We’ve had an epic amount of rain here recently. It’s rained off and on every day for several weeks, leaving the gardens as green as Ireland, the Roses glorious and the slugs very happy.
Somedays it’s been a bit too much rain. Case in point was a storm last week that dropped five inches of rain on us in an afternoon, flooding nearby rivers and streams. Despite this rain constantly clearing our air, we continue to deal with serious smoke from the fires in Canada. Sometimes it’s a little unclear what is haze and what is smoke. Sometimes it is beyond obvious as the light is so peculiar and the air smells like smoke. Regardless of our discernment skills, mobile phones tell us constantly how bad the air quality is. Family members in nearby Montreal last weekend learned that the city was considered to have the worst air quality on earth because of the fires.
All this means I keep a spritz bottle of Breathe at the ready for the people, dogs and cats in my life. Healthy Coat too is great for irritated tissues like the eyes which really taking a beating from this smoke.
I mentioned in an earlier blog how helpful the Flower Essence combination remedy Breathe is for breathing concerns related to this smoke. This week the Angels had me upgrade this mix with a new Flower Essence.
I have always felt a deep affection for Horehound. As a small girl, I liked that this herb joined with sugar could become brown and dusty cough drops, always a comfort when I had a sore throat. I recall meeting Horehound plant in an herb garden at the living history museum of Sturbridge Village. Herbs have always been my friends, and even as a small girl, I felt a great loyalty to them and a great delight when meeting them in person. This loyalty showed not bounds. After our day in the village, when we were in Ye Olde Sturbridge Gift Shoppe, I would resist the temptations of striped penny candy sticks in every flavor to chose the Horehound sticks. On the drive home my siblings would enjoy more modern flavors like Watermelon, Cinnamon, Sour Apple and Lemon Lime but I stuck to my Horehound guns.
A few years ago, I grew Horehound for the first time. It was long overdue. Horehound sputtered along for a few years in a garden spot it really didn’t like then gave up the ghost one tough winter. I didn’t make in into a Flower Essence as I don’t think it bloomed.
Last summer I was guided to start Horehound from seed again and plant it in a different place. This time it grew robustly and overwintered just fine. All spring as I trotted around the garden with wheelbarrows of mulch, I frequently passed this beautiful family of Horehound plants. Come June, they blossomed abundantly. I admired its Flowers rising up the stalk in spheres of white blossoms and its wonderfully textured leaves….. but the penny did not drop.
Then one day it did. I recalled that Horehound was for throat issues and bronchial problems. There was a reason it was made into odd brown and dusty cough drops. So yesterday I made Horehound Flower Essence. Hopefully by fall I will have learned a lot more about Horehound as a Flower Essence and can share all I learned here on the website. But I know one thing for sure, its going into our Breathe mix right now.
Many years ago I saw a photo of a Scottish garden that had these striking and statuesque gray plants at the back of the Flower beds. I got a bee in my bonnet about figuring out what this plant was.
(And speaking of bees, the hive discussed in the last blog got moved seamlessly. The bees are now ground level, and Jim has his ladder back).
In any case, a bee in my bonnet is a mild way of describing my reaction. I WAS GOING TO SEARCH THE PLANET FOR THIS FLOWER, so I too could grow these gorgeous giant plants.
First of all they were spiky, and I am ALWAYS on the lookout for spiky plants. Spiky plant armor usually indicates a high vibration Flower protecting itself from predators. Spiky plants like this form the foundation of our Golden Armor combination Flower Essence mix, our remedy for energetic protection, so when I saw this mystery plant I was determined to grow it here and add it to our Golden Armor mix.
There is a surprising amount of digging through old books in my work. Searching through musty ancient tomes, I discovered that this plant was Scotch Thistle, bane of Scottish farmers.
Having identified my new plant BFF, I needed seeds. This proved a challenge because most farming resources were all about removing this “scourge” from pastures. Any mention of Scotch Thistle came with extreme warnings. Eventually I found the seeds and threw caution to the wind. After all, Teasel is considered a similar garden menace, and I love Teasel. Yes, I have to weed it our with some vigor, but every year there are Teasels that I have let flourish AND I LOVE THEM ( and add their Flower Essence to Golden Armor).
Scotch Thistle also proved a magnificent friend in the garden and in Golden Armor. It does however have a mind of its own and moves around the garden, springing up where it wants to grow and disregarding any sense of appropriate placement. As in, it prefers to grow right in the front of a bed, making all the plants behind it difficult to see or weed around. Believe me, its spikes are the real deal!
