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Severe Storms + Additional 2023 Garden Trends

Posted by Cynthia Brian on
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Empowerment
Severe Storms + Additional 2023 Garden Trends

“Hope and faith flower from the cheerful seeds of the old year to the sprouting garden of the new year’s dawn.”

~Terri Guillemets

For the past three-plus weeks, Californians have endured intense storms (bombogenesis) with strong winds and extreme precipitation. Substantial atmospheric rivers caused flooding, mudslides, debris flows, and power outages. Rock-filled dry creeks are raging, trees have been uprooted, and many residences required sandbags as protection from the heavy showers.

 

I am grateful for the rain and only wish I had personal reservoirs and underground cisterns to capture the run-off as my barrels and buckets are overflowing. Despite the torrents, the drought is not over. We need more rain.

Weeds and seeds are sprouting everywhere. On my hillside, orange and yellow self-seeded calendula plants are blooming while poppy plants are peaking through the soggy soil.

 

I have begun weeding daily, even in the downpours, as the small seedlings are so much easier to pull. A regular reader and an Ambassador for the Fire Adapted Community program wrote me to encourage gardeners to start pulling out non-native, invasive, flammable, and difficult-to-control Brooms including Cystisus, Gentista, and Spartum while the soil is soft. For those big broom plants that are difficult to eradicate, local fire departments have a special tool available to lend to the public which will pull out these unwanted invaders, including the taproot.

The Garden Media Group’s Trend Report for 2023 suggests that age 100 will be the new 50. I like that idea, although it does seem to be a bit of science fiction at the moment. In any case, gardening at age one hundred will require raised beds to avoid having to bend over as well as provide a manageable height for wheelchairs.

This year, classic columns, statues, boxwood hedges, and iconic Greek gardens offer inspiration, especially with Gen Z.

 

Stone walls, archways, and olive trees are in demand. For a timeless arrangement, roses, agapanthus, cyclamen, and water-wise succulents are included in designs as key plants. A staple of Greek design is gravel gardens, excellent choices for large and small spaces, requiring minimal maintenance in drought times.

Arbors have graced gardens throughout history. They provide shade and add a focal point to any landscape design. Although Greek decor will be progressively popular, when considering an arbor, select one that will complement the style of your home and garden. Choose durable materials that will withstand the weight of vines.

Climate action is also addressed in the trend report. The first hardiness zone map was drawn in 1960 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The country is half a zone warmer since the last map was updated in 2012 indicating that the climate velocity of heat will increase 13 miles per decade. Our earth’s climate is projected to warm by an additional 11 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century. Planting climate-resilient trees will be one way to combat this warming planet. Reforestation produces clouds that cool the climate. Trees sequester and store carbon, conserve energy through their shade, decrease stormwater runoff, filter air pollutants, and reduce urban heat. It is critical to plant the correct trees in the correct places to increase biodiversity and resilient ecosystems. Hiring a gardening coach or arborist for specific zip codes will become increasingly important.

Orange is the designated color of the year. Orange has spiritual connotations deeply rooted throughout history. In Buddhism, it is the color of perfection and illumination. In Confucianism, it is the color of transformation. In Hinduism, Krishna’s dresses are orange. In Western culture, orange is considered earthy, amusing, exciting, and warm. It is also the preferred pigment for prison apparel. Showcasing plants with orange or terra cotta hues will be the rage in garden centers this year.

Although we don’t need to implement suggested trends, it’s always beneficial to understand what is happening in the world. With a new year ahead of us, we can plan how we want to spend the next eleven months and how we want our landscapes to look and operate.

Attract wildlife, especially birds, to your property by enticing them with native plants, trees, shrubs, and flowers. These will provide a consistent source of food throughout the year. Hang feeders, nesting boxes, fountains, and birdbaths to welcome these avian guests who will pollinate and protect your yard.

What’s happening on my property right now? Listening to the cascading waterfalls, thunderous creeks, and croaking frogs brings joy to my heart.

 

Watching the birds find shelter throughout my landscape indicates these feathered friends call my garden home. Newts and salamanders are frequenting my pond. My camellia tree is full of buds and blooming.

Pink Bergenia brightens the understory of shrubs. The thirty-seven-year-old olive tree boasts big black olives, although I am not planning on harvesting them.

 

The hillsides are carpeted with sprouts of wildflower seeds scattered in the fall. Sage and Madeira are dazzling companions.

 

The grass is emerald with new growth. Deciduous trees fascinate with branches of architectural interest. Lemons, limes, and tangerines knocked out of trees by the rains are gathered daily to use in the kitchen.

 

The ground is saturated and unable to drain quickly. Retaining walls, gravel walks, and sandbags are protecting my home from the deluge. Thousands of narcissi blossoms scent the air. The heavy pruning of rose bushes will commence soon.

 

Indeed, with the stunning storms, hope and faith flower from the cheerful seeds of the old year to the sprouting garden of this new year’s dawn.

I am grateful. Stay safe and weather the storms.

Happy Gardening. Happy Growing. Happy January!

Photos and more: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1624/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Stunning-storms-and-2023-Garden-Trends-Part-two.html

Raised in the vineyards of Napa County, Cynthia Brian 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. Her newest children’s picture book, No Barnyard Bullies, from the series, Stella Bella’s Barnyard Adventures is available now at www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store  For an invitation to hang out with Cynthia for fun virtual events, activities, conversations, and exclusive experiences, buy StarStyle® NFTs at https://StarStyleCommunity.com

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

https://www.GoddessGardener.com

Autumn Aromas

Posted by Cynthia Brian on
0
Empowerment
Autumn Aromas

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By Cynthia Brian

“Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day!

Every leaf speaks bliss to me,
Fluttering from the autumn tree…”
~Emily Brontë

 

When it rained this past week, did you smell it? The scent of earth mixed with fallen leaves and decomposing plant matter signals the transition of the seasons. On the calendar, autumn began on September 22, 2022, but it wasn’t until November that I inhaled this intoxicating aroma that brought back childhood memories of the end of harvest, jumping in piles of leaves, and blazing bonfires. 

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In just a week, it seemed that so many trees changed their wardrobe from vibrant green to sunset colors of amber, gold, red, bronze, and yellow. The “foliage show” is late here in California, yet it is glorious. As the leaves turn, they also drop, blanketing our landscapes with a marvelous source of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and nutrients that the soil craves.

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As much as you want to tidy your garden, refrain from raking the leaves into your green bin. Leave a layer of leaves on the ground to encourage the photosynthesis process in the natural circle of life. If leaves are too big, mow or cut them and add them to a compost pile with food scraps, lawn clippings, eggshells, coffee grounds, and other biodegradables. After a few months, you’ll have a rich mulch filled with worms and beneficial microbes to add back into your garden at no cost to you. When you add organic materials to your soil, you are providing food for the organisms that improve soil aeration and drainage while reducing soil compaction. The nutrients will release over time

As we inhale the delicious flavors of fall and experience the cooler temperatures, it is also time to perform tasks in preparation for winter.

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AUTUMN CHORES

ü  CLEAN patio furniture before storing or covering it for the season. It is especially critical to remove bird droppings left on your umbrellas, hammocks, or other furniture.

ü  TURN OFF sprinkler systems.

ü  CHECK for any irrigation leaks.

