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A Berry Merry Bird Christmas

Posted by rstapholz on
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Empowerment
A Berry Merry Bird Christmas

heavenly bamboo berries-nandina.jpeg

By Cynthia Brian

*To me, the garden is a doorway to other worlds; one of them, of course, is the world of birds. The garden is their dinner table, bursting with bugs and worms and succulent berries.” Anne Raver

Birdy, it’s cold outside. 

Deciduous trees are barren of leaves, autumn perennials have finished their blooming cycle, and few flowers adorn the landscape. The glistening ornaments that embellish the foliage are a gastro delight for birds.

Winter has arrived and with it the beautiful berries that are a vital source of food for birds as well as a traditional embellishment to Christmas wreaths and garlands. When we think of berries, we normally conjure images of blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries, all grown and harvested in the warmer months. Winter berries are different, and although they are a small fleshy fruit, they are mostly enjoyed by wildlife, with a few edible exceptions eaten by humans. 

My garden boasts a plethora of winter berries that encourage my feathered friends to hang around for the holidays. Finches, mockingbirds, robins, sparrows, jays, quail, doves, bluebirds, and orioles are attracted to the many varieties of berries that will provide their nutrition during a cold and stark winter. A few of my favorites include pyracantha, cotoneaster, viburnum, pepper, Chinese pistache, rosehips, holly, yew, and barberry. Of these, only the pepper berries and rosehips are consumed by my family. Although pomegranates are not a berry, their jewel-red seeds called arils remind me of tiny berries and I grow them in my garden. Pomegranates are a staple of the Christmas fruit basket because of their festive holiday colors/ The arils are filled with antioxidants, potassium, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, packing a punch to keep us healthy. Add them to salads, make a chutney, or stir a splash of juice in a glass of sparkling wine for a festive, flavorful indulgence.

The pretty pink peppercorns from a California pepper tree are a gourmet’s desire. Since these trees are grown as ornamentals many people don’t realize that their berries are edible, with a fruity, spice profile that complements numerous recipes. They can be dried or used fresh. I have found the best way to grind them is with my mortar and pestle because their paper-thin husks get caught in my twist grinder. When making stews or soups, I toss the whole berry, called a drupe because it is a single seed, in the pot. If you buy pink peppercorns, be prepared to pay $10-15 per ounce. Consider planting a California pepper tree which will grow to 30 feet tall and wide if you have the room.

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Although it is mid-December, my roses continue to bloom. This month I am no longer dead-heading my bushes as I want the rosehips to form.

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Since roses are in the same family as apples and crab apples, the taste of rosehips mimics the tartness of crab apples. The seeds/berries of rosehips have powerful disease-fighting capabilities and are packed with vitamin C.  After washing the hips, use them to make jellies, teas, syrups, soups, and desserts. 

rose hips from pink bonica rose.jpeghttps://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1522/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-A-berry-merry-Christmas-mostly-for-the-birds.html

For the birds…

Peeking through leaves and decorating trees and shrubs, winter berries are nature’s Christmas décor. As beautiful as they are, the most critical element of growing these botanicals in your garden is the nutritional fare they provide for the birds and other wildlife during the coldest season of the year when food sources are limited. There are several other autumn ripened berry-bearing bushes or vines that still have shriveled fruit hanging, such as grape and elderberry, that can be left for the birds. Here’s a sampling of vibrant holiday berry dinners fit for the birds.

Cotoneaster emerged as a volunteer in my garden, most likely from seeds brought in by birds. It is an evergreen shrub that grows into a tree if not properly pruned sporting white flowers in spring that are a magnet for bees and rich red berries in winter that are a delicacy for birds. Deer munch on the branches which doesn’t bother the bush. Cotoneaster is fire-resistant and can be propagated from cuttings, although I have found that once one cotoneaster is in a landscape, others seem to sprout like weeds.

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Holly has glossy leaves that are either serrated or spiny teeth. Because most hollies are dioecious, you’ll need to plant both a male and female for cross-pollination if you want those glorious red berries to decorate garlands, wreaths, and Christmas trees. English holly and American holly are the two species most used during the holidays. Although holly berries tend to start ripening in fall, most birds, including blackbirds and song thrushes don’t start feeding on them until late winter when other food is scarce.

