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Moles, Garden Goods, Chaos Free By Cynthia Brian

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Moles, Garden Goods, Chaos Free By Cynthia Brian


40% of Americans will develop basal or squamous cell carcinoma by age 65. Being ale to identify spots and changes in your skin could save your life. Keep your largest organ smooth, soft, and healthy with Heather Brittany in Health Matters.
Heather-happy hat
We live in a “rush, rush, never enough hours in the day” world. Being mindful of our alarm buttons while streamlining our days to be less chaotic results in happiness. Cynthia Brian offers a few tweaks that will make a difference.
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Gardening is good for you. It rekindles our passions, arouses our senses, and keeps us in shape.  Gardening is a terrific activity for maintaining joint flexibility, bone density, range of motion, and most of all quality of life.  Learn how to do a good deed for yourself through gardening.

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Blooming with Love By Cynthia Brian

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Blooming with Love By Cynthia Brian


By Cynthia Brian

“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.” Mother Teresa

Every artist has her or his muse, a person who inspires, motivates, and encourages creativity. Leonardo had Lisa , Quentin has Uma, Mother Teresa had God, and I credit my mother, Alice, with being my gardening artiste. From the time that I could toddle, I was following her around our expansive gardens planted for both the edibles and the pretties. When she and my dad first moved to their house built at the turn of the 20th century on the 365 acre ranch in the middle of nowhere, it was surrounded by brambles, blackberry bushes, and poison oak. Little by little she painstakingly transformed the prickly jungle into a playful park planted with a myriad of beautiful flowers, herbs, trees, grasses, fruits, and vegetables.
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I can still smell the sweet fragrance of the spring soil as we tilled the plots designated as the vegetable garden. Mom would plant starts of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, bush beans, string beans, eggplant, and whatever other vegetable caught her fancy for the year. The five kids would be given seeds of radishes, beets, corn, carrots, turnips, squash, and melons to plant as we wished. Onions, leeks, garlic, and Swiss Chard seemed to be in abundance year round as did a big patch of culinary herbs-basil, mustard, chives, dill, fennel, parsley, oregano, marjoram, mints, rosemary, sage, tarragon, and thyme. We didn’t have automatic irrigation.  All of us were responsible for daily watering, pulling hoses for long distances as Mom always did. She showed us how to plant rows, squares, circles, how to soak each plant plentifully, what to weed, and what not to touch.
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We couldn’t wait until summer when the first tomato ripened. With a handful of basil, we’d bite into the juicy goodness right there in the garden. One August she grew a five-pound tomato, won a big prize, and carried it around to multiple events exhibiting its enormity to anyone interested until it rotted. Long before the trend of farm to table, my Mom cooked what was freshest and harvested that day. We only ate what was in season or, in the winter months, what we canned during the summer. To this day, I won’t eat tomatoes, grapes, or oranges out of season. Why bother? They taste like chalk. Only vine ripened fruit and vegetables have the flavor that transport me to the joys of childhood on the farm.  And what blissful days they were!
But it wasn’t only the vegetable and herb gardening techniques that she was imparting. Mom also instilled in us a wistful, playful attitude in the art of gardening. “Gardens are an extension of your personality,” she used to tell me. And her gardens were wild, fun, surprising, eccletic, and inviting. Tucked into ravines would be antique stoves with antiquated rusting teapots overflowing with succulents. When we outgrew our swing set, it was turned into a hanging pot canopy accessed by a wooden bridge over a dry creek flanked by palm trees. Gazing balls, clay piglets, and hummingbird feeders dotted the landscape.  Her favorite garden ornaments, a bargain purchase bought for her by my brother decades ago, have always been Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. She decorates the garden for all of the holidays with Christmas being the grand finale-an extravaganza of sound and light rivaling Disneyland.
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As an adult, our main conversations revolve around plants. We stroll together through our mutual playgrounds admiring and consulting. I am grateful for the horticultural acumen that she liberally passed along to us. Although there wasn’t a kindergarten where I grew up, I learned everything I needed to know about life in my Mother’s Garden.
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What I learned from my Mother Muse:

⎫ Be an original: You can reference Pinterest, but when it comes to your own personal style, do what you love. Surprise yourself!
⎫ Don’t follow the rules: Because there are no rules in the garden except those you create yourself.
⎫ Love the birds: My Mom has hung bird feeders and birdhouses in every cranny for her feathered friends. She even has a Bird Tree. Birds eat the insects that prey on her flowers plus their melodic songs are music to her ears and their playful antics make bird watching an amusing pastime.
⎫ Encourage eccentricity: If you don’t feel happy in your backyard, no one else will either. Be playful.  Add unexpected treasures that may be another person’s trash. Capture the charm.
⎫ Share the bounty: One of my Mom’s most sacred rituals was sharing the harvest of everything we grew with everyone she knew-her doctor, dentist, priest, hairdresser, bank teller, repairman, even other famers. Be a cheerful giver.
⎫ Grow everything: It can be boring to stick to just a few specimens. Give a whirl to experimenting with the exotic as well as the mundane. Whether it’s a new breed of ever-blooming azalea, a delicate peach begonia, or a hardy lavender trumpet vine, brave the unknown.
⎫ Color Your World: Although you may start out with a strict color palette, be an artist. Volunteers revert to their original color according to Mother Nature’s whims. Enjoy the rainbow.
⎫ Provide places to relax: Gardeners work hard. Make sure to include comfortable sitting and lounging areas for you and your guests.
⎫ Believe in Magic: A garden is a lesson in miracles and magic. Embrace the whimsy and the mysterious. Have fun.
⎫ Pull hoses: You may have a drip or other irrigation system, but you’ll need the humble hose to get to every corner.
⎫ Make people happy: With her outgoing, enthusiastic personality always ready for the next dance, my Mother lights up a room, including the outdoor variety. When your table features fresh fruits and vegetables that you have personally grown, you can be certain that you are providing the highest nourishment for your family and friends, helping everyone be happier and healthier.
⎫ Leave a Living Legacy: A garden is to grow. Every garden is different reflecting the individuality of the gardener. Family is everything. Bloom with love.
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Everyone who has ever experienced the gardening hospitality of my Mother, Alice, has left feeling better and happier. Let the wisdom of my generous garden guide Muse inspire you to be the best gardener possible. Thanks Mom!
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Happy Gardening. Happy Growing.