Scotch Thistle is a biennial, so it takes two years to bloom then dies (something the Ispahan Rose will be glad about). The first year I usually don’t notice or pay attention to where the Scotch Thistle has snuck itself into the Flower beds. During the second season when it rises up seven or eight feet in the air, it’s hard to miss (though a bit hard to find on our website as its listed on the 27th page on the Additional Flower Essence list and can be ordered here ).
This year most of the Scotch Thistle in the garden is in its second year. It hasn’t yet bloomed, but it certainly has already made a statement in the garden. Frankly, it is everywhere. When planting the bulk of the Red Shiso, there was a wedge of Scotch Thistle in the garden space we were planting in. It told us in no uncertain terms to leave it alone and let it do its thing. We were happy to let it be, as we were certain it would protect all the little Red Shiso seedlings at its feet.
Recently the owner of a marvelous online knitting shop called The Woolly Thistle came for a visit. Corinne was born and raised in Scotland but now lives in our village. Jim taught her two children, so he got to know Corinne at parent teacher conferences. In addition, in the early days of the Woolly Thistle, before Corinne moved the business into larger quarters, her staff packed orders at her home, and her wool was mailed from the Meriden Post Office where we mail our Flower Essences.
Green Hope Farm staff Goddesses frequently ran into Woolly Thistlers at day’s end when we were all dropping off packages. Staffers liked this chance to chat, even though our postmaster didn’t like the logjam created by our simultaneous arrivals.
During covid, I was particularly grateful for Corinne as she shared her ideas for managing a mail order business with a skeleton staff. She helped us laugh instead of cry.
Corinne grew up near Glasgow, has spent time on the Shetland Island of Fair Isle and has a mother living in Nairn (the town next to Findhorn, one of the gardens that inspired Green Hope Farm). She has a wonderful youtube shopcast which I watch while knitting, so I feel I know Corinne well. During our recent garden ramble, it felt like visiting with an old friend. We had many common threads to discuss, not the least of it was her fantastic woolly wool imported from Europe. It has travelled through my knitting fingers to become numerous gorgeous sweaters!
However the thing that was funniest about our meander through the gardens was that every time we paused, we were not alone. There was always a SCOTCH THISTLE right next to us, partaking in the conversation and keeping our attention riveted on all things SCOTTISH and all things WOOLLY THISTLE. In retrospect, I felt the Scotch Thistles had planted themselves exactly where they were this season for a visit with Corinne.
Native daughter to native plant, they got each other in a way I can only aspire to.
I often play the game “If I could only have three Flower Essences what would they be?” or “If I could only have one set of Flower Essences which set would I choose?” While my answers change, if I had to choose a set today, given the Quebec wildfires, I would pick the Animal Wellness Collection as my one and only set.
*Anxiety is a comfort to one and all. And right now we all need comfort.
Healthy Coat helps with inflamed tissues like sore throats and sore noses from the smokey air.
Flow Free keeps our systems moving and flowing which helps when conditions are rough like right now.
I keep spritzers of Flower Essences in several places including over my kitchen sink and by the bathroom sink. Putting the spritz bottle in these heavily trafficked areas means I remember to spritz myself frequently. My current mixes have these Animal Wellness Combos in them.
I will be spritzing all involved tonight as we move hive boxes of new honeybees to a better location. One of our hives swarmed this week. The swarm assembled on a larch tree branch about fifteen feet up in the air. Lizzie and I were at peace about the swarm finding its own new home, but we also thought we’d give it a try to box the swarm in our hive boxes.
Lizzie went up the ladder with the hive boxes and shook the branch over the boxes. She calmly scooped the honeybees still on the branch into the top box. Then we left the scene. If the queen was in the box and felt like staying we would have a new hive. If the queen was not in the box, the swarm would regrow on the larch branch then take off to parts unknown when it had found a new home it liked.
A few hours in we both thought the queen was still on the larch branch. We left the boxes in place and went to bed. The next morning the hive boxes were bustling, and we knew the queen had decided to stay in our set-up.
This afternoon I made foundation frames for the upper hive box which is currently devoid of frames. We put this upper box on top of the bottom hive box that had frames so that when Lizzie shook the branch, the upper empty hive box would contain the honeybees until they went down into the lower hive box.
