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Good Plants and Bad Plants

Posted by Cynthia Brian on
Good Plants and Bad Plants


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

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Have you ever thought good deeds may be planted? So many of the flowers, bushes, trees, and vines that we use in our gardens can be both good and bad. Some plants that are excellent in one yard are a disaster in someone else’s landscape. Most of these plants are sold at nurseries and garden centers. The key is knowing what will be best for your garden.

In this article, I will share what has worked for me and what has not. I call my hypothesis, “Plant this, but don’t plant that!”


As I open my living room doors, the sweet fragrance of jasmine fills the room. If you want a fast-growing vine to cover an arbor, pergola, or fence, jasmine fills the bill. Every spring, the pink-tinged white clusters of delicious smelling blossoms will perfume your yard. Taking cuttings for bouquets will perfume your bathrooms and other areas without the use of any chemical sprays. As much as I love jasmine, I must also caution you that it can be an aggressive grower if not managed. Jasmine climbs trees and can also suffocate other plants. I am forever pulling strands from boxwoods and cutting vines that have climbed over azaleas. However, for me, the beauty, blooms, and heady scent throughout my garden pushes the positive check marks. Should you plant jasmine?  My verdict: Only you can decide.


Three decades ago, a new neighbor wanted an instant green, easy-maintenance ground cover. Against my ardent appeals to not plant an invasive species, they chose ivy. Those neighbors are long gone, yet thirty years later, I am still battling that ivy that crawled under and over fences. I’m sure other neighbors are also attempting to eradicate it. Ivy boasts glossy-green leaves, creates beautiful topiaries, and in many parts of the country, ivy is welcome, even coveted. Yet here in California, this rapidly growing species harbors rats, strangles trees, damages structures, and is almost impossible to completely contain. My verdict: DON’T PLANT IVY!


When lilacs bloom, spring has arrived. Lilacs are known for their beautiful, fragrant flowers in colors of white, pink, lavender, purple, and blue, which add an attractive touch to any landscape. My mother grew the most spectacular lilacs and I am continuing the tradition. Lilacs are low-maintenance plants that thrive in a variety of soil conditions and climates, making them a versatile choice for gardeners. Beyond their aesthetic appeal, lilacs provide valuable ecosystem services. Bees and hummingbirds are attracted to the delicious and substantial nectar produced by lilacs. Some studies suggest that the scent of lilacs may have a calming effect on the human nervous system, making them a great choice for creating a relaxing outdoor environment. My verdict: Plant this.


While euphorbia may be a beautiful and eye-catching addition to a garden because of the chartreuse-colored blooms, it is important to exercise caution when considering planting this species. Euphorbia contains a toxic sap that can cause skin irritation, and in some cases, severe allergic reactions. In addition, euphorbia self-seeds and spread quickly, making it difficult to control and invasive. Seeds from euphorbia blew into my garden from the surrounding hillside. At first, I was thrilled because I had seen this specimen in the nursery and thought the color was so unique. A single plant multiplied the following year to hundreds, then thousands, suffocating and killing most of my other plants as the roots strangled other roots. For the past five years, I have been pulling plants by hand and discarding them into the garbage bin. Despite my earnest efforts, euphorbia still invades my orchard and attempts to creep into my garden beds. My verdict: DON’T PLANT EUPHORBIA.

Mock Orange

The mock orange tree, also known as Philadelphus, is a beautiful flowering shrub that produces fragrant, white, or cream-colored blooms that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. This shrub is relatively low-maintenance and easy to grow, making it an ideal choice for novice gardeners. It is often used as a natural screen or hedge, providing privacy, and adding aesthetic value to your outdoor space. I planted my two trees next to a brick stairway to enjoy the soothing and relaxing fragrance as I passed.  Prune and shape the way you wish. My verdict: Plant this.

Poisonous Hemlock

Despite being highly toxic to humans and animals, poisonous hemlock was introduced to the United States from Europe as a decorative plant in the 1800s. All parts of the plant are poisonous. It contains a toxin called coniine, which can cause respiratory failure, paralysis, convulsions, and ultimately death if ingested in large amounts. (Remember Socrates?) Poison hemlock is a member of the carrot family and resembles Queen Anne’s lace. Hemlock is easy to identify by the crimson streaks on the stems. The leaves are fern-like and the white flowers delicate, but beware, this invasive plant grows to twelve feet or more and is very difficult to eradicate with its long tap roots. Wear protective clothing when pulling or mowing. Do not put the plant in the compost pile. Dispose of the entire plant in the garbage and make sure that the seeds have not spread. Like euphorbia, poison hemlock seeds blew in from the adjacent open space and began to take over my hillside. Euphorbia and hemlock often grow in tandem. Both are extremely difficult to control. Every year I get a bit closer to extermination, but plants still find their way to grow. My verdict: DON’T PLANT HEMLOCK!


Many people believe that roses are challenging to grow and not worth the effort. The thorns are also a major turn-off. Despite my many scratches, I find roses to be one of the most rewarding plants in my garden with a blooming time that lasts nine or ten months. Although I’ll plant a rose from any breeder that captures my fancy, most of my roses are David Austin English roses which were hybridized to combine the characteristics of old-fashioned roses with the repeat flowering of modern roses, resulting in a stunning range of colors, shapes, and sizes. They are also highly fragrant, producing a delightful scent that fills the air and lifts my spirits. I grow climbing, rambling, tea, shrub, and more. Deadhead as flowers fade to encourage continuous blooms. My verdict: Plant this.

As you probably deciphered, I adore plants that supply flowers, fragrance, pollinator benefits, and beauty to my garden. I’m willing to do a bit of extra work to experience the specimens on my “plant this” list, but I do not recommend any of the “do not plant” groups.

We will all return to compost one day but meanwhile, what good deeds will stay green in your garden?

Happy Gardening. Happy Growing.

Read Digging Deep with Cynthia Bria: https://lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1707/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Plant-this-Dont-plant-that.html

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

Tune into Cynthia’s StarStyle® Radio Broadcast at www.StarStyleRadio.com. Her newest children’s picture book, No Barnyard Bullies, from the series, Stella Bella’s Barnyard Adventures is available now at https://www.CynthiaBrian.com/online-store. Hire Cynthia for writing projects, garden consults, and inspirational lectures. Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com

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Self-Control in the Garden

Posted by Cynthia Brian on
Self-Control in the Garden


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“Inch by inch, life is a cinch. By the yard, it’s hard.” Popularized by Robert Schuller

Do you ever go to a restaurant extremely hungry and when you peruse the menu, you order more than you could ever eat? I am guilty of this trait whenever I visit a nursery or garden center. Before I go, I usually create a list of the four or five plants that I want and am ready to plant. But once there, all the magnificent flora intoxicates me with their beauty, and I end up buying more than I have time to put in the ground.