ü  LEAVE leaves where they fall, spread them around your garden, or add them to a compost pile. 

ü  FERTILIZE grass, especially when it is going to rain.

ü  REMOVE debris, sticks, and weeds from garden beds.

ü  PLANT cover crops to fix nitrogen. Fava beans, mustard, and clovers are excellent choices.

ü  PICK pumpkins, apples, guavas, squash, and any fruits or vegetables left hanging before frost and rain.

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ü  DIVIDE overgrown clumps of perennials such as daylilies, agapanthus, iris, or naked ladies. Move them to other locations or share them with fellow gardeners.

ü  COVER any exposed soil with straw, grass clippings, aged wood chips, pine needles, or even shredded newspaper to reduce weed growth, moderate soil temperatures, retain moisture, and reduce erosion over winter.

ü  BUY six packs of perennials including columbine, carnations, penstemon, and coral bells.

ü  BRIGHTEN your fall garden with pops of color from pansies, cyclamen, violas, Mums, stock, Iceland poppies, and primroses.

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ü  FIND favorite fall color trees to add to your landscape where selections are vast at your local nursery.

ü  SCATTER California wildflower seeds including poppies and lupines and sow seeds of sweet Alyssum, bachelor buttons, forget-me-nots, and milkweed.

ü  DEADHEAD roses for continued blooms during the holidays.

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ü  PRUNE dead branches from trees and shrubs. 

ü  BEWARE hungry coyotes have been on a rampage killing poultry, cats, and small dogs. Keep your animals and small children safe.

ü  ENJOY the many colors of lantana blooming throughout fall in purple, orange, red, white, and yellow.

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ü  GET READY to plant bulbs towards the end of the month for a spring show.

 

IN THE VEGETABLE GARDEN

During a cold winter, there is nothing better than knowing that you have organic, tasty, greens and vegetables growing right outside your door. Fall is the best time to get these nutritious edibles going for a bountiful harvest in the new year. Most of these plants prefer extra nitrogen. Side-dress them with a balanced fertilizer as they grow.

Plant seeds or seedlings of:

Varieties of lettuce

Asian greens

Spinach

Arugula

Swiss Chard

Chicory

Kale

Cress

Beets

Cabbage

Radish

Broccoli

Broccoli rabe

Carrots

Cauliflower

Kohlrabi

Peas

Turnips

Make sure to plant shallots and garlic now to harvest next summer.

 

NOT TO BE MISSED

Saturday, November 12th from 3-5 PM, I’ll be in-person reading, telling stories, and signing books from my new children’s book, No Barnyard Bullies, at Point Richmond Art Gallery, 145 West Richmond Avenue, Point Richmond, California, 9480. Families with children are welcome. If you have purchased an NFT from www.StarStyleCommunity.com, you’ll be given a gift.No barnyard bullies book signing.jpeg

Monday, November 21st at 2 PM, I’ll be hosting a “Thanksgiving is Every Day” celebration via Zoom for members of the StarStyle® Community. Buy a StarStyle® NFT today that benefits Be the Star You Are!® 501 c3 charity and participate in numerous exclusive experiences designed for members only. www.StarStyleCommunity.com

 

Although I don’t like the darkness that descends so much earlier when I still have so many chores to complete, I am reveling in the cooler days that allow for laboring longer with less strain. Digging in the dirt in fall bequeaths the most luscious autumn aromas…musty, musky, intoxicatingly earthy. I wish I could bottle it!

Thank you to so many readers who sent me notes of healing. You touched my heart and my spirit, and I am very appreciative. I am following my own advice. Each day anew…and a wee bit slower!

Go outside and breathe in the fragrance of fall and know that, as gardeners, we will be resting soon, along with Mother Nature.

Happy Gardening. Happy Growing!

 Photos and more: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1619/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-The-musty-sweet-smell-its-fall.html

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Raised in the vineyards of Napa County, Cynthia Brian 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. Her newest children’s picture book, No Barnyard Bullies, from the series, Stella Bella’s Barnyard Adventures is available now at www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store  For an invitation to hang out with Cynthia for fun virtual events, activities, conversations, and exclusive experiences, buy StarStyle® NFTs at https://StarStyleCommunity.com

Cynthia Brian'Growing with the Goddess Gardener book copy.jpg

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

https://www.GoddessGardener.com

Garden Safety

Posted by presspass on
0
Empowerment
Garden Safety

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Preventing Gardening Injuries

By Cynthia Brian 

 

“Do what you can for as long as you can, and when you can’t, do the next best thing!” Chuck Yeager

 

One of the many lessons I’ve learned from my forty-plus years in the entertainment industry is that the show must go on! Except for the Covid 19 pandemic, actors go to work despite any personal circumstances. I’ve put on my acting mask when I’ve had walking pneumonia, broken bones, and deaths in the family. I even left my hospital bed to shoot a commercial two days after giving birth. My new baby girl went to work with me!

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As a hands-on gardener, I have always pushed through the pain to get everything done on time.

Whether it was digging trenches, installing French drains, cutting dead limbs, building stairways, hauling gravel, pulling weeds, pushing a lawnmower, or planting twenty flats of ice plant, I did it with joy and with ease.

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Everyone knows that gardening is terrific exercise. The muscles of our backs, shoulders, legs, arms, thighs, and wrists get an intense workout.  Because of all the bending, lifting, and twisting (BLT), lower back and neck pain are common after a strenuous gardening chore. When I start aching, my remedy is to soak in a hot bath with Epsom salts. That usually works.

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Not this time.

 

Somehow this week I exceeded the limits of my body and ended up writhing on the floor with painful spasms beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. The spinal surgeon admonished me, “No BLT!” but as a gardener how can we eliminate bending, lifting, and twisting?

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I’m using voice dictation to write this column because I’m bedridden, and like in show business, publishing must go on. The photos included are not of injuries but joyful fall favorites. Because I don’t want you to experience a similar painful situation to mine, I’m including tips on how to avoid injuries in the garden. As soon as I heal, I will be following my own advice!

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Ways to Avoid Injuries in the Garden

 

1.     Wear appropriate clothing including sturdy boots, gloves, and a hat. My favorite piece of gardening clothing is an apron with pockets where I keep a few hand tools handy. Also use a support back belt.

2.     Apply sunscreen and wear sunglasses during the daylight.

3.     Prevent tick bites by treating your clothes with permethrin. I have had excellent success with buying clothing and sprays from www.InsectShield.com.

4.     Wear protective eye gear when operating any mechanical tool such as a chainsaw, weed eater, lawn mower, blower, or other machines.

5.     Before jumping into a big task, warm your body up with a brisk walk, jumping jacks, stretching, dancing, or gentle movements. When you have completed your gardening tasks for the day, perform simple stretches for five minutes. 

6.     Carry a bottle of water with you. Rehydrate often. It’s very easy to get dehydrated while gardening, especially on a hot day. Dehydration puts extra pressure on the cardiovascular system and can be fatal.

7.     Use the correct tools for each task to prevent injuries.

8.     Protect your knees with a cushion or knee pads. An old pillow that is washable works well for me. Move the pillow close to where you will be working so as not to stretch your torso.

9.     Minimize repetitive movements that put stress on one area of your body. Take a short break every 15 minutes. Stand, stretch, sit, relax, drink water, and breathe.

