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Hot, Hot, Hot!

Posted by Cynthia Brian on
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.


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:


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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.



Garden of Eating

Posted by Cynthia Brian on
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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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. 


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!


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.



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Pets, Plants, and Poisons

Posted by Cynthia Brian on
Pets, Plants, and Poisons

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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.
bee balm
pot marigolds (calendula)
lemon balm
canna lilies
magnolia bushes (need full sun, purple, pink, white)
star jasmine
ginger lily
African daisy
cornflower (Bachelor Buttons)
rabbit’s foot fern
sword fern
chervil (French parsley)
heuchera (coral bells)
Easter lilies
grape hyacinth
baby tears (stonecrop)
ice plant
crape myrtle
mahonia (Oregon grape)
scabious (pincushion flower)
stargazer lily
sweet potato vine
torch lily (red hot poker)

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 Felix Assivo on
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.


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.

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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.



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Drought Design

Posted by Felix Assivo on
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!


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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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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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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            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


            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.



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

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            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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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.

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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.



February Flora

Posted by Felix Assivo on
February Flora

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By Cynthia Brian

No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem.” Booker T. Washington

For the past two months,  I’ve been working on writing a series of children’s books, a bit of prose, a bit of poetry. But with the ubiquitous sunny days and warm temperatures, digging in my garden wins the race. In the past, February has notoriously been a drab and dreary month, but this year it is filled with fabulous flowers, unseasonal sunshine, and idyllic conditions for working outside. My Christmas cactus shines with fluorescent cerise blooms, the blazing blue of the rosemary bush host busy, buzzing bees, the viburnum is covered in masses of sweet-smelling white blossoms, and roses continue to bud and bloom.


Wood sorrel or oxalis already showcases bursts of buttery yellow flowers. These shamrocks don’t usually appear until St. Patrick’s Day. The purple-tinted flowers of the marvelous magnolia liliiflora, known as the tulip magnolia, suggest that spring may have already sprung.

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It’s mid-February and still no sign of rain. January was considered the driest month on record in California since 1895. Daffodils blanket the roadways and hillsides; ornamental pear trees are in full bloom with peach buds prepared to explode into luminous pink. Back in December when we experienced the atmospheric river and the record-breaking seventeen feet of snowfall in the Sierras, we had high hopes that drought conditions may be receding.. 

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Cynthia Brian’s February Gardening Guide

Here are some tasks to accomplish now.

ü  If you haven’t already, it is time to turn on the sprinklers and give your garden a deep drink. Check the sprinkler heads on lawns as grass tends to grow over them when not in use during the winter months If your irrigation system needs a tune-up, professionals have told me that winter is the ideal occasion to schedule appointments for repairs or installations. In the summer months, when we need to irrigate the most, specialists are swamped with emergencies.

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ü  Water in the morning to give plants the opportunity to dry out before night.

ü  Fertilize trees, shrubs, and ground covers. When it comes to fertilizers, people often wonder what N, P, K mean. N stands for nitrogen which stimulates leaf formation to give plants the luminous, healthy green. P is phosphorus which encourages strong root formation, aids in flowering and fruit set. K is for potassium providing disease resistance and hardiness to plants. The three numbers that you see on labels such as 5-10-15 indicate the percentage of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium that the product contains. This listing is required by law on all packages of organic, synthetic, and chemical fertilizers. Keep in mind that although nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are necessary to maintain plant health, there are more than twenty other nutrients needed as well. 

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ü  Get a head-start on pulling weeds while they are small, and the ground is malleable. Weeds harbor disease.

ü  Apply snail bait around plants that are susceptible to snails and slugs.

ü  Use an organic systemic insecticide around the base of roses to prevent the first flush of aphids. 

ü  Spray fruit trees, roses, and citrus with dormant oil to protect them from overwintering insects and fungal diseases. Copper Sulfate is approved for organic use and offers a strong defense against fungal pathogens. Be sure to follow all safety and application instructions, as copper is a potent control method, and should be used responsibly. Do not spray on windy days. Wash any citrus before consuming. Harvest tangelos, lemons, oranges, and limes as needed.

