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Digging Deep with Cynthia Brian – Salute the Season

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Digging Deep with Cynthia Brian – Salute the Season
“The law of living is giving
The nature of nature is giving
The clouds are giving rain
Trees are giving fruit
Earth is giving grain
Moon and stars are giving light
With gifts of nature’s giving, we are living to complete the cycle of living, and giving
Let us give from our mind, hands, and heart to the world.” Chitrabhanu
Like a middle child, July emerges with a bang, fireworks, parades, and the celebration of our American independence. Sandwiched between the end of school, graduation, and Father’s Day month of June and the vacation, travel, back-to-school month of August, July must grab our attention swiftly, less it be lost between it’s frenzied siblings. And capture our interest it does with an abundance of luscious fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs to nurture our bellies, and a profusion of sizzling hot hued plants to seduce our spirits.
Summer is in full swing in the garden.  This is the season of plenty.  For a gardener, the shed becomes a playhouse, and shears the tool of choice as we trim, cut, prune, and fill our baskets with food and flowers to share. Containers are overflowing with pretty petunias and spilling lobelia as we welcome our visitors to a party on the patio.
We witness the bud burst of agapanthus into brilliant blue blooms within days. Gladioli spires shoot for the stars, their cherry throats contrasting spectacularly with the grays of the dusty miller.  Honeybees dance on the magnolias, hollyhocks, penstemons, and flowering succulents, sucking the nectar and pollinating surrounding specimens. Fences of scarlet trumpet vine herald the arrival of butterflies and hummingbirds. Asiatic lilies in colors of the rainbow poke their heads above the crowd making sure they are recognized. Hydrangea blooms are as big as beachballs, mandevilla and pink bower vine enliven arbors and pergolas. The garden is alive, vibrant, and waiting to be enjoyed.
Like all celebrations, there are always a few inconveniences that need to be addressed.  Here are my favorite ways of eliminating the pests.
Yellow Jackets:  If you have yellow jackets plaguing your summer barbecues, you need to follow the yellow flyers back to their nest. Yellow jackets live and hatch in holes in the ground. While it is advised to hang a trap only on the day of your event, contrary to popular belief, the more yellow jacket traps you set, the more yellow jackets you’ll have to contend with because when a soldier dies, the Queen doubles her duty to produce more warriors for the colony. The hard part is finding the nest. Once you’ve located it, instead of buying a spray, call Vector Control.  A professional will come free of charge, dress in a bee keepers suit, and go to work spraying the nest with long hoses to kill the queen. The problem with commercial repellents is that they can’t get far enough into the tunnels. When my yellow jacket issue arose, Vector informed me that the underground nest was probably at least thirty feet of winding chambers filled with thousands of yellow jackets. 
Mosquitoes: Plant lemongrass, the main repellent ingredient in citronella candles. Crush or dry the leaves, mix with alcohol or oil and apply to your body, clothing, or make a spray for outdoor areas as a deterrent. Set out citronella candles and torches. Buy Dunks for your fountains, which don’t hurt wildlife but kill the mosquito larvae, and call Vector Control again to get mosquito fish if you have a pond.  The ThermaCell Mosquito Repellent Patio Lantern sold at hardware  and home stores is another great resource. 
Snails and Slugs: If snails and slugs are munching your seedlings, handpick at night when they are feeding, wrap copper strips around perimeters of the problem area, or trap in pans of beer. Coffee grinds and wood ash are also deterrents.  Make sure to remove garden debris and look under rocks and flowerpots.  Since they are hermaphroditic, they will fertilize themselves producing thirty to 120 offspring that begin eating the moment they hatch.
With the irritants under control, focus your attention on pleasant summer guests. Quail, robins, finches, and orioles brighten the landscape with their song and their antics. Provide birdbaths, fountains, and feeders to keep them frolicking in your yard.  Fill a clay saucer with water for the butterflies and if you have a swimming pool, rescue the bees that attempt a drink but are doomed to drown.  Don’t confuse bees with yellow jackets. Bees don’t hover around food, only yellow jackets do.
The feast begins in the orchards, potagers, vegetable, and herb gardens. Plums, apricots, peaches, apples, nectarines, and cumquats are at their peak.  Berries of many varieties ripen this month including blackberries, elderberries, blueberries, raspberries, fuchsia berries, and strawberries.  With the exception of the elderberry, pick and eat straight from the vine or tree or make heavenly pies, smoothies, jams, jellies, and sorbets.  Bulb fennel boasts sprays of yellow flowers, tomatoes, peppers zucchini, and cucumbers are sweet and prolific.  Home gardener’s are privy to their own customized produce aisle.
The season of plenty is upon us. Stand, salute, and raise the flag. The greatest reward is sharing the treasures from our own soil. A garden is to give. A garden is to grow. 
Happy gardening and happy growing to you!
Cynthia Brian
The Goddess Gardener
Cynthia Brian and Heather Brittany are excited to announce that their long running radio show, StarStyle®Be the Star You Are!® is moving to the Voice America Network. Live broadcasts begin Wednesday, July 3 from 4-5pm Pt/7-8pm ET at http://www.voiceamerica.com/show/2206/be-the-star-you-are.  You will still be able to access all our previous shows through June 2013 at our World Talk Radio site as well here http://www.voiceamerica.com/worldtalkradio/vshow.aspx?sid=764.  All shows are archived with photos, descriptions, links and more at http://www.StarStyleRadio.com. Come join our power party on Voice America.