Tonight we will don our bee suits again and move the hive boxes down to the ground. Honeybees don’t like being moved, but we have to get these boxes down onto terra firma. Jim needs his ladder back.
After the Winter Solstice each year, the Angels share the designs for the next year’s gardens. One design reveal I look forward to with particular relish is the Venus Garden reveal. This garden is the energetic cutting edge of Green Hope Farm. The designs always surprise me, yet the themes always prove timely and deeply supportive.
Sometimes I am given a Venus Garden design with no other information than what plants go where. Creating and living with the garden for a growing season brings the insight and learning. Sometimes I am given a bit of information about the purpose of the garden before it is made manifest. This year when I was given the Venus Garden mandala, the Angels said I would be planting a Dhuni Fire garden.
My grasp of a Dhuni Fire is limited. My understanding is that it is a sacred fire that helps us burn up the flotsam and jetsam of our personalities and all that impedes us on our spiritual journey home to Divine oneness. My beloved Meher Baba had a dhuni fire lit once a month in his home in Meherabad, India. I’ve had six months to mull over what it will mean to have a Dhuni Fire garden here without coming to any conclusions. Right now, I am thinking of the Dhuni Fire garden as bringing a fire of purifying love.
In early spring it was time to start seeds for the garden. The Angels picked plants with names like Molten Fire and Burning Embers. Sometimes those Angels are so subtle. Flowers in this garden include Marigolds, Snapdragons, Bachelor Buttons, Four O’Clocks, Lions’ Ear, Castor Bean, Sunflowers, Tithonias, Zinnias, Chamomile, Nicotianas and Sweet Alyssum, The Angels laid out the garden as a spiral moving from tall plants in fiery colors in the center to orange then yellow then pink and white Flowers. While the Mehera white Marigolds often are planted in the heart of the Venus Garden in a protected position, this year over a hundred Meheras rim the last circle of the spiral.
There were a fair amount of snafus offset by a couple synchronicities while getting this garden ready to plant. The Angels wanted a long straight pole in the center of the garden. The Elementals conveniently had a fifteen foot birch sapling bite the dust about fifty feet from the garden. I dragged this over to the garden with a minimum amount of fuss.
A dozen streamers were meant to be attached to the top of the pole then pulled out like a circus tent to the edges of the garden. The pole and streamers had to be in place before the garden was planted yesterday, so I went to get supplies a few days before. I decided to use ribbons for the streamers. I went to the local strip mall to a big box fabric store. I timed my rare expedition off farm perfectly. When I got to the fabric store, there was a note on the door saying the shop was closed for a couple hours because of staffing issues. I wasn’t going to wait around in a hot parking lot for two hours when there was so much to do back at the farm, so I went on to another big box craft store.
Former math teacher Jim had done the math, so I knew I needed ribbons that were 20 feet long. At this craft store, ribbons came in 3 yard increments. This meant I would need 36 rolls of ribbons. This seemed ridiculous. I abandoned the ribbon idea.
Perhaps if the fabric store had been open, I would have gone back there for fabric to sew some streamers. But the place was closed, and I needed to figure something else out. After prowling the aisles, I decided to use tulle. I bought rolls of 4″ wide tulle in fiery colors. I also bought a few rolls of white tulle. When I got home, I discovered the robustly colored tulle was also robustly covered in micro plastic sparkles that came off in my hands. I didn’t want a Venus Garden that was an ecological disaster, so the colored tulle was out. Thankfully the white tulle had no micro plastic sparkles, and I had enough white tulle for six of the twelve streamers. For the other six streamers, I decided to use some chunky wool from Barcelona given to me by my son Ben. I’ve been hoarding saving this wool with its gorgeous colorway of red, yellow and blue for a decade. Its time had come.
First I dug the hole for the pole then I attached all the streamers to the top of the pole. The streamers had to be in place before we set the pole, because attaching streamers to a pole fifteen feet in the air seemed challenging even to me who often thinks I can do things I can’t. Jim, Elizabeth and her children Grace and Henry helped me drop the pole in place. Right away the Barcelona yarn began to break apart in the wind and rain. That’s right, I forgot to mention it was pouring rain with a stiff wind from the east.
The pole had to come out of the ground so I could do some more head scratching. I decided to tie I another support yarn to the Barcelona beauty (so thick and luxurious looking but actually so fragile ). I picked a tough yarn and when I was done knotting it to the Barcelona wool, the pole was relaunched.
