardens and divided up our seeds accordingly. All of the young women here helped to dig the rows, add the soil amendments, sow the seeds and then pat them into the earth. The Red Shiso loves to be patted down by children. Perhaps this is because the seeds need light for germination and little feet seem to be able to press the seeds in without the dirt covering the seeds. I also know the Red Shiso likes laughter and song so we sang as we planted.

I know it might seem a little extreme to think about little feet versus big or songs versus no song but not only does this crop matter to us, but it is a tricky plant to grow. Complete crop failures are something I have heard about from folks with a lot of agricultural experience. Several other Flower Essence companies have tried to grow Red Shiso at our recommendation only to have no success. So we pay attention to every last detail down to the songs we sing.

This year there were no children to be had so we used our own feet to pat the seeds down. Perhaps it was our heavier feet that was the X factor. Perhaps it was the endless soggy, wet, cold days of early summer. Perhaps it was the mourning doves that were there scrounging seeds night and day. Perhaps it was our old friends the slugs who so often have threatened our Red Shiso crop. Perhaps it was the seed batch from the seed house. For whatever reason, we had terrible germination. The seeds germinate in 7-14 days so at first we just waited with hopes that things would improve. By the time we were certain that the germination wasn’t going to get better, it was mid-June.

By this time every tiny plant that had germinated was getting the serious love treatment. Attentive weeding is an understatement. We were out there night and day on slug patrol and weed patrol and mourning dove patrol. Checking upstairs for further guidance, we sent for more Red Shiso seeds and reseeded all the gardens.

Then we filled the greenhouse with seed flats sown with Red Shiso. This was a first for us to grow the Red Shiso under glass. Germination was worlds better, especially inside the greenhouse. Within a few weeks, we had baby plants from the greenhouse to plant out and some new babies in the fields as well. The crop was not going to be as thick and luxurious as normal, but there was going to be a crop.


So now we wait to see what this more sparse crop is going to do. Will the plants branch out because they are not so tightly planted? What will we learn from all this? We don’t know exactly.

So much happens here in the summer that it is hard to get any perspective until things quiet down later in the fall. I do know that we have learned that it is possible to love pretty much every single leaf of our Red Shiso crop and have the plants soak in every bit of our care. And we are happy to pour on the love. By season’s end we may well know every plant in all these different gardens by name!

For a view of the Red Shiso growing in this year’s Venus Garden, check out our Facebook page where I posted a photo of the Venus Garden today.

An Instance of Wishing I Had Listened to the Angels Better

Over the years many people have asked me whether I am uncomfortable following the Angels’ guidance so precisely- Well, I only WISH it was as precisely as folks imagine- but in answer to this question- No, I am not uncomfortable- Over the last twenty five years the Angels’ guidance on a vast array of topics has been impeccable. My problems come when I get ahead of their guidance or when I don’t listen carefully or when I forget what they said.

Here is a small example of what happens when I don’t listen well. This year the Angels suggested miniature Sunflowers for the terra-cotta pots running along the stone terrace in front of the house. Their guidance is always polite. They respect my free will and only make suggestions. It is up to me to decide what to do and almost always I follow their suggestions. If they say, “No peas.”, I know it is going to be a bad pea year, and there is no sense in me growing peas. I know this because somewhere in the last 25 years I planted peas despite their guidance and got zero peas.

With the Sunflower suggestion, they indicated a few miniature varieties that would work well this summer, and I bought the seeds. So far, so good. But then, before planting time, I drifted into a revery of my own imaginings, ungrounded by the fact that the Angels knew what kind of summer we were going to have. Their choices all over the gardens indicated that we were in for a wet, wet, wet summer, but I didn’t want to see THAT writing on the walls. I wanted a summer more continental- say Italian palazzo continental. I decided Scarlet Geraniums would create just the sort of Italian palazzo in the summer ambience on the stone terrace THAT I WANTED. I decided that I could bring Italy to me with just a few splashes of scarlet, and I went rogue on the Angels.

This turned out to be a very, very, very bad bit of revery resulting in something with NOTHING Italian palazzo about it.

First of all, no other Flower in the garden is the red shade of the Scarlet Geraniums I chose. They clash with EVERYTHING. Maybe they look great in the gardens of Taormina, Sicily but not here. Every time I go out the door I wince at the way they don’t match with the Roses, Vervain, Poppies, Thyme and EVERY OTHER Flowers that is cheek by jowl to their pots. Each time I see these pots I feel badly about my choice AND badly that I am not loving the Scarlet Geraniums as they deserve to be loved. They even clash with red Bee Balm below in the perennial beds which I was sure they would look great with.

By the way, this is an amazing Bee Balm summer- I have never seen it look better. Whose idea was it to have one perennial bed of classic red Bee Balm with another one of a deep rich maroon? Well, it was not mine, and I thank the Angels for giving us such a treat this and every year in the gardens because the Bee Balm always looks great- only this year it looks SUPER great.


The second problem with the Geraniums is that the variety I chose needs to be deadheaded every thirteen minutes- literally. No sooner does a stalk of blossom open than the center blossoms fade and turn brownish red. Someone with a lot of experience with Geraniums suggested I cut them back completely and let them all begin again. They now look worse than ever. Now there are almost no blossoms, and the ones that survived the massacre still need deadheading.


