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Guardians of the Garden Galaxy

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Guardians of the Garden Galaxy

birds nest on staghorn fern.jpg

“Nature teaches beasts to know their friends.”  William Shakespeare

The gray turtle dove darted from the mulberry tree to the wooden nest box and back again. Thinking there must be eggs, I grabbed my camera and discovered a baby dove nestled in a hollowed nest with the mother bird proudly standing guard. The sounds of gentle cooing surrounded this bucolic scene. I felt blessed that these birds chose my garden to settle.

If you want a healthy, glorious summer garden, beneficial insects, arachnids, birds, amphibians, and reptiles must call your landscape “home”.

Many people scream at the sight of a snake or a lizard and start swatting when they witness a spider. However, these are beneficial biologicals devouring the insects and predators that capture prey that destroy your garden. Everyone loves lady beetles, known as ladybugs, and people understand the value of bees, but did you know that frogs, hoverflies, ground beetles, praying mantids, and lacewings are invaluable friends to the garden?

The guardians of my garden galaxy are plentiful and ubiquitous. Every day as I walk through my oasis, I am greeted by numerous lizards darting from rock to plant, frogs hopping to hide under a leaf, spiders weaving webs, bumblebees, hoverflies, and honeybees sucking the nectar from a variety of species, and birds making nests and dining on insects.  My favorite garden guardians are the kingsnakes that eat gophers, moles, voles and keep the rattlesnakes away.

Our garden colleagues keep nature in balance without the use of pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides. Using integrated pest management, natural sources of nutrients including compost and mulch, will fertilize and keep your garden healthy. 

Here are some of the benefits of inviting our flying, hopping, slithering, and scooting comrades into your garden.


As they fly from tree to tree, birds are pollinators adding more blooms and fruit which attract more birds. Birds eat a variety of pests including mosquitoes, aphids, grubs, slugs, and spiders. Large birds such as owls and hawks eat rodents including voles, moles, squirrels, rats, and other unwelcome critters. They help control weeds by eating weed seeds. Watching birds and listening to their song reduces stress. 

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Invite birds to your landscape by offering:

  •  A water source including a gurgling fountain or birdbath.
  •  Birdhouses for shelter and nesting.
  •  Feeders for seed. Even putting a pie tin in the bushes with seeds or picked clover and dandelions will attract our feathered friends, 
  •  Plant a selection of flowering plants, shrubs, berries for them to enjoy.
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Frogs and Toads:

Natural pest control. They eat caterpillars, cutworms, bugs, beetles, grubs, slugs, grasshoppers, and numerous other detrimental insects.

Invite frogs and toads to your landscape by offering:

  •  A place to hide. Frogs and toads are shy. They prefer a cool, shaded area with lots of moisture and plants. Turn over a flowerpot and they will make a house.
  •  A pond allows them to lay eggs. Have fun watching tadpoles.
  • frog on patio rug.jpg


Reptiles are excellent eaters of garden pests including slugs and harmful insects.

A plethora of lizards living in your landscape is an indicator of a healthy ecosystem. The food you grow will be free of heavy metals and pesticides since lizards cannot thrive in a hazardous environment. 

Invite lizards to your landscape by offering:

  •  Only natural methods of pest control.
  •  Avoidance of all weed killers.
  •  Mulch to regulate moisture in the soil.
  •  Rocks, bricks, or stones for sunbathing.
  •  A saucer or small container with water for drinking.
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Garter snakes and kingsnakes are especially beneficial in our area because they eat insects and rodents. One snake can devour an entire rat family in two weeks. Kingsnakes also kill rattlesnakes and keep them away. Make sure to learn the good snakes from the poisonous ones.

Invite snakes to your landscape by offering:


  •  Also known as Lady beetles or Ladybird beetles, their larvae look like alligators. Both the adults and larvae are voracious general pest predators of aphids, beetles, caterpillars, lace bugs, mealybugs, mites, scale, whiteflies, and insect eggs. The larvae consume over 40 aphids per hour and an adult ladybug will consume over 5000 aphids in a lifetime. If you have a small garden or a minimal pest population in a large garden, they will fly away. Rejoice because your garden is organically balanced.

Invite ladybugs to your landscape by offering:

  •  A wide range of flowering plants to attract and keep them on site.
  • ladybug stages on barley.jpg


Also known as syrphid flies or flower flies, hoverflies earned their name by hovering over flowers to sip the nectar, much like hummingbirds. They look similar to bees but they do not sting and are not harmful to humans. The adults are primarily pollinators and the larvae are pest predators, crawling along plant surfaces searching for prey. They seize the insect, suck out its contents, and discard the skin. They mimic bees and wasps to protect themselves from predators but have two wings instead of four.

Invite hoverflies to your landscape by offering:

  •  A variety of nectar and pollen-producing plants such as aster, calendula, cornflower, cosmos, dill, fennel, lavender marigolds, mint, statice, zinnia, wild mustard, and sunflowers.
  •  Food throughout every season by timing plantings for continuous blooms.
  • Bumblebee,hover fly-lavender.jpg


Spiders help maintain a healthy balance in your garden by eating harmful pests from spring through winter. By controlling the bad insects, they reduce plant pathogens that damage plant tissues. Most spiders are peaceful. The most common web builder is the yellow and black spider, and the black wolf spiders are active hunters.

Invite spiders to your landscape by offering:

  •  Grass clippings, mulch, lush bushes, and perennials for habitat.
  •  Cover crops such as clover and vetch and hedges like boxwoods are havens for spiders.
  •  Sunflowers, vining beans, and corn as well as other tall flowers are excellent for webs.
  • spider (1).jpg

Grow a diversity of plants, eliminate pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides to attract beneficial insects, birds, spiders, reptiles, and numerous other guardians of our garden galaxy. By providing the basic needs of food, habitat, water, and shelter, you and your family will enjoy increased outdoor amusement while learning an appreciation of nature. Your garden will be their dinner table and their bedroom. Know your friends and protect them. 

Photos and more: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1410/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Guardians-of-the-Garden-Galaxy.html

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Happy Gardening. Happy Growing. 

Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, is available for hire to help you prepare for your spring garden. Raised in the vineyards of Napa County, Cynthia is a New York Times best-selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach, as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are!® 501 c3. Tune into Cynthia’s StarStyle® Radio Broadcast at www.StarStyleRadio.com.


Buy copies of her best-selling books, including, Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul, Growing with the Goddess Gardener, and Be the Star You Are! Millennials to Boomers at www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store.Cynthia Brian books banner.jpg


Cynthia is available for virtual writing projects, garden consults, and inspirational lectures.




Rooms of His Own By Cynthia Brian

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Rooms of His Own By Cynthia Brian

The only limit to your garden is at the boundaries of your imagination.”
Thomas D. Church

From the street, the white ranch style house of Michael Curtis belies the magnificence waiting to be discovered beyond the garden gates.  A collector of all things cast off and cast iron, Michael converts salvaged junk into artistic architecture that transforms his garden into an alluring adventure of discovery.

His grandfather founded L. N. Curtis and Sons Fire Protection and Emergency Response Equipment in 1929 and throughout Curtis’ life he has accumulated firefighting memorabilia.  Michael’s father introduced him to collecting rocks, minerals, glass, and old bottles as they explored abandoned mines and ghost towns together.  As a boy, one of Michael’s favorite jaunts was hiking the railroad tracks where he’d pick up discarded telegraph insulators. When he’d find anything that was made of cast iron, he was especially excited. All of these treasures were stored and as he traversed the globe as an adult, he added to his compilation. His heartfelt dream was to one day create a secret garden where all of his unusual trinkets would dance with the most colorful flowers in perfect harmony.

