Tag Archives

28 Articles

Pollinator Paradise

Posted by Editor on
Pollinator Paradise

Cyn-rock garden

Digging Deep-Gardening with Cynthia Brian

By Cynthia Brian

“I have no special talents.
I am only passionately curious.” ~ Albert Einstein

Everyone seems to love the birds. After reading my previous month’s column, For the Birds, many people contacted me with stories of the birds in their gardens including hardwood floor installer and refinisher, Tom Gieryng.  He sent me photos and asked me to come see the numerous avian amenities he had installed in his garden. Birdhouses, bird feeders, fountains, and perches occupy every tree, wall, and crevice. Most were built by Tom, many were someone else’s trash turned into Tom’s treasure, and all of them have been embellished, hand painted, or given a touch of whimsy. Tom gave new life to tossed out items including wrought iron gates, hanging baskets, pots, tricycles, and even stained glass windows with his garden ingenuity.
Nonie's birdhouse night
Growing up in Poland, Tom was like most teens across the world. He looked forward to making enough money to buy nice clothes and go out with friends to party. His job was with a wood flooring company and at the time he didn’t realize this teenage occupation would become his life long career when he immigrated to America. After a few years of working for a flooring business in San Francisco, Tom wanted more creativity and control and opened his own company, TG Hardwood, where he was able to implement his own designs. Curiosity and a desire to reclaim discarded objects fuels his inventive nature both in his woodwork and outdoor spaces. After a hard day’s work, he finds inspiration, entertainment, and relaxation in his garden.

Gardens offer each of us a place to chill out, relax, and be inventive. In today’s high tech environment, the garden presents an instant environment to unplug, unwind, and be imaginative. When I’m in my garden, I lose track of time. Although pulling weeds, turning the soil, planting, pruning, watering, and paying attention to potential pests is work, it is invigorating, offering me precious time to think without the distraction of phones, emails, and pinging calendar appointments. Our gardens can be an extension of our artistic selves when we allow ourselves to be inquisitive. In my mother’s garden, an ancient walnut tree has become Nonie’s Bird Tree. She hangs feeders of all shapes and sizes attracting a variety of birds and hummingbirds. Vines twine around a rusted chicken chair in my front yard next to an antiquated tin birdhouse. Butterflies flit amongst the blooms and bees pollinate the various fruit trees.
stained glass-pots
Strolling with Tom through his garden, his obvious enthusiasm for his creations was contagious. Clients have given him cuttings of various species that he has transplanted and tended, many of them becoming prize possessions. Fuchsias, hydrangeas, roses, pelargoniums, geraniums, lavender, agapanthus, and numerous grasses found homes in his yard.  A waterfall cascades down the hill adding the sound of trickling water and a place for the frogs to congregate and the hummingbirds to drink and dip. It’s a haven for birds, butterflies, and bees…a true pollinator garden.

After my For the Birds publication, many readers asked how to attract other pollinators. To have a truly healthy garden, create a pollinator paradise. It’s easy to do.
You won’t need any special talents, just lots of curiosity, and this simple tip sheet.
hanging baskets
What you need to know and do to succeed at pollinator gardening
1. Use plants that provide pollen and nectar. Cosmos, salvia, oregano, penstemon, coneflowers, buddleia, marigold, gaillardia, phlox, milkweed, bee balm, zinnia, Black-eyed Susan, cilantro, sunflower, sweet alyssum, and wild flowers are excellent choices.
2. Provide a water source, such as a small water garden or birdbath.
3. Situate your pollinator garden in a sunny site with a windbreak.

4. Provide shelter from the elements with grasses, standing stalks, shrubs, and bushes.

5. Have plants that bloom continuously throughout the season including bulbs like crocus. Make sure the garden has blooms from spring to early winter.

6. Do not use pesticides near your pollinator plants.

Be passionately curious, then relax, rejuvenate, and re-invent, while attracting the pollinators-birds, bees, butterflies, bats, and more.

Cynthia Brian’s Mid Month Gardening Tips for September

PLACE bird feeders in a natural area, specifically hanging from trees, and away from the house to deter rodents from establishing residence in your home.

PICK tomatoes to enjoy in these last two weeks of summer brilliance. According to the USDA, there are over 25,000 varieties of tomatoes.

GOT CLOVER? Clover is a positive plant in the garden and lawn because it grabs oxygen from the air and stores it in the soil. Birds pecking at your lawn are not eating it. They are dining on insects that could be harmful to your lawn. The birds are your friends indicating that your lawn has an invader.

EAT watermelon when it’s warm. Watermelon is actually a vegetable, not a fruit filled with 92% water. Time to make a watermelon popsicle. (The popsicle was invented in 1905…quite tasty history.)

