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Controlled Chaos

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Empowerment
Controlled Chaos

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Digging Deep with Goddess Gardener, Cynthia Brian

Controlled Chaos 

by Cynthia Brian

“When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.”~ Buddha

There is only one certainty in the garden: it is never finished. Gardens evolve, change, mutate, and metamorphose. A landscape that was once very ordered and manicured quickly turns into a tangled jungle without ongoing maintenance. With TLC, one can control the chaos to create a masterpiece.

The longer I garden, the more I enjoy the whimsical.  What appears at first glance to be an imperfect arrangement is often the most excellent of combinations.  Mixing the hydrangeas with the nasturtiums and heucheras adds an element of awe and wonder. Discovering a vintage stone angel sitting on top of a plow’s disk praying over the naked ladies, roses, salvia, dried nigella, and the silvery plecostachys serpyllifolia invites one to pinch a stem to smell the licorice plant. Wandering in a meadow filled with daisies, coneflowers, and perennial sweet peas rejuvenates the spirit.

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Yes, I have embraced the controlled chaos of nature.  Several years ago as an experiment, I planted wisteria, grapes, and pink bower vine on a pergola on my deck to see which of these three specimens would dominate. To my amazement, instead of choking one another, they have tangled together creating year-round interest. The wisteria blooms in spring and maintains green leaves until winter when it drops its leaves. The grapevines leaf out in spring, bear edible fruit in fall, change leaf color when the weather turns cold, then showcase bare bark for the winter months. My pink bower vine is perennially green displaying pretty rose-colored petals with a deep cherry center from early summer to winter. What was deemed to be a mishmash of plants resulted in a happily married and visually pleasing grouping.

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On my hillside, a mangle of chartreuse euphorbia intermingles with striped pink morning glory.  The chaos is palpable yet stimulating. My friend Michael Curtis’s garden is an exemplary model of perfection in controlled landscape chaos. Around every corner, one is greeted with a capricious element.  Stroll along Surprise Avenue, be on the lookout for a locomotive in the ivy, and giggle at the numerous street signs lining the paths. 

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Creativity and enchantment reign when you invite the unexpected into your garden planning. Once you have controlled your chaos, you will look up and laugh at the sky.

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Cynthia Brian’s Mid-Month Gardening Guide for August

  • WATER, water, water. August is one of the warmest months and it’s necessary to keep an eye on your containers and yard. If you see drooping leaves, it’s time to sprinkle. In the hot weather, you may have to water daily. 
  • ADD pea gravel, decomposed granite or spaced stepping stones planted with creeping thyme in the gaps for a permeable path with a Mediterranean appearance.
  • STORE herbs by drying them by hanging the stems upside down. For instant soup flavorings, chop finely, add the herbs to an ice tray with a small amount of water, and freeze.
  • DIG out dandelions from your garden and lawn. As long as you have not used insecticides or pesticides, you can add them to salads or stir fry.
  • ESTABLISH a wildlife habitat in your yard by providing food, water, shelter, and sustainability for the wandering and flying critters.
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  • SPICE your supper with floral edibles of nasturtium, calendula, violas, roses, citrus blossoms, dianthus, pansies, chamomile, and blooming herbs. Eat the daisies, but not the toxic flowers of tomato, potato, pepper, or eggplant plants. 
  • PLANT seeds of beans, carrots, radishes, and beets for a second crop to harvest in the fall.
  • FLUSH birdbaths and fountains regularly to maintain fresh drinking water for our feathered friends as well as repel mosquito larvae from hatching. 
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  • PINCH zinnias and chrysanthemums to encourage bushier blooms.
  • WASH your car on your lawn. Your car will get clean and your lawn will benefit from the extra soak. 
  • WATCH out for errant sparks from fire pits, barbecues, candles, and tiki torches. It’s fire season. 
  • DRIVE CAREFULLY. School is in session. Ask your children what vegetables they want to eat as snacks, then make sure those treats are planted in your garden.
  • SEND your college kids off to school with a potted plant. It will bring the outdoors in and provide oxygen to the brain.
  • EMBRACE the controlled chaos of your garden and enjoy the perfection of imperfection. 
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  • LAUGH at the sky. 

Happy Gardening. Happy Growing. Happy August!

Photos and more: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1313/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Controlled-chaos.html

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Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, raised in the vineyards of Napa County, 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 Radio show and order her books at www.StarStyleRadio.com.

Buy a copy of her new books, Growing with the Goddess Gardener and Be the Star You Are! Millennials to Boomers at www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store. 

BE StarYouAre_Millennials to Boomers Cover.jpeg Cynthia Brian'Growing with the Goddess Gardener book copy.jpg

Hire Cynthia for projects, consults, and lectures.

Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com

www.GoddessGardener.com

What’s Bugging You?

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Empowerment
What’s Bugging You?

bee-blackeyed susan conflowe.jpghttps://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1312/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Whats-bugging-you.html

“…many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth.” Charles Darwin

Twenty-three honeybees, ten lady beetles, five lizards, three frogs, and several spiders.

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Within two hours on a very hot day this past week, the rescue count from the swimming pool kept mounting. I was afraid to leave the water lest more of my garden friends would drown.  It’s summer and the flying insects, creepy crawlies, and slithering creatures are in abundance.  The ones I want to save are the ones that are our garden guardians. 

The Good Guys

Bees

We’ve all heard about the Colony Collapse Disorder affecting honey bees worldwide and the importance of protecting our all bees. Don’t confuse honey bees with carnivorous yellowjackets. Bees, bumble bees, and yellowjackets are all pollinators yet honey bees and bumble bees don’t attack humans unless they are stepped on, slapped, swatted, or threatened. They are gathering pollen and the honey bees are making honey while keeping our fruit, flowers, and vegetables reproducing. 

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Lady Beetles

There are over 450 species of ladybugs in the United States and they are voracious consumers of aphids, caterpillars, lace bugs, mealybugs, scale, whiteflies, and mites. Lady beetles are perhaps the most beloved of all insects and even though you can purchase them for your garden, they will fly away when their food level declines. An adult will eat over 5,000 aphids in her lifetime.

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Lizards

Don’t be afraid of these garden helpers. Lizards are carnivores, not plant-eaters. You are fortunate if you have lizards in your yard. They eat beetles, ants, wasps, aphids, and grasshoppers. They like to bask in the sun and also shelter under rocks or in the mulch. Predators to lizards include cats, snakes, and birds. 

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Frogs

Both frogs are toads are amphibians living on both land and in water. They need moisture to survive and prey upon snails, slugs, and other insects. However, if they fall into a swimming pool without a way to escape, they will drown. In one summer, a single toad may devour over 10,000 pests.  Some species will eat mosquito larvae. Like our lizard friends, pets, birds, and snakes enjoy them as a meal. Enjoy their choral music at dusk.

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Spiders

Fear of spiders is one of the most common phobias even though most spiders do not bite humans.  The two biting spiders with venom that can be fatal to humans are the black widow and the brown recluse. Spiders are not insects.  Spiders are arthropods as they have eight legs.  As happy hunters, they are excellent garden pest control managers, actually considered to be the most beneficial and efficient insect eradicator in our landscapes.  When you see a spider web, admire its delicate intricacy. Don’t destroy it. Inside your home, spiders are helping eradicate more invasive bugs.  Spiders don’t carry diseases like mosquitoes or ticks. 

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To keep the good guys attracted to our landscapes, eliminate pesticides, insecticides, and chemicals. Companion planting with a diversity of species will provide a variety of stalking and dining options. Offer shelters of mulch, rocks, small branches, and a water source.

The Bad Guys

Mosquitoes

Mosquito bites cause puffy red bumps that can itch for a week. Worse, mosquitoes are vectors for West Nile Virus that they transmit to humans. Empty any standing water around your garden and punch drainage holes in containers. Change birdbaths daily or add a re-circulating pump. If you have a pool or hot tub, keep it effectively chlorinated. Check for leaky faucets. It only takes a few days for larvae to mature. Vector Control is available at no charge to add mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) to your pond water.

Yellowjackets

Although yellowjackets do help with pollination, they are scavengers for meat and sugary food, disrupting picnics, summer outdoor activities, and barbecues. Never squash a yellowjacket. When crushed they emit a chemical that calls to other yellowjackets to attack. They build nests in abandoned burrows, in eaves, and bushes. Because their sting is so potent and painful, if you find a nest, call Vector Control for eradication.