With his love of the English countryside, his first home boasted an English cottage garden, complete with an authentic red phone booth. In 2001, he moved that phone booth along with his beloved remnants from his industrial revolution fascination to a small house on an acre of land filled with diseased and dying trees.  After removing fifty-five Eucalyptus, Michael enriched the soil, and without any written plan or design schematic, began work on his inspired masterpiece using his vision and intuition as guides.

Smooth stones lead through a lush lawn to the iron arbor covered in the sunset oranges and reds of Joseph’s coat and flanked by white Alba tree roses. Chimes, bells, and hummingbird feeders dangle from the arch while a variety of birdhouses perch on poles, nesting birds darting in and out.  Rows of telegraph insulators lining the path are accentuated by two hand painted manhole covers, gifts from a trip to Japan.  With the flip of a switch, the insulators illuminate like Christmas lights.

Color is a driving force in the garden and the combination of textures and forms is mesmerizing. Michael built brick retaining walls and planters, filling them with an enormous diversity of rainbow flora including camellias, roses, impatiens, lilies, Daphne, birds of paradise, gerbera daisies, lobelia, salvia, pansies, violets, canna, petunias, daisies, lavender, foxglove, nasturtium, and a variety of bushes, boxwoods, and shrubs. The tranquil sounds of cascading water emanate from the nine fountains scattered throughout the property. Whether one turns right or turns left, an eclectic wood or metal gate directs attention to a divergent garden room sectioned by a growing privet fence and festooned with artifacts from Michael’s escapades to estate sales, fairs, salvage yards, and years of walking the rails. He even built a tree house from reclaimed barn wood adding a ladder, an antique loggers saw, and vintage signs discovered in the Gold country. An abandoned test missile rests against the fence awaiting its proper placement.

Gazing balls and a rusted butterfly grace the formal rose garden with the pièce de résistance being the round stepping stones Michael crafted using a wine barrel ring, concrete, colored glass, rusted tools, horseshoes, and other discarded items that captured his fancy.  Fire hydrants, water pumps, street placards, and railroad warning signs dot the landscape as well as inspirational messages.

The result is whimsical, magical, playful, and most of all, timeless.

Although his garden is uniquely his refuge, what Michael adores more than anything is sharing his garden rooms with friends. With a glass of wine in hand, he graciously guides while explaining the stories behind every artifact and every plant. Of course, if one wants to meander alone, he encourages the exploration. There is no worry about getting lost in this maze as every gate has a unique bell so that he can tell where anyone is at any given moment.

I attempted to glean a bit of gardening advice and came away with these tips:
1. Let your unique vision and your imagination be the driving force of a garden design. There are no limits.
2. Anything is art. Display your collections in an appealing manner to evoke conversations and questions. What may be trash to someone else could be a treasure to you.
3. Let color be king. Don’t be afraid to razzle dazzle and mix it up.
4. Add grace and relaxation with water elements. Fountains are fabulous.
5. Do the unexpected. (Who would think about showcasing an English telephone booth, a man-hole cover in the garden or adding lights to telegraph insulators?)
6. Offer shelter and food for the birds. You can never have too many birdhouses.
7. Don’t be afraid to try new plants. If you like it, plant it. If it grows, great. If not, move on. Planting is pure pleasure.
8. Create garden rooms, not just garden beds.
9. Welcome your loved ones to share your oasis with a glass of wine for walking.

Before I left this enchanted setting, I asked Michael what his plans for the future entailed. Since his right hand helper, Tony, will be retiring next year, he said he is contemplating selling this personal paradise.  “Won’t you be sad to leave all this beauty behind?” I queried. “Yes, but it’s time for me to be off on a new world quest,” he retorted.

At that moment, I could imagine him dashing to the end of the arbor pathway, entering his red English phone booth and, like other super heroes, flying off to rescue another forlorn and forgotten garden.

Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!

Read more at: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1107/June-Gardening-Guide-Rooms-of-His-Own.html

Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, is a New York Times best selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are1® 501 c3.
Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show at www.StarStyleRadio.com
Available for hire for any project.

The Magic of May By Cynthia Brian

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The Magic of May By Cynthia Brian

The Magic of May

By Cynthia Brian

“Harmony makes small things grow.
Lack of it makes big things decay.” Sallust

By mid May Mother Nature has waved her magical wand sprinkling glitter and glory among her growing children. No matter where you look, shrubs, trees, and landscapes showcase a beauty and harmony that set this month apart from the remaining eleven. Herbaceous peonies are budding and will bloom for weeks offering outstanding companionship to mixed perennial gardens. Glorious bouquets of roses decorate pathways and arbors. Fields of bearded iris brighten the most mundane areas with their multitude of colors, gentle fragrance, and graceful arches. Horse chestnut, buckeye, and locust trees are overflowing with grape-like bunches of blooms. Get up close to examine the intricacies of their flowers.

The warmer weather has sped up the blooming season while only a month earlier the cooler weather slowed it down. My waves of bright blue forget-me-nots have settled into a sea of seeds that attach to any clothing that ventures near easily spreading the flowers to places unplanned. Along the creek beds, even the poisonous hemlock weeds sprouted several feet taller than in previous years with attractive clusters of flowers resembling Queen Anne’s lace. Tiny Alpine strawberries are red, ripe, and delicious as snacks or in salads. Better to eat these than any store-bought strawberry. Thanks to the unparalleled Pearl’s Premium grass seeds, my lawn has never looked so lush and lovely. If you want turf that is tough, drought resistant, low maintenance, and beautiful, start thinking now about preparing your ground for an autumn seeding of Pearl’s Premium. (www.PearlsPremium.com)

The Old Farmer’s Almanac recently contacted a colleague garden writer asking about what tools, products, and plants gardeners sought most this year. She posted a request for suggestions on our member community site and I reveled in the answers that I believe resonate with you, my garden guide readers. Here’s my abbreviated version of what we gardeners want.
1. We crave information that we can use on a daily basis.
2. We want to grow our own food for better nutrition and first-rate freshness.
3. We want to save money.
4. We want to bring pollinators into our gardens for an organically friendly habitat. We are putting out the welcome mat for birds, bees, butterflies, and bats.
5. We want to reduce waste by composting more.
6. We want tools that are sturdy, long lasting, yet not exorbitantly expensive.
7. We want to explore simpler to use, more environmentally friendly power tools that are battery powered and strong.
8. We want space saving ideas including container and vertical gardening techniques.
9. We want to learn to prune properly.
10. We want low maintenance, native alternatives, and drought resistant plants.
11. We want to ENJOY our garden rooms!

The wants of the national garden community echo locally as well. My promise to you is to continue to bring you the latest tools, tips, and tricks that will make your garden experience extraordinary.


In my opinion, one of the main reasons to grow your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs is to know what is in your soil and on your plants. The USDA discovered 178 different pesticides on sample produce this year with the residue persisting even after the produce was thoroughly washed. Strawberries topped the list with over 20 different pesticides, one of the main reasons I grow my own strawberries and Alpine berries.