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Chinese pistache is one of my favorite trees for its exuberant fall color of yellows and oranges with attractive berries that metamorphose from green to aqua, to pink, and finally magenta. Birds, turkeys, quail, and squirrels go crazy for the bunches of berries that hang from the branches. I add a few sprays to my Christmas tree whenever the fowl and squirrels are kind enough to leave me a few bunches. 

Pistache berries.jpeg

Pyracantha may be the preferred winter staple of robins. Birds flock to the orange-red berries called pomes, eating so many that they seem intoxicated. Known as firethorns, pyracantha is a fast-growing plant with sharp thorns. Volunteers sprout in unusual locations thanks to the birds spreading their seeds. Keep pyracantha pruned and use branches with berries in holiday arrangements. 

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Viburnum shrubs and hedges add beauty to any garden. They produce pinkish-white flowers that bloom from spring until late fall, depending on the species. Birds love munching on berries ripening in winter with colors that are black, blue, purple, bright red, neon pink, and even yellow. Some species are edible by humans, but other species can be toxic. Unless you know that the viburnum you planted is edible, leave the berries to the birds.

viburnum berries (1).jpeghttps://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1522/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-A-berry-merry-Christmas-mostly-for-the-birds.html

Yew berries red flesh called arils are sweet and safe for birds. The arils provide nutrients needed by the flyers. The seed inside is deadly, and birds know to discard it. Often called the Tree of Death, all parts of the yew tree are poisonous except the arils. The highly poisonous taxane alkaloids of the yew have been developed as anti-cancer drugs. 

yew berries.jpeghttps://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1522/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-A-berry-merry-Christmas-mostly-for-the-birds.html

Not for the birds…or any animal

 

Nandina adds multi-season interest to any garden with its nectar-rich white flowers that attract pollinators followed by clusters of green berries that ripen to shiny bright red in late fall. The lacy foliage emerges as purple, then turns green, then changes to red and purple throughout the year. As much as I love this ornamental bush, it is important to know the berries are deadly to birds, wildlife, and domestic animals. Most birds innately avoid this plant, but the voracious eaters, cedar waxwings, are susceptible to imbibing until intoxicated. The berries contain cyanogenic glycosides that convert to hydrogen cyanide when ingested. 

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WARNING: When planting berry-bearing bushes, please be cognizant that most provide wildlife forage but may be toxic, poisonous, or even deadly when consumed by humans. Never put any plant substance in your mouth unless you are certain that it is edible.

There is still time to give the gifts that keep on giving by purchasing any of my award-winning books from Https://www.CynthiaBrian.com/online-storecyntha brian with books SM copy.jpg. Proceeds benefit the literacy charity empower women, families, and youth, Be the Star You Are!® 501 c3 (www.BetheStarYouAre.org)

You will receive many additional gifts with every purchase. 

Birdscape your garden by growing a bird-friendly sanctuary with berry-producing floras that birds will love. Wander in a winter wonderland of wildlife and have a berry, merry Christmas…with the birds!

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Blessings to all and a ho, ho, ho!

Photos and more: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1522/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-A-berry-merry-Christmas-mostly-for-the-birds.html

Happy Gardening. Happy Growing. Happy Holidays!

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 books, including, Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul, Growing with the Goddess Gardener, and Be the Star You Are! www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store. Receive a FREE inspirational music DVD and special savings.

Hire Cynthia for writing projects, garden consults, and inspirational lectures.

Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com

www.GoddessGardener.com

Gather in the Garden

Posted by rstapholz on
0
Empowerment
Gather in the Garden

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“We need to teach people that the environment has a direct bearing on our own benefit.” Dalai Lama

It’s official. The Pfizer vaccine has received full and final approval by the FDA with the Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines soon to follow. The CDC stated that if we want to spend time with people who don’t live with us, outdoor activities are the safest choice.  In these dire days of global crises, natural disasters, evacuations, and a highly infectious Delta variant, any positive news is appreciated.