DOWNLOAD a free pollinator guide for the United States and Canada at http://www.pollinator.org/guides.htm. For the Lamorinda area, click on “California Dry Steppe”.

MARK your calendars for September 26th Pear and Wine Festival in Moraga. Stop by the Be the Star You Are! booth for free seeds and other give aways including a COMPLIMENTARY brand new book as part of the literacy outreach project, “Read, Lead, Succeed!” Infohttp://starstyleradio.net/Events/Entries/2015/9/26_Pear_%26_Wine_Festival_2015.html

BUY tulips, hyacinths, and crocus to refrigerate for six weeks before planting.

REGISTER your pollinator garden, large or small or even a container that provides pollen and nectar to bees, butterflies, bats, flies, etc at www.millionpollinatorgardens.org

RAKE fallen leaves to add to your compost pile along with your lawn clippings.

I’m off to speak at the National Gardening Symposium. Can’t wait to bring you the latest and greatest gardening tips from the harvests of horticulture professionals.
Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!
Read more: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue0914/Digging-Deep-Gardening-with-Cynthia-Brian-Pollinator-Paradise.html
Read September Garden Guide:  https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue0913/Cynthia-Brians-Gardening-Guide-for-September.html

Press Pass: https://blog.voiceamerica.com/2015/08/31/cynthia-brians-september-gardening-guide/

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

A Dad’s Dream

Posted by Editor on
A Dad’s Dream

cyn-dad's garden

Digging Deep-Gardening with Cynthia Brian

A Dad’s Dream, a Mom’s Desire

“The most beautiful view is the one I share with you.”
~ Source unknown
Two decades ago, a San Francisco family made their way across the bridge in search of a quiet neighborhood, warm weather, and good schools within easy access of the freeway. At the top of a private drive in Lamorinda, Pam’s instinct encouraged her to place a bid on the first house she saw-a stylish Cape Cod backed up to a hill of majestic oaks with plenty of privacy on ¾ of an acre. When Bob saw the property, though it was overgrown with poison oak, blackberry bushes, and brush, he could visualize the garden of his dreams. Together they envisioned a landscape that would look like it had always existed in nature, albeit, with a little help from a professional. The property was cleared of weeds and debris, deer fencing was erected, new topsoil was delivered, and the design was executed.

Pam's pond

The family wanted a babbling brook that cascaded into a pond. Forty tons of boulders were trucked in from a Napa quarry and lifted by crane over the house since there was no access to the backyard. The stream springs from the top of the hill property, flowing over river rocks surrounded by ferns, hellebores, trailing geraniums, grasses, and a plethora of lush specimens until it splashes into the pool where friendly koi gather and a turtle named Flash sleeps beneath the water lilies.
Off the master bedroom, they planted a formal rose garden in the French chateau style bordered by a clipped boxwood hedge. They kept the original brick patio and outdoor fireplace near the house while creating meandering paths that wind up and down the hill opening unto unexpected garden rooms. Three spectacular Japanese maples and three madrones anchor the design, offering year round form, structure, and color. Drifts of hydrangea, rhododendrons, azaleas, agapanthus, hostas, daisies, carnations, and various ground covers fill the background. The gardener in the family, Bob, enjoys experimenting with a variety of specimens. He has created a berry patch with raspberries, blueberries, boysenberries, and blackberries. Around another bend, he grows citrus, including a healthy kefir lime plus trees of apple, plum, and fig. At the top of the hill, beans, tomatoes, horseradish, herbs, pumpkins, potatoes, asparagus, and peppers thrive. An underground spring augments their watering system. Bob’s efficient home built compost bin resides outside the fence, ready to nourish the garden organically.


A retired flight attendant currently enjoying a second career as an actor, I met Pam when she worked as an assistant on my TV series, StarStyle®-Live Your Dreams, and I’ve been privileged since to coach her as on-camera talent. An avid fan of flea markets, Pam taps into her artistic power discovering interesting tossed treasures that she creatively displays throughout the plot. Culminating at the end of the raspberry row, a 1950’s oven opens featuring plants in a pan. Around a turn, an old bicycle bears baskets of pink geraniums.  Walk up the path a bit further, and a rusted children’s pedal car is stranded on a boulder. Rock cairns are piled on an overhang at the pond.  Restful seating areas and sweet surprises delight the senses throughout the backyard.  My personal favorite is the mystical gravel and river rock topped table set with glasses and a bottle of wine reserved for two.  Behind the wire fence with twining vines and ivy, ceramic birds perch on a branch ready to break into song.