The cleanest and therefore the healthiest produce included:
1. Corn,
2. Avocadoes
3. Pineapples
4. Cabbage
5. Onions
6. Peas
7. Papaya
8. Asparagus
9. Mangoes
10. Eggplant
11. Honeydew Melons
12. Kiwis
13. Cantaloupe
14. Cauliflower
15. Grapefruit

Pesticide residues are extremely rare on “The Clean Fifteen” so these are items that we can buy and serve without worry.

Known as “the Dirty Dozen” here’s a list of the worst produce culprits you can purchase:
1. Strawberries
2. Spinach
3. Nectarines
4. Apples
5. Peaches
6. Celery
7. Grapes
8. Pears
9. Cherries
10. Tomatoes
11. Bell Peppers
12. Potatoes

Sadly, all of these fruits and vegetables are family favorites and generally considered to be healthy. Luckily we can easily grow all of these and if you don’t want to grow your own, make sure to buy organic.

Speaking of dirty, let’s get really dirty! In a year when we are finally out of a drought, reservoirs are filled to capacity and overflowing, EBMUD wants to raise our rates for both water and wastewater services! If you received a notice of a public hearing from the East Bay Municipal Utility District, read it carefully. Write a protest letter to let EBMUD know that you do not want higher rates. Send to EBMUD, MS218, PO Box 24055, Oakland, Ca. 94623-1055 or you can protest in person on Tuesday, June 13 at 1:15pm at 375 11th Street, Oakland, Ca. 94607.

I am vehemently opposed to another water hike when we have all been so diligent in saving and conserving water for the past several years. Our water rates are already untenable. Let EBMUD know you are against all rate increases. Give us a break, EBMUD!

Cynthia Brian’s Mid Month Gardening Tips

⎫ TUNE UP your irrigation system. Check for sprinklers that aren’t working, bushes or fences that are blocking sprinkler heads, broken pipes, clogged nozzles, leaky hoses and valves, and sprinklers that are spraying driveways and walkways.

⎫ MULCH for water retention and weed prevention. Three inches is recommended. Your soil will improve over time as well.

⎫ TAKE breaks while gardening to protect your back and knees.

⎫ PLANT summer blooming bulbs and seeds. There are over one hundred different choices of bulbs and two hundred perennials.

⎫ IMPROVE memory, lower cancer risk, and promote your heart health by planting a container of blueberries. Easy to grow as a patio plant, one serving provides 25% of your daily Vitamin C requirement.

⎫ WIN $50,000 for your Garden:  As a judge in America’s Best Gardener Contest. I encourage you to enter your best garden photo. The top prize is $50,000.  http://www.americasbestgardener.com

Avoid decay and continue the harmony every day. Enjoy the magic of May. Have a magnificent Memorial Day weekend, too!

Read more: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1106/Digging-Deep-The-Magic-of-May.html

Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!

Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, is a New York Times best selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are1® 501 c3.
Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show at www.StarStyleRadio.com
Available for hire for any project.

May Play By Cynthia Brian

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May Play By Cynthia Brian

“There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter.” Rachel Carson

The intoxicating waft of sweet jasmine filled my nostrils as I opened my front door and stepped onto the porch. Droplets of rain still clung to the leaves of the Japanese maple while the bright orb of sunshine broke through the cumulus clouds encouraging the clematis to reveal their splendor.

May! Magnificent May!

Between the copious showers and the solar assistance, spring is alive and lush with the grandeur of flora. My entire garden is bursting with surprises of color, textures, and forms. Plants are sprouting that I thought had long ago failed. The orchard trees are abundant with the tiny beginnings of the luscious fruit that will ripen in summer and fall. Scampering from branch to branch, squirrels entertain while stealing the bright orange loquats in their harried feeding frenzy. Birds, lizards, frogs, spiders, and other garden collaborators are active in their pursuit of the bounty of the month.

Yet, alas, weeds, weeds, everywhere. I spent every weekend in April in addition to hours daily before and after work pulling, composting, pulling, composting, pulling, and composting. The good news is that the soil is amenable, and although tedious and exhausting, I am able to pull most of these grasses and undesirables by hand. After all of my April preparations, including soil amending, I am finally ready for May planting. Seeds have been carefully sown for okra, beets, carrots, jalapenos, arugula, pole beans, bush beans, rattlesnake beans, peas, chard, corn, pumpkin, cucumber, a variety of lettuces, greens, and kohlrabi. On Mother’s Day I’ll plant seedlings of tomatoes, eggplant, and squash. I am excited to tend to this living family of friends.

When I was a child, this was my most favorite time of the year (Christmas excepted) because we were able to dig in the dirt, plant our vegetable garden, and moreover, savor the succulent smells of the soil of spring. When my children were young, getting them involved in the outdoor projects was paramount. Invite your children to plant a garden with you. Kids love getting dirty. We were told that we had “clean dirt” because after a day in the garden our bodies and clothes were washed. (My Mom used to brush us off with a broom, too!) Children will be fascinated with worms, bugs, frogs, and lizards. Gardening together forms family bonds with memories that will last forever, as you witness mine have.  We were given our own plot of land to grow whatever we wanted and I did the same for my kids. My son’s name remains on the gate where he began his “Veggie Garden”. Suggest that your child grow a pizza garden filled with tomatoes, peppers, onions, basil, and oregano or maybe a butterfly and bee heaven where pollinators will gather. Think easy to grow plants such as lavender, sunflowers, or poppies.

Make sure to spray yourself and your clothing with bug repellent. Ticks are ubiquitous this season hiding in the tall grass and shrubs just waiting to jump onto a heart healthy human and start the blood sucking. Mosquito larvae are already hatching. With all of the rain, get ready for mosquito madness. Scour your property for the tiniest accumulation of water in a container and dump it out. Old tires are notorious breeders of mosquitoes as water gets trapped in the inner rims and the larvae multiply and hatch quickly.

Spring is healing. It’s new birth. It’s a refresher course on living. Step outside your front door. Inhale the fragrance. Observe the beauty. Then get into your garden for a day of play. Hurray for May!

Cynthia Brian’s Goddess Gardener Tips for May

DIVIDE perennials, especially those that will bloom in autumn such as sedum and chrysanthemum.  Dig up the clumps , pull apart, and replant in other areas.

TRANSPLANT shrubs, trees, and other plants that you want in other places in your garden.  Make sure to get as much of the root ball as possible when digging, replant immediately. Water thoroughly.

PLANT okra, beans, watermelon, cucumbers, corn, amaranth, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, pumpkin, and whatever you love to eat.

REMOVE the bulbs from the potted gifts of narcissus, tulip, hyacinth, or Easter lilies that you received in April after the blooms and foliage die back and plant in your garden. You’ll be thrilled next year when the blooms and the reminiscences of the giver rekindle joy in your heart.

ADD nitrogen and organic matter while building the quality of the soil with a cover crop leaving no bare soil.  Radish, cowpea, sunflower, oats, and flax will provide lovely cut flowers, and prevent erosion until you are ready to plant something else for the summer.

USE the best tools possible for your gardening chores to save time and labor. A strong and well made hoe, spade, shovel, pick, pruning saw, pruning shears, hand trowel, and rake are essentials that when maintained properly will last for many years.  Recommend buying construction grade tools instead of just garden tools.