At the beginning of summer, we all had high hopes that we would be able to emerge from our caves to enjoy a quasi-normal season. With the emergence of the Delta variant, it became clear that the pandemic will not be contained until most of the country prioritizes health and gets vaccinated. Humans are social beings and we like getting together. With warm weather predicted for the next two months, gathering in our gardens for a picnic, barbecue, or just a chat will be a safer method of communing.

I recently attended an outdoor birthday party for a dear friend generously orchestrated by her adult children and their spouses. This was the first time since the pandemic began that I had gone to any non-family occasion. Although I was hesitant to be around a few dozen people, every precaution was taken to make guests feel safe and comfortable. Being informed that all guests had been fully vaccinated prompted me to R.S.V.P. “yes”. The affair was colorful, fun, and secure. I came away with constructive ideas that we can all utilize to enjoy togetherness outside in our gardens during these challenging times.

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How to have a more formal yet guarded, glorious garden gathering:

  1. 1. Prepare your patio. 
    1. a. Add colorful potted plants.
    2. b. String lights, flags, garlands, or pennants.
    3. c. Set up tables with fun placemats or tablecloths.
    4. d. Space tables and chairs for appropriate social distancing.
    5. e. Select throw pillows to add comfort and color.
    6. 2. Hang hummingbird feeders and birdhouses to attract the birds.
    7. 3. Create your scene with a theme and decorate accordingly.
    8. 4. Add a vase filled with flowers, branches, or fruit, preferably picked from your garden.
    9. 5. Design a thoughtful menu that allows you to be part of the party.
    10. 6. Have guests enter via a garden gate or other outside entrance.
    11. 7. Set up a “Covid” station with hand sanitizer and masks.
    12. 8. Ask that masks be worn when going indoors for any reason.
    13. 9. Make a playlist that fits your crowd.
    14. 10. If yellowjackets have been bothering your paradise, put up traps the day before your party and keep them in place throughout the event.
    15. 11. Invite the partygoers to tour your landscape.
    16. 12. Provide a “wow” moment with a special dessert.
    17. 13. Send your guests home with a gift from the garden.Round table set.jpeg

Being in a garden setting is always impressive to me. I relish being in nature, listening to the sounds, watching the birds, and appreciating the growing plants. I was especially impressed with the gigantic tomato plants my friend had grown from seed. A rock waterfall planted with abundant succulents echoed the theme.

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Joyful décor boasted multi-colored, elegant mats, runners, and tablecloths festooned with yarn pom pom ropes and a clear glass vase filled with lemons and fresh cut dahlias on each table. 

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The “wow” factor was provided by the spectacular cupcakes that mimicked the succulents and flowers on the tables. These beautiful cupcakes designed by Sarah Thongnopneua of Baked Blooms in San Anselmo (www.bakedblooms.com) were almost too gorgeous to eat. They were devoured with enthusiasm.

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Each guest was gifted a small succulent reminiscent of those luscious cupcakes and perfect for our drought, parched soil.

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When I came home, I found a small empty bird’s nest on my porch. Have you ever closely inspected the intricacy of a bird’s nest? What an architectural marvel.  Wouldn’t it be great to create a themed event around this wildlife discovery?

Now that the vaccines are receiving official approval and authorization, I hope that everyone will get vaccinated without delay. Once that is achieved, we will be able to return to the freer glory days of party frivolity. 

Fete the final days of summer with a casual gathering or formal gala. A setting in nature sets the tone for a festive, friendly, and safe celebration for the benefit of everyone.

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Happy Gardening. Happy Growing.  

See photos: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1514/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Garden-gatherings.html

MARK YOUR CALENDARS!

Saturday, September 25th, Be the Star You Are!® will participate in the first live event at the Pear and Wine Festival with a booth sponsored by the Lamorinda Weekly(www.Lamorindaweekly.com) and MB Jessee painting (www.MBJessee.com). Wear your mask and visit us! Details at https://www.bethestaryouare.org/copy-of-events

Happy Gardening. Happy Growing. 

Cynthia Brian-party.jpeg

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 books, including, Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul, Growing with the Goddess Gardener, and Be the Star You Are! www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store. Receive a FREE inspirational music DVD and special savings.

Hire Cynthia for writing projects, garden consults, and inspirational lectures.

Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com

www.GoddessGardener.com

Sacred Spaces

Posted by rstapholz on
0
Empowerment
Sacred Spaces

garden stream.jpeghttps://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1513/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Sacred-spaces.html

“Nature is the original church. Worship there daily.”  Alan Cohen

If we have learned anything from the pandemic of the past eighteen months, it is that our greatest blessing is to be able to go outdoors to breathe fresh air. Many people choose to hike the hills, walk the reservoir, or take a jaunt to the ocean to calm nerves and preserve sanity. For those of us fortunate enough to have a garden, balcony, porch, or patio, we can open a door to escape the confines of lockdown.

The majesty of Mother Nature rivals the most exquisite man-made cathedral. Throughout my landscape, I have designed special areas that stimulate my senses, inducing a sense of tranquility and connectivity with the natural world. I have dubbed these my “sacred spaces”, places where I can meditate, watch the wildlife, listen to birdsong, commune with the breeze, rest my weary legs, take a nap, or just sit and contemplate life. My “sacred spaces” provide a structure amidst the chaos, a respite against the turmoil of the times.

We can expand our living environment by crafting outdoor elements that nurture our spirits, emotions, and bodies. Here are a few of my favorite strategies to help gardeners recast their yards into a serene, yet lush oasis. 

Water

The sound of water is immensely soothing. Listening to the gurgling of a fountain or the rippling of a stream heightens my creativity. Birds splashing in a birdbath bring a smile to my face. A pond with a recirculating pump provides a happy home for frogs, and if deep enough, fish. 

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Hammock

Hanging a hammock from two trees is the ultimate in shaded relaxation. I have double hammocks strung between a giant magnolia and Japanese maples. There is nothing quite like swaying in the hammock looking up at the light as it dances between the branches. The colors of the leaves are forever changing. For an afternoon nap on a hot day, a hammock provides a piece of paradise.

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Swing

I’ve installed a metal garden swing behind my pond flanked by orange Birds of Paradise and midnight blue agapanthus. By adding comfy cushions, I can silently swing while listening to the aerating pond and watching the aerial antics of squirrels spiraling through the loquat tree. 

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Tables, Chairs, and Benches

Throughout my landscape, I have placed multiple tables, chairs, and benches in specific areas to encourage me to take a break from the hard labor. A wooden picnic table under an apple tree begs me to take a lunch period. A bench facing the hills beckons me to behold a doting doe with her twin fawns as they forage. A small rocking chair in a cozy nook allows me to remove my mud boots and watch the sunset.

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Paths and Walls

Whether you use gravel, bricks, decomposed granite, pavers, or flagstone, creating paths throughout the garden allows for interesting patterns and yard exploration. Because I believe in recycling, upcycling, and repurposing, I always utilize whatever materials are available when I’m building stairs, paths, or walls. A former built-in redwood bench is turned on its side to be reused as a retaining planter box. Used bricks add a separation element to the revamped below-deck walkway bordering the tangled wisteria forest. 

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Pergolas, Gazebos, Decks

A deck is always a great gathering spot. A gazebo or pavilion is a stately structure to sit, embrace the view, and offer gratitude for outdoor rooms. On my deck, under my grape, wisteria, and bower vine-covered pergola, I unwind after a long day by soaking in the hot tub. This is my prayer place as I gaze at the twinkling stars above.

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Plantings

The selection of specific plants is critical to the overall color and scale of any garden. My goal is always to witness botanical interest 365 days a year through express attention to the trees, flowers, shrubs, bulbs, vegetables, herbs, and bushes. Every season brings a change to the landscape. Roses bloom for nine or ten months when regularly dead-headed. Perennial sweet peas flourish with their pretty purple pea heads from spring until autumn.

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Pink naked ladies pop up to smarten the summer soils when most other plants find it too hot to shine. Deciduous trees such a Japanese maple, pistache, crape myrtle, and liquid amber offer spectacular autumn colors.

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When you think about creating your sacred spaces, make sure you are bringing the indoors out and the outdoors in. Expand your home environment by mimicking and mingling colors, patterns, themes, and shapes through both areas. Great design amplifies your emotional well-being. Rediscover forgotten or overlooked spots. Feel the vibes as you develop your scheme keeping comfort and safety at the forefront. Use your imagination to unearth the endless possibilities.