Not this year. I am exerting self-control and keeping it small. One of the reasons for limiting my purchases is that my garden is not sufficiently prepared for adding extras. Before I left on my European expedition, I thought I had everything under control. I had followed my own advice of pruning, weeding, feeding, seeding, and mulching the landscape. The few weeds that remained resembled short groundcover. But because of the rain and fog providing extra moisture, and the warm, sunny days whilst I was away, ideal conditions for abundant growth of both weeds and flowers were created. Upon my return, I was greeted by a gorgeous green jungle, albeit totally out-of-control blooms and blossoms as well as weeds as tall as I am.

The tender tiny mustard greens that I had been collecting for salads and stir-fry now towered six or seven feet. The chamomile had sprouted thickly and was bursting with buds.

Grasses blown in from the hills mingled with the purple and yellow bearded iris, euphorbia, and nasturtiums. For the next few months, I will labor weeding, weeding, and weeding. Inch by inch.

Despite the weeds, the garden has erupted into a colorful canvas of fragrant flowers. Lilac, wisteria, jasmine, mock orange, rose, and freesia compete for the title of most glorious blooms with the most intoxicating perfume.

It is time to plant my vegetables and herbs, and this is where I am starting small. In two containers outside the kitchen door, I bought and planted two tomato plants, a red bell pepper, shallots, scallions, basil, dill, and thyme.

In my vegetable garden, I started another artichoke, eggplant, squash, and lettuce. By purchasing four-inch pots and six-packs instead of gallons, I had the time, and the space, to get these in the soil immediately. In a vintage wheelbarrow, potatoes and onions are growing. Companion planting is a strategy that I implement to increase the success of my crops. To hungry insects and pests, the smell of onions is unpleasant, making them an excellent companion plant for many other vegetables including the members of the Solanaceae (nightshade) family of tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, and peppers. Onions also act as a mild aphid repellant to roses.

Here are other vegetables that will benefit from planting onions, garlic, or other alliums as companions:











Don’t plant onions with asparagus, peas, beans, or sage as the flavor will be negatively affected and the growth of the plants will be stunted.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be able to finish weeding areas where I want to plant more tomatoes, zucchini, sweet corn, beans, and cucumbers. Check out the amount of weeds in this 10 x 10 space. Crazy amount of work, yet necessary.

Beans, corn, and zucchini I’ll plant by seed, and other vegetables I’ll buy in small containers. I will continue the succession seeding of beets, carrots, and greens that my family enjoys eating. I’ll add marigolds to repel other rodents and nematodes throughout the garden.

I am an advocate for growing my own groceries because I know that my soil is free of chemicals, insecticides, pesticides, and other harmful matter. You can also grow your own food even if you have a small space.

Whether you buy a decorative container or repurpose a vessel, sanitize it with bleach and water. Rinse well. Add pebbles for drainage and rich potting soil. Plant what you like to eat. Keep your pot watered. Feed with organic fertilizers based on the requirements of what you plant. You will have produce that is delicious, nutritious, and healthy.

Most people don’t know that many of the fruits and vegetables that we purchase in the supermarket or even at Farmer’s Markets are filled with chemicals. Even if you are on a strict budget, the following Dirty Dozen of vegetables and fruits should only be purchased as organic produce or grown in your garden. Sadly, these are vegetables and fruits that most people enjoy and believe are good for us. Beware…they are only good for you when they are grown without chemicals.

In order of the most chemicals used on each crop, The Dirty Dozen includes:

1.  strawberries

2.  spinach

3.  collard greens, kale, mustard greens

4.  peaches

5.  pears

6.  nectarines

7.  apples

8.  grapes

9.  peppers and hot peppers

10.  cherries

11.  blueberries

12.  green beans

A small amount of sweet corn, papaya, and squash is grown from genetically modified seeds. Always look to plant seeds that say “non-GMO”.

The following fruits and vegetables are called The Clean Fifteen. You may purchase them anywhere, yet again, what you grow yourself will always be more beneficial.

1.           avocado

2.           sweet corn

3.           pineapple

4.           onions

5.           papaya

6.           frozen sweet peas

7.           asparagus

8.           honeydew melon

9.           kiwi

10.        cabbage

11.        mushrooms

12.        mangoes

13.        sweet potatoes

14.        watermelon

15.        carrots

Finally, in May, plant annuals, perennials, and summer bulbs suited to your microclimate conditions as the weather warms. Cosmos, petunias, salvia, zinnias, yarrow, Agastache, penstemon, asters, marigolds, and echinacea are colorful choices that also attract pollinators.

Anemones and forget-me-notsFor bulbs, consider Lily of the Nile (Agapanthus), tuberous begonia, caladium, canna, dahlia, gladiolus, and lilies. Summer blooming plants need warm, well-draining soil. Don’t forget roses. They offer repeat blooms and fragrance for months. Always pay attention to the directions or plant tags. Keep everything watered sufficiently

Start small and increase as you have the time and space. Don’t buy too many plants at once if you won’t be able to get them in their forever home within a few days. Make sure your area is weeded well before you sow any seeds. Cut high grasses and remove debris around the perimeter of your house as fire prevention. Inch by inch, it’s a cinch!

Happy Gardening. Happy Growing!

Read: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1706/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Start-small.html

ü  PS: From May through June 30, DONATE your gently worn or new shoes to support women and families in poverty in developing countries as part of the Be the Star You Are!® charity Shoe Drive. Please tie shoes together or rubber band pairs to keep them together. Drop off at sponsor locations:

For more information, visit https://www.bethestaryouare.org/shoedrive

Raised in the vineyards of Napa County, Cynthia Brian is a New York Times best-selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are!® 501 c3. Tune into Cynthia’s StarStyle® Radio Broadcast at www.StarStyleRadio.com. Her newest children’s picture book, No Barnyard Bullies, from the series, Stella Bella’s Barnyard Adventures is available now at https://www.CynthiaBrian.com/online-store. Hire Cynthia for writing projects, garden consults, and inspirational lectures. Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com


©2023 text and photos, Cynthia Brian. All rights reserved


A Tribute to Mothers

Posted by Cynthia Brian on
A Tribute to Mothers

Miracle Moment®

“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


A Message from Founder/Executive Director, Cynthia Brian

When I was a little girl, my mother told me that she would cut off her right arm to save any of her children if they were in danger. I remember being horrified at this suggestion. If she didn’t have her right arm, how would she hug her five children? It wasn’t until I became a mother and a Momma Bear, that I understood the intense devotion, dedication, and protection a mother has for her offspring. The love of mothers for their children is an incomparable force that knows no bounds. It is a love that transcends time, distance, and even death. It is a love that is unconditional, unselfish, and pure. As a mother, we want our children to be happy, successful, and loving.

A mother’s love is often described as fierce, but what does that really mean? It means that a mother will go to great lengths to protect and care for her children, no matter the cost. She will sacrifice her own needs and wants to ensure that her children are well-fed, well-clothed, and well-loved. She will work tirelessly to provide for them, to guide them, and to teach them the values and principles that will help them navigate the world.