Mark your Calendars:

SHOP and save at the 10/10 sale on September 17th at Vineyard Vines, 1301 N. Main St., Walnut Creek. Customers receive 10% off their purchases all day with 10% of the proceeds benefiting Be the Star You Are!®. A reception will be held from 5-8 pm with refreshments and goody bags. www.btsya.com/events_calendar.html

ATTEND the Pear and Wine Festival at Moraga Commons on Saturday, September 24 from 10-4pm. Pick up complimentary potpourri and a new children’s book from the Be the Star You Are!® booth sponsored by MB Jesse Painting, Starstyle® Productions, llc, Lamorinda Weekly, Children’s Success Unlimited, and Michael VerBrugge Construction. Click on events at www.BetheStarYouAre.org

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

Romp in Ruth Bancroft Gardens By Cynthia Brian

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Romp in Ruth Bancroft Gardens By Cynthia Brian


ruth bancroft 108 years, cynthia brian

“Who cares if I’m not around? If I don’t plant it, then nobody will get to see it!” Ruth Bancroft

Since as long as I can remember I have always said that I wanted to live to be 108 years old. Why I chose that number I have no idea as I had never met anyone who lived to be 108…until this week when I met Ruth Bancroft, creator of the Ruth Bancroft Gardens in Walnut Creek. Ruth turned 108 years young on September 2nd and I was privileged enough to celebrate her birthday with bubbly and her favorite chocolate cake in her masterpiece dry gardens that she began planting in the 1970’s.

Ruth’s gardening passion began as a child in Berkeley. When she moved through the tunnel to Walnut Creek she became a collector. Her efforts, trials, tribulations, and experiences along the way are chronicled in the new Timber Press book, The Bold Dry Garden, penned by Johanna Silver, the garden editor of Sunset Magazine, and photographed by Marion Brenner. With the entire West coast on drought alert, the Ruth Bancroft Gardens are a model for low-water plantscaping. If you have ever been curious about succulents, cacti, yuccas, and other desert plants that will flourish in the East Bay, this beautiful book will become an essential reference guide.
Our local water company states that water use was 24% less in 2015 than it was in 2014, saving enough water to fill the Oakland Coliseum seventy one times! As homeowners rip out lawns in favor of xeriscaping, we’ll focus on the benefits of adding low maintenance, low water use plants, and planting them NOW to your garden.
Although I have a lifetime of gardening experience, I’m not sure that I will ever become an expert in any one area of horticulture, as gardens are living, breathing, evolving, growing entities that are constantly changing.  What I adore about Ruth’s garden is this consistent evolution. Each time I visit a new vista or display greets me, even from the same specimens as the first visit. The colors, textures, and sizes are in perpetual motion from California natives to the canopy of trees, the rosettes of terrestrial bromeliads to the swords of the yuccas.
Here are a few of Ruth’s prized collection that you can grow in your garden for your benefit and that of your great grandchildren’s children .

Aeoniums: One of the most popular plants of all of the succulents, aeoniums have lovely fleshy rosettes that will reach towards the heavens, mound in purgatory, or cascade towards hell. They prefer a bit of shade and are easy to cultivate and grow in the ground and in containers.

Yuccas: These sword shaped plants are native to the Americas and the Caribbean and like hot, dry regions. In their natural habitat they are pollinated by the yucca moth.  Although yuccas are grown mostly for ornamental use, many species use the seeds, flowers, stems, and sometimes the roots for food and medicine.

Echeveria: Many of the most beautiful small succulents are echeveria, often confused with aeoniums because of their rosettes. Their leaf colors are brilliantly hued and they boast flowers in red, orange, white, yellow, purple, and pink.  They grow well between rocks and are a terrific ground cover or garden filler.
Most echeveria species hail from Mexico.

Sedums: A hardy perennial with thick, fleshy leaves and stems and clusters of pretty flowers, sedums are most popular for ground covers, borders, and rock gardens.  They require minimal to no care at all, are easy to propagate from cuttings, and are drought resistant.

Aloe: The best friend plant for anyone with a sunburn, cut, or bite, aloe is known as nature’s soothing succulent. Aloes relieve itching and irritation on the skin, reduce redness and swelling by inhibiting the body’s release of histamine. In a garden, aloes bloom in bright colors of red, orange, and yellow with over 500 species ranging from tiny to tree height. These unfussy favorites are a “must have” in any garden or container.

Agave: With over 200 species native to the Americas, agaves are diverse in colors, shapes, sizes, and spines.  Agaves are sculptural. They can be a focal point in a landscape or can mix well with other plantings. Before planting an agave, make sure to read the label to determine the final size of the plant. Some agaves have a full- grown diameter of 13 to 14 feet while others remain small and compact.  
Barrel Cactus: Always armed with heavy spines and prominent ribs, barrel cacti are known as the “fierce or wild cactus”.  Flowers always grow at the top without spines. Native Americans boiled the flowers to eat like cabbage. The fruits are considered inedible. Barrel cacti add a fascinating form to any landscape when planted in circles or artistic ways.
Prickly Pear Cactus: Optunias, commonly called prickly pear cactus have yellow, red, purple, or orange fruit that is delicious and sold in stores as tuna. The paddles are called Nopales and used in many ethnic recipes.  The soluble fibers of both the fruit and the paddles are considered to stabilize blood sugar. These cacti make a great fence to keep out human and animal invaders as the spines are tiny and very sharp. My sister surrounded her property with optunias which bear enough fruit for a weekly farmer’s market booth.

Although I’ve concentrated on the desert plants, the Ruth Bancroft Garden reveals a softer side with riffs of bulbs, wildflowers, grasses, and California natives. A visit to the Ruth Bancroft Garden is a must-do for anyone interested in learning more about dry and drought tolerant gardening. We are fortunate to have one of the nation’s most renowned public gardens literally in our back yard with a collection of rare specimens available for sale that will enhance your landscape while saving precious water. www.RuthBancroftGarden.org.

Embrace your sense of curiosity. Employ a few of Ruth Bancroft’s dry gardening specimens. Gardens are a legacy to our future and the time to plant is today.  In 108 years, who will be enjoying your garden?

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

Body, Mind, and Soul in the Garden By Cynthia Brian

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Body, Mind, and Soul in the Garden By Cynthia Brian




By Cynthia Brian

Kings and cabbages go back to compost, but good deeds stay green forever.  ~ Rick De Marinis

Gardening is good for you. It rekindles our passions, arouses our senses, and keeps us in shape.  Gardening is a terrific activity for maintaining joint flexibility, bone density, range of motion, and most of all quality of life. We have to garden wisely, however, if we don’t want to be complaining about aches, pains, bug bites, cuts, and injuries, of which I’ve had more than enough to last my lifetime. Do a good deed for yourself and heed some handy, healthy tips to safer, happy gardening experience.