10.  Avoid BLT as much as possible.

a.     Bending: Instead of bending over to weed, sit on a stool or a bucket. Keep your back straight while you lean forward to pull weeds. Don’t twist to the side. Always move as close to an area that you want to clean as possible.

b.     Lifting: Protect your back by using your legs and hips. Stand close to the object you are lifting and spread your legs widely for added support. Keep your back straight. Bend with your knees, not your waist, and tense your stomach muscles as you lift. Use your core strength. Don’t bend forward as you lift. Use your knees and hips to do the lifting.

c.     Twisting: When sweeping, digging, raking, shoveling, and other chores that require using a long-handled object, minimize the strain to your back by keeping your posture aligned with the object. Don’t turn to the side or twist in any direction as that increases the strain on your back, shoulders, and neck. Pivot your feet when necessary and keep your body parts moving in the same direction.

11.  Listen to your body. Our bodies are wondrous miracles that usually warn us when we are overusing a muscle or doing too much. It’s natural to be a bit sore after a day of intense gardening. Know your limits and don’t go past them.  If painful symptoms persist or get worse, consult your physician.

12.  Remember tomorrow is another day. You don’t have to do everything on your “to-do” list in one interval. Gardening is a marathon that we can never outrun. Gardening requires patience. Spread tasks out over several days. 

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Gardening is therapeutic but can also be dangerous when precautionary measures are not followed. Be extra careful when using a ladder. Hire a professional to assist with tasks that you can no longer perform. Ask for help when needed. Make sure to get a tetanus shot as tetanus can be found in the soil. 

 

One of my favorite stories in my book, Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul chronicled a couple in their 70s who loved to garden but because of weakened muscular systems embraced Chuck Yeager’s quote. One morning when the wife spotted her husband lying flat on his stomach under an apple tree, she scurried to help. On closer inspection, she saw he had a trowel in his hand. Exasperated, she yelled, “What are you doing?” The husband replied, “The next best thing!”

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In my mind, I’m still in my 30s, but, alas, my body has aged. I, too, find myself doing the next best thing. This injury that I’ve suffered has taught me to diligently heed my own advice. There is a silver lining to my agony: Because the show must go on, I wrote this article to help you avoid my mistakes. 

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This is the next best thing!

 

Stay healthy, follow the safety protocols, ask for help, and observe Chuck Yeager’s advice: “Do what you can for as long as you can, and when you can’t, do the next best thing!”

 

Have a safe and happy Halloween. Make sure to VOTE to ensure democracy prevails. 

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Happy Gardening. Happy Growing.

Photos and more: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1618/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Preventing-gardening-injuries.html

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. Her newest children’s picture book, No Barnyard Bullies, is available now.

 

Buy copies of her books at www.cynthiabrian.com/online-storeFRONT COVER-NoBarnyardBullies 1080.jpeg

. Receive a FREE inspirational music DVD and special savings. For an invitation to hang out with Cynthia for fun virtual events, activities, conversations, and exclusive experiences buy a StarStyle® NFT at https://StarStyleCommunity.com

 

postcard-mean cookie NFT alone.jpeg

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

Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com

www.GoddessGardener.com

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Transplanting and Zoo Fun!

Posted by presspass on
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Empowerment
Transplanting and Zoo Fun!
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It’s All Happening at the Zoo

By Cynthia Brian

“It’s a light and tumble journey

From the East Side to the park;
Just a fine and fancy ramble to the zoo!” Simon & Garfunkel

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When the squirrels start collecting piles of acorns, and pumpkins, gourds, and squash adorn front porches, we know that autumn has arrived. With the cooler weather, we welcome fresh air and respite from the heat waves. 

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Besides gardening, I have always adored animals (thus, my new children’s book series Stella Bella’s Barnyard Adventures with the first book, No Barnyard Bullies). When I have an opportunity to meld those two passions together, my heart is grateful and invigorated.

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With my children and their families, I’ve been fortunate to spend time at both the Oakland and San Diego Zoos. 

 

Monkeys, giraffes, elephants, lions, alligators, wolves, bears, zebras, birds, and more exotic creatures from around the globe mingle in the lush landscapes. Ponds, streams, waterfalls, and lily pads add to the natural ambiance. Interestingly, and most likely on purpose, many of the species planted throughout both zoos borrow names from the animal kingdom: birds of paradise, lion’s ear, foxtails, leopard’s bane, zebra plant, snake plant, bear’s breeches, turtlehead, elephant ears, wolfsbane, goose grass, staghorn ferns, and many more. Walking through the tropical rainforest surrounded by tall, thick bamboo, delicate ferns, bromeliads, and orchids while listening to the calls of the wild transports me to my travel memories of tangled jungles and saturated rainforests in Africa and South America.

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Walking the many paths of both zoos is a great way to engage in healthy exercise while fully immersing yourself in the sounds and sights of global nature. Children are mesmerized by the beautiful beasts and enjoy many hands-on exploratory endeavors that contribute to their knowledge of the inhabitants of this earth. The atmosphere is happy and familial. It is all happening at the zoo.

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After a day of celebrating children, animals, and landscapes, it is time to regroup to consider what chores are looming in my paradise. I’m waiting for inclement wet weather to transplant the variegated shell ginger sent to me by the online plant nursery, NatureHills. Spring Meadow Nursery and Proven Winners want me to trial Bouvardia Estrellita and Tecoma Chicklet. Friends gave me a struggling rose in a container which I’ve resuscitated to glory with measured coffee grounds as well as avocado and banana trees. All will be moved to their forever homes as soon as the thermometer allows.

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If you have shrubs, trees, bushes, or other plants in need of transplanting, my suggestion is to be patient and wait until heat waves have passed and rain is on the horizon. After three years of record-breaking drought, California is bracing for a fourth year without adequate snow or rain. If we transplant too early in the fall, our plants may not survive.

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When the time is right for transplanting, here’s what you need to do:

1.     Gather the materials needed: gloves, shovel, wheelbarrow, tarp, enriched soil, mulch, and your plants.

2.     Pre-dig a hole before you take the plant out of the pot or move a plant from another location.  The hole needs to be at least 1.5 times the size of the root ball.

3.     If the shrub is large, cut it back by 1/3 before transplanting to save energy for growing.

4.     Whether digging up a plant or removing it from a container, keep as much soil around the roots as possible.

5.     If moving an existing bush, place it in a tarp or wheelbarrow to keep the root ball intact.

6.     In the new location, double-check that the hole is the correct size. If it is too small, dig it deeper. If it is too large, refill it with soil.

7.     Add a small amount of the new soil to the hole. Position the plant upright and straight and fill the hole with good soil, tapping down as you go to eliminate air pockets.

8.     When the new soil is level with the ground, add two or three inches of mulch.

9.     Water slowly and thoroughly. 

10.  Keep an eye on your new transplant to make sure the soil never dries out yet is not too wet or soggy.

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Now, back to the zoo. When you have a free day, consider a fine and fancy ramble to the zoo. The zoo offers a day of respite from the noise, congestion, and distractions of the concrete jungle. Visit an oasis of serenity and marvel at nature’s magnificence. 