The love of a mother is also incredibly forgiving. No matter how many mistakes her children make, no matter how many times they disappoint her, she will always welcome them back with open arms. She will offer words of encouragement, a shoulder to cry on, and a listening ear, even when her children don’t deserve it.

How, then, can we honor the great mothers in our lives? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Express gratitude. Whether it’s a heartfelt thank-you note, a phone call, or a simple hug, make sure your mother knows just how much you appreciate all that she has done for you.
  2. Spend quality time together. Set aside some time to do something special with your mother, whether it’s going out for lunch, taking a walk in the park, or watching a movie together. Make sure she knows that she is important to you and that you enjoy spending time with her.
  3. Help out around the house. Mothers often bear the burden of household chores and responsibilities. Show your appreciation by taking on some of those tasks yourself. Help with the cooking, cleaning, or laundry, or take care of younger siblings so that your mother can have a well-deserved break.
  4. Support her dreams and goals. Just as mothers support their children’s dreams and goals, it’s important to support your mother’s aspirations as well. Whether she wants to go back to school, start a new hobby, or travel the world, let her know that you are behind her all the way.
  5. Tell her you love her. This may seem obvious, but it’s important to say those three little words often and sincerely. Don’t assume that your mother knows how you feel – tell her in no uncertain terms how much you love her and how grateful you are for all that she has done.
  6. Make a donation honoring your wonderful Mother. Visit https://www.paypal.com/fundraiser/charity/1504 

The love of mothers for their children is a powerful force that should never be taken for granted. Mothers cheer for us and believe we can do anything.

I’m glad that my mother never had to sacrifice her right arm to save her children, yet, I know as a mother, and now a grandmother, I would do the same for my family.

Take the time to honor the great mothers in your life and let them know just how much they mean to you. They have given us life. Express your gratitude and appreciation.

Listen to our teens, Keerthi, Kirpa, and Milan talk about the history of Mother’s Day and why they are grateful for their Moms. Listen at Voice America Network, Empowerment Channel: https://www.voiceamerica.com/episode/143981/happy-mothers-day

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to all the AMAZING WOMEN who care for the world.

Remember, we are all Picasso’s to our mothers!

Sincerest gratitude,

Cynthia Brian

Founder/Executive Director

Be the Star You Are!® 501 c3 charity

PO Box 376

Moraga, California 94556




DONATE: https://www.paypal.com/fundraiser/charity/1504


The Be the Star You Are!® booth at the Moraga Faire, under the direction of out two teen chairpersons, Ruhani and Taylin, was a roaring success. Our volunteers helped hundreds of children and adults plant seeds, distributed potpourri, told stories and read from the book, No Barnyard Bullies, in the Reading Circle, and walked around the Faire handing out goodies. Thanks again to our sponsor, MB Jessee Painting, www.MBJESSEE.com.

Everyone had a great time and we look forward to seeing you next year! https://www.bethestaryouare.org/copy-of-events


Be the Star You Are!® in collaboration with Mark Hoogs State Farm Insurance and 5 A Rent a Space are collecting new or gently worn shoes to ship to women and families in developing countries. With the Russian war against Ukraine and the unprecedented natural disasters around the world, millions of people are currently experiencing difficult living conditions. Although books are always an enlightening resource, shoes are a basic necessity.

Through June 30th, drop shoes at these two locations:

·      Mark Hoogs

State Farm Insurance

629 Moraga Road, Moraga



·      5 A Rent-A-Space

455 Moraga Rd. #F, Moraga



With your donation of shoes, you will be sharing your love. Thank you!

For more information, visit https://www.bethestaryouare.org/shoedrive


by Julia Howe

Each mother is uniquely beautiful.

Maybe she’s the she-E-O of her own life, fearlessly proposing her investment model at a table that would dismiss her. Yet, she still saves an extra 2 hours of the 26 she works to binge-watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer with me.

Perhaps she is a trailblazer, doing research by women for women, and a compassionate doctor who learned Mandarin so she can crack jokes with her patients. She’s also the mother who I crawl into bed with when I’m shaking from a midnight nightmare, and she will always hold me close and say, “You are safe while you are here with me.”

To the parent who wears many hats, from nurse to teacher to chef to chauffeur. Motherhood is a job that demands ceaseless dedication, patience, selflessness, and unwavering love. It changes one life and also changes billions of them. My mother embodies both selfless love and unwavering strength. Her love is the purest form of love there is; the unwavering force that transcends boundaries and radiates through every aspect of our lives.

Mothers are often compared to superheroes, cheerleaders, and warriors because of their ability to juggle multiple responsibilities, be present at every event, and fight fiercely for their children’s well-being. But our mothers go beyond comparison. There is no superhero who, like her, can enliven and electrify all who stumble across her path. There is no cheerleader who will go wild when you lose your first tooth. There is no warrior who fights with kindness.

It is a rare person who can battle without hate.

My mother leads by example. She is beautiful, so I can be beautiful. She doesn’t just protect me; she strengthens me. Most of all, she is a person whom I love.

A person whom I love very much.

Teen Artwork credited to Perisu Deviren, Nathaniel Howe, and Alison Cohn

Julia Howe is a teen reader and writer with Be the Star You Are!®, passionate about youth mental health and literacy. She loves exploring innovative education methods and running long distances.”


Teen poet and Express Yourself!® host, Sharaya, has been honored to have her poetry on display at the Orinda Library in a special showcase of art and poetry.

Congrats, Sharanya. https://lamorindaarts.org/product/joann-lieberman-that-was-then/


Next month Be the Star You Are!® will be focusing on the mental health of teens with articles and radio broadcasts. One of the organizations that we will be featuring is A Brighter Day.

A Brighter Day is a nonprofit organization that is passionate about improving the lives of teenagers and young adults by providing them with essential mental health resources and support. The organization’s upcoming events offer an exciting opportunity for teens to get involved, make a difference, and join a community dedicated to making the world a better place for teenagers! By volunteering with A Brighter Day, teens can gain valuable experience, make new friends, and create positive change in their own lives and the lives of others.

No prior experience is needed, just communication and teamwork skills!

2023 Charity Golf Tournament, Crow Canyon Country Club, Danville, flexible hours 9 am – 7 pm

Car Show at Broadway Plaza, Broadway Plaza, Walnut Creek, flexible hours, 10 am – 6 pm

Anyone interested email the volunteer coordinator, Shaina, at shaina@abrighterday.info!



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Spring is time to stock up on gifts for holidays forthcoming. We have suggestions for you to shop, save, and stay safe. Please use these web sites for all of your shopping essentials.

1. Discounted books at Amazon:


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4. Buy “Read, Lead, Succeed” black tanks and books at StarStyle® Store:


5. Are you a gamer, lover of new software, or other digital content? Buy all of your favorites at Humble Bundle. http://ow.ly/cYs130iN6n4e


When you want to be uplifted and informed, tune into our two radio broadcasts: StarStyle®-Be the Star You Are!® and Express Yourself!™ Teen Radio.