Ticks

Lyme disease is one of the fastest-growing epidemics with over 300,000 diagnoses occurring annually in the United States. Summer is the most likely time to be bitten by a tiny deer tick. Ticks are parasites that feed on blood. They live in brush piles, leaf litter, lawns, tree stumps, ground cover, and stone or brick walls. They even have been found on picnic tables and benches. It’s important to wear tick repellent clothing when outside and after being outdoors, conduct a full body check, take a shower, and put your clothes in a hot dryer for thirty minutes to kill any ticks, then wash your clothes. (I know, it seems weird to dry first, then wash, but the heat of the dryer kills the ticks) Check your pets. Ticks can be hard to find and can linger in your hair, clothing, or pet fur. If you find a tick, don’t twist it or turn it. Use sanitized pointed tweezers to grab the tick and pull it straight out. Wash the bite, apply antiseptic, save the tick for identification, and seek medical attention.

The “bad guys” are on my ‘danger watch out” list. I’ve had three trips already to either urgent care or the emergency room with ticks lodged in my neck that required surgery to remove.  Mosquitoes are my nemesis inflicting gigantic, itching bites with bumps that last for two weeks or more. In the last year, I’ve stumbled upon three yellowjacket nests, suffering multiple stings on my hand and arms with swelling that abated after a week. 

The “good guys” I’ll continue to rescue as they are my garden “watchdogs” along with the numerous birds and hummingbirds that thankfully aren’t nose-diving!

What’s bugging you?

Plan a Picnic or Pool Party

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Empowerment
Plan a Picnic or Pool Party

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“There are few things so pleasant as a picnic eaten in perfect comfort.”  W. Somerset Maugham

Perhaps because I practiced interior design as a professional member of the American Society of Interior Designers (A.S.I.D.) for twenty-five years, or perhaps because my gardener mother always created gorgeous, casual, and delicious summer gatherings, my style of summer outdoor entertaining has always included color, surprises, and fun.  With the lovely warm weather, whether it’s throwing a blanket on the deck for an impromptu picnic or setting a stunning table for a themed get-together, dining alfresco is my preferred approach to feeding my guests.  

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My cues arrive in collaboration between my interior and exterior spaces. Since I designed my garden to be an extension of my home, the outdoor eating areas complement the kitchen creating an inviting flow from my interior décor to the garden rooms. Creating this sense of serenity and continuity is as significant to the outside of the home as it is to the inside. Before I plan my menu or my decorations, I meander around my garden spaces, investigating what flowers will be blooming during the fete and what fruits and vegetables will be ready for harvesting. I want to know what scents, textures, lighting, and colors will be on display on that particular day or evening. Once I’ve taken a few photos and made notes, the party planning begins.

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The goal is to always serve a menu filled with fresh, homegrown ingredients that honor the colors of the rainbow. Whatever is ripe in my garden at the moment will star in the meal. If I didn’t grow it, I’ll purchase what’s in season from a local fruit stand or Farmer’s Market.  Tomatoes, beets, arugula, carrots, peppers, eggplant, corn, cucumbers, watermelon, peaches, nectarines, tangerines, apricots, cherries, apples, and eggs are a few of my normal staples that will inspire not only the carte du jour, but my tablecloths, floral arrangements, and tableware. 

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If it’s a pool party, sturdy yet pretty shimmery plastic ware is essential as bringing glass near a swimming area is a major no-no. Making sure the lounge chairs have fluffy beach towels, the fountains are spouting or gurgling, and the planters are filled with colorful combinations of annuals are part of designing an inviting setting that encourages the guests to grab a drink, relax, and inhale the fresh air. 

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For a picnic on the lawn, experiment with an edible arrangement of herbs that can flavor the picnic fare served on paper plates. Basil, thyme, rosemary, mint, sage, lovage, calendula, and nasturtium are starters. Setting up a game of croquet offers a sense of play and recreation.

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For a more formal party, covering chairs with a gauzy material and fashioning a more extravagant centerpiece with roses or peonies adds elegance to the occasion. Besides serving wine, beer, or other beverages consider crafting an original cocktail to get the festivities rolling.

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Here’s a refreshing summer garden cocktail that I concocted for a girlfriend’s birthday that is both luscious and appealing. Measure according to your liking.

Summer Garden Cocktail (or Mocktail)

  • ϖ Muddle together watermelon and mint leaves. 
  • ϖ Add the juice of Meyer lemons and limes. 
  • ϖ Stir in a spoonful of honey. 
  • ϖ Pour into a pitcher with equal parts sparkling water and ginger ale. 
  • ϖ Add tequila or your favorite alcohol. (Eliminate the alcohol for a mocktail)
  • ϖ Stir and pour over crushed ice into glasses rimmed with salt.
  • ϖ Garnish with a spring of mint and piece of melon.Special patio party coctail.jpg

Don’t forget the kids! Make mocktails. When the three or four generations of our extended family gather, the little ones get excited shouting “picnic party, picnic party”.  We’ll paint faces, run around blowing bubbles, climb through nylon tunnels, splash in the pool, and dance to silly songs. A big mat or cloth is spread on the grass or the deck with platters of finger foods. The kids happily dive in for the feast. 

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String lights, candles in jars, patio heaters, and your favorite tunes all add to the comfort and contentment. Nothing is ever perfect. There will be spills, breaks, trampled flowers, bug bites, and burnt barbecue.  But that’s the splendor and unpredictability of partying in the garden.  As Erasmus said, “No party is any fun unless seasoned with folly.” 

Enjoy the dazzling days and easy evenings of summer with a picnic or pool party. Kick- off your shoes, slather on the sunscreen, don your sunglasses, and chill out. Summer is a time to slow down to appreciate being outside surrounded by nature. 

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Cynthia Brian’s Gardening Guide for August

STAY hydrated. Drink lots of water, don’t do garden chores in the extreme heat, and keep sports drinks on hand.

BE fire safe. Read how to landscape your garden to be more fire-resistant.  https://blog.voiceamerica.com/2019/05/21/firescaping-for-survival/

STAKE gladiolus as they tend to be top-heavy and fall over.

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DEADHEAD roses and other perennials to keep the blooms coming

CLEAN pruning shears with alcohol after each use.

CONTINUE weeding. Make sure to cut any dry, tall grass.

HARVEST fruit and vegetables in the morning for best flavor and nutrition. A few of the fruits and vegetables that are currently ripe are plums, peaches, apples, melons, tomatoes, cucumbers, beets, beans, corn, carrots, and zucchini.

PICK up any fruit that has fallen on the ground to prevent rodents, raccoons, turkeys, and other critters from invading your garden.

ENCOURAGE herb growth by pinching the tips. Use the cuttings in your recipes.

MULCH your garden to retain moisture and keep roots cool. Do not use gorilla hair as it is highly flammable. Keep all mulches moist.

SOW seeds of brassicas including cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, and kohlrabi for an autumn harvest.

PLAN now for autumn planting.

WATER plantings in containers daily if needed. The heat dries out pots quickly.

ORDER spring-flowering bulbs from catalogs including tulips, Dutch iris, daffodils, woodland hyacinths, and whatever else grabs your attention.

PLAN a picnic party. Re-live your summer camp frolics. Casual or upscale, the fun begins outdoors.

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Read more and view photos at https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1311/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Prep-a-picnic-or-pool-party.html

Happy Gardening. Happy Growing! 

Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, raised in the vineyards of Napa County, 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 Radio show and order her books at www.StarStyleRadio.com.

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Buy a copy of her new books, Growing with the Goddess Gardener and Be the Star You Are! Millennials to Boomers at www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store. 

Hire Cynthia for projects, consults, and lectures.

Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com

www.GoddessGardener.com

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Parks not Pills

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Empowerment
Parks not Pills

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“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul” John Muir

How often are you outdoors? Are you spending most of your time sitting in a chair staring at your computer screen? Do you feel lethargic, tired, and anxious? 

You are not alone and help could be right outside your door.  In today’s technological world, many people, including children, are increasingly living their lives indoors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20% of children (one in five) and 30% of adults (one in three) in the United States are obese. 