Sirah vines with shirly tractor

A few years ago, Bob decided to plant a vineyard. One hundred and twenty vines of Syrah grow on a side hill above the stacked stone retaining wall. Roses bloom at the end of each row, succulents and pots of cacti climb the stairway. Pam’s whimsical contribution to the vineyard includes an antique children’s tractor parked between the vines, and a collection of whirly birds to keep the flying birds from devouring the grapes. Sal Captain of Captain Vineyards helps with the management of the crops while Bob does his own bottling and labeling, winning awards in the process.
The gardens and vineyards are beautiful, bountiful, and bucolic. It’s obvious that Bob and Pam take great pride and joy in their voluptuous, unique garden. With all the stone, wood, water, and living greenery, this outdoor oasis claims a natural structure and feeling of security and protection. Although they both love “the City”, they are thrilled that they took that drive through the tunnel twenty years ago to discover their own personal nirvana.

turtle wine bottle

Their dream of a secret garden has been realized as they share the view together toasting Father’s Day with a glass of their private label Turtle Crossing wine.

Cynthia Brian’s Mid Month Reminders

ROTATE crops. Don’t plant vegetables in the same spot as last year.
BUY summer annuals for containers to add color to your patio.
PINCH petunias and dahlias to keep them blooming.
RAISE the blades on lawnmowers to offer more sun protection and moisture retention to your grass.
PROVIDE abodes for toads by placing broken clay pots throughout the garden. By inviting toads into your garden, you’ll be getting free insect control.
RESCUE thirsty bees and ladybugs that dive into your swimming pool during the heat. Use a net to capture and release to avoid unnecessary stings.
HELP reverse the decline of pollinating insects, honey bees, native bees, birds, bats, and monarch butterflies by joining the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge. For information, visit http://millionpollinatorgardens.org.
BEWARE of ticks hitchhiking in your hair after hiking or working outside. If you get bit in the neck, call your physician or go to urgent care immediately. I know the dangers from recent experience!

antique car
A salute and thanks to all the Daddy’s of Lamorinda, especially the ones that garden and dream!

Happy Gardening. Happy Growing.

Read more: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue0908/Digging-Deep-Gardening-with-Cynthia-Brian.html

Cynthia Brian
The Goddess Gardener
Starstyle® Productions, llc
I am available as a speaker, designer, and consultant.

rock piles

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.


Posted by Editor on

Digging Deep for May
By Cynthia Brian

B.F.F.’s (Best Friends Forever)

“Be careful the environment you choose for it will shape you; be careful the friends
you choose for you will become like them.”
W. Clement Stone


People have acquaintances, friends, and best friends. We may like or dislike our acquaintances, get along with our friends, and really love our best friends. In fact, when it comes to our best friends, we sometimes feel that we couldn’t live without them. Most of the time, we discover that we are different than our B.F.F.’s, yet complementary. In the world of nature, plants have favorite companions as well as ones that they wish they’d never encounter. By planting our gardens in potagers that include herbs, fruits, and flowers instead of rows, we gain destructive insect –repellent properties, beneficial insect attractors with benefits of higher yields and healthier plants.
calendula & fennel
As we start digging in our enriched earth this spring to plant our veggies, it is useful to know what specimens are compatible and which ones repel one another. Like humans, plants encounter plants that they don’t like and when planted near one another, neither thrives. The idea behind companion planting is to mix flowers and herbs in a patch together. Herbs have high concentrations of aromatic oils that protect vulnerable plants from insect attacks and many gardeners find that growing certain plants together actually increases flavor in fruits or vegetables and fragrance in blossoms.
Some of the helpful herbs are rue, tansy, lavender, chamomile, Artemisia, savory, dill, rosemary, catnip, sage, thyme, and pennyroyal.  Supportive flowers are marigold, nasturtium, and nicotiana. Garlic and chives are happy bedfellows with roses and several other plants, giving off an odor that deters aphids and blackspot. A brew of garlic tea sprayed on plants keeps pests at bay. Chamomile has often been called “the plant’s physician” because it has a reputation for improving the health of surrounding flowers and herbs. Pennyroyal keeps ants away and marigolds deter beetles, white flies, and maybe even rabbits. Nicotiana works on a trap principle where it will attract a predator, which are then caught in the sticky stems and leaves. Nasturtium is repulsive to many bugs, beetles, moths and improves flavors while providing a cascade of edible flowers with long blooming times.
chamomile 2
It is fascinating that while one plant may be beneficial to many plants, it could be harmful to some. Experiment companion planting with some of these popular home-grown vegetables and see if you experience a difference in quality, quantity, flavor, and pest resistance.
nasturium orange-yellow
BEANS: Friends of beans include eggplant, beets, potatoes, peas, radish, chard, cucumber, everything in the cabbage family, and marigolds. Enemies of beans are garlic, onions, and chives as they stunt growth.