Live every Wednesday from 4-5pm PT, Cynthia Brian hosts the lifestyle program, StarStyle®-Be the Star You Are!® showcasing success-perts and information that will make your life enjoyable and meaningful.

On Sundays from 3-4pm PT, listen to Express Yourself!™ Teen Radio, where teens talk and the world listens. No topic is off limits and the program is uncensored and unedited. What young people are thinking, they are broadcasting.

Tune in to both programs on all platforms where you listen to podcasts and music including iTunes, Tunein, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, Spotify, and more!


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Positive Results: https://www.bethestaryouare.org/positive-results

About Us: https://www.bethestaryouare.org/about_us

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How to Help: https://www.bethestaryouare.org/how-to-help

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Contact us: https://www.bethestaryouare.org/contact

Make a DONATION through PAYPAL GIVING FUND and PAYPAL with 100% going to BTSYA with NO FEES:  https://www.paypal.com/fundraiser/charity/1504



BE THE STAR YOU ARE!® is proud to be honored as a TOP NON PROFIT for numerous consecutive years. We THANK YOU for making that happen!


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Be the Star You Are!® 501 c3 charity

PO Box 376

Moraga, California 94556



A Garden Journey through Eastern Europe

Posted by Cynthia Brian on
A Garden Journey through Eastern Europe

“Every spring is the only spring, a perpetual astonishment.” Ellis Peters


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My legs feel like jelly and my back is breaking. And the pain is not from gardening. It is from walking an average of ten miles per day on cobblestone streets, up steep hills, down into the woods of national parks, and climbing medieval stairs to fortresses and castles throughout my springtime journey to the former Eastern Bloc countries of Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, as well as Croatia and Serbia. Besides learning more about the history, culture, customs, people, and food, I was on a quest to identify the botanical specimens that we have in common.

The original weather reports indicated mild temperatures, but a cold front suddenly appeared broadcasting freezing winds, rain, snowfall, and overcast grey days. Locals blamed the meteorologic conditions on climate change and global warming. Yet Mother Nature earnestly wanted to birth spring in a magical awakening from its winter slumber. The rich soil of these European countries provides a foundation for a variety of plants and trees, many of which are familiar to Californians.

Each country has a special association with a specific flower. During the Ottoman conquest, tulips were brought to these countries and tulips were blooming profusely in every land. Hungary claims the tulip as its national flower.

Home to diverse wildflowers, including the Pasque flower, a harbinger of spring, Croatia calls the Dalmatian iris its own. The bright orange crown imperial flower was a specimen unknown to me.

The national symbol of Serbia is the plum tree, which was in full bloom throughout the country. Their national drink, Šljivovica, is made from plums.

In Romania a wild climbing rose called Rosa Canina is utilized for both health and drinking and the purple Carpathian crocus is the first sign of spring.


Bulgaria is the world’s leading producer of rose oil used in perfumes and cosmetic products. The roses were not yet in bloom, but the bushes were filled with buds. I was compelled to purchase rose oil which is supposedly excellent for skin revitalization.

The Czech Republic is home to a variety of spring- blooming flowers including crocus, tulips, and roses, and is known for its spectacular display of cherry blossom trees which create a stunning pink canopy over the cities and countryside.

Blooming tulip magnolia trees were in glorious abundance, adding beauty to the already spectacular architecture.

Bright yellow forsythia, called golden bells, was flowering throughout the region, along roads, in parks, and in forests. Forsythia is stoloniferous, which means when a branch meets the soil it takes root to start another bush.

Part of the Brassicaceae mustard and cabbage family, rapeseed/canola farms were ubiquitous as a prosperous and financially lucrative crop. The rapeseed oil is used for diesel fuel and other industrial processes and the edible variety produces canola oil. Many people have allergies to the flowers and don’t welcome the blanket of yellow blooms.

Living walls of exotic plants, many of which we use as houseplants, were featured in several hotels and restaurants in Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Czech Republic. Apple, pear, and plum trees were in full blush throughout my sojourn, perfuming the chilly air.

I was surprised to see “lawns” consisting of dandelions, which were very attractive with their edible greens.

Pansies in a variety of colors and patterns dotted the landscapes. Another specimen for which I was unfamiliar was the butter yellow puff balls of the Kerria Japanese rose in Croatia.

Also unknown to me and quite intriguing was the Lunaria, called annual Honesty, dotting the hillsides in the Djerdap National Park in Serbia.

The Czech Republic enjoyed the most dramatic displays of horticultural bliss. The parks and squares were filled with blossoming European crabapples, tulip magnolias, and colorful tulips, as well as curated window boxes of colorful hyacinths, primroses, forget-me-nots, and other flowering bulbs.

My spring sojourn through Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, and the Czech Republic has been a time of great beauty, wonder, and education. From delicate wildflowers to bold and bright flowering trees, these countries offered a stunning array of blooms, despite the wintery weather.


It is with appreciation that I return to my gorgeous garden in full bloom albeit overgrown with weeds. May is a busy time in the garden, but with a little effort, we can keep our plants healthy and thriving. Follow these tips for gardening chores, and you’ll be well on your way to a beautiful landscape. With all the garden work ahead of me, I anticipate jelly legs and an aching back!

Spring is a perpetual astonishment and worth the pain.


Cynthia Brian’s Goddess Gardener May Gardening Guide

As the temperatures rise, our plants need more care and attention, so let’s get to work.

ü  WATER early in the morning as the weather warms to prevent evaporation.

ü  WEED constantly before weeds take over the garden. Remove the entire root system of weeds before sowing the seeds you want to grow.

ü  PLANT warm-season vegetables including tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, zucchini, and whatever edibles your family enjoys eating.


ü  FERTILIZE your actively growing plants with a balanced fertilizer and follow the instructions carefully. Over-fertilizing can damage your plants, so don’t be tempted to add more than recommended.

ü  IMPROVE the biodiversity of your soil ecosystem through mulching and composting. Spring and fall are the ideal times to increase organic matter and humus content. Adding compost to your garden reduces the need for chemical fertilizers, and allows the soil to hold water well which means less watering.

ü  PICK up the last of the spent camellia blossoms from your garden to protect your plant for next season.


ü  SWEEP debris from driveways, walkways, steps, and porches to freshen up for spring.

ü  BRIGHTEN your curb appeal or plant window boxes with colorful annuals and perennials including petunias, zinnias, cleome, salvia, dahlias, snapdragons, primrose, bulbs, impatiens, and bachelor buttons.

ü  PREVENT pests. Keep an eye out for aphids, whiteflies, and other common garden pests. You can use organic pest control methods like neem oil or insecticidal soap to keep them under control.

ü  EMPTY standing water from pots, tires, neglected ponds, pools, or any place where mosquito larvae will breed. With all the rain we’ve had this year, mosquitoes could spread the West Nile virus and other diseases.