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Mark Your Calendars:

Thursday,  October, 20th, Cynthia Brian presents Water Works to the Moraga Garden Club. https://www.moragagardenclub.com

Wednesday, October 26th, Starstyle® Community, the first NFT drop of one-of-a-kind art derived from characters in Cynthia Brian’s picture book, No Barnyard Bullies. Buy beautiful, collectible NFTs today. https://www.StarStyleCommunity.com

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Read about StarStyle® NFTS:https://blog.voiceamerica.com/2022/10/11/metaverse-meets-be-the-star-you-are-charity/

Photos and More: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1617/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Its-all-happening-at-the-zoo.html

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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. Her newest children’s picture book, No Barnyard Bullies, from the series, Stella Bella’s Barnyard Adventures is available now at www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store  For an invitation to hang out with Cynthia for fun virtual events, activities, conversations, and exclusive experiences, buy StarStyle® NFTs at https://StarStyleCommunity.com 

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

Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com

https://www.GoddessGardener.com

 

 

Fall Harvest!

Posted by Cynthia Brian on
0
Empowerment
Fall Harvest!

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By Cynthia Brian

 

“Delicious Autumn! My soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird, I would fly about the earth seeking the successive Autumns.” George Eliot

 

The sweet smell of the recent rain-dampened soil stimulated my soul. Although it wasn’t enough moisture to revive a parched earth, my brown lawn exhibits more strands of green. This short respite from the horrendous heat of the first part of September was a welcome beacon of the cooler forthcoming autumn. 

 

This surprise rainfall was also an indication that it is time to complete harvesting our summer crops before the rainy season begins. Nature has a way of informing us about the optimum time to pluck our favorite vegetable or fruit at its peak of flavor. Berries are plump, juicy, and deep in color. Apples fall into our hands the second they are touched.  Our noses lead us to the sweet smell of ripe Asian pears, our eyes shine when we see that perfect deep red tomato, and our ears listen for the hollow thump of a crunchy melon. We use our senses to identify the best time to harvest, including our common sense. 

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In my garden, because of the heatwave we experienced, many of my fruits are self-harvesting including apples, pears, and citrus. (Self-harvesting means that when the fruit is ripe, it automatically falls from the tree.) The challenge with self-harvesting is that the fruit bruises or gets dirt, rocks, or sticks stuck in its flesh. Cut out the blemishes, wash, and eat the rest!

 

To move forward with fall harvesting, 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 adds to their sugariness. 

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Harvesting Hints to help you pick, pull, and pluck a sampling of your garden favorites at the peak of perfection.

 

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

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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 them into salads. 

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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.

Pepino Dulce Melons: When you see the pink stripe and the fruit is about 2 inches in diameter, these sweet cucumber/melons are ready to eat.

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

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Fennel: Cut bulbing fennel at the soil line. Use the bulb as well as the ferny leaves in recipes. If your fennel has yellow flowers, save the seeds for your culinary recipes.

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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: Leave six to eight leaves of the kale on the stem when picking kale. Kale grows quickly and will continue to send out more leaves.

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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 to determine ripeness. 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. When rain threatens, pick your green tomatoes, and leave them on the counter. Most will ripen at room temperature. Whatever you do, never refrigerate tomatoes after picking or you’ll lose nutrients and flavor.

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Leafy greens: Nutritious leafy greens like arugula, lettuce, Swiss chard, and spinach continue to sprout. Harvest as needed to augment and accent your other edibles. The smaller the greens, the more concentrated the vitamins and minerals.

 

Keep in mind that the birds, squirrels, skunks, raccoons, deer, rabbits, and other critters are as excited about the fall harvest as you are.  They may start their feeding frenzy before your yields are at their optimum ripeness. Be vigilant and if necessary, gather your bounty earlier than expected.

 

The end of crop harvesting heralds the beginning of autumn as a time for rejoicing. When I was a kid growing up on our farm, a barn dance signaled the finality of the harvest and time to rest from a season of working in the fields. In our communities, we celebrate with festivals and fairs that are filled with family fun. Fall is a delightfully delicious time of year with the abundance of farm-fresh fruits and vegetables ripe and ready. Pick, eat, enjoy!

 

Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!

 

Photos and more: 

https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1616/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Fall-forward.html

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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. Her newest children’s picture book series, Stella Bella’s Barnyard Adventures, will be available soon. Buy copies of her books, www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store. Receive a FREE inspirational music CD and special savings. For an invitation to hang out with Cynthia for fun virtual events, activities, conversations, and special perks, buy a StarStyle® NFT at https://StarStyleCommunity.com 

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

Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com

www.GoddessGardener.com

Hot, Hot, Hot!

Posted by Cynthia Brian on
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Empowerment
Hot, Hot, Hot!

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By Cynthia Brian 

 

“What dreadful hot weather we have. It keeps one in a continual state of inelegance.” Jane Austen

 

In July 1808 when Jane Austen was thirty-three, the Central England Temperature series which dates back to 1659, recorded the 2nd hottest month on record with temperatures around the country reaching between 97-105 degrees. Following this oppressive heat wave, a thunderstorm so violent that hail stones were up to a foot long, destroyed structures, and killed people and livestock.

 

I normally adore hot weather. In the past, I was one of those people that liked it hot! Then Labor Day weekend 2022 happened! Wow! Throughout the many years that I’ve lived in Lamorinda, I don’t recall a time when temperatures reached 109. Friends in Southern California reported temperatures of 119 degrees. This excessive heat strained the power grids as people attempted to keep cool.

Throughout the United States and the world, horrific environmental tragedies are occurring including floods, fires, droughts, famines, heat waves, disappearing glaciers, and so much more with global warming and climate change accelerating. Scientists at U.C.L.A. and elsewhere are predicting a mega-storm in California in the next few decades that will be unlike anything anyone has ever experienced. They are calling it “the other BIG ONE” as it will be as destructive, deadly, and costly as any earthquake dumping over 100 inches of precipitation in non-stop atmospheric rivers throughout the state.

Yet today, suffering from extended heat and water scarcity, viewing our parched gardens, it’s hard to imagine a winter super storm. As a lover of nature and Goddess Gardener, I am acutely aware of the crisis we face. It is prudent to prepare.

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I am watering twice a week, less than the district water mandate of thrice per week. As I do my best to never waste a drop of H2O, buckets are maintained in showers and sinks, sprinklers have been checked, leaking valves repaired, my garden has been mulched, trigger nozzles are attached to every hose, and the driveway and patio are swept. Despite these earnest efforts, the month has been challenging to keep landscaping alive.

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You are not alone if your lawn is brown and crunchy. Mine is as well. I suggest applying enough water to keep the roots alive. When the rains come this winter (and let’s pray we get them without the torrential atmospheric rivers that we experienced last season), and with a bit of fertilizer later in the fall, your lawn will bounce back. It is ugly now, so patience is required. If you are tired of battling growing a beautiful green lawn in a drought, make sure to contact the water district as there are rebates for replacing turf with sustainable, drought-resistant landscaping.