Mother Nature is the original church. When we honor Her, we will attain a more balanced life with peace as a bonus gift, no matter what is happening around us. As this latest Delta variant spreads its dangerous virus tendrils, I urge everyone to talk with their physicians, listen to the science, and get vaccinated. Discover your sacred space, breathe, and spend as much time outdoors as possible. 

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A Be the Star You Are!® volunteer from Minnesota emailed me “I go for walks on our nearby trail as often as I can because it’s a way to escape to nature, and I know how you feel about that!  So off I go.”

Off you go!

MARK YOUR CALENDARS!

Saturday, September 25th, Be the Star You Are!® will participate in the first live event at the Pear and Wine Festival with a booth sponsored by the Lamorinda Weekly(www.Lamorindaweekly.com) and MB Jessee painting (www.MBJessee.com). Wear your mask and visit us! Details at https://www.bethestaryouare.org/copy-of-events

Phots and more: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1513/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Sacred-spaces.html

Happy Gardening. Happy Growing. 

Cynthia Brian.jpeg

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 books, including, Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul, Growing with the Goddess Gardener, and Be the Star You Are! www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store. Receive a FREE inspirational music DVD and special savings.

Cynthia Brian books banner.jpg

Hire Cynthia for writing projects, garden consults, and inspirational lectures.

Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com

www.GoddessGardener.com

Bee Diligent

Posted by rstapholz on
0
Empowerment
Bee Diligent

bees on clover.jpeg

“The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams. Henry David Thoreau

Barefoot and wearing our bathing suits, my daughter was teaching me Bar Method exercises out on our lawn on a beautiful summer afternoon. Partway through the practice I was stung on my foot by a honeybee dining on the clover. Clover is a wonderful addition to lawns as it adds natural nitrogen to the soil, however, when playing on the grass we must remember to be cautious as both red and white clover provide favorite nectar to our honey friends. 

We all want to attract pollinators to our gardens. The more flowers you grow equals the more food for the habitat of the pollinators. Bees, butterflies, beetles, hummingbirds, bats, and bids are responsible for 35% of our food crop and 75% of the world’s flowering plants. Every three bites of food eaten can be directly thanks to the pollination from these garden friends. By helping plants reproduce, pollinators sustain our ecosystem and produce our natural resources. Sadly, the pollinator population is in jeopardy on a global level.

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In 2006, the honeybee population substantially declined in a phenomenon that became known as Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD. When the worker bees disappeared, they would leave behind a queen and a few nurse bees to care for the queen and the remaining immature bees. There were rarely dead bees around the hives. Hives cannot sustain themselves without worker bees which resulted in the loss of the colony. There were many theories advanced on why the problem arose including new diseases, parasites, mites, pesticide poisoning, habitat changes, poor nutrition, and stress. Although an actual cause has never been determined, most scientists believe that CCD is related to this combination of causes. 

Honey bees reflect the health of the environment. Our agriculture depends on the pollination of honey bees. If bees continue to die, consumers can expect increased food prices and more scarcity. As gardeners, we can do our part to provide habitat and food for all pollinators and beneficial insects, including bees. 

Here are some ways individual gardeners can make a difference while creating harmony in the landscape:

  •  Support the pollinator population all season by including plants that bloom spring until the beginning of winter. Bumblebees need early-season nectar and pollen while bees need late-season blooms for winter hibernation.
  • bumblebee on bottlebrush.jpeg
  •  Add easy-to-grow natives and native hybrids to your garden.
  •  Replace barren areas with wildflowers and perennials.
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  •  Include clover in your lawn.
  •  Avoid using any pesticides or herbicides.
  •  Provide a source of water by including a fountain or even a shallow birdbath with a landing pad of stones or pebbles.
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  •  Pollinators need a sheltered habitat of rocks, trees, shrubs, and ornamental grasses.
  • Bumble Bee on Greanium.jpeg

In general, bees tend to enjoy plants that have flat flower clusters, short tubular shapes, and single flowers which allow them to access the nectar and pollen easily. 