KALE: Kale is currently the most hailed of the cabbage family. It’s B.F.F.’s include beets, celery, spinach, lettuce, and chard. Plant garlic nearby for improved growth and flavor.

CARROTS: Tomatoes, peppers, peas, radishes, and beans all are happy around carrots. Chives will increase flavor, rosemary and sage will keep the carrot flies from destroying the crop but keep the dill in a galaxy far, far away or you’ll have stunted growth.

CORN: Don’t plant corn next to tomatoes as the same worm munches on both. Instead, corn enjoys companionship from parsley, melon, pumpkin, and beans. Plant marigolds to fend off Japanese beetles.

EGGPLANT: One of my most favorite vegetables to plant, it thrives with peppers and beans. Again, marigolds are friends with eggplant.

LETTUCE: So easy to grow in a home garden, throw some seeds nearby strawberries, radishes and beets. Boost flavor and aphid control with garlic and chives.

POTATOES: Allies are my favorite eggplant, corn, cabbages, and beans. Keep tomatoes and potatoes away from one another or you’ll attract blight. For protection from beetles, plant marigolds.

PUMPKINS: Every kid wants to grow his/her own Halloween Jack O’Lantern. Squash and melons are good buddies with pumpkins. Nasturtium and oregano provide the pest protection.

STRAWBERRIES: Thyme serves as border patrol. Lettuce, bean, onion, and spinach all like to party with strawberries but don’t invite cabbage.

TOMATOES: We already know that potatoes and corn are not to be planted with tomatoes, but you need to know that dill and kohlrabi will stunt growth. Friends include basil, chives, mint, celery, cucumber, onion, parsley, and pepper-all the delicious ingredients of a summer salad!

When you go out into your garden this spring, think about building a community of symbiotic friends. Don’t forget the Iroquois threesome called “The Three Sisters”–corn, squash, and beans, inseparable sisters that grow and thrive together.
It’s great to have a B. F. F. , especially in the garden.


“Good friends are like stars….
You don’t always see them,
but you know they are always there.”
~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!

Cynthia Brian’s Mid Month Reminders

CLEAR debris from your home and garden perimeter. Dried limbs, leaves, and weeds need to be removed. Fire season is upon us.
WATER deeply once or twice a week rather in short spurts. You’ll encourage stronger roots and save on your water bill too.
DOWNLOAD a new FREE App: “GrowIt!”. The app combines user-uploaded photos and GPS utilization with the ability to rate plants to help people find specific plants and inspiration for your locale available at both the Apple App and Google Play stores.
CUT twining stems of clematis for arrangements that will be colorful and full for three weeks or longer.

Happy Gardening, Happy Growing.
Read more HERE

Cynthia Brian
The Goddess Gardener
Starstyle® Productions, llc
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.

Guess Who is Coming to Dinner By Cynthia Brian

Posted by Editor on
Guess Who is Coming to Dinner By Cynthia Brian
Put away your fly swatter and get out the welcome mat.
Of the more than 120,000 species of annoying flies, the Black Soldier Fly is the one you want to invite to dine  in your compost pile that is! Sometimes called the “privy fly”, the larvae of these beneficial soldiers hungrily devour waste, eliminate odors, increase decomposition, and reduce the possibility of disease with their powerful chewing, shredding, and digesting capabilities.
Black Soldier Flies, a true fly, are one of the most beneficial insects for waste and environmental management. Unlike a vampire, the adult fly has no mouthparts, living off the stored energy they built up as larvae. At ¾ -7/8 of an inch long, adult flies don’t bite, sting, nor transmit any illness. Males and females mate in flight, ultimately hatching five hundred or more eggs in compost bins, out houses, and manure.
The non-pest insatiable larvae consume twice their weight daily converting waste into protein and fat rich feedstuff that can be fed to birds, animals, worms, or used as additional compost. They also protect against the breeding of pest flies. You can buy a working colony or easily develop one yourself by composting (with adequate drainage in the bin or pile) your biodegradable materials including food, fruit, and vegetables with chicken, rabbit, pig, horse, cow, or goat manure. As biocomposters, Black Soldier Flies are nature’s fastest food and waste recyclers.
Because of their high amount of nourishing proteins and fat, companies are developing tasty BSF maggot recipes to feed the world.  Who knows, they may be coming to dinner!
As I wish you and your little princesses, pirates, and pumpkins a happy and safe Halloween, I leave you with a bit of garden Halloween humor:
a. What is a vampires’ favorite flower?    (Bleeding Hearts)
b. What is a werewolf’s favorite legume?   (Human Beans)
Happy Halloween, Happy Gardening, Happy Composting!
Cynthia Brian
Cynthia Brian
The Goddess Gardener
Starstyle® Productions, llc
I am available as a speaker, designer, and consultant.
Cynthia Brian is the producer and host of Star Style® Be the Star You Are!® Radio and producer of Express Yourself!™ Teen Radio brought to the airwaves under the auspices of Be the Star You Are!® 501 c3 charity. Visit http://www.BetheStarYouAre.org and http://www.StarStyleRadio.com Read more at Lamorinda Weekly. 