Proven Winners has just asked me to trial two of their newest developments, 

Estrellita Little Star™ Bouvardia and

Chicklet™ Orange Trumpet Bush. I am always thrilled to test any new cultivar but because of the heat, I’ve asked them to not send the plant samples for a couple of weeks until the weather, hopefully, is cooler. If you are waiting to transplant, my suggestion is to postpone putting anything in the ground until the days are nippier, nights are warm, and rain is on the horizon. I currently have four big containers consisting of two avocado trees, a banana tree, and a red rose that need to be moved to their forever spot, yet I dare not attempt to replant them now. Last spring, I transplanted three avocado trees which perished during the summer heat even though I was attentive. Trees take three to five years to acclimate to their new environs. Timing the transition is tricky, yet imperative.

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My “hot” news is that my first children’s picture book, No Barnyard Bullies, based on true stories from growing up on a farm and adopting and rehoming animals, is published. I will be selling and autographing the first edition at the Pear and Wine Festival at Moraga Commons Park in the Be the Star You Are!® booth on Saturday, September 24 from 11-3 pm. Proceeds will benefit the arts, culture, and literacy charity empowering women, families, and youth. Our gratitude to Lamorinda Weekly and MB Jessee Painting for sponsoring the booth. Hope to see you there. For more information, visit Events at https://www.bethestaryouare.org.

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Read about No Barnyard Bullies:

https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1615/New-childrens-book-addresses-complex-issues-of-kindness-and-inclusivity.html 

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In this late summer weather, we may feel inelegant and perhaps a bit dreadful. It’s hot, hot, hot. But it could be worse…like a flash flood or hail stones as big as a football-. Stay cool, hydrated, and shaded.

Cynthia Brian’s Mid-September Gardening Guide

ü  Autumn is less than two weeks away. It is time to buy the spring bulbs you wish to plant. Visit your local nursery or order from catalogs for your favorite blooms:

Van Engelen Dutch bulbs: www.vanengelen.com

John Scheepers beauty bulbs: www.johnscheepers.com

White Flower Farm: www.whiteflowerfarm.com

Spring Hill Nursery: www.springhillnursery.com

Breck’s Direct from Holland: www.brecks.com

ü  Save Energy from 4 pm-9 pm as extreme heat is straining California’s grid.

ü  Water containers daily if the soil is dry. Test by putting a pencil or stick a few inches into the pot. If the pencil comes out dry, it’s time to water. If moist, skip it.

ü  Climate emergencies are on the rise. Heed these warnings offered by Lamorinda emergency services:

o   Sign up for alerts on your smartphone with the Contra Costa County Community Warning System- https://alerts5.athoc.com/SelfService/CCCCWS/Register

o   Include the CWS emergency notification number (925-655-0195) in your favorite contacts so you will receive messages when your phone is set to “do not disturb”. For directions on how to do this visit- https://www.lamorindacert.org/resource/cell-phone-do-not-disturb/

o   Know Your Zone! Contra Costa County is divided into evacuation zones. Knowing your zone will allow you to quickly identify your neighborhood’s evacuation status and know when it’s safe to return home. Find your zone here- https://cwsalerts.com/know-your-zone/  Don’t forget to save the information where you can find it in an emergency.

o   Review the Lamorinda Resident’s Guide to Wildfire Preparedness and Evacuation.  https://lamorindacert.org/evacuate/documents/LRGWPE.pdf

ü  Contact the water district to inquire about a rebate if you decide to replace your lawn with drought-resistant landscaping.

ü  Deep-soak established trees, especially if signs of distress are evident. Deep-soaking prevents roots from rising to the soil surface.

ü  Irrigate deeply early in the morning or as late as possible in the evening when the temperatures are cooler to minimize evaporation.

ü  Refrain from planting any new plants during a heatwave. Wait until mid-fall or whenever the days become cooler, yet the soil is still warm.

ü  Stay hydrated. Make sure your animals have plenty of water, too. 

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Happy Gardening. Happy Growing.

Photos and more: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1615/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Some-like-it-hot.html 

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. Her newest children’s picture book, No Barnyard Bullies, is available now.. Buy copies of her books, www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store. Receive a FREE inspirational music DVD and special savings. For an invitation to hang out with Cynthia for fun virtual events, activities, conversations, and special perks, buy a StarStyle® NFT at https://StarStyleCommunity.com 

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

Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com

www.GoddessGardener.com

Garden of Eating

Posted by Cynthia Brian on
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Empowerment
Garden of Eating

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By Cynthia Brian

“The gathering of salads, radishes, and herbs made me feel like another about her baby–how could anything so beautiful be mine?” Alice B. Toklas

The final month of summer is the most delicious time of the season when summer crops, especially tomatoes and squash are at their tastiest. Throughout the year I look forward to this moment when I can pluck sun-ripened heirloom tomatoes right off the vine, pinch a basil leaf or two, and devour the combination while working in my potager.

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Since medieval days, the French have been combining flowers, herbs, and vegetables in kitchen gardens called potagers. Still popular today, according to government surveys, at least 25% of consumed vegetables in France are home-grown. With the cost of fresh fruit and vegetables at an all-time high, many Americans are following suit and smartly growing their own groceries. 

Growing up on our farm, our edible gardens were expansive. Everything we consumed we either grew or raised, except for dairy products. Whenever we visited friends or relatives, we always brought vegetable garden platter.jpega box of freshly harvested goodies. Our meals were colorful, flavorful, and nutritious, making me a life-long advocate of continuing the tradition of growing my own organic crops and sharing the bounty with others.

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Everyone benefits from enjoying a little patch of earth; however, most people don’t live on farms with acres of land. The good news is you don’t need a hectare to grow your own herbs and vegetables. With limited space, window boxes, balconies, doorsteps, and porches become your personal, edible Eden.

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If you are wondering what is a potager or kitchen garden, the best description is that it is a place where you grow your own garden of eating. In other words, what do you want to bring into the kitchen? Fruit, herbs, flowers, and vegetables are all welcome in a kitchen garden. Kids are instilled with better eating habits as well as a love of gardening by giving them a small plot or pot to grow foods they want to eat. Whether you are a green thumb or a non-gardener, growing edibles in a container on your patio or deck next to the grill make the ingredients easier to use in your meal planning. Most people don’t want to hike out to the back forty to harvest a handful of chives. Ornamental edibles are gorgeous and entertaining as herbs, flowers, and vegetables flow seamlessly together, attracting beneficial insects to keep the garden healthy and in balance.

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Although it is too late this year to plant a kitchen garden for summer harvesting, the forthcoming fall offers the opportunity to plant winter crops. And by salivating now over the luscious summer offerings of tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, eggplant, and more, you can plan next spring’s planting.

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What do you need to grow a mini garden of tasty delights?

Containers: Anything that can hold soil and water will work well. You can purchase decorative containers in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors, and textures or you can recycle unlikely items for more of a unique design statement. I grow herbs and plants in old cowboy boots, coffee mugs, shells, wine boxes, teapots, toys, and even hats.  Drainage is critical, especially for any vessel without a bottom hole.  Add an inch of gravel or packing pebbles to the bottom of any containers to improve the drainage. Water damages surfaces. Provide saucers to prevent runoff staining.

Soil: Synthetic “soils” are best suited for growing vegetables and herbs in pots. Purchase pre-made bags or make your own by mixing sawdust, wood chips, peat moss, perlite, vermiculite, fertilizer, compost, or other organic mediums. Mixtures must be free of disease and weed seeds, be able to hold moisture and nutrients, be lightweight, and drain well.  Before planting, water the new soil thoroughly.