Attract and Feed Pollinators, especially bees and Bumblebees by planting a selection of these specimens:

Anise

Aster

Bachelor Button

Bee Balm

Black-Eyed Susan

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Blazing Star

Bottlebrush

Calendula

Chamomile

Clover

Cleome

Cosmos

Daisy

Delphinium

Echinacea

Fennel

Four O’Clock

Foxglove

Gladiola

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Hollyhock

Iris

Lupine

Lavender

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Magnolia

Marigold

Milkweed

Morning glory

Nasturtium

Nigella

Oregano

Poppy

Rosemary

Salvia

Sedum

Sunflower

Sweet Pea

Yarrow

Zinnia

Another great addition to any pollinator garden is the bearded iris. Irises spread as they mature, with old rhizomes producing new ones to form rhizome clumps. These clumps need to be divided every 3–5 years to avoid overcrowding and reduce the likelihood of soft rot. You may want to designate an area specifically for an iris plot. Divide and replant the rhizomes to grow your garden. To divide irises do the following:

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https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1510/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian.html

  1. 1. About four weeks after the flowers fade, cut down the foliage by about two-thirds.
  2. 2. Carefully dig up the clumps and gently separate individual rhizomes by hand or with garden shears.
  3. 3. Discard damaged or discolored rhizomes. Also, toss out any with soft spots.
  4. 4. Freshen soil with compost and replant the newly separated rhizomes 15–24″ apart.
  5. 5. If you have too many, share with friends and family. 

Bees are critical to the well-being of the planet. My daughter and her husband have become home beekeepers and are enjoying the delicious honey that their bees create from the many flowers growing in their garden. The bees are sunbeams of beauty and productivity.  It’s up to humans to “bee” careful with how we manage our biologicals to promote the health and longevity of all pollinators.

Just don’t exercise barefoot on the clover!

Photos: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1510/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian.html

Happy Gardening. happy growing!

BEST cynthi-BEESUIT.jpeg

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. Receive a FREE inspirational music DVD.

Hire Cynthia for writing projects, garden consults, and inspirational lectures.

Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com

www.GoddessGardener.com

Waste Not by Growing Your Groceries!

Posted by rstapholz on
0
Empowerment
Waste Not by Growing Your Groceries!

artichoke close-up.jpeg

“I value my garden more for being full of blackbirds than of cherries, and very frankly give them fruit for their songs. -Joseph Addison, essayist and poet (1672-1719)”

After months of intently watching my two cherry trees blossom and form fruit, I was aghast as flocks of birds began to daily swarm the branches and fly away with unripe cherries in their beaks. Joseph Addison’s quote eased my anxiety a bit as the happy trills of full bird bellies filled the air with soulful melodies. From my bench perch, I witnessed Stellar jays, blackbirds, sparrows, finches, warblers, orioles, robins, doves, and other unknown feathered friends dining on my crop. Although I kept instructing my flying diners to eat at the buffet at the top of the trees, since I don’t speak avian, they ate wherever they landed.  My reward was the entertainment of witnessing so many species mingling and singing.

In general, cherries don’t ripen once they are picked. It took patience for me to wait until the Bings turned purple and the Queen Anne’s had a blush rose on their yellow skins before I grabbed a basket to harvest what was still available.

bing and queen anne cherries.jpeg

Netting a tree is the way to protect your investment when you have a small tree, but when your trees are 20 feet or larger, netting is more rigorous, although not impossible. My daughter-in-law was able to gather enough cherries from her family plot to make my favorite cherry pies. Her family uses extra-long bamboo poles wrapped with netting to cover their tall trees to protect them from the marauders. It takes several family members to accomplish the task. 

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The mulberries and loquats are also ripe with birds, squirrels, deer, and me all fighting for the feast. The plums will be next on the agenda within a week. The marvelous part of the sparring and squabbling is nothing goes to waste. Even the fruit that falls is gulped up by rabbits, quail, or other critters. (While weeding around the tree, I disturbed a momma quail sitting on her eggs. When foraging, quail eggs are also a delicacy. I didn’t touch them!)