Digging Deep-Gardening with Cynthia Brian

Posted by Editor on
Digging Deep-Gardening with Cynthia Brian



Tickle it with a hoe and it will laugh into a harvest. English Saying

Growing up on our Napa farm, I fondly remember the harvest festivals of September and October.  Organized by the local volunteer fire department, farm bureau, or 4-H Club, once all the crops had been harvested, the hoes were put down. The men ignited the flames on the huge homemade grills laden with farm-raised chicken, lamb, pork, and beef while the ladies prepared the potluck side dishes from bushels of fresh fruit and vegetables. Hay bale mazes, bobbing for apples, sack races, and piñata punching would be activities that entertained the kids. Everyone anticipated the rhythms of the fiddles, accordions, drums, horns, and guitars. Music signaled our time for foot stomping.  It was time for the barn dance, heel kicking, and a good ole’ fashion celebration against the backdrop of a harvest moon.

tomatoes fressh from the vine - 2

As earnest gardeners who have not grown up in rural America, how do we know when the time is ripe to harvest our produce? Nature usually has a way of informing us about the optimum time to pluck your favorite vegetable or fruit at its peak. Berries are plump, juicy, and deep in color. Apples fall into your hand the second they are touched.  Our noses lead us to the sweet smell of a ripe pear, our eyes shine on that perfect deep red tomato, and our ears hear the hollow thump of a crunchy melon. We use all of our senses to identify the best time to harvest including our common sense. If possible, pick your produce early in the morning, just as the sun is rising. The air is cooler and the crops are crisp, allowing them to last longer. If you wait to pick until the heat of the day, lettuces, radishes, peas, chards, and leafy greens will be limp and wilted. The second best time to harvest your non-droopy crops like zucchini, grapes, tomatoes, and root vegetables is early evening, preferably after the sun has set. The early sunbathing actually adds to their sugariness. 

Here are time-tested suggestions to help you pick, pull, and pluck a sampling of your garden favorites at the peak of perfection.

turnips, fennel, beets

Harvest Hints

Apples: When you touch a ripe apple, regardless of variety, it should need only a slight pull to fall off the branch.

Beans: Pick before the pods begin to swell and when the strings are still slender. Pick often to encourage more bean development.

Beets: Pull when beets are 1 ½ inch to 2 inches in diameter. Cut off the tops to use in cooking or chop into salads. 

Carrots: Whether you are growing orange, purple, yellow, or white carrots, loosen the soil when they are ½-1 inch thick, then pull. 

Cucumbers: Harvest cucumbers when they are shiny and small. The bigger they get, the more bitter and seedy they become. Lemon cucumbers will be slightly yellow while English and Armenian cucumbers will be green. Frequent picking encourages more growth.

Eggplants:  Young eggplants are the tastiest and sweetest. Their flesh is glossy purple. Do not pull eggplants. Cut with a sharp knife.

Fennel: Cut bulbing fennel at the soil line. Use the bulb as well as the ferny leaves in recipes.

Grapes: If you are growing grapes, you know when they are ready to be harvested by doing a taste test. Don’t pull the bunch from the vine. Use a sharp knife to cut individual bunches. 

Kale: As long as you leave six to eight leaves of the kale on the stem, you can start picking kale as soon as it is established. Kale grows quickly and will continue to send out more leaves.

Peppers: For the ultimate in flavor and sweetness, allow peppers to grow to their deepest colors of green, red, yellow, orange, and purple. Twist and pick whatever size you wish.

Pumpkins: Try to pierce the skin of a pumpkin with your fingernail. If it is too hard, the pumpkin is ripe. Cut the stem at least 3 inches long and let the pumpkin cure for a week or more in the sun. Pumpkins will last a very long time when stored at 48-50 degrees in a dry environment.

Tomatoes: For the richest flavor, be patient and wait for your tomato to reach its full sun-ripened color for the specific variety. If rain threatens, pick your green tomatoes and leave on the counter. Most will ripen at room temperature. Whatever you do, never refrigerate tomatoes after picking or you’ll lose nutrients and taste.