If you are already a gardener, you know the joys and benefits. For those who are about to begin, get ready for a strenuous workout with the music, smells, and tastes of nature.
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Getting Going
1. If you have any injuries or illnesses, like all activities, consult your physician before beginning.
2. Choose a time of day where you can dedicate an hour or so to the task.
3. Wear a hat, sun block, gloves, and comfortable clothing.
4. Warm up your body with a few stretches or a brisk walk before beginning.
5. Despite your enthusiasm, pace your work and avoid being in the same position for extended periods. For example, if you are weeding, switch to pruning after 45 minutes.
6. Use a hand truck to move large, heavy sacks, and potted plants.
7. Keep your feet on the ground when cutting limbs or harvest fruit. Use a ladder only when you have a spotter.
8. Use the best tools that are strong, yet lightweight.
9. Give your back a break. Too much twisting and bending can cause strain. Consider raised beds as an alternative if you experience back pain.
10. Buy a wheelbarrow. It makes moving easier and saves so much time.
11. If you like to kneel while planting or weeding, use a Styrofoam pad to protect your knees. Alternate sitting and kneeling. You can also purchase a rolling garden stool.
12. Shake it up varying your chores to work your different muscles. Carrying, lifting, mowing, blowing, pruning, raking, sweeping, deadheading, digging, weeding, arranging, even smelling the roses all activate different muscles and senses.
13. Take frequent breaks to avoid stiffness or tightness.
14. Drink plenty of water to rehydrate.

Get fit. Get gardening. Get doing good deeds for you.
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For Increased Health Benefits, Add These Simple Greens to your Plot
1. Dandelion Greens: I know, everyone considers dandelions weeds but these weeds are high in vitamin A, actually ten times more than a serving of broccoli.
2. Leeks: Rich in vitamin B folate, these onion family relatives are heart healthy, preventing blood clots.
3. Arugula: My most favorite green, arugula provides more nitrates than spinach or rhubarb delivering energizing oxygen to the rest of your body. Maybe arugula is my secret ingredient to my exuberant energy!
4. Bok Choy: Great for bone health, two cups of this crunchy green delivers as much calcium as half a glass of milk plus 80% of your daily requirement for vitamin K.
5. Swiss Chard: A great source of blood balancing nutrients, Swiss Chard prevents blood sugar spikes and dips while being a top source of magnesium.
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Cynthia Brian’s Mid Month Gardening Tips
RELAX and rejuvenate around a pond, stream, or waterfall in a garden.
VISIT the National Heirloom Expo, September 6, 7, 8 in Santa Rosa for the world’s pure food fair. www.theheirloomexpo.com
PROTECT your pet by knowing which plants are toxic to them such as daffodils, hemlock, and oleander. See a full list at www.aspca.com
CREATE mini-herb gardens in window boxes or strawberry pots. Buy four inch pots of sage, lemon thyme, basil, and parsley for a pretty and aromatic edible display.
DEEP soak trees like magnolia or redwoods especially when you see them dropping abundant leaves.
SOOTHE cuts, burns, bites, and reduce redness after too much summer sunbathing by planting the succulent aloe. Cut off a piece of the spike, squeeze out the anti-inflammatory and antiseptic gel to apply directly to your skin.
HARVEST Asian Pears, apples, peppers, squash, tomatoes, and eggplant.
ADD color to your planters with bright, perennial pelargoniums. My favorite colors are the deep maroon and bright pink.
MAKE a statement on your porch or patio by grouping urns and pots planted with pretty petunias and pansies.
PULL up a chair next to a hummingbird feeder and let the show begin as hummingbirds enchant you with their chatter, twitters, squeaks, and songs. Their hovering wings buzz, trill, and thrill.
CONTINUE to compost all of your vegetable and non-meat scraps including cabbages (no Kings).
SET a table outdoors using your favorite tableware and glasses for an upscale meal alfresco on a hot August night.
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Trending in my garden:
⎫ Naked Ladies are dancing in the breeze.
⎫ Tomatoes are finally red and sweet, although most don’t make it to my kitchen. I eat most of them right off the vine with a snip of nearby arugula and basil
⎫ Deer have been deterred from my orchard and garden with fencing.
⎫ Pearl’s Premium lawn is green with some bare and brown spots, but definitely looking better this summer than any previously seeded grass.
⎫ Choke weed is invading. It spreads rapidly “choking” out the nutrients and sunlight needed for other plants to grow. It’s a constant pulling battle I wage against it.
⎫ Fluorescent pink crape myrtle trees are in full bloom, attracting hummingbirds and bees.
⎫ Incredible amounts of exercise for me as I pull hoses up and down hillsides to keep plants alive. Gardening is good for my body, mind, and soul as long as I give my back a break.

Do good deeds, stay healthy, and enjoy the summer of August.
Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!
Read more

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

Hang Time! by Cynthia Brian

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Hang Time! by Cynthia Brian

“Flowers and fruit are only the beginning. In the seed lies the life and the future.”
  — Marion Zimmer Bradley,
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Fruit, luscious, juicy, tantalizing ripe fruit! There is no better nor satisfying delicacy than the fruit you grow in your own backyard. Whether it’s a pot or a plot, growing your own is the way the rock it! With our long warm summer days at their height, fruit and vegetables are ripening quickly awaiting plucking for our feasts. Apricots, plums, prunes, mulberries, loquats, tangelos, and tangerines are just a few of the gems hanging from my trees right now. Soon there will be mouth-watering peaches, pears, apples, guavas, nectarines, and figs. Tomatoes have taken up the space left by harvested greens, while beans, eggplant, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, and tomatillos are racing to the finish line. It’s a virtual Farmer’s Market in my garden and this is exactly the way I like to eat. Every day I walk into my potager to fill baskets with crunchy deliciousness for our supper. I never know what I’ll be creating in the kitchen until I see what’s ready to harvest.

I continue to sprinkle lettuce and arugula seeds in the empty spaces to extend my summer, fall and winter crops. My recommendation is to sow rows of bush beans, carrots, and radishes or any other vegetable every three weeks to satisfy your cravings for freshness. Remember to continue to replenish the soil with nutrient rich compost to keep productivity high.
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Did you know that that average home gardener only spends $359 per year on gardening supplies and plants as reported in a study conducted by Money.com? That seems ridiculously low when you consider that growing your own tomatoes will save you an average $9.50, cucumbers $8.00, peppers $3.60, green beans $2.50, and carrots $3.50.  And that doesn’t include the spectacular taste, increased vitamins, and the fact that you actually know what you put into your soil!  When it comes to homegrown fruits and vegetables, I am a garden to table snob. The finest, healthiest, most cost efficient source of nutrients is waiting for you in the garden. Dig in!

With the barbeque season in full swing, delight guests with grilled stone fruit. Cut peaches, nectarines, or apricots in half, remove the pit, brush with olive oil and drizzle a bit of honey. Grill for a minute or two on each side. Serve with goat cheese, arugula, or as a side dish. Fresh, surprising, and oh, so delicious…a burst of sweetness with your 4th of July fare. About those pits…if you want another fruit tree, plant in potting soil in a container and watch the new life grow. It’s hang time.

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Cynthia Brian’s Fresh Ideas for July

MULCH before the heat of summer begins. If you can use an entire truck-load of wood chips, tree service companies are happy to give you free chips. Mulching keeps the soil cooler while decreasing the weed population.

COMBINE arugula, mint, and sage in a food processor with a splash of olive oil and pepper for a mouth-watering variation on traditional pesto. Add the grated cheese of your choice to use over pastas, in soups, or whirled in an omelet.