Back in 2005 when I was doing my weekly radio broadcast, StarStyle®-Be the Star You Are!® (www.StarStyleRadio.com) on World Talk Radio out of studios in San Diego, I invited author Richard Louv to be a guest on my program with his newest hardbound book at the time, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.  Before the program, we sat in the sound booth lamenting the startling facts that the average child of the day could identify TV personalities yet know nothing about bugs, flowers, trees, or nature in general. Kids were not outside playing as we did as children because they wanted to be plugged in and tuned out. His book and the interview have remained lodged in my psyche as a warning that we don’t want our child to be the last to witness the woods.

Fast forward to 2019 and although nature-deficit disorder is not an official medical disease, children and adults are more alienated from nature than ever before with increased attention difficulties, higher stress levels, poorer body image, obesity issues, and a plethora of physical and emotional illnesses. Pills have been prescribed yet people are sicker.

Could spending more time in nature be the answer to our woes?

Physicians throughout the ages have encouraged people to go outside more. Hippocrates wrote that walking was “man’s best medicine.”  To ward off aging, physicians in the Han dynasty suggested outdoor “frolicking exercises”.  In the 19th and 20th centuries, people were instructed to visit the mountains to enjoy the “magic airs” or “take in the waters” at a mineral spring to mitigate a variety of infirmities.

Science supports the fact that exposure to natural stimuli, especially gardening, lowers blood pressure, bolsters immune systems, reduces the levels of stress hormones, improves our disposition, increases confidence, promotes healing, lessens inflammation, minimizes obesity problems, and decreases our dependence on pain medication. 

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Besides having fun, a brisk walk in the park three or four times a week may stave off cognitive impairment for older adults. For kids, the exercise and fresh air of playing will help with maintaining a healthy weight as well as heighten their cognizance of the natural world. Community gardens offer people an opportunity to commune together to grow and harvest fresh food promoting better health. 

Nature is a healer. For me, my garden is my happy place, my refuge, and my innovator. I get all my best ideas for my endeavors while outside listening, watching, tasting, feeling, exploring, experiencing, doing, and being.  Right outside my office, a beautiful redheaded house finch perches on my gurgling fountain singing his heart out daily. The frogs croaking, the buzzing bees, the wind in the palms, the scent of the star jasmine, the rustling magnolia leaves, the beauty of blossoms, the trickle of the water, the cooing of the doves and the chants of the quail activate my imagination and soothe my soul. The repeated refrains of Mother Nature are my nurture and my medicine.

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It won’t be long before physicians everywhere will be writing prescriptions for parks instead of painkillers. Being in the outdoors inspires awe and wonder. We are blessed to have an abundance of open space, meadows, trails, mountains, and local parks where we can experience the tranquility and magic of the outdoors.

It’s summer. Nature is calling. Get up, get out, and welcome the fresh air. Spend more time in a garden or a commons. See for yourself how you feel.  Although I’m not a doctor, I am prescribing more parks instead of pills. There is no downside. 

“All my hurts my garden spade can heal.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Cynthia Brian’s Garden Goddess Guide for Increasing Health Through Nature

IMPROVE physical skills for kids by getting them to play outside more. 

BUY a supersize bubble wand and blow bubbles in the yard.

EAT healthier with a Mediterranean diet loaded with freshly harvested vegetables and fruits.

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SOURCE produce hyper-locally at your Farmer’s Market or rural fruit stands if you are not growing your own. Summer is the optimum time for the freshest fruits and vegetables with high nutritional values.  Did you know that the USDA defines purchasing local produce and food as within 400 miles of your state? Most food on the American dinner table has traveled between 1500-2500 miles according to the Worldwatch Institute meaning that nutrients and antioxidants have been diminished. If you really want to pack a punch with your food, you have options. Eating in season while growing your own or being part of a community garden is the number one solution. Frequenting farmer’s markets will reduce your carbon footprint and offer fresher alternatives. Or take a drive to a local farming community to purchase freshly harvest crops at road stands. This serves a dual purpose of getting you out into nature as an RX for better health and stocking your kitchen with food that will be delicious and nutritious.

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FLOAT bougainvilleas blooms as a creative centerpiece.

SOAK your tired feet in a bowl of warm water filled with healing marigolds and chrysanthemums. 

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COOL off on a cushion of green moss.

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EXPRESS awe at a dragonfly hovering on a reed in the water.

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ENLIGHTEN your perspective with a copy of Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. 

PICK chamomile flowers to make a soothing tea. Save some of the seeds to plant.

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INSTALL a birdhouse and a fountain to entice the songbirds.

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WANDER through a colorful succulent garden to see the various textures and forms.

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WONDER at the sight of a flower that you’ve never seen before.

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SOAK in the beauty of the delicate blossoms on a silk tree.

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GAZE at the clouds and be grateful for your health. 

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DRINK plenty of water to stay hydrated.

LISTEN to the sounds of our beautiful earth to experience calm.

Happy Gardening. Happy Growing! 

Photos and more at https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1310/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Parks-not-pills.html

Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, raised in the vineyards of Napa County, is a New York Times best-selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are1® 501 c3. 

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Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show and order her books at www.StarStyleRadio.com.

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Buy a copy of her new books, Growing with the Goddess Gardener and Be the Star You Are! Millennials to Boomers at www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store. 

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

Hire Cynthia for projects, consults, and lectures.

Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com

www.GoddessGardener.com

Sip into Summer

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Empowerment
Sip into Summer

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“As the scent to the rose, are those memories to me.” Amelia C. Welby

Cooler weather has bidden a sweet goodbye, and warmer days beckon us to linger outdoors. My garden is ablaze with blooms and the aromas of scrumptious scents. My daughter Heather Brittany, also an avid gardener, is visiting and wants to learn more by walking through the landscape with me.

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However, on this occasion, I am the student and she is the teacher as we stroll through the perfumed botanicals. Heather is a sommelier, a trained and knowledgeable wine professional working in an elite and innovative winery in Temecula. 

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With a glass of vino in hand and several varietals opened on the patio, she crushes leaves and pinches petals informing me of the subtle flavors we may be experiencing as we sip our way through the backyard. We pick nasturtium, rose, mint, mock orange, cherry, lambs ear, calendula, Nigella, lemongrass, fennel, various citrus, berries, and a sliver of an olive branch.

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We stick our noses in lilies, lavender, and jasmine, inhaling deeply. 

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We scoop a handful of soil and mulch to draw in the aromas of nature.  Rosemary, sage, thyme, chervil, parsley, oregano, and bay…I haven’t ever thought of them as essences of wine. At each stop, she encourages me to stop, breathe in, and imagine. “Touch the lambs ear.

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Feel the velvety finish of the Queen Elizabeth rose. Take a bite of fennel. Slow down. What do you see? What do you smell? What do you feel? What do you taste?”

I was born and groomed in the vineyards of Napa Valley where I learned farming and gardening skills from my parents and grandparents, yet I’ve never ambled in my private gardens equating my flowers and herbs with the wine I consume.

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Often I’ve been told that as a writer, I should be crafting the verbiage on wine labels. What has kept me from being creative in that format are some of the normal descriptions that I read on bottles. Leather, tar, asphalt, and tobacco are not ingredients that I choose to imbibe.  But here, in my garden, I understand. We luxuriate in the multitude of floral opportunities to discover the subtle notes of the fruit of the vine.

A whiff of a barnyard reminds me of my childhood riding horses, tending sheep, branding cattle, and raising chickens.

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Pine and redwood needles evoke the memories of Christmas. A shaving of St. Lucia nutmeg makes me nostalgic for Thanksgiving. Narcissus and jasmine are the smells of spring. The sweet stench of aged compost and sensational swathes of fragrant roses and perfumed lavender offer spectacular sights and spice to the summer garden.

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On our way back to the house we watch a small sparrow flit from my pine wreath at the back door. Upon careful inspection, we witness three tiny eggs nestled in a nest. We shoot a photo to remember our afternoon lesson. What a fitting finale from our spring into summer sipping expedition!

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Pour yourself a glass of Bacchus’s favorite beverage and walk around your garden indulging your senses with scents and memories. Slow down. What do you see? What do you smell? What do you feel? What do you taste?  Sip into summer!