PRE-ORDER my forthcoming garden book, Growing with the Goddess Gardener, Book I in the Garden Shorts Series. Publishing was delayed in April but will be ready for May. All pre-orders will receive extra goodies such as heirloom seeds, bookmarks, and more. Email me for details, Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com. 25% of the proceeds benefit the 501c3 Be the Star You Are!® charity. http://goddessgardener.com/books

Win $50,000 for your Garden:  As a judge in America’s Best Gardener Contest. I encourage you to enter to win $50,000.  Show the world that your thumb is the greenest by showing the world pictures of your garden today! http://www.americasbestgardener.com

PLAN to attend the Orinda Garden Club Tour on May 11 where five Orinda and Lafayette gardens will showcase their spectacular outdoor living settings. Get inspired for spring. http://www.orindagc.ord/tour2017.

PAY your water bill with your credit card and accumulate those airline and hotel miles. EBMUD only charges an additional $1.99.  Best deal!

EMPTY all outdoor vessels of standing water. Even a teacup saucer will breed mosquitoes.

VISIT the Be the Star You Are!® booth at the Moraga Faire on Saturday, May 13th between 11-4pm to get a bag of complimentary spring potpourri. Bring your gardening questions and I’ll be there to answer them. www.BetheStarYouAre.org/events

INVITE your Mother for a day of garden strolling. Visit the Botanical Gardens in San Francisco (http://www.sfbotanicalgarden.org) or go on a hike on your favorite trail.

Looking forward to seeing you at the 11th Annual Moraga Faire. Let’s talk about play in May.  My sincerest wishes for a Happy Mother’s Day to every Mom in our community. You are love and are loved.

Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!

Read more: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1105/Gardening-Guide-Hurray-for-May.html

Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, is a New York Times best selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are1® 501 c3.
Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show at www.StarStyleRadio.com
Available for hire for any project.

Purple Reign! By Cynthia Brian

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Purple Reign! By Cynthia Brian

“God gets mad if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.”  Alice Walker, The Color Purple

As I amble through my April garden, I know that God is very happy! Purple, the color of royalty, wisdom, and luxury is favored in the majority of my botanical blooms.  The nobility of the season is highlighted with the elegantly perfumed lilac, the scented grace of cascading wisteria, and the pride of the dark and handsome hellebore as it changes from its deep shaded amethyst of winter to the violet and chartreuse of spring. Bees are swarming, sucking the sweet nectar from the fragrant flowers of lavender, freesia, and the Chinese fringe.  Shades of indigo, mauve, and sangria pepper the landscape offering a powerful presence yet calming expression.

Purple bearded iris and Dutch iris tender their brilliance in the middle of the weed filled hillside where Jerusalem star, also known as goat’s beard thrive. Bulbs and rhizomes are the ultimate VIP’s of my garden. Once planted, I forget about them until they burst into bloom, a welcome surprise especially when other plants are failing.  If you are a beginner gardener, I highly recommend indulging in bulbs for all seasons. Most require little maintenance and effort with minimal water while providing maximum results. Some of my perennial favorites that are available in hues of purple include calla lily, gladiolus, oriental lily, bearded iris, Asiatic lily, dahlia, anemone, and naked lady.

I love the color purple and have dedicated this month to everything purple.  If you’d like to bring a bit more of the richness of purple into your outdoors, I recommend checking out a few of these favorite cultivars.

Agastache Violet Vision
Aquilegia Swan Lavender
Aster Kickin’ Purple
Astilbe Purple Candles
Buddelia Miss  Violet
Campanula Milan Lilac
Chinese Fringe Plant
Clematis Jackmanii
Delphinium Pagan Purples
Digitalis Sugar Plum
Echinacea Magnus
Hellebore Dark and Handsome
Hemerocallis Black Stockings
Heuchera Fire Alarm
Hollyhock Crème de Cassis
Hydrangea Let’s Dance Rave
Iris Superstition
Monarda Piurple Rooster
Nepeta Little Trudy
Purple Potato Vine
Phlox Laura
Prunella Puprle Daze
Rose Angel Face
Salvia May Night
Society Garlic
Sea Foam Statice
Tulips (Black Parrot or Victoria’s Secret)
Veronica Hocus Pocus

Ask your nursery if they carry inventory from Bluestone Perennials, Brent and Becky’s, White Flower Farm, and Proven Winners. While perusing the gardens, buy petunias, pansies, zinnias, and other annuals in the hues that will brighten your landscape.

“Purple haze, all in my brain
Lately things they don’t seem the same
Actin’ funny, but I don’t know why
Excuse me while I kiss the sky!” Jimi Hendrix
I am kissing the sky with joy for spring. Get your purple haze on!

Cynthia Brian’s Gardening Guide for April

SPLASH your barbecue grill with white vinegar then scrub with half an onion to clean the grates and get ready for outside dining.

BUFF your garden tools by plunging them in a five-gallon bucket of sand mixed with a cup of vegetable oil. The sand will keep them sharper and the oil wards off rust. Small hand tools can be stored in the sand bucket.

PLANT frost tender plants as the weather warms towards the end of the month. Ground covers, citrus, bougainvillea, and summer annuals are available for purchase.

SOW seeds of scarlet runner bean, sweet peas, or morning glories to climb on fences and wire.

RESIST cutting back the dying leaves of narcissi and daffodils. The frongs are gathering their nutrition for next year’s blooms. Cut them back only when as dry as potato chips.

BAIT the snails and slugs, pick them off by hand, use copper barriers, or bowls of beer. These slimy crawlers will devour new seedlings.

BUY ladybugs from your nursery or garden center if you see aphids or other pests on your plants. Remember ladybugs fly to infested gardens.

VISIT the Be the Star You Are!® booth at the Moraga Faire on Saturday, May 13th between 11-4pm to get a bag of complimentary spring potpourri. Bring your gardening questions and I’ll be there to answer them. www.BetheStarYouAre.org/events

SELECT appropriate plants in one or two gallon pots for your shade garden. Smaller sizes don’t root as quickly. Hostas, ferns, vinca minor, anemones, begonias, and impatiens mingle beautifully without much sunlight.

PLANT purple anything this spring and be delighted all year.

WEED, weed, weed. Because of the heavy rains this year, weeds are ubiquitous, yet easy to pull. If they don’t have seed heads, add to your compost pile.

PRE-ORDER my forthcoming garden book, Growing with the Goddess Gardener, Book I in the Garden Shorts Series. All pre-orders will receive extra goodies such as heirloom seeds, bookmarks, and more. Email me for details, Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com. 25% of the proceeds benefit the 501c3 Be the Star You Are!® charity.

Win $50,000 for your Garden:  As a judge in America’s Best Gardener Contest. I encourage you to enter your best garden photo. The top prize is $50,000.  http://www.americasbestgardener.com

BUY a beautiful potted purple lavender plant to show your love for your Mother or anyone’s Mom’s on Mother’s Day.

A heartfelt shout out to every Mom! You are the nurturers and our teachers. Happy Mother’s Day! Let it rain purple.

Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!

Read more at https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1104/Digging-Deep-Color-me-purple.html

Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, is a New York Times best selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are1® 501 c3.
Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show at www.StarStyleRadio.com
Available for hire for any project.

Grow Grass! By Cynthia Brian

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Grow Grass! By Cynthia Brian

“Now every field is clothed with grass, and every tree with leaves; now the woods put forth their blossoms, and the year assumes its gay attire.” ~Virgil

Yes, California passed Proposition 64 last November, however, this column is not about cultivating marijuana, although I am writing about the glories of grass.

Spring is spectacular with its wardrobe of rainbow blooms. Trees are covered with blossoms, the fragrance of freesia engages our nostrils, and the ubiquitous beauty surrounding us is awe-inspiring. We are so blessed that Mother Nature celebrates the re-birth of the seasons with a grand April entrance.