ü  CLEAR debris from your home and garden perimeter. Dried limbs, leaves, and weeds need to be removed. Fire season is upon us.

Digging Deep with Goddess Gardener, Cynthia Brian https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1705/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Spring-sojourn.html

Raised in the vineyards of Napa County, Cynthia Brian is a New York Times best-selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are!® 501 c3. Tune into Cynthia’s StarStyle® Radio Broadcast at www.StarStyleRadio.com. Her newest children’s picture book, No Barnyard Bullies, from the series, Stella Bella’s Barnyard Adventures is available now at https://www.CynthiaBrian.com/online-store. Hire Cynthia for writing projects, garden consults, and inspirational lectures. Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com For more information contact:


Spring Spirit!

Posted by Cynthia Brian on
Spring Spirit!


By Cynthia Brian

StarStyle® Empowerment is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

“On the first warm day of Spring, I dig my fingers deep into the soft earth. I

can feel its energy, and my spirit’s soar.” Helen Hayes

Do you feel the energy? Did you wake up one morning to witness most of the leaves on your deciduous trees unfurled? After our long, cold, rainy winter, the warmer weather you experience is a salve for your soul. Does your spirit soar when you say: “today is the day I will be digging in my garden?”

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As cliché as it is, spring is the season of rebirth, renewal, and regeneration. Nowhere is this more evident than in the growth we experience in our gardens. The days will continue to get longer until the summer equinox, the air is refreshing, flowers and trees are in constant bloom, and we have a spring in our step. We feel younger and more alive. William Shakespeare in his wisdom wrote, “April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.”  William, you are so correct!


Spring is a magical time of year when we can finally get back into our gardens, plunge our fingers into the soil, and instead of planning, we begin planting! How therapeutic it is to scatter seeds, inhale the fresh air scented by the flowers, and be immersed in nature. As we stroll through our landscapes, we see what needs to be done and we also learn new things. Plants that have self-seeded are magically popping up in unexpected places. The sky-blue forget-me-nots remind me to remember and record what has happened and what will be happening in each plot.


Observe and interact with your plants. The emotional and mental benefits you will receive by immersing yourself in the wonders of nature will reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and improve your overall mental health. As you wander in your yard, plaster your face with a big smile.  Lose track of time as you engage with the nurturing of seedlings in this new reborn growing season.

Feel the satisfaction of watching your tulip bulbs grow into gorgeous, cupped flowers, the pride in picking a bouquet of peonies to display, and the joy in knowing that by summer, you will be harvesting nutritious vegetables cultivated by you. If there are children or grandchildren in your vicinity, provide them with seeds to sow their favorite vegetables or fruits. They will be amazed at the course of nature, and how something so tiny as a seed can mature into something edible and delectable.


Watch birds building nests. Listen to the frogs croaking their mating calls as they emerge from slumber. Feel the velvety softness of lamb’s ear and stick your nose into a fragrant hyacinth blossom. Spirits will be lifted in countless ways and you will be rejuvenated and revitalized.

Is there any better way to welcome spring than by getting your hands dirty and reconnecting with Mother Earth?


Happy Gardening. Happy Growing. Happy Springtime!

The Goddess Gardner’s Gardening Guide for April

AMEND your soil before you begin sowing. Soil is the foundation of your garden. Rich compost will help with adding the nutrients your plants will need to thrive.

CLEAN and sharpen your garden tools by plunging them in a five-gallon bucket of sand mixed with a cup of vegetable oil. The sand will keep them sharper and the oil wards off the rust. Small hand tools can be stored in the sand bucket.

BUILD or buy raised beds lined with wire to make gardening easier on your back as well as protected from digging predators like gophers and rats. Fill with a combination of mulch, compost, and soil.


CONSIDER implementing permeable pavers on a patio for increased water capturing that will support your landscape.

PLANT frost tender plants as the weather warms towards the end of the month. Ground covers, citrus, bougainvillea, and summer annuals including begonia, lobelia, snapdragon, cosmos, and primrose are available for purchase.

SUPPORT peonies or other tall plants that are flopping with a tomato cage!


EXCHANGE rhizomes, bulbs, and seeds with fellow gardeners for a variety of selections.

SOW seeds of scarlet runner bean, sweet peas, star jasmine, or morning glories to climb on fences and wire.

CREATE a palette of striking performance with the many shapes, sizes, textures, and colors of drought-tolerant succulents which require minimal moisture.


ENJOY a successive parade of patterns and painted brushstrokes throughout the seasons by planting plants with complimentary hues and consecutive blooming times.

SCRUB your barbecue grill with white vinegar then scrub with half an onion to clean the grates and get ready for outside dining.

COMBINE ornamental and edible plants to create a cottage garden. Make sure your interior design and exterior esthetics flow like water.

RESIST cutting back the dying leaves of narcissi and daffodils. The fronds are gathering their nutrition for next year’s blooms. Cut them back only when as dry as potato chips.


CONTROL snails and slugs with non-toxic Sluggo, pick them off by hand, use copper barriers, or bowls of beer. These slimy gastropods hatching now will devour new seedlings.

BUY ladybugs from your nursery or garden center if you see aphids, mealybugs, or other pests on your plants. Remember ladybugs fly to infested gardens.

VISIT the Be the Star You Are!® booth at the Moraga Faire on Saturday, April 29th between 11-4pm to pick up a bag of complimentary spring potpourri and have your kids plant seeds in our craft area. Bring your gardening questions and I’ll be there to answer them. www.BetheStarYouAre.org/events


Raised in the vineyards of Napa County, Cynthia Brian is a New York Times best-selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are!® 501 c3. Tune into Cynthia’s StarStyle® Radio Broadcast at www.StarStyleRadio.com. Her newest children’s picture book, No Barnyard Bullies, from the series, Stella Bella’s Barnyard Adventures is available now at https://www.CynthiaBrian.com/online-store. Hire Cynthia for writing projects, garden consults, and inspirational lectures. Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com


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A Potpourri of Plans and Projects

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A Potpourri of Plans and Projects

“Spring is the time of plans and projects.” ―Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

The first few weeks of April will indeed be days of watching, waiting, and planning our projects…a veritable potpourri of gardening tasks. Instead of sunshine and songbirds, the first few days of spring arrived with heavy downpours and gale-force winds. Not to be discouraged, I put on my mud boots and rain gear to discover the harbingers of spring…my hellebores. Hiding beneath a blooming azalea, I found my green and fuchsia-tinged aristocratic Lenten roses stretching upwards. If you haven’t planted any hellebores in your shade garden, add them to your “must- buy” list. These perennial woodland beauties are available in a spectrum of colors including red, burgundy, yellow, green, pink, ivory, yellow, and lime. Some varieties are even almost black. They are evergreen, deer and vole resistant, and provide long-lived blooms throughout spring. Since hellebores survive winter frosts, they can be planted now next to ferns, hostas, or other light shade denizens.