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ü  Check for mole and gopher activity. These rodents do not take a winter hiatus. It’s best to trap them before they reproduce.

ü  Complete pruning of roses, grapes, and berry bushes.

ü  Sanitize tools between use. Alcohol, bleach, or hydrogen peroxide solutions are recommended.

ü  Cut small branches of peach or crabapple to force the blooms for an indoor arrangement.

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ü  Plan an edible garden. What vegetables and herbs do you love the most? Find out what varieties are best planted from seed (arugula for instance) and what plants are better purchased in six-packs, quarts, or gallons. (tomatoes, in my opinion).

ü  Dress your garden with fresh mulch or chipped bark to maintain moisture, control temperatures, and minimize weeds.

ü  Add a rock dry creek to an area with run-off. 

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ü  Peruse gardening books and seed catalogs for ideas on what you want to plant. This season I suspect that we will be sowing seeds earlier as the soil warms.

ü  Repot houseplants. Remove dead leaves, add fresh soil, give them a sunshine retreat outdoors for a few hours.

ü  Enhance a corner of your exterior with a wall fountain and colorful potted plants.

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ü  Build a path or walkway that will integrate into the landscape and complement your home.

ü  Get outside to soak up the Vitamin D. Garden, stroll in a park, hike a trail, or walk the reservoir. Pay attention to the natural landscape.

ü  Check out the FREE Seed Bank at Moraga Library. Free vegetable, herbs, flowers, and milkweed seeds are available thanks to the efforts of the Moraga Garden Club, the high school all-girl Boy Scout Troop 401 and middle school Girl Scout Troop 33778. www.moragagardenclub.com

Although California needs increased precipitation, and we must all continue to be diligent in conserving water, I admit that I am enjoying springtime in February immensely. The hills are currently green, cows are munching on the plentiful grass, the air smells fresh, and the creeks are trickling. A bit of the winter bite remains as soon as the sun sets, and the moon rises. It is a lovely time to be outside expressing gratitude for Mother Earth. There is indeed dignity in digging in the dirt, and of course, it is what I write about so that our race will prosper and thrive through nature.

Happy Gardening. Happy Growing. 

Photos at https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1526/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Fabulous-February-flora.html

cynthia brian-grass.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.



How To Protect Your Winter Garden – Dos And Don’ts

Posted by Felix Assivo on
Health & Wellness
How To Protect Your Winter Garden – Dos And Don’ts

One of the most common winter gardening questions that people ask is whether significant temperature changes may hurt or kill decorative plants.

In most cases, the answer is no. Plants have the genetic ability to detect and adapt to changes in the environment. While warm winter temperatures promote development and blooming, chilly temperatures limit growth and hasten to blossom.

Plants are especially sensitive in the spring; when there are prolonged periods of warm temperatures and then out of the blue, there are nights with low temperatures well below freezing. According to the Property Buying Company a well groomed garden is a highly sought after feature.

Tips For Protecting Flowering Plants In Winter

While most plants can withstand harsh winter freezes, flowers on winter-flowering plants such as plum, camellias, cherry trees, and azaleas are not so lucky.

An extreme freeze can destroy swollen buds that are about to blossom. The damage may go undetected until the flowers open, at which point the damage will manifest as brown patches on the petals. In some instances, the entire bud may freeze and fall off the plant. Flowers that have fully opened will either transform into a sickly brown or drop to the ground.

Cover plants with buds or open blooms using an old sheet or a commercially supplied frost cover to prevent being disappointed by unattractive blossoms or losing them entirely.

Pro tip: Avoid using plastic since it can rapidly generate an oven effect when exposed to sunlight.

You may even fool Mother Nature by clipping the buds ahead of the freeze and taking them indoors to let them bloom. There is no need to put a protective covering if a freeze is anticipated before buds have formed.