Because of the warmer soil, fall is the best time to plant or re-seed a lawn, yet spring runs a close second in popularity. If you haven’t torn out your swath of grass in the past few years during our dreadful drought, no doubt you are now looking at a runway of green in your yard thanks to the months of rain. To manage your efforts maintaining the health, beauty, and benefits of your lawn for the remainder of the year, get started this month with simple best practices.

Tips to Growing a Lush, Green, Sustainable Turf

⎫ Decide if you want to seed, sod, or re-seed. Seeding for the first time is best done in autumn when the soil is warm as germination is swifter. You can successfully re-seed, over-seed, and sod in spring, including those irksome bare patches.

⎫ Whichever you choose, your first consideration is to properly prepare your soil.  Check the PH level. Ideally lawns should be in the 6-7 range. If lower than six, add lime, if higher than seven, add sulfur to bring the PH down.

⎫ Pull the weeds. If you have lots of weeds, keep in mind that weeds mean that the soil conditions are imbalanced. Weeds provide homes and food for microbes but your soil must be improved before your new sod or grass seeds will thrive. Many “weeds” are actually gourmet dinner or tea ingredients including plantain, dandelion, creeping Charlie, mint, mustard, lambs quarter, and more.

⎫ Order several yards of enriched soil and compost to be delivered.  Ask the yard experts what is their best soil for improving your lawn. Soil is the foundation.

⎫ Add organic fertilizer to accelerate deeper rooting.

⎫ Aerate to loosen the soil. A core aerator will punch holes in the ground to bring air and water to the roots.  The finger plugs are to be left on the surface to naturally decompose.  Less compaction equals better drainage and absorption.

⎫ Consult your favorite nursery professional for a recommendation on the best seed combinations for you. I’m a huge fan of mixed growth lawns for year around enjoyment. I re-seed with Pearl’s Premium (www.PearlsPremium.com) interspersed with plugs of isotoma (blue star creeper) and white and red clover. Together they make a very attractive natural rug and the clover is a natural nitrogen supplier. Some people enjoy lawns laced with wild strawberry, violets, mint, or even planted with bulbs.

⎫ You may have to cover re-seeded areas with netting to keep the birds away. For small areas, discarded window or door screens work well.

⎫ Let the rainfall do the watering to get your grass established. If it’s later in the season when the rain has stopped, water deeply in the morning twice a week or as needed.

⎫ Mow your lawns with a sharp blade on a high setting without the bag allowing the cut grass to remain on the lawn. This is called grasscycling and is the most beneficial component of cultivating a lush, deep green, thick healthy lawn. If you are buying a new mower, buy a mulch mower, which will chop the grass. Grasscycling allows the clippings to be the fertilizer that provides nutrients to your grass. Scientific research indicates that the content of typical grass clippings by weight is Nitrogen (N) 4%, Potassium (P) 2%, and Phosphorous (K) .5%.  By recycling your grass clippings back to your lawn, you use 25% less additional fertilizer.

⎫ Mulch the re-seeded areas to create a strong turf.

⎫ Stay off the grass while it’s growing!

⎫ For those of you who are “Ex Lawn Rangers”, you can create an inviting mosaic with massed groundcovers and low growers including dicondra, ajuga, creeping thyme, golden creeping Jenny, dwarf cinquefoil, or even sedum.  You’ll need to clip, snip, and maintain.  Most groundcovers are not foot-traffic friendly.

Benefits of Maintaining a Lawn

Although many people tend to discourage lawns in landscapes as a water conservation method, I am a firm believer that the humble grass shoot offers benefits to our health and wellbeing.  Besides the fact that children and animals enjoy a safe, comfortable place to tumble and toss, lawns contribute to better air quality by trapping dust and smoke particles while cooling the air from the ground up. Our environments are made more habitable by the generation of oxygen absorbing the pollutants of carbon and sulfur dioxide. Lawns clean the air we breathe. Erosion is controlled because water can’t carve deep recesses in a thickly planted lawn. Water filters through turf grass making our ground waters safer and cleaner for the environment. A patch of green soothes the eye when viewing a landscape, offering a resting space between the color explosions of flowers and shrubs. Lawns offer a buffer zone in fire prevention. Several years ago when one of the biggest wild fires in our national history hit the forests of Northern California, our family cabin’s grassy meadow became the safe zone for dozens of firefighters from around the country. That lawn literally saved lives and the forest from the raging blaze.

Prepare your grass for healthy growing this spring, and get ready for the fun-filled days of croquet, ball games, picnics, sprinkler baths, or just staring up at the clouds.

Remember that maintaining your lawn enhances the environment, improves your health, and optimizes your enjoyment of the great outdoors. And that’s great grass!

Cynthia Brian’s Goddess Gardener Tips for April

BEWARE of ticks.  Check your body, hair, and clothing after gardening. On a rainy day in mid March when I was covered head to toe in clothing, a tick bit me on my neck. The golf ball size lump is still painful.

TURN houseplants a quarter round every week to give adequate amount of sunlight to all parts.

BAIT for snails and slugs.

VISIT the Wagner Ranch Wildlife Festival on Sunday, April 23 for FREE family fun. Honeybees, goats, turtles, birds, garden activities, food, music, nature tours, arts, and crafts.  350 Camino Pablo Rd at Bear Creek Road in Orinda.  https://fwrna.org/wildlifefest/

Peruse Flower Photography: Award winning photographer Anne Morrison Rabe’s Spring Flowers exhibit is showcased now at Homemade Kitchen, 337 Rheem Boulevard, in Moraga.  Almost all of Anne’s photographs were shot with an iphone. Eat, drink, and enjoy the art.www.Amr-Photogrpahy.com

PRE-ORDER my forthcoming garden book, Growing with the Goddess Gardener, Book I in the Garden Shorts Series. All pre-orders will receive extra goodies such as heirloom seeds, bookmarks, and more. Email me for details, Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com. 25% of the proceeds benefit the 501c3 Be the Star You Are!® charity.

Win $50,000 for your Garden:  As a judge in America’s Best Gardener Contest. I encourage you to enter to win $50,000.  Show the world that your thumb is the greenest by showing the world pictures of your garden today! http://www.americasbestgardener.com

Happy Gardening! Happy Growing!

Read More

Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, is a New York Times best selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are1® 501 c3.
Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show at www.StarStyleRadio.com
Available for hire for any project.

Fresh Ideas in the Garden

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Fresh Ideas in the Garden

Wild Mediterranean Garden

Cynthia Brian’s Gardening Guide for May
Spring Forward with Fresh Ideas
By Cynthia Brian

“Now every field is clothed with grass, and every tree with leaves; now the woods put forth their blossoms, and the year assumes its gay attire.” ~Virgil
peony in vase
With all the rain we’ve enjoyed this season, spring has birthed the most spectacular garden displays experienced in years.  The air is fragrant with the scent of jasmine, emerald green hills are decorated with golden poppies, and pretty peonies populate our plots.  Songbirds chirp as they feather their nests, butterflies flit from blossom to bloom, lady beetles and bees are busy with their business. A lovely turkey feather poked out from under my fig bush by my living room window. When I went to grab it, I realized it was attached to a wild hen sitting on eggs! She wasn’t even startled and I’ve continued to enjoy watching her daily.

Our natural world has found its equilibrium.