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These exhibitions made me think about how much humans waste. One-third of all the food produced in the world never gets eaten. 63 million tons of food was sent to landfills by Americans in 2018, producing methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. It amounted to more than 408 billion dollars of uneaten goods. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the cost of food waste to the average person is at least $1600 annually. By 2050 it is estimated that there will be over 9 billion people on our planet and that food insecurity will be a major threat to living healthy lives.

What can individuals do to help change this habit of unused consumption? 

  1. 1. Grow your own groceries: Plant fruits, herbs, and vegetables that you want to eat. Plant only enough for your family and friends. If you have extras, try canning, freezing, or donating them to a food pantry. Easy and nutritious summer crops include tomatoes, beans, carrots, squash, eggplant, peppers, and cucumbers. Lettuce and greens can be grown all year utilizing succession planting. Harvest your artichokes, cabbages, Brussel Sprouts, Swiss Chard, and kale now.Brussel Sprouts.jpeg
  2. Save the dried seeds from arugula to plant in the fall. Dried arugula seed pods.jpeg
  3. Embrace the ugly, deformed, blemished, and bruised fruit and veggies as they still will pack a punch. ugly fruit-veggies.jpeg
  4. 2. Use all parts of an edible plant. Stems of parsley, cilantro, oregano, broccoli, and more are often discarded. Chop them up and use them in stir-fries, salads, soups, and sauces. They are full of flavor and vitamins. Get creative with your recipes.oregano.jpeg
  5. 3. Compost, compost, compost. You don’t need to have a green thumb to create healthier soil by recycling nutrient-rich eggshells, fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grinds, tea leaves, brown paper bags, bread, grains, citrus rinds, and noodles. Keep a small, covered bin under your sink. When it is full,  transfer the contents to a compost pile or bin outdoors to age. Upgrade your garden with leftovers and watch your vegetables grow strong.cabbage.jpeg
  6. 4. Shop smartly. Before going to the grocery store or Farmer’s Market, make a list of what you will consume until your next shopping foray. Don’t buy items you won’t need because they are on sale or you are hungry.
  7. 5. Expiration dates are not death dates. Food packages exhibit dates when the product is at its best. The “sell by” or “use by” date is not a “throw this away” date. The over-cautiousness leads to excess waste. The USDA recommends looking for changes in color, flavor, consistency, and smell before tossing. If spoiled, compost it.

We all have the ability and the responsibility to eliminate food waste which will also help towards reducing climate change. It’s time we start acting like the birds and animals, eating what’s fresh and only what we need. Perhaps when we start doing that, there will be enough for everyone, everywhere. zucchini blossoms.jpeg

I’m enjoying my basket of sweet cherries while listening to the chorus of chirping fowls. A slice of my daughter-in-law’s cherry pie will be my Independence Day treat. The birds may know best. Time to sing.

Home grown-cherry pie.jpeg

Happy Gardening. Happy Growing. Have a safe and fun 4th of July!

Read :

https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1509/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-The-birds-know-best.html

Cynthia-red, white, blue.jpeg

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.

cyntha brian with books SM copy.jpgBuy 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. Receive a FREE inspirational music DVD.

Hire Cynthia for writing projects, garden consults, and inspirational lectures.

Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com

www.GoddessGardener.com

Guardians of the Garden Galaxy

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Empowerment
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.

Birds: 

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.
  • Baby dove.jpg

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

Lizards:

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.
  • lizard-rock garden.jpg

Snakes:

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:

Ladybugs:

  •  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

Hoverflies:

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:

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

Lizard .jpg

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.

cyn-birdnest.jpg

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.

Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com

www.GoddessGardener.com

 

Rooms of His Own By Cynthia Brian

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Empowerment
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.
Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com
www.GoddessGardener.com
925-377-STAR

The Magic of May By Cynthia Brian

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Empowerment
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.

CLEAN and DIRTY PRODUCE

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.
Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com
www.GoddessGardener.com
925-377-STAR

May Play By Cynthia Brian

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Empowerment
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.
Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com
www.GoddessGardener.com
925-377-STAR

Purple Reign! By Cynthia Brian

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

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.
Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com
www.GoddessGardener.com
925-377-STAR

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