The end of crop harvesting heralds the beginning of autumn everywhere as a time for rejoicing. Although in cities, towns, and suburbia attending a barn dance may not be in the cards, there are a number of festivals to celebrate the times. Check The Lamorinda Weekly’s “Not To Missed” for fun events for the entire family during the autumn harvest season.

For a day of old fashioned entertainment and activities, be sure to attend the 2014 Pear and Wine Festival at Moraga Commons on Saturday, September 27 from 10-4pm for music, food, wine, crafts, kids zone, and Toast to Moraga’s 40th Anniversary. 

It’s a harvest homecoming! Cue the fiddles!

Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!

tomatoes and cilantro

Cynthia Brian’s Gardening Guide for August

Posted by Editor on
Cynthia Brian’s Gardening Guide for August


“I long to accomplish a great and noble task,

but, it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks

as if they were great and noble.  ~ Helen Keller

There are many ways to tackle a task.

With a drought in full swing, those of us with lawns are investigating every avenue to keep our playgrounds verdant. In Los Angeles, lawn painting has become a new lucrative business using non-toxic permanent dye applied to stressed grass. The green application lasts about twelve weeks without color fade or run-off. When the rains come, most lawns grow back on their own.

On a different path to encourage continued love of gardening, a client of mine decided to take things into her own hands.  Her three-year old grand daughter was distressed that the pebbles the tyke planted in “Granny’s garden” hadn’t sprouted. Using twigs, broken jewelry pieces, shiny rocks from her floral arrangements and a glue gun, Grandma fashioned flowers to “grow” and planted them in the plot. The next day the excitement when the toddler witnessed the stone blooms was beyond priceless.

The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in California, yet another sign that no matter what the climatic changes, gardeners will find a way to survive the elements to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.

roses & dark blue agapantha

  • ⎫ DIG technology with the Easy Gardening Tips app from Suntory®. It’s a digital magazine with tips on designing decks, summer canning, palette picking, and more. Download free at the App Store.
  • ⎫ STAKE tall gladiolus before they topple in the wind and protect from the deer who love to nibble the blooms.
  • ⎫ TASTE summer by mashing mint for garden fresh mojitos. Grow all mints in containers as mint is invasive.  Can you and your friends can drink that many juleps or mojitos?
  • ⎫ LEARN the difference between bees and yellow jackets. Bees feed all year long on the lavender and rosemary which require only rainwater, while the yellow jackets feed on your picnic or barbecue. Save the bees, call Vector Control for the yellow jackets. (925) 685-9301
  • ⎫ PERUSE spring bulb catalogues to get your order in this month for fall delivery.
  • ⎫ DEADHEAD roses weekly to elongate the blooming season.
  • ⎫ FILL hummingbird feeders with a homemade concoction of boiled water with sugar. No need to add food coloring.
  • ⎫ REPOT indoor plants in a one size larger container when they begin to droop. Roots need fresh potting soil to thrive.
  • ⎫ PRUNE clematis sparingly after blooms are finished. Save the dark stems, cut away the light stems. Depending on your variety, clematis bloom on new, old, or a combination of the two woods.
  • ⎫ ENROLL in a free composting class through Central Contra Costa Solid Waste Authority at http://www.wastediversion.org/app_pages/view/1723
  • ⎫ ENHANCE your interior space with an easy to care for plant that blooms for months. The “moth orchid”, phalaenopsis likes bright indirect light and temperatures in the 65-80 degrees range-perfect for summer indoors.
  • ⎫ FERTILIZE your vegetable garden as edible plants are hungry for nutrients. Without the help of fertilizer their appetites will exhaust the soil, producing a poor harvest. Read labels carefully as too much fertilizer can be worse than too little!
  • ⎫ REMOVE the silks from corn before cooking. Steam or grill with or without husks. Store corn in its husk in the refrigerator in open bags after picking to maintain freshness. Shuck immediately before using.
  • ⎫ CULTIVATE a continuous crop of colorful beans, one of the most economical sources of protein rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
  • ⎫ ASK a trusted neighbor or friend to water your container plantings and hanging baskets when you go on vacation. August is traditionally a very warm month and unless you have a drip system installed, pots need daily monitoring.
  • ⎫ GROOM your annuals and perennials by taking the time to deadhead the spent blooms or dead leaves, helping them to flower into fall.
  • ⎫ PRUNE summer flowering hedges and shrubs after they have finished blooming, removing any dead or damaged branches.
  • ⎫ CLEAR brush and vegetation to create a 100 foot defensible space around your home if you have not already done so. Fire season is with us until the rain pours. For any questions on abatement, call 925-258-4525 ext. 533.
  • ⎫ CONTINUE weeding. With warm weather, weed seeds germinate faster, zapping the moisture necessary to nurture other plants.
  • ⎫ WATER deeply, thoroughly, and infrequently in the early morning or early evening to prevent rapid evaporation and water wasting.
  • ⎫ CUT a bouquet of dahlias to enjoy inside. Spiky, long blooming dahlias come in all sizes, colors, and shapes guaranteed to dazzle. If you don’t grow dahlias, buy tubers for fall planting.
  • ⎫ CONSERVE water by pouring gray water from kitchens and showers in your outdoor yard. Every drop helps.
  • ⎫ SAVE seeds of fennel, arugula, onions, leeks, tomatoes, beans, marigolds, calendula, zinnia, sunflower, and cosmos to share with friends for next spring.
  • ⎫ HARVEST pears, blackberries, blueberries, apples, and elderberries. August is the perfect month to can jams, jellies, pickles, whole fruits, and vegetables.
  • ⎫ LIGHT the night with inexpensive solar lights available at garden centers to save on electricity.
  • ⎫ ENJOY the crayon colors of summer with the effervescent bougainvillea, the perky naked ladies, the sunburst firecracker plants, and the calming agapanthus.
  • ⎫ REFRAIN from worrying about a brown lawn. Grasses go dormant in hot weather when not watered regularly, but they are not dead. Raise the blades of the mower higher to protect the roots and wait for winter greening. (Unless of course you prefer painted grass!)