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Although the weather doesn’t look or feel like spring, my garden is awake and desires to delight. The crabapple, prune, and apricot trees boast spectacular color and the buds on the cherry trees are ready to burst open. Iris, anemone, hyacinth, and cyclamen shimmer in the morning dew, and in the next few weeks the tulips and freesia will be at their prime.

Pollinators are flocking to the fragrant white viburnum and the blue rosemary. I am a proponent of planting perennials and bulbs because no matter what the season, something is always in bloom. Over the years, and for several months, I planted daffodils and narcissi bulbs on a weekly schedule. My reward is five to six months of continuous flushes of flowers from countless specimens and cross-category hybrids, including the fragrant jonquilla, doubles, and trumpets.

If you haven’t already prepared your soil for spring planting, don’t waste any time getting started. Add compost, leaf litter, or manure to increase the nutrients and fertility. Chop cover crops before they go to seed.  They can be composted or left on the ground to decompose. This green manure will increase nitrogen, and nutrients, and improve soil structure and quality. After cutting my cover crops, I will scatter them around the landscape, then wait three weeks before planting to allow for the breakdown. If the soil is not being fed, it is feeding on itself, and that will spell disaster. After your new crops are sowed, apply a layer of mulch for added protection, water retention, and erosion control

.The ground is too cold and wet to scatter seeds so many people have started their sprouting endeavors indoors. If this describes you, remember that before you transplant outdoors, your seedlings will need to be hardened off. Once we have reliable days of sunshine, hardening off is an easy process performed over seven days.

·      On day one, move your seedlings outside in filtered sunlight for one hour, then bring them back indoors.

·      On day two, the seedlings get two hours of sun playtime.

·      On day three, offer three hours.

·      Repeat each day adding one extra hour of sunshine before bringing them back inside.

·      By the end of seven days, it is usually safe to transplant your seedlings wherever you want them to establish. Use your best judgment and make sure the soil and temperature are warm enough.

Don’t forget to spread organic snail and slug bait or your new sprouts will be supper for these gastropod mollusks.

Continue harvesting your winter vegetables of broccoli, kale, cauliflower, spinach, Swiss chard, and salad greens. Although my arugula is bolting to set seed, I continue to cut the leaves and flowers to use in my salads. Once the days get hot, I’ll dry and save the seeds for scattering in the fall. Speaking of seeds, make sure to read the instructions on any seed packet you purchase. Many seeds must be soaked to help with germination. Wait to plant your vegetable seeds until the soil reaches 65-75 degrees. Most seeds require a planting depth and width that is twice the seed size, except for tiny seeds such as lettuce, celery, and dill which can be scattered and lightly raked heavy. Tiny seeds don’t like to be buried because they need sunlight to germinate.

Camellias have been illuminating the garden for several months, but the substantial storms have knocked a plethora of blossoms to carpet the ground. Pick up and destroy all fallen camellia blossoms as a prevention against camellia petal blight. If leaves are distorted, pale, and fleshy, you might have camellia leaf gall which causes the leaves to turn white and fall off. The best control is to pick up and destroy any affected leaves before they turn white.

Clematis leaves are beginning to unfurl on what appears to be dead vines. Don’t be tempted to cut back unless you know what type of clematis you have. There are three types of clematis: Group 1:woody-stemmed bloom on last year’s stems. Prune AFTER flowering in spring.

Group 2: double and semi-double varieties bloom twice. Prune AFTER spring flowers fade and cut back dead wood in winter.

Group 3: large blooms that appear in summer and fall grow on the current year’s growth. Prune in severely in winter leaving 2 buds on each stem.

These are just a few of the garden potpourri of chores that can be accomplished in early April in anticipation of spring sowing later in the month. Lawns will welcome an aerating and feeding anytime now. Shrubs, trees, and ground covers will benefit from fertilizing this month.  For more ideas, check out my book, Growing with the Goddess Gardeneravailable at https://www.CynthiaBrian.com/online-store or wherever you buy your garden books.

Happy Growing. Happy Gardening! Happy Spring!

Read “Digging Deep with Goddess Gardener, Cynthia Brian”https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1703/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Aprils-potpourri-of-gardening-tasks.html

Raised in the vineyards of Napa County, Cynthia Brian is a New York Times best-selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are!® 501 c3. Tune into Cynthia’s StarStyle® Radio Broadcast at www.StarStyleRadio.com. Her newest children’s picture book, No Barnyard Bullies, from the series, Stella Bella’s Barnyard Adventures is available now at https://www.CynthiaBrian.com/online-store. Hire Cynthia for writing projects, garden consults, and inspirational lectures. Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com http://www.GoddessGardener.com

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Spring into March

Posted by Cynthia Brian on
Spring into March

Digging Deep with Goddess Gardener, Cynthia Brian

creeks in march.jpeghttp://lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1702/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-March-into-spring.html

By Cynthia Brian


“Rain, rain go away. Come again another day!” Nursery Rhyme


Do you remember being a child tired of the winter mud puddles and anxious to go outside to play? As much as California has needed the downpours, I find myself reminiscing about the dreariest, grayest, coldest winter of my childhood when my sisters and I decided to run away from the farm to find the sunshine. 


We were all under the age of five and on the first rainless day in March we loaded our big red wagon with the most essential items…our dolls, dinosaurs, pogo sticks, jump ropes, picture books, puzzles, miniature tool kit, hula hoops, Monopoly money (we thought it was real), rock collections, roller skates, and a shovel. Items like food, water, clothing, and blankets never crossed our minds. Our Mom handed us a bag of sandwiches, and Dad suggested we take our dog for protection. We kissed our parents goodbye and told them we were off to wonderland.


My garden is my wonderland, and I am antsy to start sowing. But, alas, the soil is still too damp and cold, so I have retreated to reading about resources for spring planning and planting. This is my way of marching into spring with increased knowledge while providing you with helpful information. 

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A book I highly recommend is by Susan Mulvihill, The Vegetable Garden Problem Solver Handbook, which is chock full of easy-to-understand data on how to identify and manage diseases and other common problems on edible plants with natural solutions. I interviewed her on my radio broadcast, StarStyle®-Be the Star You Are!® where you can listen to her advice. https://www.voiceamerica.com/episode/142669/the-vegetable-garden-problem-solver-and-garden-guidance. Filled with hundreds of full-color photographs, many from her garden, and an extensive reference chart of problems with solutions, this book is an essential guide to pinpointing challenges and finding the answers quickly. A section on critters in the garden offers controls and strategies to outsmart the birds and mammals most often encountered.

As a garden communicator, I subscribe to a plethora of different catalogs, newsletters, and digital diaries, each one delivering a different perspective on how to design, create, and implement a cheerful landscape in any season.  Reading garden catalogs brings me great pleasure. Most include a parade of pictures of plants in their prime. When perusing these collections, I feel like a kid in a candy store. My mouth is agape, and I can’t get enough. 