Here is a list of dos and don’ts to make sure your plants withstand severe freezes so you can enjoy the blossoms of the many lovely winter-flowering plants according to invasive plant experts at Environet.

Winter Garden Dos

  • Don’t stop planting – provided the ground is soft for digging.
  • Mulch is your friend. It will aid in maintaining steady root temperatures.
  • Make use of compost. It enriches the soil with organic nutrients. Just make sure not to add more than three inches thick.
  • Don’t forget to water your plants. Watering ahead of a forecasted freeze helps plants, particularly annuals and potted plants, to survive a harsh freeze. Proactive hydrating allows plants to absorb moisture before the ground freezes, preventing water from reaching the root zone. Remember to water above-ground shoots and the roots.
  • Provide additional protection for potted plants. Cover them with frost cloth or other heat-retaining blankets, and place pots and other containers beneath the eaves or near the foundation of your house.
  • Take houseplants indoors. To get rid of hitchhiking creatures, thoroughly water the plants with an insecticidal drench and spray all sides of the leaves with an insecticidal soap that is safe for people and pets. Place plants inside in areas where they will be exposed to indirect, strong sunlight for at least five hours every day. As most houseplants do not actively develop in the winter, make sure you position them away from heating vents and drafts and hydrate them sparingly.

Winter Garden Don’ts

  • Fertilize. Winter is a time for garden plants to rest and go dormant. Forcing plants to initiate new growth before the earth warms in the spring not only disrupts their rejuvenation time, but freezing temperatures, ice storms, or even strong frosts may destroy sensitive new growth.
  • Skip your normal watering cycle. A once-a-week thorough watering will suffice during dry months when the ground is not frozen or covered with snow. Sufficient watering is especially important for new plantings.
  • Be concerned about bulb foliage. Daffodil leaves and other spring-flowering bulbs should be alright during temperature drops.

Fall in a Pot

Posted by presspass on
Fall in a Pot

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“Truth comes out in wine.” Pliny the Elder

“The people who give you their food give you their heart.”  Cesar Chavez

The fires and smoke have ravaged farms and vineyards throughout Northern California, including my family vineyards in Napa County. The grapes are plump, juicy, and ripe. Harvesting would normally be in full swing this month, but, sadly, with so much smoke suffocating fields throughout the region, wineries require red grape samples to be tested for smoke taint. 

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Smoke taint is concentrated in the skins and during fermentation glycosides break down, releasing the volatile phenols and smoky flavors into the wine. The result tastes like licking an ashtray. The damage is not detectable by looking at or eating a grape. It is only noticeable in the wine. Since white wine isn’t barrel-aged nor use skins, white wine doesn’t experience this smoke taint.

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The largest testing laboratory, ETS in St. Helena is swamped with results backlogged for weeks or, as some growers are finding out, over a month away. If a grower or winery is not a client, they won’t be able to process samples until November. By then the window for harvesting will be over. The grapes will be dried raisins, not suitable for pressing. 

What this means for viticulture in 2020 is that farmers may lose their entire crop and face increased financial hardships as the grapes hang on the vines. There may not be a 2020 red wine vintage as wineries are not allowing deliveries of grapes under contract until the lab results have confirmed an absence of smoke taint. Truth is always evident in the wine.

With the stifling smoke of the past weeks, my normal September gardening tasks have been placed on pause. I am sheltering indoors and suggesting to clients and readers to do the same to maintain health as smoke inhalation peril is increased during Covid-19.  But this doesn’t mean that I’m avoiding my garden. I’ve been asked to write another gardening book and am brainstorming in my library. And, I’m bringing the fruits of my labors inside to my kitchen while I chef it up. 

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“Oh, I can smell the sauce from here,” my charity collaborator and friend, Terry in Washington, emailed me when I wrote her that, to mask the smell of smoke, I was making my family’s traditional homemade spaghetti sauce with ingredients from my waning garden. My process reminded her of being in her Italian great-grandmother’s kitchen. 