My Pearl’s Premium lawn is finally looking lush and full. The secret was constant re-seeding, daily moisture, and netting to keep the birds at bay. This summer will tell how drought resistant the grass is. One thing is for certain, it has definitely forced out weeds and dandelions. Whereas I used to pick at least a hundred dandelions a day to feed the quail, I am now down to half a dozen or even less. Thus far I am impressed with this grass seed and will keep you posted as the dry weather sets in. (www.pearlspremium.com)
azalea close up
I’ve been busy planting seeds one by one, a very tedious task, as I’m not one to start my seedlings indoors. Instead I use an egg carton and pour the various seeds I want to plant into the egg holders, then, I meticulously plunge each tiny seed into its own hole. Some seeds, like Echinacea, are smaller than a pinpoint. One has to have serious dedication to growing a variety of specimens when sowing. My preferred method is to scatter a big bucket of seeds mixed with sand and see what thrives. Cinda McKinnon of Orinda has used this method successfully on her wild Mediterranean hillside.
Turkey hen
My March 23, 2016 article about cultivating a wildflower meadow sparked immense interest from across the country.  One of my favorite descriptive notes arrived from Ron in Texas who wrote:
“What a wonderful article on growing wildflowers. I’ve always loved wildflowers, remembering the trillium that carpeted the Wisconsin forests in the spring and the daisies, black-eyed Susans, and other wildflowers that covered any open field all summer long. Later, finding wild azalea in the Georgian woods and now, in Texas, going to see the bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush, as well as finding every vacant lot here in Houston filled with 7 foot tall sunflowers. Thanks to Lady Bird Johnson, planes seed most Texas highways with beautiful wildflowers largely in the spring before the heat and drought of summer and their beauty. I always let my yard grow wild in spring so that many wildflowers there can bloom and reseed.”

And that is the secret to spring wildflowers-allow them to bloom and reseed.

The simple pleasures of spring are available to all of us to savor. Get moving and get into your garden.
lilies-pearl's premium grass

REFRESH your dirt with a few yards of new, enriched top soil and compost. Good soil is the foundation for a healthy, happy landscape.

TILL your cover crops of vetch, mustard, clover, or fava beans into your soil. If they have grown to large to till, pull them out, run them over with a lawnmower, then return them to the soil for all of the nutrients they will provide your produce.

SEPARATE seeds in an egg carton for ease in sowing.

POKE holes in the soil with a pencil or stick to plant a variety of small seeds including sunflowers, hollyhock, cathedral bells, purple hyacinth beans, and perennial sweet peas.

SOAK morning glory seeds for 8 hours before planting or nick with a fingernail clipper to assist in rooting.

DISCOVER spring by scattering wildflower seeds. Allow them to bloom and reseed themselves for another display next season.

GATHER a bouquet of peonies or even a single stem to create a stunning and long lasting floral arrangement.

BUILD simple raised beds to grow your bounty of vegetables. Even a small 3 x 3 foot redwood box will provide space for plenty.

SHOP for vegetables and herbs at your favorite nursery or garden center. Tomatoes, peppers, squash, eggplant, watermelon, pumpkin, zucchini, beans, and cucumbers are available in four-inch pots and six packs at reasonable prices.

PULL weeds on a continuous basis. Weeds zap the moisture from the plants we want. Don’t let them form seed heads.

EMPTY standing water from pots, tires, neglected ponds, pools, or any place where mosquito larvae will breed. With all the rain we’ve had this year, mosquitoes could spread West Nile virus. If you have a pond, the Contra Costa Mosquito and Vector Control will provide free mosquito fish by calling 925-771-6196. California authorities are monitoring the activity of West Nile virus and request that any dead birds or squirrels be reported to 877-968-2473.

SEED and reseed your lawns specifically when it’s raining. Make sure to keep the seed moist until it sprouts. Pearl’s Premium may be the answer for a lush, green, drought resistant lawn. www.PearlsPremiumc.com

DANCE the snail stomp, a dance my children and I invented one very wet winter years ago. Go out at night with gloves on, flashlight in hand, and a bucket to pick up slugs and snails. Find an area to dump and dance. (If you don’t like to dance, fill the bucket with soapy water and the dirty deed is done.)

TOUR gardens when you are not enjoying your personal backyard. Check the newspaper for garden tours around the Bay Area. You’ll find inspiration in what others have designed and accomplished.
cherry blossoms
Enjoy the splendors of spring while you dream of a personal journey through nature. Salutations for a fresh start!

Happy gardening. Happy growing!
Read More

Cynthia Brian
The Goddess Gardener
Starstyle® Productions, llc
Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show at www.StarStyleRadio.com
LIVE Wednesdays 4-5pmPT on VoiceAmerica Network, Empowerment Channel
Garden and plant consultations by appointment.

Peony-bowl of beauty

April Garden Guide by Cynthia Brian

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April Garden Guide by Cynthia Brian

“April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.” William Shakespeare

cynthia brian -wisteria
The siren song of spring calls my soul to the outdoors as swiftly as the mermaid lures the sailor to the depths of the sea. The fragrance of the blossoms, the colors of blooms, the chirping of the birds, the croaking of the frogs, and the scent of green grasses speak to my deepest being. Our precious earth is in the process of re-birth and no matter how many years I’ve witnessed this evolution, I am always in awe. My camera captures thousands of photos, most of which looked so much better with the naked eye, yet I want to record the beauty. I am obsessed with the lilacs, wisteria, iris, freesia, fruit trees, wildflowers, and, especially the soothing sounds of the cascading creeks.

Spring-how I love thee!
frog fountain
As wild turkeys gobble gobble along the hillsides and into our streets unaware that turkey season is open for those who seek to bag a bird for a barbecue and as the deer begin to nibble our budding roses, it’s wise to consider protecting our delicate plants from our indigenous predators.  Wire, netting, and fences are our most effective armor.  El Nino has been a blessing in quenching our thirsty gardens, especially our lawns, yet the prodigious weeds, if left unattended will compete with our flowers for moisture in summer. Now is the time to take action.