Starstyle® Radio host, Cynthia Brian Answers Garden Questions

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Starstyle® Radio host, Cynthia Brian Answers Garden Questions


Listener’s Request- Isotoma

Hello Cynthia,

I’m thinking of replacing my ugly barren lawn with fake turf so my kids can play, but read that you like isotoma. How quickly does isotoma grow? Can I just buy a bag of it? Can I plant it this late in the season? Will the kids be able to play on it? Thanks so much for all your help.


Hi Patrick:

So happy you emailed me first before buying fake turfgrass. For nature lovers, fake is a no-go! I’d rather encourage readers to replace lawn with wood chips or gravel rather than ever going plastic. Yuck, yuck.  

With that admonishment, you will LOVE isotoma, also known as Blue Star Creeper.  My lawn is a couple of decades old and whenever I have brown patches, they are filled with isotoma. The secret to any lawn or garden, as I’ve often written, is the soil.  If you augment and amend your soil, the isotoma will spread quickly. Being native to Australia, New Zealand, the West Indies, and the Society Islands, isotoma stays green all year here in our area and blooms consistently until frost.  It’s super durable and a great lawn substitute plus it is so pretty and very easy to care for. Of course it’s a bonus that the tiny blue flowers are stars.  I don’t know how big your lawn area is, but I suggest you measure, then, call a soil company to deliver a few yards of hero soil. Spread it around your entire lawn and fill in the bare areas with isotoma. Isotoma isn’t picky about soil. It will grow in neutral, alkaline, or acidic, yet it’s always a better idea to start with a rich foundation.

Since you live in Northern California, t’s not too late to plant as long as you water more as temperatures rise. I plant isotoma all year around and it is evergreen throughout all the seasons.  Your kids will love the texture and soft, cushiony feel. Isotoma is almost as rugged as grass but it can take up to a year to get established. Patience is required. Once it’s established, your kids can do somersaults, kick balls, and play on it just as they would regular lawn.  It works in both sun and shade and is a “no mow” ground cover.  Now that is something to shout about!


Many people use isotoma on patios between pavers or on paths between stones, or as a border edging. It really is beautiful and so adaptable to numerous situations.  Although you may find isotoma seed, I prefer to buy a few flats, spacing each plant about 12-18 inches apart for a rapid filler. The spread is up to 24 inches. Foliage is a striking deep green sprinkled with glorious light blue stars. My goal is to eventually replace my entire grass lawn with the blue stars of isotoma. That would be true Star Style! Enjoy!


Happy gardening and happy growing!





Express Yourself!™ TEENS Talk the Importance of Attending Youth Conferences

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Express Yourself!™ TEENS Talk the Importance of Attending Youth Conferences




Every day teens are making an impact in the world as they grow to become our future leaders. Besides programs like Express Yourself!™ where teens get to work as writers, hosts, and reporters, many young people develop leaderships at youth conferences. I developed many of my leadership skills at youth conferences. Hosts Youngjoo Ahn talks about her experience at the national High School Journalism Convention and co-host Katelyn Darrow shares her numerous involvement at conventions and conferences, most notably the Presidential Inauguration in Washington DC. Reporter Ryan Sim develops solutions for world problems as part of the MUN Youth Conference, Model United Nations. Sixteen-year-old Indiana guest, Lora Margerum, has participated in six conferences from the Congressional Youth Leadership Council. All agree that being a representative at a conference or convention is an opportunity for learning, growth, and real world experience.

Listen at Voice America Kids Network: 

For descriptions, links, logos, photos, and more, listen at http://starstyleradio.com/Express_Yourself%21_Radio/Entries/2013/5/28_Youth_Conferences.html 

Express Yourself!™ Teen Radio is produced by Cynthia Brian of Starstyle® Productions, llc as an outreach program of Be the Star You Are!® charity. For information on being a guest email Katherine@BetheStarYouAre.org. To make a tax-deductible donation to keep this positive youth programming broadcasting weekly to international audiences, visit http://www.bethestaryouare.org/donate.htm. Thanks for supporting teens! Express Yourself!™ broadcasts on the Voice America Kids Network every Tuesday at NOON PT at 

Listen to the show on demand! 


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