Feed your eyes, ears, nose, and soul with a stroll in nature. The garden is a warehouse of nourishment beyond food. LOVE summer!  Happy gardening and happy growing!

Cyn in the tropical sun

Cynthia Brian is the producer and host of  LIVE program, StarStyle®-Be the Star you Are!® broadcasting on Voice America/World Talk Radio. Tune in Wednesdays 4-5pm PT/7-8pm ET. Read more at The Lamorinda Weekly. 

Ask Cynthia Brian about an Avocado Pit On Reader’s Request

Posted by Editor on
Ask Cynthia Brian about an Avocado Pit On Reader’s Request

PitDear Ms. Cynthia:

You helped me root an avocado pit in water by using four toothpicks.  Now that it has leaves, what do I do?

Brian, Moraga

Dear Mr. Brian

Wow! From your photo that avocado pit is a happy camper. I’m glad you wrote again because this is a great project for kids to have gardening success. (Editor’s note, Brian had emailed long before ASK CYNTHIA BRIAN became a column and Cynthia gave him advice on how to root an avocado seed in water.)  Now that the seed has sprouted a stem and leaves and has a thick root system, it’s ready to plant. Grab a pot about 10-12 inches in diameter, fill with rich humus. Plant the pit so that half of it is above ground, just like when you used the four toothpicks to anchor the seed halfway in the water. Add redwood bark or mulch to the base to maintain their optimum PH of 6 to 6.5. Water frequently and keep the soil moist, but not soggy. Put in a sunny place, the sunnier the better. When it’s about 12 inches tall, cut it back to six inches to encourage bushiness. If you have the space, you can transplant to the garden. Keep in mind avocado trees grow to 20-40 feet but you can keep them smaller in containers. It may take several years to bear fruit, if it bears at all. I once grew a thirty-foot avocado tree at a former house and had to beat the bark to get it to produce avocadoes. The crop was so colossal that neighbors nicknamed me Guacamole Mama. With the high price of avocadoes today, I’d sure like to have that that exotic fruit tree now. Have fun-this is a delicious and rewarding experiment and one to share with other young gardeners as it is easy and low-maintenance.


Postscript: This request from Brian came to me a while ago. Recently he invited me to visit his “guacomole” tree, now living in a half wine barrel and has grown to several feet! (see photo). I definitely recommend trying this with children as a very fun project!

Cynthia Brian-wild flowers

©2014 Cynthia Brian

The Goddess Gardener



I am available as a speaker, designer, and consultant.

Cynthia will answer one or more questions every other issue as space allows. Email your comments or questions to Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com 