Every morning as I walk my property, I tell myself I’ll spend only an hour in the garden after work. However, the hour quietly melts into three or four and soon I’m weeding by flashlight. This is love. It’s springtime in our gardens and fun is pending! Go out and dig.
Oriental poppies
⎫ ADD edible flowers to your dining experience. Plant seeds of hyssop, nasturtium, violet, leaf fennel, daisy, and calendula.
⎫ SCATTER seeds of zinnia, cosmos, and marigold seeds for summer blooms.
⎫ WEED, weed, weed. Don’t let seed heads develop or you’ll have more invasive plants next season.
⎫ SOW onions not only for eating but also as a natural pest control in your garden, especially for brassicas including cabbage, broccoli, collards, and kale.
⎫ MIX flowers with edibles to attract pollinators to your spring garden. Make sure to plant in groups so that the birds, bees, and butterflies see the dinner you are serving.
⎫ BUILD hugels while the soil is moist. You will find them invaluable this summer when water is scarce. (See October 7, 2015 issue for instructions)
⎫ CHECK trees for damage. Many trees are suffering or have died during the drought. Ivy growing up the trunks, mushrooms at the base, and mistletoe are signs of trouble. Call a certified arborist.
⎫ PLANT purple! Compounds called anthocyanins in purple produce have anti-inflammatory effects would could help lower the risk of cancer and heart disease. Think purple kale, purple potatoes, purple carrots, purple cauliflower, purple anything.
⎫ NATURALIZE aquilegia, commonly called columbine. These delicate star shaped petals will self sow if planted by others to cross-pollinate. They come a range of bold colors including blues, rose, yellow, white, pink, crimson, fuchsia, and many bicolors.
⎫ SHADE gardens lend themselves to the lush green to bronze foliage of astilbe. Spires of pink, red, scarlet, and white add summer grace.
⎫ CUT bouquets of Oriental poppies mixed with lilacs for a stunning indoor offering with a heady scent.
⎫ PHOTOGRAPH your garden. If you have a stellar masterpiece, send me a jpeg with a description. Who knows, we may publish it! Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com
⎫ WELCOME home the migrating birds with fresh water in the fountain and new seed in the feeder.
⎫ REPLACE woody lavender bushes. After six years or so, lavender is ready for the compost pile.
⎫ BE friendly to native bees by incorporating native wildflowers into your landscape. (See March 23, 2015 Digging Deep-Cultivate a Wildflower Meadow)
⎫ CARE for your lawns. The continued rains provide an opportunity to re-seed. I am sowing Pearl’s Premium on rainy days then making sure the seed is watered daily until it sprouts. To protect the germinating seeds from hungry birds, our publisher, Andy Scheck suggests putting old screen doors on the patches. I’ve used old window screens. By summer the roots will be fourteen to twenty inches deep and drought resistant. I’ll keep you posted on my success or failure.
⎫ RAISE your mower to a higher setting and forget the bag this month allowing the grass clippings to add nitrogen back into the lawn.
⎫ CLEAN the patio. Sweep and wash furniture. Enjoy the sunny days.
⎫ START tomatoes if your soil is warm. You may get a jumpstart on summer juiciness.
⎫ PICK tangerines, Meyer lemons, and tangelos as they ripen.
⎫ COMPOST, compost, compost. The more nutrients you put into your garden, the more spectacular your scenery.
⎫ MARK your calendars for wine and books event benefiting Be the Star You Are!® charity on Saturday, April 9th from 1pm until 4pm at Dawn’s Dream Winery Tasting room, NW Corner of 7th & San Carlos, Carmel-by-the-Sea.http://www.bethestaryouare.org/#!events/kgh2e
⎫ PROGRAM your DVR’s to record Wheel of Fortune on Monday, April 11 at 7:30pm on ABC for a fun local experience. Make sure to watch to the final wave goodbye!
apple blossoms
A PostScript
Have you followed my December 15, 2015 advice about making hard copies of your garden photos as well as other collectibles? My Digging Digitally article hit a chord with so many people, including those in other countries. This note arrived from Ireland.

“As regards your article about Digging Digitally and making hard copies of precious visual memories, and I so agree with everything you write. Last night I spent an agreeable evening perusing 100-year old photo albums from my husband Per’s family, and it was so lovely to see the photos and read the handwritten comments. Those long-dead grandparents, aunts and uncles and their lives and interests came to life again.
chickens, geese, goat
I am obsessive about making paper copies of everything that comes my way digitally – photos, even interesting emails.(And before emails, I have saved almost every letter I ever got!) Technology changes rapidly, and the visual records are so much more readily accessible,–no waiting for your computer to boot itself up and install a million updates, while all you wanted was a quick look at a particular photo. So keep on preaching the message to the younger generation.” N. Daly

It’s never too late to start a garden journal or actually print out our photographs. (If you missed the article, find it here)
Pictures of your most beautiful specimens make terrific art pieces when framed appropriately.

Let’s pray for April showers to bring more May flowers. Put a bounce in your step, sing, dance, and be young.
goose eggs
Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!

Read more

Cynthia Brian
The Goddess Gardener
Starstyle® Productions, llc
Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show at www.StarStyleRadio.com
LIVE Wednesdays 4-5pmPT on Voice America Network, Empowerment Channel.

Garden and plant consultations by appointment.

Digital Digging

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Digital Digging

Merry Xmas from the farm

By Cynthia Brian

“With our thoughts, we make the world.”
~ Buddha

My first gardening calendar was published in the year 1993. I had worked with a renown photographer for over eighteen months shooting fabulous photos from my garden throughout the seasons, taking copious notes of what to do and when to do it, traveling to numerous zones to note the monthly cycles.  I wrote my copy on an Apple desktop, the photographs were transparencies, and the finished product was a beautiful, printed, shrink-wrapped gift of beautiful flowers with monthly tips worth saving. Over the years, people have shown me the tablemats, collages, and other creative things that were made with that calendar. Since the back up to all of my work was on floppy disks, I no longer have access to my unedited insights. Thankfully, I have the photos and the published calendar as a souvenir of my efforts.  This loss of my creative writings caused me to ponder the digital mania that has descended upon humanity in our yearning to eliminate paper archiving. We tend to keep everything on our computers, designating Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest as our memory banks.
Gardner's Guide Calendar
My fear is that our history will be relegated to oral rememberings as technology rapidly changes. Since computers became a household necessity, we’ve stored our data on floppies, CD’s, DVD’s, flash drives, portable hard drives, and now the cloud, but will future generations be ever able to access any of this as equipment evolves and changes? My iphoto folder has now surpassed 20,000 jpegs. Digital photos from 2009 and earlier that were not printed are no longer accessible since I’ve upgraded computers multiple times and those earlier back up disks are not compatible.
cork birdhouse - 2
Earlier this year, I made a book of my favorite garden photographs throughout the seasons accompanied by my favorite garden quotes. The book was a gift to myself as a reminder of my years of dedication, hard work, and love of nature. As I perused snapshots from a quarter century of gardening bliss, I was able to see how much I had accomplished with the help of Mother Nature.  How happy I am that I had not only digitized photos, but also printed them for posterity. When we first moved to this area, our lot was a hillside of wild grasses, poison oak, and blackberry bushes. It is now an oasis filled with lush landscaping, orchards, vines, trees, fruits, herbs, flowers, birds, bees, butterflies, and wildlife.  One of the mottos I have always lived by is “what you think about and talk about comes about!” For me, I’m always thinking about gardening. Today, all I have to do is look around to see that my personal world was created in my thoughts.
CU magenta primrose - 1
As the end of the year approaches, I encourage you to invest in archiving your precious memories of family, friends, pets, plants, and places you love not only on your apps and gadgets, but in the old fashioned way, printing. Don’t allow your legacy of a life well lived become obsolete as technology races forward. Do some digital digging and store a hard copy of your treasures. Plant and grow your memoirs.