This part of the process involved some yelling as Jim and I argued about what was necessary to keep the pole safely in the ground. I always underestimate these things and think a fifteen foot pole will just naturally stay upright. Jim as the sane person in our argument insisted on additional chocks. And so we imported rocks, gravel and cinderblocks to anchor the pole. I can verify that this pole will be going nowhere anytime soon. I can also verify that Jim agrees with me.
Sadly, there are no photos of us fighting about what was needed to anchor the pole. However, the good news is that the Dhuni Garden is already burning up ego crap! After the pole was in place, I parted the mulch hay in a spiral design, preparing the dirt that the plants would live in by adding organic amendments.
I add organic amendments to the soil, things like greensand, soft rock phosphate and kelp. When planting, I dip each baby plant in a bucket of water that contains Superthrive ( a vitamin mix), our Green & Tonic Flower Essence and a Nettle decoction. The Nettle decoction is new this year for us. It gives baby plants some good nutrition for their start in the world. Baby plants often set back hard and seem pretty bedraggled after being planted out, and these tools really help them.
Another gardener friend was slotted to help me plant the garden, but she was unexpectedly ill on the day of the planting. The meant the planting team was me and Sheba. Together we moved all the seedlings grown for this garden from the hoop house to the the edge of the garden.
I had a general idea of what plants would go where, but I was interested by the way the Angels mixed the colors. At one point I was sure we wouldn’t have enough plants in the yellow part of the spiral, but the Elementals said there would be enough, and there were. At another point I had to do some forensic work to figure out which variety of Nicotiana was in which flat. The ink had faded on my labels, and it was only by looking at my seed orders that I figured out which flat was Nicotiana “Night Flight” and which was Nicotiana “Misty Dawn”. Well I think I figured it out. Time will tell. I can’t imagine what this garden is going to look like later in the season. The Flowers are mostly old friends, but they are planted in unusual combinations.
The plants were laid out in a circle of the spiral then I went back and dug them in after I got the green light from the Elementals that every plant that was meant to be in that circle was there.
As I put the last plant in the ground and creakily stood up to water everything in, I savored the lovely feeling of the garden. Apparently so did Sheba as she kept poking around then laying down in the garden. She usually has excellent garden manners, so I was a little surprised by her stretching out in the garden without regard to the baby plants. I guess she just wanted to wallow in the already ignited Dhuni fire of sacred love.
Just as I posted this a Green Hope Farm friend sent a photo of the air in NYC right now. Sending so much love to all affected by this very different kind of fire.
Because our Red Shiso is an essential crop for our Flower Essences and because Red Shiso is very frost sensitive, we always wait to plant the Red Shiso until June 1st when danger of a frost is very, very low.
This morning Staff Goddesses Indigo, Sam and Elizabeth headed off into the gardens to plant the Red Shiso. This crop (like everything else here) gets moved around the different gardens on a three year cycle. For this season, there will be a couple of rows of Red Shiso down by the main vegetable garden while the bulk of the Red Shiso is in the garden which sits inside the ring of Apple and Pear trees.
Here’s my artsy shot of the trio with Woad in the foreground. Until the introduction of Indigo from Asia, Woad was the European dye plant for blue. This Flower lights up the gardens with its vibrant wands of yellow. It is beloved of bees, and the hum coming off the Flowers is loud and wonderful. I love Woad Flower Essence’s strengths as both a support to ease depression and “the blues” as well as support us find new purpose when an old one is gone. This is what Woad had to do for itself when Indigo arrived on the scene and replaced it as the primary dye for blue.
Woad volunteers around the gardens making its own conversation with other plants. Here it has grown cheek by jowl with a Tree Peony in a zesty tableau.
While making my way down to the trio planting the Red Shiso, I visited with a few other Flower friends.
Here is Chives. It may be small in stature but this Flower has a big presence in the garden. I went back to look at my Flower Essence description for Chives and didn’t think it did justice to either the Flower or its Flower Essence, so I rewrote my description this morning. It still doesn’t do justice to Chives, but it is better.
I also visited with the first of the Roses, the Yellow Rose of Texas. I love this Rose so much, and I love its Flower Essence too. Such a support for solving our most difficult and seemingly insolvable problems.
The trio has just come in from the gardens to report that the Red Shiso seed is in the ground and watered in. Always a great moment to get this crop planted. Now we will wait with bated breath for the seeds to germinate and begin their season with us.
Much June Love to one and all from all of us here at Green Hope Farm.
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!