HYDRATE yourself with fruits from the garden including watermelon, peaches, cucumbers, tomatoes, strawberries, and corn. A slice of watermelon provides you with at least ten ounces of water while a medium peach will give you five ounces of H20.

RELIEVE anxiety and stress by cutting a bouquet of lavender, then crushing the flowers in your palms. Inhale the healing fragrance before bed for a restful slumber.
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WATCH for snakes! Gopher snakes and King snakes have been slithering through my grass. Don’t be alarmed, snakes eradicate rodents including gophers, moles, rats, and mice.

SHOWCASE your horticultural talents by mixing textures, colors, and sizes in your garden, always being away of water, sunlight, and soil PH needs. A lemon-lime nandina paired with a black adder phormium and a purple salvia are spectacular bedmates.

PEPPER your garden by throwing seeds of Love in a Mist and California poppies. The colors look smashing together and both re-seed. Plus Love in a Mist seedpods make fantastic dried flowers.

WANT a lush landscape? Embrace the beauty of leaves. Foliage plants have dramatic impact, especially when grouped together. Hosta, heuchera, coleus, and variegated plants are showstoppers, specifically in shaded areas.

PLANT gladioli bulbs for summer drama with long stalks of trumpet shaped florets that are considered hummingbird heaven.
COVER an unsightly fence with clematis. Read the tags to learn the correct sun exposure, then let the explosion of blooms blow your mind. Clematis make great cut flowers too.

TUCK succulents in between other plantings. Most succulents shoot up spires of blooms as an added bonus. Of course, succulents are very drought tolerant and an excellent choice for our gardens. To get a better idea of the variety of succulents that fare well in our area, visit The Ruth Bancroft Gardens in Walnut Creek.

GRILL vegetables (as well as stone fruit) on the barbecue. A variety of zucchini, peppers, and corn are always excellent choices. Don’t shuck the husks on the corn to keep the nutrients and flavor inside. Slip basil or cilantro inside for added flavor.

THINK about what bulbs and rhizomes you will want to buy to plant in the fall. Do you want more daffodils, tulips, Dutch iris, anemones, or something more exotic? Catalogues are a great way to get your lists started.

THANKS to everyone who has emailed me with positive notes about these columsn. I do appreciate all of my readers and want you to be the best gardeners ever!

CELEBRATE the Fourth of July by dressing up in your sparkly red, white, and blue to HANG out in your personal paradise.

Let the fireworks fly! Happy 240th Independence Day.
purple clematis
Happy gardening. Happy growing!

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Cynthia Brian
The Goddess Gardener
Starstyle® Productions, llc
Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show at www.StarStyleRadio.com
Garden and plant consultations by appointment.

Your Garden is Your Canvas by Cynthia Brian

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Your Garden is Your Canvas by Cynthia Brian

jacobs coat rose

By Cynthia Brian

“The world is but a canvas to the imagination.” Henry David Thoreau

With summer approaching quickly, June is possibly one of the busiest months. Graduations, Father’s Day, weddings, birthdays, vacations, swim meets, pool parties…it seems that these thirty days offer the most opportunities for celebrations. It is time to fire up the barbeque, sweep the patio, freshen the flowerbeds, and get ready for some serious fun.  By growing your own food, you and your family will be healthier, happier, and enjoy more exercise. Get your children involved in the seed sowing, planting, and caring process to help them understand how food travels from the ground to the table.  Allow your garden to become your artistic canvas to showcase your imagination and creativity throughout the summer.
sweet peas climbing
This is a fun project to do with children providing pride in growing. Start with radishes, lettuces, kale, zinnias, marigolds, or beans as they germinate quickly.  An edible garden is especially popular with young kids.
⎫ RECYCLE plastic six-packs, flats, and pots to use to grow your own seedlings. Wash well before beginning the process and make sure the drainage holes are not plugged.
⎫ HANG a shoe organizer on a sunny wall with the pockets filled to ¾ full with soil for a fun vertical garden that is especially excellent for herbs, lettuces, and other compact plants.
⎫ BUY sterile seed-starting mix, which doesn’t have any soil in it when you want to plant seeds in a container.
⎫ READ seed packets carefully. It’s critical to know how to plant each variety of seed, what amount of water, sunshine, and care it will need. You also want to know how big the plant will become.
⎫ PLANT extra seeds as many will not germinate.
⎫ KEEP seedlings moist or they will shrivel and die as summer approaches. Don’t over water or seeds will drown.
⎫ THIN as necessary. Discards the remnants to the compost bin.
⎫ FERTILIZE with organic micronutrients once a plant has several leaves.
⎫ TRANSPLANT when each plant is big enough to outgrow its planter.
⎫ REWARD yourself and your children with the harvest of vegetables or flowers.
Nasturium wraps
National Sun Safety Week is June 5-11th.
⎫ APPLY sunscreen daily and especially before going out into the garden.  Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer.
⎫ WEAR a hat to protect your head and sunglasses to protect your eyes.
⎫ CHECK your skin for any abnormalities and see a physician if you suspect problems.
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It’s probably not possible to completely fire-proof any area, but follow guidelines issued by the fire protection districts to create defensible spaces no later than June 15th.
⎫ PREVENT embers from igniting your home in the event of a fire by clearing leaves, needles, and debris from gutters, eaves, porches, and decks.
⎫ REMOVE dead vegetation from under your deck and within ten feet of your home.
⎫ TRIM weeds and grasses to three inches.
⎫ PRUNE tree branches so that the lowest branches are between six-ten feet from the ground.
⎫ REDUCE “fire fuel laddering” by pruning to separate trees from bushes.
⎫ MAINTAIN your property and weed wack or pull any re-growth.

pink peony
Cynthia Brian’s Fresh Tips for Your June Garden

⎫ AVOID using pesticides and insecticides as they kill the beneficial insects along with the invasive. Bees, bats, and bugs that help our crops reproduce and flowers flourish can be destroyed.
⎫ DINE on nasturtium! For a stunning and delicious appetizer, roll curried egg salad into the peppery leaves of nasturtium. Add edible flowers to the platter. Delicious!
⎫ PACK your salads with nutritional vitamins A, C, K, iron, calcium, potassium, and folate by growing leafy greens such as frisee, mache, romaine, bok choy, arugula, and kale. Don’t forget to toss in radish and turnip tops, too, for an added crunch.
⎫ BUILD a raised bed for a low maintenance edible feast. Make sure to put mesh wire on the bottom to keep out the gophers, moles, and rats. Fill with clean soil for best results.
⎫ ADD a gently meandering dry creek with gravel and rocks to help with drainage, runoff, and provide a natural look to your landscaping.  For a shaded area, plant with hosta, ferns, and lamium.
⎫ INVITE butterflies into your garden by providing a sunny spot for them to land, shrubs for shelter, masses of flowers for nectar, and a saucer of water for a sweet drink. Make sure to change the water daily so as not to attract mosquito larvae.
⎫ DEADHEAD roses as soon as flowers are spent to encourage continual re-blooming. This is one of the best years ever for the prolific showcase of these prize winners.
⎫ RECYCLE brown and green waste, fruit, vegetable scraps, coffee, and tea into a natural fertilizer. Make your own compost all year round to feed your plants.
⎫ PICK bouquets of vibrant sweet peas and clematis for long lasting fragrant arrangements to brighten your interiors as well as your outdoor dining areas.
⎫ GROW cymbidium orchids in containers located in a north or northwest location to enjoy annual blooms. Cymbidiums bloom for months, and can be brought indoors for further pleasure. When the spires fade, return the pots to the coolness of outdoors.
⎫ FERTILIZE rhododendrons, azaleas, roses, and camellias.
⎫ ENJOY your special celebrations in your charmingly re-freshed garden.
⎫ REFLECT your unique personality with your plantings and artistry. Be creative in the outdoors.  It’s more fun!
columbine in riverbed
Congratulations to everyone who is graduating and commemorating a special occasion.  Happy Father’s Day to all the dedicated dads, especially those who share the respect for Mother Nature with their children.