Cynthia Brian’s Gardening Guide for June

PRUNE daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, bluebells, freesias, and other bulbs once the leaves have turned crispy yellow.

ADD companion plantings of Oriental poppies, allium, delphinium, daylilies, salvia, and peony.

pink peony.jpg

PHOTOGRAPH eggs in a bird’s nest, but don’t disturb the nest. The mother bird is alert and watching.

CELEBRATE National Pollinator Week June 17-23 by planting three new pollinator plants that will attract bees, butterflies, and birds. Try Nigella (love-in-a-mist), bee balm, and fennel.

DIVIDE perennials before the weather is too warm. Alstroemeria, hosta, yarrow, aster, and astilbe. Most perennials need dividing every three to four years to maintain annual blooms.

ALSTROMERIA.jpg

ADD three inches of mulch to your garden. If you have pine or redwood trees, gather the needles to mulch your roses, azaleas, rhododendrons, fuchsias, and other acid-loving plants. The mulch will keep the plants cooler and maintain moisture.

CONTAIN all mints in pots with saucers. Spearmint, peppermint, pineapple mint, catnip, and the rest of the mint family can easily become invasive when planted in the ground.

spearmint.jpghttps://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1308/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Sip-into-summer.html

DEADHEAD roses at least weekly to encourage continual blooming.

BAIT for snails and slugs.

PLANT annuals in blocks of odd numbers—three, five, seven, nine, or more to create a more natural and aesthetically pleasing look to the human eye. To achieve this, you can plant the same variety of flowers in each odd grouping, or you can create color blocks with several similar varieties.

CUT bouquets of alstroemeria flowers for two weeks of vase life enjoyment.

WALK through your garden to savor the scents of a variety of plants. 

PICK cherries as they ripen before the birds eat them all.Bing cherries.jpg

 

DO a second planting of beets, chard, beans, and radishes. 

radishes.jpg

LISTEN to the serenading of the bullfrogs as they seduce with their song.

REPEL mosquitoes by emptying all vessels containing even a few drops of water. Add Dunks® to ponds or non-circulating water sources. Citronella and lemongrass plants supposedly help placed on the patio.

POUR a glass of wine and decipher the flavors that emanate from the garden. 

COMMEMORATE any special occasion with a gift from the garden and include a copy of my book, Growing with the Goddess Gardener available at http://www.CynthiaBrian.com/online-store

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

CELEBRATE life with a “bonfire” in a spark shielded firepit.  Did you know that the word “bonfire” derived from the words “bone fire” because bones were burned to make lime to sweeten the soil? In years past, bone fires, or bonfires were beacons to guide travelers on land and sea. 

Happy Gardening. Happy Growing. Read more and see photos: 

https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1308/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Sip-into-summer.html

Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, raised in the vineyards of Napa County, is a New York Times best-selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are1® 501 c3. 

Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show and order her books at www.StarStyleRadio.com.

2017-Brian-show.jpg

Buy a copy of her books, Growing with the Goddess Gardener, Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul, and Be the Star You Are! Millennials to Boomers atcyntha brian with books.jpg

 

Hire Cynthia for projects, consults, and lectures.

Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com

www.GoddessGardener.com

FireScaping for Survival

Posted by presspass on
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Empowerment
FireScaping for Survival

pile of pine trees in yard.jpg

https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1305/Digging-Deep-with-Cynthia-Brian-for-May-FireScaping.html

“Some say the world will end in fire.” Robert Frost

A running crown fire came rolling down the hillside toward our Lake County mountain cabin, moving faster than any human could run. All exits were blocked. Trees vaporized.  Sixteen civilians trapped in the valley were being gathered in the meadow around our house. This acre of lush green grass would be the safety zone, everyone’s last hope of survival. Ninety firefighters had been spread out along the roads, trails, and hillsides in the fire’s path. Their orders were to stay put until the fire was upon them, then to light a backfire and escape to our meadow.

The energy released was a hundred times that of a normal forest fire, with an explosive force nearing the intensity of a small atomic bomb. Everyone prayed. My sister and her husband said their goodbyes. Death seemed seconds away. Besides being a farmer, our Dad had been Captain of our volunteer fire department for forty-six years. Dad built the safety zone.  “Daddy,” my sister prayed, “please don’t let us die like this.”

Then, almost imperceptibly, the roar began to diminish. The fire continued to rage for fourteen days in nearby canyons, ultimately burning over eighty-two thousand acres. At the time, it was the second-worst firestorm in United States history, the subject of national training videos for firefighters and showcased on an episode of the TV series, 20/20. 

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I chronicled this epic true story in my book, Be the Star You Are!® 99 Gifts for Living, Loving, Laughing, and Learning to Make a Difference. The chapter is appropriately titled The Gift of Survival. (First Editions available from http://www.CynthiaBrian.com/online-store). 

When a town called Paradise is transformed into burning hell incinerating everything in its path within twenty-four hours and becoming the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California and United States history, it is prudent for Lamorindans to make fire safety a priority.

A few months ago readers reached out to me asking if I would write an article on how to landscape with fire prevention in mind. They had contacted  their local Fire Chief to find out how to become a Fire Wise neighborhood. Being fire wise is dependent on everyone in a neighborhood being diligent about keeping their property fire safe because fires do not honor property lines. If one home’s landscape is pristine and the neighbor next door has overgrown bushes, brush, or low hanging trees, all of the properties become indefensible.

Firewsie-Orinda After-Beofre photo.jpeg

The area where I live is rural, wooded, and has minimal escape routes. Many of the plants and trees growing throughout our area are highly flammable including pines, cypress, cedar, fir, bamboo, acacia, juniper, Pampas grass, rosemary, ivy, arborvitae, miscanthus, and eucalyptus. Heat moves up and many homes are on hills. Fire speed and severity is stronger on slopes where vegetation management is crucial.

Just as there is no such thing as a deer-proof plant, a fire-proof plant is a myth. Under the right conditions, every plant will burn. Referring to a plant as “fire safe” means that it tends not to be a significant fuel source by itself. Some plants chemical compositions resist heat and combustion. It is critical to keep plants around our homes well maintained and pruned as a fire protection tool. The closer plants are to the house, the more care is needed. 

Firewise -Orinda After photo.jpeg

Firescaping is simply a landscape design that reduces house and property vulnerability to wildfire. While enhancing the beauty of the property, we surround the house with plants that are less likely to ignite and create a defensible space. 

Characteristics of Highly Flammable Flora

  • ϖ Dry and dead leaves, twigs, branches
  • ϖ Abundant, dense foliage
  • ϖ Needles
  • ϖ Low moisture foliage
  • ϖ Peeling, loose bark
  • ϖ Gummy sap
  • ϖ Leathery or aromatic leaves
  • ϖ High resin, terpene, or oil content
  • ϖ High, uncut or dry grasses

Characteristics of Fire-Resistant Flora

  • ϖ Hardy, slow growing plants that don’t produce litter or thatch
  • ϖ Native plants that are drought tolerant with internal high water content. Generally, California natives are more tolerant of deer and fire. 