A third issue is the weather. The Geraniums don’t seem to like the nightly deluge of rain. Their leaves are yellowing and they look sicker and sicker.

One might ask…….How are the Sunflowers doing in other parts of the garden? Glorious! They are surfing the endless rains with aplomb. Healthy, robust, zippy, everything my choice of Geraniums are not.

So really, I garner no problems from taking the Angels’ advice. My problems are of my own making.

And now, please excuse me. It’s been thirteen minutes. I need to go out and deadhead my scarlet beauties.


Training New Staff

Getting acquainted with the keyboard.

The keyboard as a percussion instrument.

I take my first phone call.

What do I do now?

How am I doing?

Grace’s Report from the Gardens

I inspect Aunt Em’s transplanting skills.

Enough of that. I need to get down.

What is this green stuff everywhere?

Just checking that Aunt Em is still there.

On to a new venue.
I pick my first raspberry. Much better tasting than grass.
Garden tour over, I check in with more of my fan club.

The Poster at my Feet

So every year in our tiny town meeting there is a retired teacher who gets up and drones on about how the grammar school should not have abandoned its Canadian history curriculum in favor of a social studies curriculum that includes other countries in the world. This curriculum was abandoned about the same time as the school decided to stop showing students the home movie about how to butcher a pig.

Yes, even in this tiny town the internet eventually arrived and dish network too and suddenly the powers that be realized that few of the students were ever going to have to butcher their own pig and maybe it was time to stop making generations of young girls into lifelong vegetarians. As far as Canada went, CNN helped these same figureheads know that Canada was more than just the place underage NH kids went for drinks and lap dances but perhaps not such a dominant world power that half a year of seventh grade social studies should be dedicated to its study.

But my point is, I “get” where this retired teacher who LOVED teaching Canadian studies is coming from. I am him, sort of.

You see, when I recovered from breaking my arm, it was clear, even to me, that it would be better to have Miguel continue to run the office and have me do other stuff like these blogs and the gardens and the Flower Essence creation part of the operation versus re-enter the daily office fray to continue to try to do too much. It was a no brainer of a decision but this doesn’t mean that my brain didn’t try to hang on anyways.

Or to put it another way, it is not completely a surprise that I needed to break both my arms before I was able to “let go.”

After the cast came off, I would sometimes see that there was sooooooooooooo much going on in the office that I would try to just slip in and help, but I realized pretty fast that that didn’t feel like help to Miguel but more like backseat driving. Instead, I learned to share ideas at our weekly meetings and wait until he asked me for advice before giving it….well…… I learned to be appropriate most of the time but in my defense, it is hard to hand off a baby that you have been caring for night and day for twenty five years. It is hard not to yell out to the new caretakers, “Will you folks remember to burp the baby and change its diapers?”

But they did remember, and the baby is well and thriving in their care.

And I got to have a lovely, if damp, spring in which I was actually gardened in the daylight versus in the near dark after a day in the office.

As I weeded away, I sort of knew that inside the office Miguel was making changes to better use current technology but it was all a bit murky because I was, after all, thinking about things like slugs and bugs not la cie drives or filemaker updates. Once in awhile, I would make some nostalgia driven plea for some insanely out of date method of doing something- mostly because even though it was no longer me doing these jobs, I liked the idea of doing them “the TRADITIONAL old fashioned way.” But to give myself slight props, most of the time this last six months, I have felt a lot of awe for how well everyone was doing in the office and how cool it was that they were shaking things up with new systems.

This delight was genuine because even as I am a person who still thinks I might have to butcher a pig someday in some sort of dire emergency, I am actually someone who has fun with technology…… once it is explained to me…….

And today was a day in which there had to be a lot of explaining. A lot.

Miguel is on vacation as is Laura so I volunteered to step back in from the fields to be an extra pair of hands for the week. I realized I was in no position to step back in as some sort of returning leader in from the colonies, but instead I was a person that could maybe be helpful if given some instruction. I knew I didn’t understand any of the new systems but at least I thought I could catch on if given some guidance. “How different could email be?” I asked myself as I volunteered to do it for the day.

As I learned, email could be both very different and very the same. it was lovely to chat away with friends new and old and yes, I could still type…… But I had a lot of questions. A lot. And at lunchtime, it looked like maybe email was going to slay me and not visa versa.

I shouted out to anyone within earshot (and funny how fewer and fewer people were within earshot as the day went by), “How do I find the files to attach? What is this drop box thing? How do you invoice an Amazon order for Lizzy’s book? What is this new protocol for international orders? How do I track a postal order? What are these flags on all the emails? How do you make new customer numbers? How do you sort through this new spam filter?”

Well you get the picture.

I was annoying. Almost if not more annoying than Mr Canadian Studies at town meeting, but also kind of cute in that hopelessly outdated sort of way. I think they were all still laughing with me at days end (or maybe they all had earphones in and were listening to Game of Thrones on their iPod minis and just nodding to me no matter what I said).

Anyways at the end of the day, I believe they were appreciating my jokes as I rolled around in my office chair re-enacting my all day technology cluelessness. I may never know what they were really thinking, but I do know what the Angels thought. They told me in no uncertain words.

Underneath the wheels of my rolling office chair, there was some poster that kept getting in my way. It had fallen out from somewhere and was gumming up the works so finally I pulled it out from underfoot to take a look.