Happy gardening. Happy growing!

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Cynthia Brian
The Goddess Gardener
Starstyle® Productions, llc
Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show at www.StarStyleRadio.com
Garden and plant consultations by appointment.

In My Sister’s Garden – A Wistful Romp through a Drought Resistant Oasis by Cynthia Brian

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In My Sister’s Garden – A Wistful Romp through a Drought Resistant Oasis by Cynthia Brian

Debbie-Cowboy hat

“Spring is the time of the year, when it is summer in the sun and winter in the shade.” – Charles Dickens
One of the great things about growing up on a farm in the boondocks is that your tribe is your family. We five siblings were as thick as thieves as we climbed trees, worked the fields, pulled fences, drove tractors, branded cattle, and planted the spring garden. We played, we quarreled, and we dug in the dirt together. By the time May arrived, we ached to get our hands grubby in the vegetable patch. Waiting for the vegetables to sprout and be harvested taught us patience and responsibility. Of course, Mom’s beautiful flower gardens would already be abloom by this time of year getting us into constant trouble because we were forever picking bouquets not only for her, but, for teachers, 4-H leaders, and Sunday masses.
As we grew into adults, our love of the earth grew as well. Following in the big shoes of my Father, my brother continued the family tradition of being a farmer and has one of the most beautiful vineyards in the county. Our Mother’s love of gardening instructed the gardens of her girls.

Recently I walked with my sister Debbie through her eclectic garden. There is a saying that “you can take the girl out of the country, but you can never take the country out of the girl.”  With Deb, she’s never left the land where we were born.  She is a country cowgirl through and through. She’s always adorned with her cowboy hat, rodeo belt buckle, and boots! She hunts, fishes, grows her food, and would have relished being a pioneer in the 1870’s.
thanksgiving2006.jpg - 3
Debbie and her husband are the ultimate recyclers and re-purposers.  With their barnyard of adopted animals-pigs, goats, donkeys, chickens, even Texas long horns at one time, all the weeds and garden cuttings feed the animals and the manure is then recycled back to the garden. They collect rooftop rain runoff in used wine barrels then pipe it to a storage tank to help with summer watering. It’s never enough, but every drop helps. Their garden art includes rusted plows, wooden swings, a plethora of homemade birdhouses, multiple fountains made from found objects, wagon wheels, antlers, the cutest country chicken coop you ever did see, and a sleeping shed outfitted with a bear hide, antique fishing gear, pinecones, and found treasures of every sort. From their patio they watch the wildlife on their hillside property-deer, bobcats, raccoons, turkeys, skunks, and the occasional mountain lion. It’s a playful, restful garden setting, albeit with a watchful eye for the rattlesnakes that enjoy this oasis as well.
barrel collecting rain water
What I love about Debbie’s garden is how it reflects her unique personality, her love of the land, and her admiration for the history of the Wild West. As we ambled around the property with her happy dogs in the lead, the songbirds sang, a bevy of butterflies delicately landed on her flowers, and the koi in the pond swam to the surface to greet me. This time together immersed in this sustainable landscape nurtured my soul and brought our childhood memories to vivid life. Although we grow the same plants, shrubs, trees, and succulents in both of our yards, our designs and esthetics are completely different. And that’s the beauty of creating a garden, making it your own special paradise where you can find peace, tranquility, and restoration in tandem with the wild kingdom.
Deb-Al-chickensoop.jpg – Version 2

⎫ Don’t over-think it! Make lists of everything you enjoy in a garden then do it.
⎫ Be conservation conscious as well as considerate of nature.
⎫ Be creative. Think swathes, angles, circles, and flow. There is nothing more boring than a box.
⎫ The hardscape must include natural materials: rocks, gravel, barn wood, shells, or anything meaningful to you.
⎫ Instead of buying art, repurpose childhood toys, old sinks, even a commode overflowing with flowers can be comical.
⎫ Be playful. When you are going to spend time in the outdoors, you want to enjoy yourself. Allow your personality to shine.

p[ump house
⎫ Add surprises, secret gardens, hedged rooms, anything that will enhance the whimsical and magical element to your garden experience.
⎫ Lead to a focal point or view with meandering paths, walkways, and trails.
⎫ Invite the pollinators; bees, butterflies, and birds by providing housing, nectar flowers, protection, fountains, and ponds.
⎫ Mix it up. For a drought resistant garden, consider an array of beautiful succulents, cactus, lavender, bulbs, iris, daylily, geraniums, and other plants that will add color, texture, form, and structure, yet require little maintenance and minimal water.
⎫ A potager, pots, or area designated for edibles and herbs is a must have. There is nothing better than picking your dinner from your own property.
⎫ Benches, swings, lounge chairs, umbrellas, and places to unwind, watch the clouds, savor sunsets, and marvel at the stars make your garden your home.
Deb's sleeping porch house
What’s so fun about our family gardening experience is the sharing that we all do in giving each other clips, snips, cuttings, bulbs, and volunteers. We grow the same specimens and as we stroll and admire our handiwork, we can’t remember who gave what to whom first.

As I said farewell to my sister, she handed me a hand-painted tin filled with blooming echeveria from clippings I had given her a few years before. We shared a laugh.

The circle of life continues.

Happy Trails to you.

janet,nonie,deb,cyn,fred,heather 3

CHECK irrigation lines and sprinkler systems for leaks. The water district reminds us that our California drought is not over yet!

RELEASE ladybugs into your garden if you spot aphids. Ladybugs (also called lady beetles) only stay in a garden when there is sufficient food. If yours fly away, don’t be dismayed.  Pat yourself on the back as your garden is healthier than a neighboring landscape.

TUCK edibles into your flowerbeds. Parsley and garlic chives look especially handsome as a border.

REGROW scallions by sticking the root ends in water after snipping. You’ll get a fresh crop very quickly.