(see Nature’s Natives: April 17, 2019, https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1304/Digging-Deep-with-Cynthia-Brian-for-April-Natures-Natives.html)

  • ϖ Trees with thick bark that restrict the growth of invasive shrub species and hardwood trees such as walnut, cherry, maple, and poplar are less flammable. Deciduous trees and shrubs are generally more fire resistant because they have a higher moisture content when in leaf, lower fuel volume when dormant, and usually do not contain flammable oils.
  • ϖ Supple, moist leaves with little to no sap or resin residue.
  • ϖ Low growing ground covers.
  • ϖ Bulbs.bright pink tulips.jpg

How to Create a Fire-Resistant Landscape:

  • ϖ Include fire-resistant features such as pavers, bricks, pavement, gravel, rocks, mulch, dry creek beds, fountains, ponds, pools, and lawns. Water features including ponds, streams, and pools can be helpful fuel breaks.
  • dry creek rierbed.jpg
  • ϖ Select high moisture plants that grow close to the ground with a low sap and resin content. (See an included list of plants, shrubs, and trees)
  • ϖ Maintain all plants and lawns. Clover, groundcovers, and grasses that are kept low and green through irrigation are excellent alternatives. Mow, prune, water, and space appropriately.
  • ϖ Leave space between plants.
  • ϖ Minimize the inclusion of evergreen trees within thirty feet of structures. Clear debris and understory. Have clearance of all trees within twenty feet of chimneys. 
  • ϖ Remove invasive species or swaths of flammable plants including ivy, rosemary, broom, and juniper.
  • ϖ Moist mulch, rocks, or gravel can be used for firescaping. (Bark and leaf mulch can ignite unless sufficiently wet. Usage not recommended near structures.)
  • ϖ When planting trees, identify the tree size at maturity. 
  • ϖ Prune trees carefully to remove the possibility of fire laddering.
  • ϖ Arrange plantings in clusters and islands, with those near structure being smaller. 
  • ϖ Consider the combustibility of decorative features such as gazebos, fences, sheds, porches, and junk areas.  Keep appropriate clearance to reduce the threat of burning embers.
  • ϖ Bare ground is not recommended due to soil erosion.
  • Lawn .jpg

General Rules of Fire Safety

HEED the checklist from our local fire departments to create a defensible space around your home.  To reiterate fire district recommendations:

  • ϖ Prevent embers from igniting your home by clearing leaves, needles, and debris from gutters, eaves, porches, and decks.
  • ϖ Mow grasses and weeds.
  • ϖ Keep your garden watered.
  • ϖ Prune tree limbs to keep the lowest branches 6-10 feet from the ground.
  • ϖ Reduce “fire fuel laddering” by not allowing bushes or trees to touch one another.
  • ϖ Keep combustible materials 15-30 feet away from structures.
  • ϖ Maintain your property and be alert for any fire danger.

Through proper plant selection, placement, and maintenance, we are able to diminish the possibility of ignition, lower fire intensity, and reduce the spread, helping our homes to survive the blaze.  A fire-resistant landscape reduces the risk to our homes while enabling firefighters a place to defend our structures.

Helpful Websites:

National Fire Protection Association: https://www.nfpa.org

Fire Safe Marin (We are not in Marin, but this is a great resource): http://www.firesafemarin.org

Pacific Northwest Fire Resistant Plants: http://www.firefree.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Fire-Resistant-Plants.pdf

University of California Cooperative Extension: https://ucanr.edu/sites/fire/Prepare/Landscaping/Plant_choice/

Las Pilitas Nursery (although this nursery is in Santa Margarita it has the best website that gives burn times for various plants. Plus it also has deer resistant information as well.)https://www.laspilitas.com/easy/deerfire.htm

Sign Up for Alerts:

Alerts for Your Specific Area: http://www.nixle.com

 

Sample Listing of Plants that are Fire-Resistant

(I reiterate, NO PLANT is fire-proof. Maintenance, pruning, watering, spacing, location are all extremely important elements for fire safety.)

Bulbs (tulips, daffodils, iris, hyacinth, freesia, etc. Cut stalks to the ground when leaves are dry)

California redbud

Sage

Penstemon

Heather

Fuchsia

Columbine

Columbine-cinereria.jpg

Thyme

Poppy

bearded iris and california poppies.jpg

Wild strawberry

Common yarrow

French lavender

Lilac

lilac begins to bloom.jpghttps://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1305/Digging-Deep-with-Cynthia-Brian-for-May-FireScaping.html

Coreopsis

Ajuga

California lilac

Society garlic

Alliums

Wild allium in bloom.jpg

Dianthus

Yellow or Purple ice plant

Creeping phlox

Lamium

Sedum

Succulents

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Veronica

Armeria

Agapanthus

Trumpet Vine

Daylily

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Heuchera

Hosta

Red hot poker

Lupine

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Delphinium

Echinacea

Lamb’s ear

Yucca

Roses

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Salvia

Evening primrose

Daphne

Boxwood

Rhododendron

Spirea

Dogwood

pink dogwood in bloom.jpg

Mock orange

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Azalea

Current

Viburnum

Horse chestnut

Liquid Amber

Honey locust

Crabapple

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Purple robe locust

Fruit trees (varieties of cherry, plum, pear, peach, apricot)

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Black oak

Hawthorne

Birch

Aspen

Poplar

Maple

Manzanita (prune without dead wood)

manzanita in bloom - 1 (1).jpg

Walnut 

Harry Houdini wrote, “Fire has always been and seemingly, will always remain, the most terrible of the elements.”  Use your common sense. If you need additional help, consult a professional. Contact your fire department for a Fire Wise walk.

Fires are in our future. Hopefully, we won’t require a green meadow safety zone for survival, yet we need to be prepared. Make firescaping an ongoing conversation. 

In the meantime, get out to weed, water, prune, and maintain. Do what you can to be fire safe.

Happy Gardening. Happy Growing.

See photos and read more: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1305/Digging-Deep-with-Cynthia-Brian-for-May-FireScaping.html

Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, raised in the vineyards of Napa County, is a New York Times best-selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are1® 501 c3. 

Cynthia Brian-Fire Garden Hat.jpg

Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show and order her books at www.StarStyleRadio.com.

Buy a copy of her new books, 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

Hire Cynthia for projects, consults, and lectures.

Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com

www.GoddessGardener.com

Donate to Fire Disaster Relief via Be the Star You Are!® 501 c3 at www.BethestarYouAre.org

fire.jpg

Nature’s Natives

Posted by presspass on
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Empowerment
Nature’s Natives

California poppy.jpghttps://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1304/Digging-Deep-with-Cynthia-Brian-for-April-Natures-Natives.html

by Cynthia Brian

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” Albert Einstein

Witnessed from outer space this spring, a pageant of splendor burst into bloom on hillsides, in fields, chaparrals, and desert environs. The “super blooms” of Southern California captivated hearts and cameras. Northern California is exhibiting a bountiful season of blue lupines, orange poppies, and gardens filled with flowers, just not to the degree of our neighbors to the south.

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Although weeds are described as plants growing where we don’t want them, weeds are in proliferation after our continual wet days. Wild cut leaf geranium resembles a ground cover when small with tiny pink petals, yet it is a weed that needs to be pulled before it scatters seeds. Hand removal of invasive grasses is also necessary as they create fire danger while outcompeting native flora for light, water, space, and food.

 

More than 18,000 plant species are native to the United States and approximately 6000 species are endemic to California. To be considered a true California native, the plants must have grown here before the late 18th century when the Europeans arrived. Our state flower, the California poppy, as well as lupines, fuchsias, and other “natives” were actually first cultivated in the gardens of Europe, yet we have adopted them as our own. We are blessed to grow numerous flora inhabitants from the Mediterranean that have acclimated to our mild four seasons and adapted to our clay soil. I have termed these friends, such as lavender and acanthus, “the new natives” as I like to include them in my garden designs. 

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Natives are drought tolerant after they have been established, although they will require water if the weather has been exceptionally dry. They are wildlife attractors bringing songbirds, lizards, salamanders, butterflies, frogs, hummingbirds, bees, and other pollinators into the landscape.  Minimal maintenance is required without dependence on pesticides or fertilizers. Top dressing all plants with mulch to maintain a constant temperature while reducing erosion and temperature fluctuations is advantageous.

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For year-round interest, select a variety of natives that bloom during each of the twelve months. Wildflowers are fussy as transplants therefore for a spring show, sow seeds in the fall to allow the winter water to promote a strong root system. Plants with tiny seeds can live dormant in the underground seed bank for 80 years or more depending on the optimum conditions to coax them above ground to flower, fruit, and set seed. 

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A Sampling of Favorite California Natives 

Trees, Grasses 

Oak 

Western Red Bud

Redwood

Sequoia

Pine

Cypress

Cedar

Fir

Yew

Willow

Alder

Aspen

Sycamore

Blue-eyed grass

Sedges

Rushes

Fescue

Reed grass

Wild Rye

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Shrubs, Plants, Flowers

Manzanita

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Ceanothus (California Lilac)

Sage

Currant

Fern

Lupine

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Columbine

California poppy

Heuchera

Dicentra

Brodiaeas

Blue Dicks

Morning glory

Clarkia

Wild rose

Wild grape

Clematis

Wood Strawberry

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Matilija Fried Egg Plant

fried egg poppy.jpg

Native Perennials to the United States

Milkweed

Echinacea

Black-eyed Susan

Butterfly Weed

Aster

Creeping Phlox

Bee Balm

Bluebells

Lobelia

Hydrangea

Acanthus

Gaillardia

Trillium

Coreopsis

Bluestar Grass

Honeysuckle

Switchgrass

Blazing Star 

Dogwood

Iris

Gaura

Trumpet vine

Elderberry

Blue eyed star grass mint.jpg

These are just a few of the thousands of natives you can discover at your nursery. A large variety of succulents and cacti are also available. It is important to remember that every plant is native to someplace. When choosing a species, you want to make sure it will grow well in your microclimate.