You’ll find information on water-wise gardening, pollinators, ground covers, perennials, trees, patio plants, indoor décor, hanging baskets, arrangements, bouquets, seeds, bulbs, roses, azaleas, hydrangeas, shade gardens, herbs, vegetables, fruits, bird houses, ponds, garden accents, pottery, recipes, and more, depending on the publication. Make lists of your favorite specimens and products. Purchase locally at your favorite nursery or garden center, or order directly from the grower. Free shipping is often offered with purchases that total a certain amount of dollars.


Here are a few of my favorite catalogs and newsletters to whet your appetite.


American Meadows: www.AmericanMeadows.com

Baker Creek Heirloom seeds: www.RareSeeds.com

Bluestone Perennials: www.BlueStonePerennials.com

Botanical Interests: www.Botanicalinterests.com

Burpee Seeds and Plants: www.Burpee.com

Brent and Becky’s Bulb Growers: www.BrentandBeckysBulbs.com

Green Mantel Heirloom Plant Nursery: www.GreenMantelNursery.com

Gurneys Seed and Nursery:  www.Gurneys.com

High Country Gardens: www.HighCountryGardens.com

Jackson and Perkins: www.jacksonandperkins.com

John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds: www.kitchengardenseeds.com

Lilipons Water Garden: https://lilypons.com

Monrovia Nursery Company: www.Monrovia.com

Nature Hills Online Plant Nursery: www.NatureHills.com

Nichols Garden Nursery: https://nicholsgardennursery.com

Plant Delights Nursery, Inc.: www.PlantsDelights.com

Proven Winners: www.ProvenWinners.com

Raintree Nursery: https://raintreenursery.com

Renee’s Garden: www.ReneesGarden.com

Seed Savers Exchange: www.seedsavers.org

Territorial Seed company: https://territorialseed.com

Urban Farmer Seeds: https://www.ufseeds.com

Wayside Gardens: www.WaysideGardens.com

White Flower Farm: www.WhiteFlowerFarm.com

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This directory is by no means exhaustive. Choose a few that speak to you and increase your horticultural education.

Being a gardener means being on a constant learning curve. No matter how much we know, we’ll never know enough. We may not be able to work in our gardens in the unpredictable inclement weather, but with the inventory of reading materials and online displays, we won’t need to run away to find the sunshine. Sit by the fire with a cup of herbal tea infused with lemon and mint to savor the sweetness of marching into spring.  There will be plenty of time for digging deeply in the next few months.

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You are probably wondering how my youthful runaway quest ended. 


My sisters and I did find paradise. We spent the day in a field of mustard plants that were taller than us. We created rooms, pretended we were pioneers, picked flowers, and as night descended, were spooked by coyotes as we huddled together stargazing with our dog keeping guard. We were sleeping soundly when our Dad came to get his girls. In the morning we awoke in our beds, the smell of Mom’s cooking wafting from the kitchen. At breakfast, we all agreed we had indeed found the Promised Land far, far away. Our parents listened with rapt attention as we shared stories of our exhilarating adventure to the land of sunshine and flowers. We didn’t realize that our enchanted faraway world was only a mile down the road, on our own property. We had never left our farm. 


Happy Gardening. Happy Growing.

Photos and more:” http://lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1702/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-March-into-spring.html

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Raised in the vineyards of Napa County, Cynthia Brian is a New York Times best-selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are!® 501 c3. Tune into Cynthia’s StarStyle® Radio Broadcast at www.StarStyleRadio.com. Her newest children’s picture book, No Barnyard Bullies, from the series, Stella Bella’s Barnyard Adventures is available now at www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store  For an invitation to hang out with Cynthia for fun virtual events, activities, conversations, and exclusive experiences, buy StarStyle® NFTs at https://StarStyleCommunity.com  Hire Cynthia for writing projects, garden consults, and inspirational lectures. Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com  https://www.GoddessGardener.com

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March On!

Posted by Cynthia Brian on
March On!

by Cynthia Brian

“No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden.’ — Thomas Jefferson

Throw open your windows! Inhale the sweet smells of the blossoms. Bradford pears, cherry plums, crabapple, peach, and tulip magnolias are in full bloom.

Flocks of doves have begun their annual aerial acrobats, raptors are kettling in the warmer thermals, cows are happily grazing on the green grass, and bees are buzzing and pollinating.

The hills are emerald, the creeks are flowing, and sunny daffodils brighten our roadways. Spring is in the air!

As excited as I am to start sowing summer veggies, it is still too early. March is a month to peruse catalogs and groom our beds as nature’s winter slumber awakens. This is a month of garden transition with unpredictable weather, chilly mornings, warm afternoons, and frosty nights. Additional rain is necessary and anticipated.

With preparation and care, we can give our gardens a boost for spring by cleaning our garden beds. Remove dead leaves, branches, and debris that have accumulated over winter. By doing so we’ll prevent pests and diseases from invading while making our gardens tidier and ready for planting in April and May.

It seems that overnight my garden burst into bloom. The Amaryllis that I’ve been carefully tending opened its eyes to my delight.

Bright pink Bergenia is bigger and fuller this year and even the yellow shamrocks are already on display, pre-St. Patrick’s Day. Many gardeners find oxalis to be a noxious weed, but I welcome it in my landscape. It covers the barren soil with electric yellow flowers and delicate clover-like leaves. I find it very pretty, and I’ve been growing it for several years without it invading unwanted locations.

Purple bearded iris don’t last long in bouquets, yet they are stunning and fragrant in the garden. Poor man’s saffron, more commonly known as calendula, has self-seeded on my hillside in blooms of orange and yellow. Red, pink, and white cyclamen are stretching their buds between the ferns while azaleas transform the garden from dull to dazzling.

Winter is waning. The garden is marching on.


AMEND your soil with compost to add the nutrients necessary.

MAKE compost by combining green (nitrogen) and brown (carbon) materials. To a bucket, bin, or pile, add coffee grinds, tea bags, chicken and rabbit droppings, grass clippings, vegetable scraps, straw, leaves, shredded newspaper, hay, dead plants, cardboard, and paper. Keep moist and turn. Do not use the animal waste from any carnivorous animals, including dogs and cats, and do not add diseased plants to the bin or pile.

CHECK irrigation systems. Repair leaks, clogs, and broken sprinkler heads.

START seeds indoors if you want a head start on growing your favorite vegetables. You will have to harden them off before planting in the garden.

FORAGE for wild greens including Miner’s lettuce, mustard, creek watercress, and wild strawberries. The young leaves are delicious in salads and sautées.

ORDER tubers and root starters from Renees Garden for the best selection of horseradish, potatoes, onions, and asparagus for spring planting.

FERTILIZE trees, shrubs, and ground covers with organic feed.

APPLY snail bait around plants most susceptible to snail and slug damage or handpick the mollusks.

SPRAY roses, boxwoods, viburnum, iris, fruit trees, citrus trees, and crape myrtle trees with dormant oil to protect them from overwintering insects and fungal disease.