SCATTER wildflower seeds in an area where you want a wild, natural appearance. It’s not too late!

HARVEST overwintered root crops such as carrots and parsnips before they lose their flavor and robustness.

THIN apples and stone fruit to insure a bigger, healthier harvest. Leave two to three fruit per cluster.
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country garden
Cynthia Brian
The Goddess Gardener
Starstyle® Productions, llc
Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show at www.StarStyleRadio.net
I am available as a speaker, designer, and consultant.

Take Care of Your Trees and They’ll Take Care of You! by Cynthia Brian

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Take Care of Your Trees and They’ll Take Care of You! by Cynthia Brian

cotton wood, ivy, palms

By Cynthia Brian

“Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky” Kahlil Gibran
It was a glorious sunny day, almost mocking the tragedy that was to come. As my grandfather mowed his lawn – something he’d done many times before – the limb of a diseased elm tree came crashing down on him. He was killed instantly.

I write this week’s article as a cautionary tale. My grandfather knew the tree was diseased, but the city he lived in had not yet issued the permits needed to remove it. With this tragedy always in my heart, I am forever diligent in inspecting my trees.
With this tragedy always in my heart, I am forever diligent in inspecting my trees. Trees are the life source of our world, offering so much for so little. Trees clean our air, provide shade, offer oxygen, filter run off drainage, and cool the air. Without trees, many species of birds, squirrels, bees, and other wildlife would not have habitat. Trees beautify a neighborhood, conserve energy in our homes, bear fruit, and offer climbing structures for adventurous children. Trees are harvested to make furniture, paper products, and firewood. Sitting next to a tree recalibrates our bodily energy. Property values are higher in residential areas with mature trees. Trees are indeed poems written in the sky.

This past year moss began to form on the branches of the gigantic cottonwood tree that had voluntarily seeded itself in my front yard. Over the winter, mistletoe dangled from the heights, ivy strangled the trunk, and giant ugly mushrooms sprouted along the base. While other trees on the property had leaves unfurling when the vernal equinox approached, my cottonwood remained haunted.
Advance Tree -Cyn Service-Cutting Cottonwood-palms
Over the years, Advance Tree Service had delivered free wood chips to my property as mulch for my garden. It was time to call the arborist cavalry at Advance Tree Service. Owner and President, Darren Edwards confirmed that the tree was dead and needed prompt removal. He offered a reasonable bid and we set up a time for his crew to prune my palm fronds and cut down the dead cottonwood.  I used the occasion to find out more about the company, proper tree care, and how to spot trouble.

Growing up in Moraga, Darren was nicknamed “Dedwards”, AKA “Dead Wood” in junior high. The name would prove prophetic. In 1987 he began working for a tree care company and realized he loved everything about the work: being outdoors in nature, climbing trees, meeting people, taking care of the environment. By 1991 he had started his own business with a single pick-up truck and climbing gear. His entrepreneurial father, Lew, realized how much Darren enjoyed what he was doing and partnered with him in 1994 to form the official Advance Tree Service, Inc. It became a family affair with his mom, Fay, and two sisters, Lorie and Lisa, also involved. Both Lew and Darren went back to school to become certified arborists so that they would have the professional knowledge necessary to understand the internal biology, growth habits, pests, diseases, best pruning, and removal practices. Serving Lamorinda, areas of Contra Costa, and parts of Solano, they are certified tree care safety professionals, and Advance Tree Service is Diamond Certified®
tree mushroom
Darren indicated that by the end of April deciduous trees have leafed out and should be looking fresh and healthy. Because of our California drought, many trees have suffered injury. Many have died, are dying, or are extremely stressed. It’s time to take a walk around your property to inspect your trees and larger shrubs. Check for dead, dry, brittle branches and holes in the bark or trunk. If you have a suspicion that a tree may be impaired, it’s critical to contact a certified arborist who will be able to identify hazards and offer advice. For Lamorinda residents, Darren told me that Advance Tree Service is happy to offer a complimentary inspection. If your tree needs a treatment or removal, options will be related. “When a tree is healthy or doesn’t need any care, we give the homeowner the truth. There are some afflictions that aren’t worth treating,” Darren intoned.

What YOU can do to protect your trees:
1. Plant the correct tree in the correct area. Before planting a tree, learn more about its habits.
Considerations include:
⎫ How tall and wide will the tree be at maturity?
⎫ How much water does this specimen require?
⎫ Is it disease prone?
⎫ Will it survive in a drought?
⎫ Does it bear fruit?
⎫ Is it evergreen or deciduous?
⎫ Will your tree block a neighbors view?
⎫ Is it appropriate for your landscape?
⎫ How will it look in all four seasons?
⎫ Keep rocks away from around the base. Rocks get hot and the heat is not good for the roots. Use mulch instead.
⎫ Trees are thirsty, especially redwoods. They need water all year long. Large trees need more hydration with a deep watering wand.
⎫ Prune correctly. Improper pruning damages trees. Watch for crossovers.
⎫ Remove suckers from the base of trees.
⎫ Hire a certified arborist to inspect your trees. Ask questions and learn.
up in the bucket
Signs of Trouble:
⎫ Mushrooms growing at the base of the tree. These are poisonous, do not consider eating them.
⎫ Mistletoe hanging from the branches. As much as we love mistletoe at Christmas, it is always a sign of concern when it invades a tree.
⎫ Branches without leaves and no new growth evident.
⎫ Ivy or other vines climbing the trunk. Remove quickly.
What to Look for in a Tree Specialist for Hire:
⎫ Arborist certification
⎫ Valid state contractor’s license
⎫ Certified Tree Care Safety Professional by the Tree Care Industry Association(TCIA)
⎫ Insurance
⎫ Workman’s Compensation
⎫ Experience over cost
⎫ Ask for recommendations and do your research
⎫ Get an evaluation and a written bid before proceeding.
Advance Tree Service-Cutting Cottonwood-palms

My cottonwood exhibited all of the warning signs. The branches were so brittle that a bucket truck was necessary to elevate a worker with a chainsaw to cut the branches. When a tree is healthy, it can be climbed for pruning, but if the tree is dead, it could be too dangerous to attempt to climb it. The crew placed plywood in a V position to catch the cut branches as they fell. They then cut the pieces into firewood. Another option is to chip all of the wood for mulch. After the cottonwood was finished, the bucket was used to cut the dry branches from the Mexican palms. Advance cleaned up the area and left the mulch for me to use in my garden. I was very impressed with their professionalism, competency, and speed. Advanced Tree Service can be reached by phone at 925-376-6528 with further information at www.advancetree.com.

If you are considering planting trees this spring, consider this:
⎫ Redwoods and pines need copious amounts of water. Don’t plant them. Pines are also very flammable.
⎫ Ornamental trees such as red buds, pistache, and Japanese maple do well with little water.
⎫ The most drought resistant species are the natives: oaks, buckeye, manzanita, and madrone as they need very little water and in fact, won’t thrive with too much.
equipement for tree cutting
The danger of a falling tree is real. Most homeowners are not really aware of the signals that trees exhibit when they are suffering. Don’t wait too long to have your trees inspected. It’s far better to be safe than sorry.