With the intense sunshine and heat of the summer, tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers, and herbs are filled with flavor. Being Italian, neither my Nonie, Mom, nor relatives measured anything. A recipe was handed down throughout the generations by watching, doing, and adding “a little of this, a pinch of that”, lots of garlic, and several splashes of wine. We have always cooked by taste, adding spices as needed. Naturally, numerous “malfatti’s” or mistakes occurred, which oftentimes, were our greatest successes.

The best cooks that I’ve ever encountered have also been avid gardeners. Gardeners experience nature using their senses. Gardeners amber through a potager snipping, smelling, nibbling, feeling, and seeing with a profound sensitivity to the innate characteristics of each legume, bloom, or crop. Being an astute chef requires one to know how to mix and match fruits, flowers, vegetables, and herbs to enhance any dish, allowing the natural essences to imbue their zests and aromas. Food must look good, smell good, taste good, and be ultimately satisfying, making one feel good.

Autumn is harvest time. Besides eating our tasty produce now, it is also the perfect opportunity to can or freeze fresh crops to savor during the winter months. 

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What herbs can you dry or freeze:









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I prefer to freeze basil and parsley or make “sauce ice cubes” with those. The rest of the herbs, I dry, then store in labeled jars. 

Cynthia’s Italian Family Spaghetti Sauce “Recipe”

  •  In a pestle and mortar grind together oregano, sage, rosemary, and thyme. You can also use a blender if that is easier for you.
  •  Chop red and yellow onions and several cloves of garlic.
  •  Saute onions and garlic in olive oil until translucent.
  •  Stir in chopped mushrooms.
  •  Add 3 or 4 whole bay leaves and a handful of the mashed herbs.
  •  Gently brown meat (ground beef, lamb, pork, chicken) in the mixture. If you want a vegetarian sauce, skip this part.
  •  Cut 6-10 tomatoes into small pieces. Smash half of the tomatoes. Add cut pieces and the tomato paste to the meat mixture.
  •  Pour in red wine.
  •  Tear 4 or 5 basil leaves into pieces and stir into pot.
  •  Continue adding more wine as necessary. 
  •  Simmer at lowest heat for several hours until all the flavors have melded together. Turn off the burner to let sit.
  •  Sprinkle sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Optional ingredients include peppers or eggplant. To make a Puttanesca, add olives and capers. 

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The final sauce will be thick, rich, and delicious. Don’t be afraid to make this in advance as flavors are more delectable the next day. Freeze or can any extra sauce. (I always make a big pot and freeze tubs for later consumption.)

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Pour over spaghetti, ravioli, lasagna, or any pasta. Toss lightly to blend the sauce. Top with chopped parsley, torn basil leaves, and grated parmesan. Serve with crusty sourdough, a romaine lettuce salad, and a glass of sustainable, locally grown, aged, and bottled Captain Vineyards Petite Sirah. Finish off your meal with fall fruits: a bunch of grapes, tangy tangerine segments, crunchy Asian pears, and a few figs. Buon appetito.

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What are you harvesting in your garden right now? Do you have a family “Fall in a Pot” recipe to share with others? 

My Mom taught me that expressing love came from gardens and home-made food. My Dad taught me that farmers feed the hungry and wine is the nectar of the gods. Both gave their hearts. During these very challenging times as we pray that our California vineyards survive this ordeal, let’s toast to life with a glass of local vino and welcome fall with a pot of goodness from our gardens. 

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In my next column, I plan to be outside once again offering you guidance for autumn gardening. Until then, limit your outdoor exposure when it’s smokey and make sure to water your landscape deeply in the early mornings or late evenings.  Be aware that your containers may need a daily dose of H2O.  For the next two to three months until the rain begins to fall, our area is at imminent risk of fire danger. Be ready to evacuate. Read my article on what you need to know and do to be prepared. https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1414/Are-you-ready-to-evacuate.html

For a ZOOM presentation of, “Tips, Tricks, and Tonics in the Garden” join me on Thursday, September 17th, as I kick-off the 50th Anniversary of the Moraga Garden Club. For information on this ZOOM meeting, call Membership Chair Jane Magnani at 925-451-7031 for times to join in the conversation and presentation. I’ll be participating from my patio for a light, fun, informative, and hopefully smoke-free lecture. 