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Because natives have adapted to our land, they won’t struggle for survival. They are strong players requiring less work, water, and food as they work in harmony with our ecosystem. Natives are an advantageous addition to any garden as they support bees, butterflies, and birds, bringing beneficial insects and pollinators to our landscapes.

Cynthia Brian’s Mid Month Gardening Guide

BEWARE the tick. Ticks are attacking and they are not just on the deer. Keep your lawns mowed and the brush cleared.  Rid your yard of Japanese barberry as this invasive species is a haven for ticks. 

KEEP deer from nibbling your new sprouts by installing a nine to twelve-foot deer fence. Unfortunately, all of the natural remedies including soap, hair, sprinklers, whirlybirds, lights, and noise are not effective long term. 

RE-POT orchids in spring if they are root bound or the planting medium has broken down. Most orchids need to be repotted every two to three years. If you notice green root tips on plump white roots, it is time to divide. Re-pot in lightly packed fir bark or sphagnum moss using a container large enough to allow for two more years of growth.

DIMINISH spring allergies by always removing your shoes before entering your home.  Change your clothes, shower before bedtime to keep the pollen from gathering on your sheets. Ramp up your house cleaning efforts by dusting, vacuuming, and mopping often.

SHARPEN lawnmower blades for a cleaner cut. Stay off the grass if it has been raining as walking on wet grass damages the blades and the roots.

SNIP the flowers off bolting arugula, kale, lettuces, and other leafy vegetables to prevent the plants from going to seed. Add the flowers to salads, soups, and sauces or decorate your plates.

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MARK your calendars: 

April 21 is Easter. Fill baskets for garden lovers with my book, Growing with the Goddess Gardener available with extra freebies at www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store April 22 is Earth Day

April 28 is the Annual Wildlife Festival at Wagner Ranch www.fwrna.org/annual-wildlife-festival.html

May 11 is the Moraga Community Faire. Visit the Be the Star You Are!® booth to celebrate nature, books, and kids.www.bethestarBTSYA volunteers Moraga Fair-Cyn (1).jpg

 

Wishing you a hippity hoppity happy Bunny Day on Easter!

Happy Gardening. Happy Growing,

Read more and see photos at https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1304/Digging-Deep-with-Cynthia-Brian-for-April-Natures-Natives.html

Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, raised in the vineyards of Napa County, is a New York Times best-selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are1® 501 c3. 

cynthua Brian-tulip tree-lemons.jpg

Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show and order her books at www.StarStyleRadio.com.

Buy a copy of her new books, Growing with the Goddess Gardener and Be the Star You Are! Millennials to Boomers at www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store. 

BE StarYouAre_Millennials to Boomers Cover.jpeg Cynthia Brian'Growing with the Goddess Gardener book copy.jpg

Hire Cynthia for projects, consults, and lectures.

Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com

www.GoddessGardener.com

 

 

Mother Knows Best

Posted by Editor on
0
Empowerment
Mother Knows Best

wheel of fortune- cyn, nonie, heather.jpg

My mother said to me,

“If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general;

if you become a monk, you’ll end up as the Pope. 

Instead, I became a painter & wound up as Picasso.”

~Pablo Picasso

Aren’t Moms the greatest? 

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a world-famous ball bouncer because I thought I was fairly great at bouncing balls and catching them. My mother told me to go for it. 

Then, of course, I added to my “want to be” numerous times while both of my parents applauded my bravado. My hands were either always writing or digging in the dirt and I wound up as The Goddess Gardener!

Olivia Rose Austin (Ausmixture) .jpg

When I lived in France I had the opportunity to investigate the majestic gardens of the charming chateaus. The elegant gardens mesmerized me, especially Château de Chenonceau spanning the River Cher in the Loire Valley where females ruled the designs. But it was the gardens of Impressionist artist Monet that influenced me most. The first time I visited his Giverny masterpiece, a profusion of magenta, pink, and purple tulips augmented by white bearded iris greeted me. It reminded me of my time living in the Netherlands where fields of tulips thrived amongst the windmills. The color scheme was enchanting.

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After returning stateside, I determined to model my landscapes after Monet’s painter’s palette with plants that only reflected a variety of shades and hues of purple, pink, blue, and white. My Mother warned against such folly. “Gardens are filled with the colors of the rainbow. Just wait. Mother Nature will decide what’s best for your garden.” 

 

Of course,cynthia brian-books-events.jpg I didn’t listen because I had my mind set on a specific plan. I planted a variety of species that boasted my favorite colors including iris, gazania, lilac, wisteria, tulip, anemone, periwinkle, jasmine, ice plant, freesia, candytuft, azalea, camellia, fuchsia, rose, rhododendron, and more. For the first two years, my landscape did resemble an Impressionist painting. It was spectacular. azaleas.jpg

Then a seventeen-day freeze occurred killing most of my plantings. When spring arrived, many of the plants sprouted once again but this time they were yellow, orange, white, or red. The hybrids had reverted to their native colors after the freeze. Mother Nature was teaching me who was in charge.

I embraced my Mother’s approach to gardening to allow all the colors of the rainbow to shine in my garden. Soon the burgundy grew next to the orange gazania, and yellow daffodils sang along with the fluorescent pink ice plant. The effect has been stunning.

pink iceplant along path.jpg

 

My Mom also warned against invasive plants that mask as attractive: ivy, mint, Mexican primrose, vinca, jasmine, and the worst of which is Euphorbia esula, also known as leafy spurge.  All of these grow in my garden and I am constantly pulling, prodding, and attempting to keep these handsome, yet insidious species in check. 

fava beans flower.jpg

Although lovely mixed with flowers cascading from a container, in the ground, ivy climbs and chokes trees, killing them. Ivy is also a favorite habitat for rats. Mint is delicious muddled in mojitos and chopped into salads, but not so exciting when it spreads to your lawn. Mexican primrose with its dainty pretty pink flowers spreads quickly jumping into spaces where other plants are preferred. It looks dreadful when it develops powdery mildew towards fall. Vinca major (big leaf periwinkle) may take years to become invasive but with conditions of deep shade, it can smother the diversity of other plants with its very dense vegetation. Cut it back or pull out the stragglers. Jasmine has the most beautiful fragrance, especially in the evening. A few cut blossoms perfumes entire rooms, however, this vine twines around bushes and flora smothering the entire plant. It is critical to contain these plants and keep them in check by pruning and pulling out the ones growing in places you don’t desire.

lion fountain.jpg

Which leads me to the worst invasive in my landscape––euphorbia esula, commonly known as green spurge or leafy spurge. A single pot of euphorbia is charming with its magnetic chartreuse leaves and yellowish green bracts. The problem begins when the seed capsules explode sending seeds fifteen or more feet in the distance. If allowed in bare soil, the complex root system spreads rapidly both horizontally and vertically for many yards. In spring the plants grow three or four feet high, blocking sunlight, stealing the water and nutrients from other plants. Toxins in Euphorbia esula prevent other plants to thrive. Deer and rabbits won’t eat it, although goats and sheep tolerate it. The milky sap is a skin irritant to humans. If left unchecked, this invader will take over hills, dales, and neighborhoods.  The striking euphorbia esula encompasses a hillside, yet I am not willing to let trespassers into my formal beds. Daily I patrol and pull out the intruders. 

euphorbia is bloom-gazebo.jpg

A cavalcade of color delights me in my spring garden. Currently boasting beautiful blooms are bergenia, lavender, ranunculus, Dutch iris, bearded iris, rose, forget-me-not, daffodil, tulip, calla lily, California poppy, snowball, snowdrop, blue star, geranium, calendula, citronella, hyacinth, ice plant, wisteria, lilac, snapdragon, cyclamen, oleander, Jupiter’s beard, azalea, fuchsia, breath of heaven, camellia, hellebore, nasturtium, sweet alyssum, osteospermum, cornflag, clematis, mock orange, petunia, wood hyacinth, alpine strawberry, fava beans, and a plethora of other splendid multicolored species.

burgundy gazania -vinca.jpg

My gardener Mom was right about being inclusive with garden color and watchful for the expansion of invasive vigorous vegetation. It is always good to have a guide on the side. Mother Nature will always have the final say.