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb

Cynthia Brian’s Mid Month Reminders:

CELEBRATE Arbor Day on April 29th. Plant a tree or offer gratitude for the trees you already have.

AERATE lawns to help with proper drainage and root growth.

PREVENT unwanted pests, including termites, ants, grubs, etc. with an organic spray. Cedar oil contained in Yard Guard is safe for pets and children.

PROTECT peony buds from freezing once they’ve sprouted by putting a sheet over them before frost is expected.

ALLOW the leaves from bulbs that have completed blooming to turn brown and crispy. Daffodils and narcissi require this procedure to refuel the bulb for next year’s flowering.
bucket cutting cottonwood
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Happy Gardening and Happy Growing.
Cynthia Brian
The Goddess Gardener
Starstyle® Productions, llc
Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show at www.StarStyleRadio.com
Garden and plant consultations by appointment.

April Garden Guide by Cynthia Brian

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April Garden Guide by Cynthia Brian

“April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.” William Shakespeare

cynthia brian -wisteria
The siren song of spring calls my soul to the outdoors as swiftly as the mermaid lures the sailor to the depths of the sea. The fragrance of the blossoms, the colors of blooms, the chirping of the birds, the croaking of the frogs, and the scent of green grasses speak to my deepest being. Our precious earth is in the process of re-birth and no matter how many years I’ve witnessed this evolution, I am always in awe. My camera captures thousands of photos, most of which looked so much better with the naked eye, yet I want to record the beauty. I am obsessed with the lilacs, wisteria, iris, freesia, fruit trees, wildflowers, and, especially the soothing sounds of the cascading creeks.

Spring-how I love thee!
frog fountain
As wild turkeys gobble gobble along the hillsides and into our streets unaware that turkey season is open for those who seek to bag a bird for a barbecue and as the deer begin to nibble our budding roses, it’s wise to consider protecting our delicate plants from our indigenous predators.  Wire, netting, and fences are our most effective armor.  El Nino has been a blessing in quenching our thirsty gardens, especially our lawns, yet the prodigious weeds, if left unattended will compete with our flowers for moisture in summer. Now is the time to take action.

Every morning as I walk my property, I tell myself I’ll spend only an hour in the garden after work. However, the hour quietly melts into three or four and soon I’m weeding by flashlight. This is love. It’s springtime in our gardens and fun is pending! Go out and dig.
Oriental poppies
⎫ ADD edible flowers to your dining experience. Plant seeds of hyssop, nasturtium, violet, leaf fennel, daisy, and calendula.
⎫ SCATTER seeds of zinnia, cosmos, and marigold seeds for summer blooms.
⎫ WEED, weed, weed. Don’t let seed heads develop or you’ll have more invasive plants next season.
⎫ SOW onions not only for eating but also as a natural pest control in your garden, especially for brassicas including cabbage, broccoli, collards, and kale.
⎫ MIX flowers with edibles to attract pollinators to your spring garden. Make sure to plant in groups so that the birds, bees, and butterflies see the dinner you are serving.
⎫ BUILD hugels while the soil is moist. You will find them invaluable this summer when water is scarce. (See October 7, 2015 issue for instructions)
⎫ CHECK trees for damage. Many trees are suffering or have died during the drought. Ivy growing up the trunks, mushrooms at the base, and mistletoe are signs of trouble. Call a certified arborist.
⎫ PLANT purple! Compounds called anthocyanins in purple produce have anti-inflammatory effects would could help lower the risk of cancer and heart disease. Think purple kale, purple potatoes, purple carrots, purple cauliflower, purple anything.
⎫ NATURALIZE aquilegia, commonly called columbine. These delicate star shaped petals will self sow if planted by others to cross-pollinate. They come a range of bold colors including blues, rose, yellow, white, pink, crimson, fuchsia, and many bicolors.
⎫ SHADE gardens lend themselves to the lush green to bronze foliage of astilbe. Spires of pink, red, scarlet, and white add summer grace.
⎫ CUT bouquets of Oriental poppies mixed with lilacs for a stunning indoor offering with a heady scent.
⎫ PHOTOGRAPH your garden. If you have a stellar masterpiece, send me a jpeg with a description. Who knows, we may publish it! Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com
⎫ WELCOME home the migrating birds with fresh water in the fountain and new seed in the feeder.
⎫ REPLACE woody lavender bushes. After six years or so, lavender is ready for the compost pile.
⎫ BE friendly to native bees by incorporating native wildflowers into your landscape. (See March 23, 2015 Digging Deep-Cultivate a Wildflower Meadow)
⎫ CARE for your lawns. The continued rains provide an opportunity to re-seed. I am sowing Pearl’s Premium on rainy days then making sure the seed is watered daily until it sprouts. To protect the germinating seeds from hungry birds, our publisher, Andy Scheck suggests putting old screen doors on the patches. I’ve used old window screens. By summer the roots will be fourteen to twenty inches deep and drought resistant. I’ll keep you posted on my success or failure.
⎫ RAISE your mower to a higher setting and forget the bag this month allowing the grass clippings to add nitrogen back into the lawn.
⎫ CLEAN the patio. Sweep and wash furniture. Enjoy the sunny days.
⎫ START tomatoes if your soil is warm. You may get a jumpstart on summer juiciness.
⎫ PICK tangerines, Meyer lemons, and tangelos as they ripen.
⎫ COMPOST, compost, compost. The more nutrients you put into your garden, the more spectacular your scenery.
⎫ MARK your calendars for wine and books event benefiting Be the Star You Are!® charity on Saturday, April 9th from 1pm until 4pm at Dawn’s Dream Winery Tasting room, NW Corner of 7th & San Carlos, Carmel-by-the-Sea.http://www.bethestaryouare.org/#!events/kgh2e
⎫ PROGRAM your DVR’s to record Wheel of Fortune on Monday, April 11 at 7:30pm on ABC for a fun local experience. Make sure to watch to the final wave goodbye!
apple blossoms
A PostScript
Have you followed my December 15, 2015 advice about making hard copies of your garden photos as well as other collectibles? My Digging Digitally article hit a chord with so many people, including those in other countries. This note arrived from Ireland.

“As regards your article about Digging Digitally and making hard copies of precious visual memories, and I so agree with everything you write. Last night I spent an agreeable evening perusing 100-year old photo albums from my husband Per’s family, and it was so lovely to see the photos and read the handwritten comments. Those long-dead grandparents, aunts and uncles and their lives and interests came to life again.
chickens, geese, goat
I am obsessive about making paper copies of everything that comes my way digitally – photos, even interesting emails.(And before emails, I have saved almost every letter I ever got!) Technology changes rapidly, and the visual records are so much more readily accessible,–no waiting for your computer to boot itself up and install a million updates, while all you wanted was a quick look at a particular photo. So keep on preaching the message to the younger generation.” N. Daly

It’s never too late to start a garden journal or actually print out our photographs. (If you missed the article, find it here)
Pictures of your most beautiful specimens make terrific art pieces when framed appropriately.