Sun: Growing herbs or vegetables requires sunshine. Make sure to position your planters in a non-drafty area receiving five to six hours of sun daily. A south, southeast, southwest, or west location is ideal. Most containers are easily moved from place to place. If very large or extra heavy, utilize the assistance of a hand truck!

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Seeds: Whether you choose seeds or small plants, you’ll want to choose herbs or veggies that won’t grow too tall or too wide and don’t have a deep rooting system. My favorites are parsley, mint, basil, chives, sage, thyme, dill, strawberries, and lavender. I have had success in growing tomatoes, eggplant, lettuce, cabbage, and peppers in containers on my patio. If you have vertical space on a balcony or porch, pole beans are fun while cucumbers and squash can be trained to trail. For great barbecue flavors, keep a wagon of herbs, specifically rosemary, within rolling distance.

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Water: Herbs and vegetables drown when water-logged. Water sparingly. Once a week during cooler seasons or in hot weather, once a day is sufficient. Poor drainage kills plants while wet leaves encourage disease. Be diligent. Feed once a month with a fertilizer designed for edibles. 

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My Asian pear and apple trees are overflowing with fruit this year as are all my citrus trees including lemon, lime, tangerine, and tangelo. Grapes are ripening and will be harvested next month. Miniature or dwarf fruit trees are available at local nurseries allowing you to grow your favorite treats in troughs or containers. Berries can be grown in barrels to boost your antioxidant quotient to fight disease and keep you healthy. 

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There is nothing better than plucking a few leaves from your aromatic herbs, ripe fruit from your tree, tangy berries from the bush, or any veggie growing in your personal plots to add flavor and health to your cuisine. Growing in the ground or pots near your cooking environment will decrease stress and improve your happiness quotient.  Your botanical babies are beautiful!

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Plant your own garden of eating today.  Enjoy paradise on a plate. Bon appetite!

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Happy Gardening. Happy Growing.

Photos and more: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1614/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Garden-of-eating.html

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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. Her newest children’s picture book series, Stella Bella’s Barnyard Adventures, will be available soon. Buy copies of her books, 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

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Pets, Plants, and Poisons

Posted by Cynthia Brian on
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Empowerment
Pets, Plants, and Poisons

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2
Digging Deep with Goddess Gardener, Cynthia Brian
Colorful African daisies. Photos Cynthia Brian

“Flowers have an expression of countenance as much as men or animals. Some seem to smile, some have a sad expression, some are pensive and diffident, others again are plain, honest, and upright.” ~ Henry Ward Beecher

And may I add . some are very poisonous!
Since I was a child growing up on a farm, I have adopted and raised every type of creature, both domesticated and wild. Dogs, cats, rabbits, squirrels, chickens, ducks, geese, cows, horses, sheep, ponies, deer, birds, pigs, goats and more roamed our barnyards. My family never allowed indoor pets, yet many of our animal friends followed us around our expansive gardens as we did our chores, sometimes nibbling on roses or gnawing on low voltage wires, but never getting sick. It seemed that our animals had an innate knowledge of what plant was poisonous and they stayed clear of the oleander, digitalis, hemlock, and hundreds of other toxic specimens.
Recently I was hired by a lovely client to provide a colorful garden design for the family’s backyard. The caveat to the project was that their sweet puppy ate anything growing. While we walked around the yard, the pooch did indeed sample everything. When I submitted my suggested planting list, I was confident that my choices would be fine with a plant-eating pet.
I was wrong. Several of my choices could have caused health issues depending on the amount consumed, potential allergies, or other matters.
In general, plants that are considered toxic or poisonous to people are poisonous to most animals. For example, although humans enjoy many types of mushrooms, there are numerous lethal mushrooms when ingested. If your pet nibbles on a mushroom in the wild, it must be treated as toxic. There have been instances where a plant that is safe for humans has been poisonous to an animal. Often, animals eat larger amounts of the plant resulting in a greater problem.
As I went back to the drawing board to research a list of non-ruinous flowers, it became apparent that contradictions and confusion reign. In one report, a specimen was listed as safe, and in another, it was listed as dangerous. It became important to investigate the Scientific name as well as the Family name. For example, 1,000 species and over 10,000 hybrids of begonia, Scientific name: Begonia spp., Family: Begoniaceae are toxic, while climbing begonia known as Rex Begonia, Scientific name: Cissus dicolor, Family: Vitaceae are fine. The health, age, and size of the pet as well as how much they devour is a factor in whether your pet will be affected. A website that is helpful as a guide for plants that are toxic to dogs is the ASPCA. Visit https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/dogs-plant-list.
After examining numerous sources and talking to experts, my recommendation is to check with your personal veterinarian before landscaping as your doctor knows your pet best. Many plants with no known toxicity could still cause an allergic reaction under the right conditions. The juice or sap from some plants contains oxalate crystals which are shaped like tiny needles that could result in irritation of the mouth, or in severe instances, cause swelling of the throat and breathing difficulties. Exposure to selected juice or sap could cause itching or burning dermatitis. Minor toxicity plants may not cause any symptoms or induce mild vomiting or diarrhea. Major toxicity plants could have serious effects on body organs such as the heart, liver, or kidney. Just as each human reacts individually to stimuli, so do animals. For this reason, a consultation with your veterinarian is advised.
Of course, there are other circumstances as well. Roses are considered healthy to eat for people and pets if they have not been treated with pesticides, insecticides, or other chemicals. However, a puncture wound from a thorn could cause irritation and pain in both humans and animals. Does this mean that we don’t plant roses?
It’s summer and tomatoes, peppers and beans fill many potagers. I’ve witnessed several friends’ pets navigating the garden munching the ripe juicy veggies straight from the vine. The leaves of tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes contain solanine which can cause gastrointestinal distress and a slow heart rate. The beans could cause additional gas while potatoes need to be cooked before eating. Do we not plant vegetables?
What about garlic and onions? Plants in the Allium family can cause anemia in animals. Certain literature indicates that plants in this family should not be given to pets. Yet, garlic has been a medicinal food for centuries. It is rich in nutrients that boost immunity to numerous ailments. Our family feeds our animals small amounts of raw garlic as an agent to deter worms and repel ticks. Our pets are always healthy. The level of danger must be weighed by you, individually for your animals in concert with the expertise of your veterinarian.
I’ve always considered goats environmentally correct weed-eating and fertilizing animal machines. If you’ve ever witnessed hundreds of goats clearing a hillside of blackberry bushes, poison oak, and a variety of tall grasses, it’s easy to believe that these ruminants can and will consume anything . and everything. Yet, there are over 700 species of plants that could cause toxicity in goats. Fortunately for them, their internal antenna steers them away from the poisonous plants unless starvation is a factor.
This is a curated list of “safe plants for pets” culled from numerous research. With that being written, remember that you and your vet know your pet the best, so make sure to double-check that your beloved friend won’t eat something harmful at home or while traveling.
alstroemeria
aster
petunias
bee balm
orchid
statice
rosemary
thyme
pot marigolds (calendula)
sage
catnip
basil
lemon balm
canna lilies
camellias
fuchsias
lilac
nasturtium
magnolia bushes (need full sun, purple, pink, white)
snapdragons
star jasmine
ginger lily
viburnum
African daisy
cornflower (Bachelor Buttons)
rabbit’s foot fern
sword fern
celosia
chervil (French parsley)
heuchera (coral bells)
daylilies
Easter lilies
gloxinia
grape hyacinth
baby tears (stonecrop)
hollyhock
ice plant
jasmine
crape myrtle
mahonia (Oregon grape)
plumbago
rose
scabious (pincushion flower)
stargazer lily
stevia
strawberry
sunflower
sweet potato vine
coreopsis
torch lily (red hot poker)
impatiens