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I recently visited my daughter to help with her landscaping needs. When I asked her what she wanted me to plant, she responded, “Mom, you always know best!” 

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A Mother ‘s Gardening Guide for May from Cynthia Brian 

  • WARNING! Don’t buy Euphorbia esula no matter how much it captivates you, as it is not containable. 
  • BUY your Mother the perfect garden gift for Mother’s Day, Growing with the Goddess Gardener and receive a plethora of extra goodies that she’ll love. Visit http://www.CynthiaBrian.com/online-store
  • Back cover-Growiung 6 x 6 – Version 3.jpg
  • EMPTY standing water from any receptacle as mosquitoes are breeding including birdbaths and animal water bowls. Check rain gutters and storm drains. Stock ponds with mosquito fish (Gambusia affinis) which are free from vector control,
  • WEED while the soil is still moist, digging up the roots. The smaller the weed, the easier it is to pull out. Don’t allow the plant to go to seed.
  • REPLENISH mulch as it decomposes. Mulch deprives weeds and seeds of sunlight while enriching the soil. Add three inches to beds and keep a few inches away from tree trunks.
  • FERTILIZE roses with alfalfa meal to add acid to the soil. 
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  • PREVENT ants from protecting aphids around bushes and trees by using sticky barriers.
  • LEAVE grass clippings on lawns to provide nutrients and don’t mow when the lawn is wet.
  • VISIT the Be the Star You Are! booth at the Moraga Faire to pick up complimentary potpourri to celebrate Mother’s Day and buy raffle tickets for the opportunity to go to an A’s batting practice to meet the players. http://www.BetheStarYouAre.org/events
  • PATROL for invasive species and eradicate them from your yard.
  • ATTRACT beneficial insects and pollinators to your garden by planting swaths of aster calendula, California poppy, fennel, and Queen Anne’s lace.
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  • PREPARE your vegetable garden. Check your local nursery to buy edibles you enjoy, specifically tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant.
  • PLANT color spots of petunia, begonia, cosmos, and marigolds.

Wishing every Mother a month of peace, joy, health, and love. Thank you for being and knowing best!

Read more: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1205/Cynthia-Brians-Gardening-guide-for-May-Mother-Nature-knows-best.html

Happy Gardening. Happy Growing.amaryllis afternoon.jpg

 

Cynthia Brian

Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, raised in the vineyards of Napa County, is a New York Times best-selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are1® 501 c3. 

Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show and order her books at www.StarStyleRadio.com.

Buy a copy of the new book, Growing with the Goddess Gardener, at www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store. 

Available for hire for projects and lectures.

Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com

www.GoddessGardener.com

Weed, Feed, Seed

Posted by Editor on
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Empowerment
Weed, Feed, Seed

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“Nothing is so beautiful as spring when weeds, in wheels, shoot long, and lovely, and lush…” Gerard Manley Hopkins

While cleaning out our parent’s ranch home I found a book published in 1918 belonging to my grandfather. The title is The Herbalist by Joseph E. Meyer, 1878-1950.  The cover showcased a line drawing of an apothecary’s garden. The first page warns in big bold letters “Special Attention: The botanical materials, medications, and recipes of this book are not intended to replace the services of physicians.”

Being the major gardener and herbalist that I am, I was thrilled to discover this tiny tome filled with information that is pertinent over a hundred years after publication to those of us who love to grow our own food. After reading about the anatomy of plants, the epitome of botany, and the medicinal uses of plants, I excitedly went into the garden to find weeds to feed me. Then of course, it was time to throw seeds to beautify what will become my late spring landscape.

Since the rain and hail we experienced in March, weeds are ubiquitous. Before seeding, weeding is essential. If you like to be adventurous while consuming a nutritional boost, separate the dandelions from other discarded weeds. Dandelions originated in Greece and have been enjoyed as greens in salads or sautés for centuries. Dandelions provide calcium, vitamin K, vitamin A, E. riboflavin, and iron. The dried root is a beneficial home remedy as a diuretic plus dandelions inhibit inflammation.  Consider adding this food to your menu.

After a thorough weeding, it’s time to seed the garden with beautiful flowers and delicious vegetables. Always choose quality seeds. Plant seeds in the correct light situations. Refer to seed packets for information when the most auspicious planting window is and where the plants will thrive. Make sure to prepare the soil properly by weeding and composting or buy good soil.

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When planting indoors, choose a south or west-facing window to provide adequate light and warmth. Natural light is always best for helping seeds to sprout but you can always purchase grow lamps. Fluorescent tubes will work when placed two to four inches above the seedlings and left on for eighteen hours per day. If you are planting on a porch, be mindful of frosty evenings where you’ll need to provide heat.  Speed seed germination with a heat mat that you place under trays or containers and remove the heat mat once the seeds have sprouted.

A container for planting seeds can be anything that is at least two-three inches deep with a drainage hole. You can use milk cartons, cell packs, recycled plastic, or clay pots. Even old coffee mugs can be re-purposed as long as you add gravel to the bottom.  Get creative, re-purpose, and re-cycle.  

Keep the soil moist but not soggy. When a plant has two sets of leaves it’s time to feed them with a half-strength fertilizer and get them to sunny locations outdoors as often as possible.

I prefer to sow directly in the ground and have experimented with seeding as early as March. However, my experience has instructed me to spread seeds when the soil is warm in late April, thinning as necessary. Follow instructions on seed packets for best results. Keep in mind that you will not have 100% germination. Sow an amount of seeds that is several times the amount you wish for best results. For small seeds like arugula and greens, I carefully scatter attempting not to have the seeds clumped in one area. All plants need room to spread. For plants growing in cells or trays, I usually transplant in May and have found that these plants tend to do better than those that were planted in early spring. Planting in sets of odd numbers, three, five, seven, nine, or more provides a cohesiveness and richness of texture.

Growing a beautiful garden from seeds is easy and inexpensive. You may have to provide netting to keep hungry birds, roaming rabbits, and ravenous deer out of your yard. 

Spring is a time to weed, seed, and feed, both metaphorically and literally. I love experimenting in my garden and hope that a hundred years from now my books will be as relevant to readers as The Herbalist is.

Seeds to start indoors or in a greenhouse:

Broccoli

Brussels Sprouts

Cabbage

Cauliflower

Eggplants

Peppers

Tomatoes

Perennial Flowers

Seeds to sow in containers or directly in the garden:

Arugula

Basil

Beans

Beets 

Carrots

Cilantro

Corn

Cucumbers

Greens

Herbs

Kale

Melons

Nasturtiums

Parsley

Parsnips

Peas

Penstemon

Radishes

Spinach

Swiss Chard

Squash

Sunflowers

Zinnias

Cynthia Brian’s Gardening Guide for April

  • CONTROL snails with organic treatments. You can hand pick them, put out bowls of beer, add copper tape to ornamentals, throw egg shells in affected areas, or scatter Sluggo. Eliminate watering at night when snails feed. They multiply and flourish in the wet and damp. In dry weather they will retract into their shells sealing off the opening with mucus. Snails can be dormant for four years.
  • RAKE lawns to remove debris and aerate. If fertilizer is needed, this is the time to apply.
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  • DON’T eat the mushrooms growing in your yard unless you are certain they are edible. Consult a mycologist as many mushrooms are toxic and potentially fatal if ingested.mushroons growing in garden (1).jpg
  • VISIT Wildlife Earth Day at Wagner Ranch in Orinda on Sunday, April 22 from 11:30-4pm. Several community organizations will also present earth-friendly endeavors. I will be autographing my newest book, Growing with the Goddess Gardener as well as talking about botanicals.  For more information on this nature-lover’s event organized by the naturalist guru, Toris Jaeger, visit https://fwrna.org/wildlifefest/
  • PLANT agastache, columbine, penstemon, salvia, and trumpet vine to attract hummingbirds. When the threat of frost is finished, hibiscus, bougainvillea, and citrus can planted. 
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  • BUY discounted tickets to the June 15th Oakland A’s versus Los Angeles Angeles Baseball Game with a portion of proceeds benefitting the 501 c3 charity, Be the Star You Are® http://www.BetheStarYouAre.org or go find your seats to buy directly at https://groupmatics.events/event/Bestar
  • EAT your dandelions for a wealth of nutritional and medicinal benefits. And Italian proverb instructs ““He who wants to eat a good supper should eat a weed of every kind.”
  • WALK in the woods, a park or hug a tree to get your dose of forest bathing known as the Japanese tradition of shinrin-yoku.
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  • SAVOR springtime. It’s the bugle baby for beauty, fragrance, and new life.cynthia brian.jpg

Happy Gardening. Happy Growing.