May you shine with happiness for the holidays. Thank you for a fabulous year of Digging Deep and Gardening with Cynthia Brian. I appreciate you.
purple Xmas
Cynthia Brian’s Mid Month Reminders and Tips
⎫ REFRAIN from collecting and eating mushrooms unless you are absolutely certain they are edible. A good friend recently collected a variety of mushrooms based on information she perused in a foraging guidebook. Fortunately she took them to a mycological expert for positive identification. Eighty-four of the eighty-five fungi she had in her basket were poisonous!
⎫ CLEAN storm drains, gutters, and anywhere where water could clog or cause problems when the rains come.
⎫ DECORATE for the holidays with branches, leaves, berries, twigs, pinecones, and natural cuttings from your back yard. Utilize surprising colors, like purple, not just red, greens, and blues.
⎫ COVER tender plants from frost and cold temperatures with burlap. Patio furniture can be protected from the elements with plastic, but use burlap or fabric on plants and shrubs. Citrus is especially susceptible to frost bite.
⎫ CREATE a charming birdhouse with corks! With the festivities of the holidays, collect corks to make a home for your feathered friends.
⎫ SPRAY paint the un-carved pumpkins and gourds silver, gold, or bronze to add pizzazz to a front porch or entrance. For recycling at its best, after the holidays, add to the compost pile
⎫ BAIT for snails and slugs during this wet season.
⎫ HARVEST cabbages, Swiss Chard, and kale. Massage your kale to tenderize and eliminate bitterness.
⎫ TUNE in to StarStyle® Radio on December 30 for a full hour of LIVE garden talk with Britain’s rose expert from David Austin Roses. 4-5pm PT.  Bare-root plantings start in January and this show will give you lots of information!
⎫ MAKE a photo album of your garden pictures throughout the years as a gift to yourself and future family gardeners.
It’s too late to seed or re-seed your lawns. My new grass is coming in slowly because of the extreme changes in weather. In spring, we will revisit planting a waterless turf when soil temperatures rise to 50-70 degrees.

Happy Gardening and Happy Growing.
Read More

Cynthia Brian
The Goddess Gardener
Starstyle® Productions, llc
Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show at www.StarStyleRadio.net
I am available as a speaker, designer, and consultant.

silver pumpkins

Cynthia Brian’s Garden Guide for December

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Cynthia Brian’s Garden Guide for December

poinsettias-ferns.jpg - 1

By Cynthia Brian

“I look upon the pleasure we take in a garden as one of the most innocent delights in human life.” Cicero

It is hard to believe that the holidays are already here. Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was taking down Christmas decorations?

What would the holidays be without the high voltage displays of thousands of twinkling lights illuminating our landscapes? We drive around neighborhoods “oohing” and “aahing” at the inflatable snowmen waving to us, Santa’s sleigh on the rooftops tethered to his blinking reindeer, and flickering candy canes hanging from tree branches. My mom’s house is lit up like Disneyland to make sure that Santa can find his way to our ranch.
winter garden
My last few columns have initiated numerous emails and comments. It appears that gardeners are very interested in hugelkultur as well as growing grass that is not water thirsty.

Regarding the hugels, from Washington I received this very astute email:
“I just read your gardening guide and immediately thought about how the trees where we go camping do this naturally.  Frequently, trees have started by growing from a stump or downed tree trunk.  Then, over time, everything mounds up at the base of the new tree.  The spaces underneath provide habitat for a multitude of creatures, and the rotting logs, needles, and leaves are material for insects to do terra-forming.  They combine the organic with rock that continually slides down from the mountains and into the streams and eventually becomes sand, to form rich soil.
Magnolia cones-green
Another thing all this debris on the ground does is to shade the soil, keeping it cooler and protected from evaporation.  We use rocks in favor of bark or mulch in many places in our yard.  I have thought for years about the practice in Southwest of keeping all the undergrowth cleared out of forests to help with the wildfire problem – how it sterilizes the forest, taking away opportunities for habitat and soil protection.

We certainly had more than our share of wildfires in Washington State the last couple of years, and I will admit the forest is quite different in those regions.  The trees, until you get up really far into the mountains, are very spaced out with no green undergrowth. They traditionally have very cold winters with a lot of snow that lingers, then long, very hot and dry summers.
The mounding practice is something we see nature doing all the time in the mountains near us.” KC
moss on wall
KC hit the nail on the head! I was really thrilled to receive this correspondence because hugelkultur derived from exactly this natural forest procedure. In my own yard I have now built two hugels and am planning to continue to build them, especially on my hillsides to prevent erosion, maintain water, and allow plants to grow deeper roots.

On the subject of lawns, I have installed three different areas of Pearl’s Premium grass-sun, shade, and sun/shade. It’s still too early to report results to you but I do promise to keep you posted on how this miracle turf flourishes. Many of you are very interested in growing a low maintenance grass.  With just one or two weeks left of optimum weather buy new top soil and start sowing. The seed may be carried at your local garden centers or big box stores, but if not, go on-line to www.PearlsPremium.com. Don’t forget to type in “Blue Moon” at check out to receive a 20% discount and free shipping.

The festival of lights is upon us as we hark the heralded angels and remember the reason for the season. Light a fire in your heart and shine brightly with love. Tidy your garden, then, enjoy the merriment.
nonie's decor 2011 - 3
Cynthia Brian’s Garden Guide for December

⎫ POT an amaryllis for mid-winter blooms happening eight-twelve weeks after first watering. All you need is a small pot not much bigger than the bulb, soil, and water.
⎫ ADD alliums to your planting schedule for spring lollipop blooms.  Voles, rabbits, deer, and squirrels will not eat these onion family bulbs.
⎫ COVER azaleas and tender shrubs with burlap, sheets, or blankets (any fabric will do) to prevent damage from drastic drops in temperature.
⎫ HARVEST prickly pear when the skins are red. Wear gloves and use tongs to peel before adding to salads.
⎫ CUT branches from redwoods, cedars, pines, and other evergreens to use indoors for your yuletide décor.
⎫ HANG a spray of magnolia leaves tied in a colorful ribbon on your mailbox. Magnolias with the coned seedpods stimulate a festive welcome.
⎫ GATHER pinecones. Sprinkle with a cinnamon oil for a lovely holiday fragrance.
⎫ CHANGE out your current houseplants with colorful seasonal plants including cyclamen, paperwhites, and poinsettia. Beautiful long blooming cymbidium orchids are currently available in stores. Orchids contribute an elegance and beauty to every room.
⎫ RAKE the fallen leaves to add to your compost pile.
⎫ PRUNE roses for the final burst of December blooms before the January pruning begins.
⎫ BE eco-friendly and wrap gifts in used newspaper with twine. You’ll save money while saving the earth. And while you are at, repurpose Christmas cards into gift tags!
⎫ PLANT cover crops to enrich the soil over winter. Good choices include fava beans, alfalfa, clover, and mustard.
⎫ PURCHASE a living tree for your Hannukah Bush or Christmas tree.
⎫ ALLOW winter’s coat of bright berries, rosehips, moss, and boughs to be the inspiration for your decorating.
⎫ CARE for the birds by keeping feeders clean and filled. Make sure to provide a water source and shelter.
⎫ HOLIDAY FAVOR: Help local charity Be the Star You Are!® without spending a penny. If you’ve ever purchased a TV or computer screen, just 2-3 minutes of your time is needed. Fill out a simple form, click submit and every unit you checked will provide a $20 donation to Be the Star You Are!®. You will receive a tax receipt once the donations have been dispersed. PLEASE do this today. It costs you NOTHING. Thanks from Be the Star You Are!®
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yew berries
As we prepare for the holidays, let’s offer thoughts and actions of faith, hope, and love with the expectation that peace can prevail on our beautiful planet. Take pleasure in nature. Our gardens are a precious refuge. Happy Holidays!

Happy Gardening, Happy Growing!
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Cynthia Brian
The Goddess Gardener
Starstyle® Productions, llc
Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show at www.StarStyleRadio.net
I am available as a speaker, designer, and consultant.
Cynthia Brian is a New York Times best selling author, speaker, coach, and host of the radio show, StarStyle®-Be the Star You Are!® broadcasting live every Wednesday from 4-5pm PT on the Voice America Network.. She also is the creator and producer of Express Yourself!™ Teen Radio and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are!® 501c3 charity.

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