Currently, my landscape is full of a stunning sea of swaying naked ladies. In the Amaryllis genus, this flowering bulb contains a variety of toxic alkaloids with the most prevalent being lycorine. Again, the lethality posed by pet ingestion is contradictory and the medical literature contains no pet-related cases reported. Fortunately, my pets are not interested in this flower, but if you have animals that are nature nibblers, exercise caution, not only in your garden but when out on walks or hikes with your animals.
Do your homework. Keep your plants and pets safe from poisoning. And in case I didn’t write this enough, talk to your vet!
Happy Gardening. Happy Growing.
Blue plumbago is eye-catching and safe for pets in the garden. Photos Cynthia Brian
Roses and snapdragons grow well together, yet roses have thorns. Photos Cynthia Brian
Sword ferns are excellent for shade gardens. Photos Cynthia Brian
Hollyhocks come in numerous colors and are hummingbird magnets. Photos Cynthia Brian
Canna of all hues adds a tropical flair.
The spectacular pink naked ladies grow in any soil condition.
Mahonia, AKA Oregon grape.
Muscari, also called grape hyacinth.
Cynthia Brian and bunny are blessed by a garden angel!
  Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, is available for hire to help you prepare for your fall 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!r 501 c3. Tune into Cynthia’s StarStyler Radio Broadcast at www.StarStyleRadio.com. Her newest children’s picture book series, Stella Bella’s Barnyard Adventures, will be available soon. Buy copies of her books, 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@Star-Style.com www.GoddessGardener.com

Digging Deep with Goddess Gardener, Cynthia Brian in May

Posted by rstapholz on
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Empowerment
Digging Deep with Goddess Gardener, Cynthia Brian in May

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By Cynthia Brian 

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to live on this beautiful and astonishing Planet Earth. In the morning, I woke up with a sense of gratitude.” –Earl Nightingale

In California, May reigns as one of the most colorful months of the year. Mother Nature has fully awakened from lingering winter doldrums to burst into bloom. The radiant combination of lush green lawns against cheerful vignettes of glowing, flowing flowers, trees, and shrubs is mesmerizing. Beauty, fragrance, and food beckon from every direction.

With appreciation, I awake each morning and fall asleep each night to the lullabies from a multitude of songbirds. Pollinators are busy buzzing from nectar plants to other food sources signaling a healthy garden environment. The succession of blossoms changes daily from spring bulbs to robust roses; bright bearded iris to sprouted seeds scattered last fall. 

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May is the optimum time to plant annuals, vegetables, and herbs together in a potager garden. By combining a medley of edibles and florals, biological pest control is ignited providing plants to protect one another and be a shelter for beneficial insects. Nasturtium, calendula, and marigolds are the colorful workhorses attracting hungry caterpillars and blackflies away from brassicas and beans. Garlic planted between roses, lettuce, potatoes, or even fruit trees will keep the aphids, Japanese beetles, and ermine moths at bay. Parsley attracts pollinators and protectors of tomatoes. Mint deters ants and aphids but make sure to plant in a pot as mint can overtake an entire garden. Before planting, weed thoroughly, enrich the soil with compost or add new soil, and rotate crops to maintain vigor while producing greater yields.

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Jerusalem star, also known as go-to-bed early, vegetable oyster, or salsify is considered an invasive weed in some areas, but this dandelion-related plant is a forgotten beloved Victorian-era edible that tastes like an oyster and grows like a carrot. Its yellow-flowering relative is named goats beard. The taproot grows to twelve inches into the ground. Harvest with care to not break the root. In the kitchen, salsify is versatile and delicious in soups, stews, bisques, casseroles, or grated like beets in a salad for a fresh seafood/artichoke flavor. The entire plant has been used medicinally. 

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Be cautious of poisonous plants invading your vegetable garden. Poison hemlock is everywhere and is deadly if ingested. The pretty plant displays lacy and fernlike leaves with very delicate white flowers. A member of the carrot family, it is often mistaken for Queen Anne’s lace, a less- lethal specimen. The best way to identify poison hemlock is to look at the stems which have red or purple spots or streaks. Its most poisonous alkaloid is coniine which causes complete respiratory collapse. Only mechanical or artificial ventilation can save someone who has ingested poison hemlock. Wear gloves and a mask to dig out the root. Don’t weed whack it or burn it as small particles could be inhaled. Socrates drank hemlock tea as his preferred method of dying. 

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The yellow blooms of the elderberry tree signal spring’s arrival, and people need to be aware of the toxicity of this beautiful tree. The stems, seeds, leaves, bark, and roots are all poisonous to humans containing a cyanide-inducing glycoside. The blue-black berries are safe to eat only after boiling for at least twenty minutes. Elderberry jam and wine are popular and include major health benefits.

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Foxglove, Digitalis purpurea, a spectacularly beautiful biennial plant, is extremely attractive to children and every part of it is lethal to humans. Compounds from this plant are used in heart medicines. Since they grow tall, five to seven feet tall, plant them at the back of a flower garden and keep them out of your kitchen garden.

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Besides getting my potager and vegetable garden installed, my latest fun spring project has been creating a living wall garden by using a decorative frame from Nature Hills Nursery that features a built-in watering tray and a reservoir for drainage. This instant wall planter is a step up from the DYI picture frame with chicken wire-filled moss that I designed several years ago. I added potting soil to the portrait garden, arranged a variety of succulents, attached a found turkey feather, watered, and hung it on the exterior of my house in the sunshine as a growing art piece. 

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Every day I am immersed in gratitude for the wonders of Mother Earth as I watch the procession and succession of nature’s bounty. Walk gently through your garden to enjoy the miraculous magic of May. 

The Goddess Gardener’s Gardening Guide for May

ü  FERTILIZE: If you haven’t already, fertilize trees, shrubs, rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, lawns, and ground covers while the days are warm, and the evenings are cool. 

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ü  FEED indoor plants

ü  BAIT for snails and slugs that will damage new seedlings with organic Sluggo. The active ingredient is iron phosphate. Corry’s Slug and Snail Killer contains 5% sodium ferric Exceda that is safe for pets and people and can be used on edibles. After eating the bait, these gastropods slink to their hiding places to die. Because both male and female mollusks lay eggs, one slug or snail can contribute to thousands of these pests terrorizing crops if not eradicated. 

ü  SPRAY roses, crape myrtle trees, and ground cover susceptible to aphids and fungal diseases.

ü  DEADHEAD roses as the petals fade to encourage continuous blooming.

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ü  PLANT annuals and perennials including zinnia, salvia, calibrachoa.

ü  ELIMINATE standing water from gutters, old tires, or saucers to reduce the breeding of mosquitoes.

ü  TRANSPLANT small trees, including fruit trees such as nectarine or avocado to the desired area. 