See photos and more:  https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1415/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Fall-in-a-pot.html

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Happy gardening. Happy growing.

Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, is available for hire to help you prepare for your spring garden. Raised in the vineyards of Napa County, Cynthia is a New York Times best-selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach, as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are!® 501 c, celebrating 21 years of service to the community. www.BetheSTARYouAre.org. Tune into Cynthia’s StarStyle® Radio Broadcast at www.StarStyleRadio.com.

cyntha brian with books SM copy.jpg

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

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



Sun, smoke, crape myrtle tree.jpg

Sirius is Serious

Posted by presspass on
Sirius is Serious


“When the ancients first observed Sirius emerging as it were from the sun…they believed its power of heat to have been so excessive that…the Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid.”  John Brady, 1813, a Compendious Analysis of the Calendar.

Forever the optimist, when I penned my last column, The Dog Days of Summer, (http://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1413/Digging-Deep-with-Cynthia-Brian-the-Goddess-Gardener-for-August-The-Dog-Days-of-Summer.html), I intentionally left out the part of the Old Farmer’s Almanac, 1817 that indicates, “Make both hay and haste while the Sun shines, for when old Sirius takes command of the weather, he is such an unsteady, crazy dog, there is no dependence upon him.”

In the last few weeks, we have witnessed the ravages of Sirius with thousands of lightning strikes causing more than six hundred wildfires, millions of acres burned, gusty erratic winds, radically unhealthy air quality, and ash blanketing the state. More land has burned in the last few weeks than burned in all of 2019. Death and destruction are the horrific aftermaths.

Our Napa County farm was amongst the blazing landscapes. Everyone living in the valley where our vineyards and ranch reside was evacuated, yet, with firefighters engaged elsewhere battling numerous other infernos, my brother stayed behind on his tractor to cut roads, create safety zones, and clear debris. The hills and pastures burned. He saved the vineyards, barns, and our family home.

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Between the brutal pandemic, perverse politics, sizzling heat, and suffocating smoke, we all have a reason to despair. To thwart a fire on my hillside, I have cut my dried perennials and annuals to ground level. The only beauty is offered by my faithful blushing naked ladies, lavender society garlic plants, and the passionflower vine that twines up my peach tree. The ground is parched. 

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As I was repairing a broken water pipe so that I could irrigate this arid field, my optimism suddenly resurged. Swallowtails flitted through the smoke-filled air searching for a colorful landing place. A hummingbird settled on my string of patio lights before nuzzling my pink jacobinia growing in a cement urn. A five-lined skink, also known as a blue-tailed lizard, perched on a nearby boulder completely uninterested in my cutting and gluing efforts.

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I completed my project, picked a ripe tangerine from the tree, headed for the hammock, and savored the juice as it dripped down my chin. Swinging, I contemplated my future gardening desires.

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This is the season to start making a list of what you want to grow for the forthcoming months. My succulent garden doesn’t need precipitation to thrive. Adding succulents to your want list is a smart idea.

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Bulbs are easy to grow and most offer yearly returns. Favorites to plant in late autumn for a spring showing include daffodils, tulips, freesia, ranunculus, hyacinth, Dutch iris, anemone, and crocus. Freesias are one of nature’s greatest gifts with splendid scents, a cornucopia of colors, and the ability to naturalize. Daffodils are probably the most popular and least expensive of all the bulbs. Deer, rabbits, and other critters won’t eat them, allowing their happy flowers to bloom for long stretches. When winter is nearing its finale, crocus will make you smile as they push through the soil to reveal their rich colors of blue, violet, yellow, and white. Treat yourself to a garden filled with tulips. You’ll want to buy your bulbs soon as they need to be refrigerated for at least six weeks before planting. For more impact, group colors, shapes, and sizes together in a swath. They are wonderfully interplanted with delphiniums, pansies, and other annuals or perennials for a very merry greeting. 