Let’s pray for April showers to bring more May flowers. Put a bounce in your step, sing, dance, and be young.
goose eggs
Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!

Read more

Cynthia Brian
The Goddess Gardener
Starstyle® Productions, llc
Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show at www.StarStyleRadio.com
LIVE Wednesdays 4-5pmPT on Voice America Network, Empowerment Channel.

Garden and plant consultations by appointment.

Fence Me In! by Cynthia Brian

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Fence Me In! by Cynthia Brian

Deer fence small

By Cynthia Brian

“Good fences make good neighbors.” Robert Frost

Growing up on a ranch we had all kinds of enclosures. Fences to keep the cattle in, fences to keep the deer out, coops for the chickens, hutches for the rabbits, paddocks for the horses, pens for the sheep, and extra corrals for the injured animals we’d rehabilitate before release. What we didn’t have were human fences.
Tulip tree
While traveling to the East Coast and the Southern states, I noticed a lack of fences between homes. Lawns rolled into one another, gardens meandered, play structures appeared to belong to no one or everyone. In the California sierras, the same mentality holds true for many homeowners. But in the cities and suburbs of California, strong fences create good neighbors, especially if you live near a house that reminds you of Miss Havisham’s ruined mansion in Charles Dickens, Great Expectations, albeit with abandoned cars on blocks, rusting washing machines, and a backyard piled high with trash. The sturdy redwood fence dividing your properties could be your sanity savior.

Here in our neck of the woods we experience a different kind of problem. Deer! With few predators and plenty of open space deer have been multiplying exponentially. This is not good news for gardeners. Of all the correspondence I receive from readers, the majority of the questions concern these trespassing foragers.
“What can I plant that deer won’t eat?”
“How can I keep the deer from breaking my sprinkler systems?”
“What can I do to keep the deer out of my garden?”
Over the years I’ve written articles about our dear deer and after three decades of trying literally every trick suggested, I am convinced that there is only one answer.
coyote on hill
Build a fence!

I decided to call several fencing companies to find out if they have experienced a rise in requests for deer fencing. The answer was a resolute “YES!”  Ryan Collins, the estimator for C & J Fencing, informed me that 95% of the calls he had been on in the last month were all related to building deer fencing. Despite the fact that C & J builds custom decks, arbors, handrails and benches as well as offering ornamental iron and chain link, putting in redwood and galvanized wire deer barriers has become an important part of protecting landscapes.
Building a fence
If you are considering installing a fence, repairing, upgrading, or replacing an old one, as a homeowner, what do you really need to know? I interviewed Ryan more in depth and also tagged along on an installation. Here are some tips that I gratefully learned through the generosity of C & J as well as my own observations.
1. Get recommendations from friends, family, or neighbors you trust.
2. Invite two or three legitimate companies to look at your location and bid your job. Ask how long each has been in business. Make sure all are licensed, carry Workman’s Comp Insurance, General Liability Insurance, and Auto Insurance.
3. To be fair to all, make sure each estimator is bidding apples for apples. Show each of the contractors exactly where you want the installation, share your expectations, and your fears, if any. Be clear on how high you want your fence. To keep the deer and coyotes out of your garden, seven feet is the recommendation.
4. Ask and get in writing the materials that will be used. Will the fence be redwood, Douglas fir, pressure treated, metal, chain link, or something else? How deep will the posts be set? (Two feet or more is best) How much concrete will be used? If using wood, are the posts to be set eight feet on center with sixteen-foot top rails? Where will gates be placed? Is the wire galvanized welded? Is there an up charge for the longer lasting black or green vinyl coated wire?
5. What is the experience and expertise of the crew who will handle the job?
6. How soon can the fence be started and completed?
7. Does the company contact the utility companies or is it the obligation of the homeowner to know where pipes, cable, electrical, and gas lines reside? If it is the homeowner’s responsibility, call 811 to schedule a free inspection.
8. Is the leftover debris recycled? What happens to it?
9. Is there a warranty and if so, how long?
10. When is payment due?
C & J=post hole digging
Costs vary widely between companies. Most fencing companies quoted an additional $2.00 a linear foot for the upgrade to the green or black vinyl coated wire while another company quoted $5.00 a linear foot. Some companies offered discount coupons, others were willing to negotiate within reason based on client needs. They key is to know exactly what you want and ask for it. Although a wood and wire fence could last twenty-five years or longer, warranties for the pressure treated posts and kickboards tended to be fifteen years and gates one year. Other than special order items which required a deposit, payment for the structure is due upon completion according to the companies I interviewed.

Once you have installed a redwood fence, should it be left natural, stained, or painted? Mr. Collins indicated that this is a personal choice, however, staining or painting will extend the life of the wood because it will be better protected from the elements, especially moisture.
lopez digging c & J
I watched C & J’s crew chief, Lopez, with his six man crew as they were unloading trucks, digging postholes, hauling bags of concrete, cutting wood, and erecting the fence. Every person was on his game, non-stop working until the job was finished and the area cleaned and cleared. Depending on the size of the job, a crew consists of two to four men, with a few more usually arriving the first day to unload. Lopez’s crew were so impressive that I asked Ryan if all of the twelve crews run by C & J were equally as hard working and diligent? He responded that because C & J is a family-run business, each crewmember is hand picked resulting in a pride of ownership mentality. Many times they hire siblings of a dedicated worker. Lopez, an eight-year veteran of C & J, brought his two brothers on board.

This information made me realize that asking about the expertise and work ethics of the specific crew assigned to a project is a very critical part of hiring the right company for the job.  I wondered if some companies were charging higher fees because of El Nino. (I had heard that roofing companies were known for that practice.)  Ryan responded that a company with integrity quotes the same fees year round. Many people believe the misconception that winter is a time when fencing contractors scramble for work, but that is not the case. If you need a fence, do it when you want it. Don’t wait.
C & J Fencing
To help you explore your options, here are four local companies to consider:

C & J Fencing

A & J Fencing

Borg Fence

Burton Fencing

Strong fences are an excellent investment. Fences offer privacy, safety, curb appeal, and critter deterrence. If you love your garden and it’s being eaten by our abundant wildlife or invaded by unwanted creatures, the final solution is to fence yourself in. Good fences make good neighbors and they keep the coyotes and our dear deer out!
roses, queen annes lace
Spring is around the corner and our trees are full of buds and blossoms. Enjoy the beauty and the fragrance.

Happy Gardening! Happy Growing!
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Cynthia Brian
The Goddess Gardener
Starstyle® Productions, llc
Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show at www.StarStyleRadio.com 
Garden and plant consultations by appointment; hourly rates apply.

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