Cynthia Brian’s Gardening Guide for February

Posted by Editor on
Cynthia Brian’s Gardening Guide for February
cynthia love large
“To me every hour of the day and night is an unspeakably perfect miracle.”  
                                  ~ Walt Whitman
Despite Valentine’s Day, familial birthdays, and President Day holidays, the second month of the year is notoriously my least favorite on the calendar because of wintery weather. This year, however, sunshine has been the mainstay for weeks and now I find myself preoccupied with the looming drought. A few days ago on the morning of my Mother’s birthday, minutes before she left to celebrate her big day at a luncheon, we were on the phone lamenting the lack of water and the dire forecast for our newly planted vineyards. Two miles from our farm, a laborer’s truck slammed into her at full speed. Her car flipped, hit a tree, and rolled into a ditch. Both vehicles were totaled. It was a miracle that everyone survived the collision with only minor cuts and bruises. At that moment, we rejoiced for the lack of rain else that creek might have been rushing and the outcome of the accident may have differed. Although sore, my Mom was back digging in her garden the next day, despite stitches in her arm and wearing a sling. Life is precious and it’s important to appreciate every second. Rain, shine, freeze, or drought, we are all in the circle of life together. February is our reminder of the importance of uttering “I love you” often. I love you.
  • ⎫ RE-THINK your garden for the year by planning for drought and fire resistant plants. Sage, lavender, ice plant, bulbs, natives, and succulents will add beauty, fragrance, and form with little water.
  • ⎫ REFRAIN from pruning any freeze damaged plants. Wait until all danger has passed, usually the end of March.
  • ⎫ SPRAY fruit trees and roses with a final dose of horticultural oil mixed with water. The oil kills most mites, insect eggs, scale, and insects.
  • ⎫ REMOVE up to 87% of household pollutants by adding houseplants to your interior spaces as air filters. Plants pump life giving oxygen and moisture through their breathing. Consider fuss free Chinese evergreen, sanseviera (aka snake plant), or a desktop sago palm, all tolerant of low light and dry conditions.
  • ⎫ EMBRACE the tangy flavor of kumquats by planting a small tree in a large container by your kitchen. Bright shiny leaves with a citrus fragrance and tiny fruit that taste like a cross between sour limes and tangerines await. Kumquats are an exotic addition to mixed drinks and pies.
  • ⎫ ADMIRE the structure and architecture of your trees, both deciduous and evergreen, surrounding your property. When you get up close and personal, you’ll find beauty in their winter wardrobes.
  • ⎫ VISIT the UC Botanical Gardens in Berkeley, the third largest botanical garden in the United States with its well-labeled collection of over 12,000 taxa covering thirty acres, including many endangered species. Check out the botanical garden from the University of California Berkeley for information on special events.
  • ⎫ CONSERVE water by using gray water to irrigate potted plants. Unless we get rainfall soon, California will initiate mandatory rationing as opposed to the 20% voluntary savings.
  • ⎫ BRIGHTEN the garden with bergenia. Even after a freeze, bergenia shoots up pretty pink blossoms.
  • ⎫ MULCH your garden with at least three inches of organic matter to control temperature, fight erosion, and maintain moisture.
  • ⎫ SHORT on space? Vertical gardening and living walls offer effortless, space saving green environments providing privacy screens, ambiance, and health benefits.
  • ⎫ SHARE your love of nature with someone you admire this Valentine’s. Give a living plant that will remind them of your gift for years to come.
  • ⎫ INVEST in a canvas tote bag or other reusable bag instead of using plastic or paper. You’ll save trees and help eliminate pollution.
  • ⎫ BUY your firewood from local sellers. When you transport firewood from other areas, there may be invasive tree-killing pests hitchhiking on your load.
  • ⎫ WRAP tender plants and trees (especially citrus) with blankets, plastic, or bubble wrap when another freeze or frost threatens. The cold nights are not over yet despite the warmer days.
  • ⎫ INVITE our feathered friends to dinner by filling feeders. Pluck dandelions daily and put on a plate in place frequented by California quail. Your guests will reward your efforts by eating harmful insects.
  • ⎫ PRUNE ornamental grasses to twelve inches to encourage new growth.
  • ⎫ CUT branches of forsythia, quince, flowering pear, and other early blooming shrubs as the buds swell for long lasting interior interest.
  • ⎫ INVESTIGATE the new plants debuting in 2014 such as Ms. Mars sunflower, Candy Stripe verbena, and my personal favorite, the David Austin rose, Royal Jubilee celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.
  • ⎫ PLANT a salad bowl garden with greens you love to eat. A small patch of earth or even two or three containers within easy reach of the house will supply you with snippets of arugula, spinach, Swiss Chard, chives, radish, mustard, mache, and a variety of lettuces.
  • ⎫ PERUSE catalogues for open pollinated, heirloom, or other favorites of seeds, bulbs, flowers, and shrubs. Check out these sites for ideas:
  • ⎫ EAT apples for fresher breath and healthy bodies. Did you know that the French called tomatoes ‘pommes d’amour’ or ‘love apples’ because they were convinced that tomatoes had aphrodisiac properties?
May Cupid find you this February and shoot his arrow your way. Be grateful. Celebrate love. Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!
Cynthia Brian
The Goddess Gardener
Cynthia is available as a speaker and consultant.

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)

Follow by Email