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After a traumatic summer filled with climatic extremes, sowing seeds for a bountiful harvest of late fall to early winter salad greens and vegetables is a welcome endeavor. 

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What seeds do you want? Try any of these for rapid results. Make sure to water regularly.




Swiss Chard











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With the seriousness of the sizzling Sirius and the dangerous air quality outside, stay indoors and peruse catalogs and gardening books to get ideas for fall planting. On Thursday, September 17th, I’ll be doing a ZOOM presentation, “Tips, Tricks, and Tonics in the Garden” for the Moraga Garden Club celebrating its 50th anniversary. For information on this ZOOM meeting, call Membership Chair Jane Magnani at 925-451-7031 for times to join in the conversation and presentation. We’ll keep it light, fun, and informative. 

Summer will soon be ending. This is an opportune time to check for sale and clearance items that you may want for your outdoor landscaping for next year. I have found great deals at  https://bit.ly/3aG6qOI including winter covers for patio furniture. As much as I love the heat, the chance of wildfires is omnipresent. Make sure to read my article on how to be prepared in the event of any emergency. This article could save your life. 


The Roman poet, Virgil described Sirius as “bringer of drought and plague to frail mortals, rises and saddens the sky with sinister light.” The veracity of his narrative has been realized in 2020.  The sea has not yet boiled and let’s hope the wine doesn’t spoil. I’m grateful to my brother for saving our ranch and thankful to the first responders and firefighters on the front lines of the flames.

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Now more than ever, we need large doses of humor, hope, and healing. Let’s employ kindness and empathy for one another as we prepare for planting autumn bulbs and seeds.  A bright and beautiful spring display is only two seasons away. Embrace optimism and gratitude. 

Photos: http://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1414/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Sirius-is-serious.html

Happy gardening. Happy growing.

Cynthi Brian hammock.jpg

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

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

Cynthia Brian books banner.jpg

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




Hot, Hot, Hot!

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Hot, Hot, Hot!

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Some Like it Hot!

By Cynthia Brian

“Summer afternoon — summer afternoon; the two most beautiful words in the English language.” Henry James

The blackberry bushes flanked the horse stables on my grandparents’ ranch. My grandmother was a genuine horse whisperer. She lovingly cared for a herd of adopted steeds and rode in parades in her fancy Western wear. She even trained the horse for the television show, My Friend Flicka. Together, after an early morning gallop through the fields and vineyards, she would give my cousin and me an empty pail and challenge us to a blackberry picking contest. Our reward was a big bowl of berries with fresh cream dusted with cereal. I adored my horse-loving grandmother and those luscious summer blackberries. 

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Although I’ve always treasured horses, I stopped liking blackberries when I started growing my own. The thorns are menacing, and the bushes sprout everywhere with their underground runners. In the heat of summer, my days are filled with pulling out blackberry vines from flower beds instead of picking fruit. But this year I have a bumper crop of big juicy berries in an area where I’ve allowed them to flourish. I decided to risk the scratches to re-live the free-flowing glory days spent with my grandmother riding horses and gobbling blackberries in rich purple cream. It’s a short season for blackberries and they like it hot.

Meteorologists have predicted that 2020 has a 75% chance of being the hottest ever recorded. The good news is that we grow many specimens in our gardens that thrive in the heat. The bad news is that the Artic is rapidly warming and climate change is sinister. We must strive to reduce our carbon footprint while we indulge in the summer flavors of favorite fruits and vegetables and the beauty of heat-tolerant blossoms.

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Unless you can water deeply and daily, August is not an optimal month to plant anything. But it is a month to enjoy the high-temperature lovers. Tomatoes, tomatillos, beans, peppers, eggplant, beets, zucchini, basil, and corn are a few of the vegetables that demand six to eight hours of sunshine to flourish. Summer fruits that require heat to ripen include peaches, pears, plums, nectarines, cantaloupe, watermelon, apples, blueberries, figs, and, of course, blackberries. Limes are the only citrus that require a blistering summer to be at their best. By growing your choices in containers, specifically tomatoes, peppers, and herbs, substantial sunlight can be guaranteed by moving the pots to different areas and watering when necessary. 