Read more: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1203/Cynthia-Brians-April-Gardening-Guide-Weed-seed-feed.html

Cynthia Brian

Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, raised in the vineyards of Napa County, is a New York Times best selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are1® 501 c3. 

Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show and order her books at www.StarStyleRadio.com.

Buy a copy of the new book, Growing with the Goddess Gardener, at www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store. 

Available for hire for projects and lectures.

Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com

www.GoddessGardener.com

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The Language of Trees

Posted by Editor on
0
Empowerment
The Language of Trees

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“The ax forgets, the tree remembers.” African Proverb

Do trees have feelings? Do they communicate with one another? As I watch the leaves unfurl and the blossoms bursting on the trees in my landscape, I have a sense that my trees are talking and communing with one another. With the celebration of Earth Day on the horizon, this was an opportune moment to research the language of trees.

At the insistence of his wife, German forester, Peter Wohleben, authored an accidental best seller, The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate. The two of them live in a cabin in the remote village of Hummel where Peter manages a nature reserve.  He has become a spokesman of sorts for protecting and respecting the rights of trees.

Although trees don’t form words as humans do, they do communicate, and are more alert, sophisticated, and social that we expected. Trees form alliances with other trees of both their own species and others to survive and thrive.  They connect via underground fungal mycorrhizal networks, a symbiotic relationship between tree roots and fungi. As they scavenge for nitrogen, phosphorus, and other nutrients, the fungi consume thirty percent of the sugar photosynthesized from sunlight then feed the trees. This fungal internet of thin threads known as mycelium also can also transport toxins to keep competing plants from establishing nearby. Eucalyptus and sycamore commonly exhibit this behavior. Biologists have termed fungi to tree communication the “wood wide web” showcasing how interconnected and interdependent nature is.

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Using pheromones and scent signals, trees also talk through the air. Research was done several years ago with acacias on the savannas of Africa. When giraffes began chewing on the leaves of the thorny acacia, the tree sensed the wound sending a distress signal in the form of ethylene gas to neighboring acacias. The trees receiving the message of imminent danger pumped quantities of tannins into their leaves, which can kill an herbivore.

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Trees differentiate between an animal attack and a human cutting a limb. When a branch breaks or is sawed off, the tree sends chemicals to heal the wound. And trees remember.

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Trees also have a sense of smell and taste. When  an elm or pine is attacked by leaf-eating caterpillars, the affected trees detect the saliva. Pheromones are released to attract parasitic wasps. The wasps lay eggs inside the caterpillars, and the wasp larvae eat the caterpillars from the inside out. 

Dr. Suzanne Simard, a forest ecologist with the University of British Columbia is renowned for her extensive scientific research into mycorrhizal networks and “hub trees” or “mother trees” as she prefers to call the biggest, oldest forest trees. Mother trees are not necessarily female but they do have the most fungal connections to nurture and support the saplings.  Their deep roots suck up water and send it to fellow trees along with other nutrients and distress warnings. Her lab studies found that defense signals traveled between a diversity of trees within six hours. Not all scientists agree with Simard and Wohleben that trees are sentient beings. Several scientists have countered that plants and trees do not possess intelligence and are instead genetically programmed by natural selection to do a job automatically. 

Being the nature aficionado that I am, I vote for team Simard and Wohleben. Over the past few years I’ve been carefully studying my hillside pine trees as they twist to be closer to each other. Although each tree was originally planted to give a wide berth for each canopy to grow straight and tall in an effort to reach optimum sunlight, as the trees matured they tended to gravitate towards one another, mingling their branches. The pine that was planted furthest away from its siblings actually lurched sideways forming an arch until its branches touched the closest pine. I can’t help but think that this small group considers itself a forest family or at least very dear friends. When my “mother” Japanese maples leafs out, the other two develop their leaves within two days. My fruit trees of the same species always bloom together as if on orchestral cue. The willows in the creek appear to be supporting the oaks and bays with a communal sharing of resources.

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Simard detects a spiritual expression in the forest and Wohleben has been accused of being a tree hugger, although he states that he doesn’t believe trees respond to human hugs. We do know for certain that trees provide beauty while cleaning the air, combating climate change, and absorbing CO2. They provide oxygen, keep us cool, prevent erosion, supply us with food, offer playtime for kids, and help us heal faster. Trees furnish us with wood for homes, furniture, and warmth while allowing wildlife to flourish and reside in their branches.  An area without trees feels arid, vulnerable, and ugly. 

Trees are our allies and they are definitely talking to us. Clear cutting and climate change will kill our trees and our forests. We need to plant trees to capture carbon and encourage kids of all ages to climb big trees. We need to acknowledge that global warming is real and that our trees are desperately warning us of the disasters to come if we don’t create a movement for change. We need to listen to our vegetation as their memories are living, long, and lasting. 

We are all one interdependent, interconnected community. Stop. Look. Listen. Learn the language of trees and celebrate Earth Day with me. 

Cynthia Brian’s Mid Month Gardening Guide for April

  • VISIT Wildlife Earth Day at Wagner Ranch in Orinda on Sunday, April 22 from 11:30-4pm. Several community organizations will also present earth-friendly endeavors. I will be autographing my newest book, Growing with the Goddess Gardener as well as talking about trees, flowers, and other botanicals.  For more information on this nature-lover’s event organized by the naturalist guru, Toris Jaeger, visit https://fwrna.org/wildlifefest/, https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1204/Red-legged-frogs-and-friendly-goats-welcome-visitors-to-Wagner-Ranch-Wildlife-Festival.html
  • ENJOY the lilacs and wisteria in full bloom.
  • WATCH the leaves unfurl on your deciduous trees and become more aware of how different species of trees support one another. 
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  • REMOVE old foliage around the new growth of perennials.
  • PREVENT disease and rotting by keeping mulch several inches away from stems of plants and shrubs.
  • CREATE a habitat for birds that prefer staying close to the ground by making a small pile of twigs and clippings in your side yard. You’ll attract white-throated sparrows and dark-eyed juncos. 
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  • ADD a clean birdhouse to your landscape for bird to make their nests. You’ll be the beneficiary of joyful tweets and twerps. 
  • UTILIZE the monthly gardening tips in the book, Growing with the Goddess Gardener available with free seeds, herbs, and more from http://www.CynthiaBrian.com/online-store.
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  • FERTILIZE fruit trees with a high nitrogen organic fertilizer. Best time is right before the bud break, although trees that need food can be fertilized through June. Don’t fertilize in summer or fall.
  • PICK tulips for indoor vases.
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  • BUY discounted baseball tickets to the June 15th Oakland A’s versus Los Angeles Angels directly at https://groupmatics.events/event/Bestar with a portion of proceeds benefitting the 501 c3 charity, Be the Star You Are® http://www.BetheStarYouAre.org 
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  • SCATTER pollinator friendly wild flower seeds to celebrate Earth Day.

Happy Gardening. Happy Growing.

Read more: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1204/Digging-Deep-with-Cynthia-Brian-The-language-of-trees.html

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Cynthia Brian

Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, raised in the vineyards of Napa County, is a New York Times best selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are1® 501 c3. 

Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show and order her books at www.StarStyleRadio.com.

Buy a copy of the new book, Growing with the Goddess Gardener, at www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store. 

Available for hire for projects and lectures.

Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com

www.GoddessGardener.com

Cynthia with osterspernum.jpg

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