HARVEST lemons, limes, and oranges. The extra vitamin C will boost your immunity during this cold and flu season.

SHARPEN and clean tools.

AERATE lawns while the nights are still cool. Leave the plugs on the grass to feed the grass.

PULL weeds as they sprout.

CUT bouquets of daffodils, narcissus, viburnum, flowering quince, and Bergenia to brighten any room.

DIVIDE perennials including daylilies, agapanthus, yarrow, and phlox while they are semi-dormant.

FLOAT camellias in a pretty bowl and dispose of all fallen camellias from bushes.

KILL aphids with a strong spray of water or spray with a mixture of water and dishwashing detergent. Make sure to spray all sides of foliage and flowers.

LEARN what to do in your garden every month with the book, Growing with the Goddess Gardener, available at http://starstylestore.net

PLANT bare root roses, vines, and berry bushes.

PRUNE a branch of peach, plum, or pear and place the cutting in a tall vase to force the blooms for an enticing indoor arrangement.

Happy Gardening. Happy Growing. March in. March on.

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Read more: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1701/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-March-In.html

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

Her newest children’s picture book, No Barnyard Bullies, from the series, Stella Bella’s Barnyard Adventures is available now at www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store 

For an invitation to hang out with Cynthia for fun virtual events, activities, conversations, and exclusive experiences, buy StarStyle® NFTs at https://StarStyleCommunity.com

Hire Cynthia for writing projects, garden consults, and inspirational lectures. Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com  http://www.GoddessGardener.com

©photos and text 2023 Cynthia Brian. All rights reserved.

Full House

Posted by Cynthia Brian on
Full House

Plants for Indoor Space

“Having plants in your house is a natural way to continuously clear yourself!” Doreen Virtue

With another four weeks to go before the start of spring, turning our yearnings for gardening chores to our indoor spaces is ripe with opportunities. For many years we relied on the debunked 1989 NASA report that claimed that houseplants cleaned up to 87% of dangerous VOCs (volatile organic compounds) in our interior air. We thought if we filled our homes with a jungle of plants, we’d breathe easier and even prevent colds. Many scientists still agree that plants do remove pollutants through a process called absorption, although how much is debatable. Recent studies indicate that while a few plants won’t do much purification, a full wall of plants will.

The living walls that we witness at airports and fancy hotels are scenic and inspiring as they freshen the air for the numerous clientele that transit. Creating a living wall of plants and flowers in our homes is not feasible for most of us. Yet, there are other benefits to including plants in our interior designs.

Benefits of Plants Indoors

ü  Aesthetic Appeal: Plants add beauty to any room. Plants create a natural feeling, making the atmosphere more inviting and pleasant.

ü  Elevate Moods: Being around plants helps to reduce stress, improve moods, and boost cognitive function. Plants make people happy.

ü  Increased Oxygen Levels: Through the process of photosynthesis, plants convert carbon dioxide into oxygen.

ü  Therapeutic Benefits: Tending to plants, whether outdoors or indoors, is calming and meditative. We create a healthier environment that is pleasing to the senses.

ü  Enhanced Productivity and Creativity: Studies have shown that plants in a workplace or study area enrich concentration, sharpen attention, and reduce both physiological and psychological stress.

ü  Healing Properties: Looking at greenery when recovering from an illness or surgery helps speed recuperation. Research has focused on patients in hospitals, not in homes, but my personal experience demonstrates that transporting nature to the sickbed, speeds the healing process.

Before you bring plants into your home, make sure to choose varieties that are safe for children and pets. For a list of toxic plants, connect with the resources of the ASPCA and the National Poison Control Center. Some plants could be toxic if ingested, and others may cause skin reactions.

ASPCA website: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants/a

National Poison Control website: https://www.poison.org/articles/plant

Goddess Gardener Recommended House Plants

Sadly, two of my favorite indoor plants that are easy to grow, attractive, and flourish for years are on the poisonous list: Peace Lily (known to be an air cleaner) and pothos (a great climber or trailer). Below I’m listing houseplant suggestions that I grow.  I leave it to you to double-check for toxicity that would affect your family or animals.

Beautiful, yet poisonous!
Pothos and Peace Lily

Orchid: I’ve never met an orchid that I didn’t love. The bad rap that orchids receive as being fussy is a myth. Basically, read the plant tag for best results, provide a few drops of water weekly, and ignore them. Mine are continuously reblooming.

Bromeliad: Super simple to grow, long-lasting, low maintenance, and minimal watering needs. Before the flower dies, the plant will produce offsets, called pups, around the base

Snake Plant: Referred to as “Mother-in-Law’s Tongue” tolerates low light and minimal moisture. This plant is almost impossible to kill.

Spider Plant: Known as the “Airplane Plant”, this plant is perfect for beginners. It’s easy to care for, produces long, cascading stems, and is great for hanging baskets or trained to a trellis.

Philodendron: Foliage comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Prefers moist soil and vines to eight feet or more.

Parlor Palm: Add a bit of the tropics to your office. Great in dim light. Only prune dead fronds. Don’t overwater.

Fiddle Leaf Fig: Slow growing to fifteen feet or more. This plant prefers east-facing windows. Water only when the top inch of the soil is dry and never feed during the winter months.

Aloe: Every home needs an aloe plant for medicinal purposes. If you get a burn or a cut, snip a piece of aloe to soothe the area. Aloes prefer to be root-bound in sandy soil and require very little water.

Croton: Growing in warm, humid climates outdoors, crotons may reach eight feet, but indoors, they offer an explosion of color in a small pot when ideal temperatures above 60 degrees are maintained. Place pebbles with water under the pot to increase humidity.

These favorites are all relatively low maintenance and will thrive in a variety of environments. They are terrific choices for beginner indoor gardeners as well as those with more experience. As always, when you make a purchase, carefully read the plant instructions tag and follow directions. The number one cause of house plants failing to succeed is overwatering.

No matter what your lifestyle, add a touch of hassle-free greenery to your home and enjoy a full house of indoor nature to keep you happy, healthy, and gardening rain or shine.  

Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!

 Photos and more: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1626/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Full-house.html

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

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

Cynthia is available for writing projects, garden consults, and inspirational lectures. Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com  http://www.GoddessGardener.com

©copyright 2023 Text and photos Cynthia Brian ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Severe Storms + Additional 2023 Garden Trends

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

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

~Terri Guillemets

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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

I am grateful. Stay safe and weather the storms.

Happy Gardening. Happy Growing. Happy January!

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

Raised in the vineyards of Napa County, Cynthia Brian is a New York Times best-selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are!® 501 c3. Tune into Cynthia’s StarStyle® Radio Broadcast at www.StarStyleRadio.com. Her newest children’s picture book, No Barnyard Bullies, from the series, Stella Bella’s Barnyard Adventures is available now at www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store  For an invitation to hang out with Cynthia for fun virtual events, activities, conversations, and exclusive experiences, buy StarStyle® NFTs at https://StarStyleCommunity.com

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


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