I have a pistache planted in a large ceramic cask that has already turned a vibrant red while other in-ground pistache trees are still a brilliant green. Crape myrtle trees, hollyhocks, and agapanthus pop into magnificent blooms when the thermometer rises. Lavender, salvia, sage, and roses grow vigorously in summer. Ubiquitous oleander and the common geranium beat the heat with a profuse of petals lasting until the cold weather begins. 

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As a child, the Four O’clocks lining our country road opened daily exactly at the prescribed hour. The ones that perennially sprout in my Lamorinda garden germinated from those ranch heirloom seeds do not live up to their namesake. My errant sun-worshippers open at 8 a.m. and close by 4 p.m. 

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Blissfully, right on cue, just as my hillside is looking drab, dry, and dismal, my Naked Ladies poke their long necks out from their mounds. Every year I delight in their ability to shimmer when most everything else is withering.

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The big question in the cauldron of August is when and how-to water. Just because a plant is drought resistant or heat-tolerant doesn’t mean it doesn’t get thirsty. To keep our garden healthy, we can’t under-water or over-water. What’s the secret? The optimum time to water is very early morning to prepare your garden for the day. The roots will retain the moisture and the plant will stay hydrated. Watering in the afternoon wastes water as it evaporates before it can saturate the soil. The evening is also a good time to water as long as the leaves have enough time to dry out. Watering at night encourages fungus, insects, and rot. Deep-root watering is always better than sprinkling. Adding three inches of mulch around all plants and trees will aid in keeping the moisture level correct while keeping the roots cooler.

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If you have a swimming pool, pond, or fountain, you may discover that honeybees appear to be suicide bombers this month. Rescue them. When it is scorching, bees search for water then return to the hive to let other bees know the location of the source. A group of fifteen or more may tap the pool surface bringing back the droplets to receiver bees. According to entomologists, the water is then deposited along the edge of the wax comb while bees inside the comb fan their wings to circulate the air conditioning. Bees prefer hive temperatures of 95 degrees Fahrenheit, so they like it hot, too!


August will be a sizzling month. Make sure you and your garden stay hydrated. Enjoy the fruits, vegetables, and flowers that relish the swelter. Pick a basket of blackberries, with or without horse-back riding. 

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Stay cool and enjoy a summer afternoon of hot, hot, hot!

Cynthia Brian’s Garden Product Tips


It’s important to frequent and support your local nurseries, garden centers, and stores, however, during the pandemic, many people are safely sheltering-in-place as much as possible. If you prefer armchair shopping with delivery to your home, these are affiliate suppliers that offer quality and satisfaction for almost everything outdoor and garden related.  Some have current sales and others offer free shipping with minimum orders. 

  •  High-quality gardening products including umbrellas canopies, gazebos, hammocks, furniture, and more with a 15% off sale through August 10th , Use Code SELECT15: https://bit.ly/30L5yUA
  •  An extensive selection of live plants, seeds, & gardening accessory products, plus trees, shrubs, fruit trees, perennials, & bulbs.


  •  Furniture and structures for both outdoor and indoor living including pergolas, bridges, gazebos, sunrooms, and birdhouses, plus a kids’ corner with play structures and more.


  •  Fountains, firepits, hammocks, carts, umbrellas, bird feeders, relaxation products, and more. https://bit.ly/3eXqNHU
  •  And if the pandemic will be ushering in a new baby in the family soon, congratulations, check out the gear, furniture, and décor at https://bit.ly/2WQv7lJ
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For photos and descriptions list https://www.cynthiabrian.com/home-garden-products

Happy gardening. Happy growing.

Photos and more: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1412/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Some-like-it-hot.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.

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

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




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