ü  MOW tall wild grass to three inches or less as a fire defensible space.

ü  COMBINE edibles and flowers in a kitchen garden with a variety of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, beets, squash, garlic, parsley, borage, nasturtium, calendula, roses, and marigolds.

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Happy Gardening. Happy Growing. 

Photos and more: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1606/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Spring-succession.html

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.

cynthia brian-pink roses.jpeg

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

Cynthia Brian books banner.jpg

Drought Design

Posted by rstapholz on
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Empowerment
Drought Design

succulent-fountain grass.jpegby Cynthia Brian

“That which surrounds you is within you.”

 

~ Karl Schmidt

Days of heat followed by days of near-freezing cold! Out of nowhere, a beautiful hailstorm covers the ground in white pebbles. The weather forecasts sunshine or cloud cover, but no rain in future days. According to the New York Times, the seven hottest years on record globally were experienced in the last seven years. The atmospheric river of December provided a respite and a hopeful prospect for drought relief. January, February, and March are traditionally the wettest months here in California, but this year, January and February were the driest in years and March isn’t looking much better. Maybe the Irish leprechauns will exert their magical powers to make it rain on St. Patrick’s Day!

DESIGNING FOR DROUGHT:

As I gaze upon my peach tree blossoms intermingled with crabapple buds blooming much too early, I admit that I am basking in this early spring. Although I am an eternal optimist that imagines positive outcomes, if we want our gardens to survive and thrive, we need to design for the drought. Here’s how to get started now to be ready for whatever transpires as the months warm.

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CHECK FOR LEAKS

Make sure that your outside pipes are insulated against freezing. Water expands when it freezes causing pipes to burst. Even a tiny 1/8 crack could spew 250 gallons of water per day. If you witness wet spots, water running along driveways, or puddles, investigate for a leak. Check hose bibs for drips, replace washers, and routinely inspect automatic sprinklers and connections.

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AMEND THE SOIL

The foundation of every garden is the soil. The ideal soil drains quickly while storing water. For drought toleration, add several inches of rich, organic compost to encourage deep root formation while trapping moisture. Make your compost by adding kitchen scraps, eggshells, coffee grinds, tea leaves, shredded newspaper, leaves, lawn clippings, fish bones, aged manure, non-diseased weeds, and other organic matter to a bin or pile. Do not use human, dog, or cat feces. Don’t disturb the lower levels of the ground to allow worms and micro-bacteria to do their jobs of aerating and feeding the earth. In a drought, double and triple digging techniques are not recommended.

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WATER WELL

            To stay healthy, most plants need at least one inch of moisture per week. The best way to save your plants as well as conserve water is to water deeply and infrequently.

The penetration of the water encourages deeper roots that are more resistant to drought conditions. A good rule of thumb is to water until the dirt has a hint of shine. Lawns and bedding plants require a drink to a depth of six inches while perennials, trees, and shrubs need closer to twelve. Plan to irrigate either early in the morning or evening when absorption will be maximized, and evaporation minimized. Just as humans rejuvenate from a good night’s rest, plants do most of their growing at night. Traditional overhead sprinklers can lose half of their effectiveness to evaporation, run-off, and overspray. Drip and soaker hoses are the best bets for deep soaking to the root zone. Soaker hoses may be covered with mulch making them invisible. When water is restricted prioritize rationing by watering: 

  1. Newly planted trees, shrubs, and perennials.
  2. Newly seeded or repaired lawns.
  3. Plants with exposure on windy sites or in sandy soils.
  4. Flowering vegetables. 

rosemary in bloom.jpeghttps://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1601/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Designing-for-drought.html

MULCH

            Three inches of much will insulate your plants from the heat, cold, and elements. Mulch keeps the ground cooler, maximizes water retention, reduces evaporation, and improves the appearance of your landscape. Mulch includes pine needles, straw, leaves, wood chips, bark, and even gravel. As it decomposes it becomes compost and enriches the soil. When that happens, it is time for a new top layer of the mulch of your choice.

 

WEED

            Weeds steal moisture and nutrition from neighboring plants. Pull or cut down unwanted weeds.

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STOP FERTILIZING

            If you plan to fertilize this season, do it now while the weather is still cool, and dew is apparent. Feeding while it is raining is the best prescription for plant wellness. If you fertilize without sufficient water, the roots will burn, and the plants will die. Fertilizing encourages new growth and new growth will stress your already stressed specimens. As the weather warms, refrain from fertilizing again until rain is forthcoming.

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PLANT FOR DROUGHT

I’m a big believer in bulbs. In our temperate climate, you dig a hole, plant, forget, then be awed when bulbs pop up and bloom. Daffodils, calla lilies, freesia, hyacinths, Dutch iris, and many others are all excellent spring-blooming bulbs that require minimal care and reap huge bloom benefits. For summer flowering, plant gladiolus, Naked ladies, agapanthus, Asian lilies, tuberous begonias, dahlias, iris, and canna. Succulents offer a magnificent maintenance-free drought investment.  Succulents come in many shapes, sizes, and colors with beautiful blooms and little water requirements. Sedums are spectacular as groundcovers or upright attracting bees and butterflies. Jade, echeveria, Senecio, haworthias, aconitum, and ice plant all have varied textures and attractive flowers. Unlike cactus, succulents don’t have thorns, making them a favorite for rock gardens.

purple freesia.jpeg

Don’t forget to plant edibles. A small four-foot by eight-foot bed can be planted with plenty of nutritious vegetables and herbs to feed a family of four. Decide what you enjoy eating and plant only those to avoid watering vegetables that you won’t consume. 

 

Surrounding me now is plenty of sunshine and within I feel sunny and bright. Yet, I’m counting on the luck of the Irish to bring a bit of Emerald Isle precipitation to the shores of California this St. Paddy’s Day! In case there isn’t that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, I’m designing for drought. 

yellow sedumsucculent.jpeghttps://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1601/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Designing-for-drought.html

Goddess Gardener Cynthia Brian’s Gardening Guide for March

ü  FERTILIZE hungry lawns to strengthen roots, resist cold, heat, and high traffic when weather is wet. This feeding will help combat the stress of drought.

ü  AERATE your lawn. The soil is compacted from winter rains and foot traffic.  Leave the plugs to add nutrients back into the grass.

ü  CONTINUE to protect frost tender plants

ü  POUR chamomile tea around the base of newly planted seedlings to eliminate fungus growth.

ü  CUT boughs of camellias to use in a bowl or arrangement. 

ü  PAMPER yourself with an exfoliating and moisturizing facial from your garden. Squeeze lemon juice from your Meyer lemon tree into a bowl and mix with lavender petals and ¼ cup olive oil.  Home brewed spa experience in 20 minutes.

ü  CONTINUE to compost, compost, and compost. This is the single most important ingredient of growing a great garden. Buy an inexpensive compost bin from your local waste service.

ü  SPADE six inches of rich compost into your vegetable garden in preparation for the next season’s plantings.

ü  SCATTER a canister of California poppy seeds for a carefree, drought-tolerant golden showstopper.

Happy Gardening. Happy Growing. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Photos: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1601/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Designing-for-drought.html

Cynthia Brian- Camellias.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.

BTSYA 3 book series.jpg

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

Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com

www.GoddessGardener.com

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