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Shade Made

Posted by Cynthia Brian on
Shade Made

multi-colored hydranges.jpeg

“Gardens are not made by sitting in the shade.”  Rudyard Kipling

Gardens may not be cultivated while we are sitting in the shade, but on a hot summer day, there is nothing better than sipping an ice-cold lemonade while resting in one of my shadowy gardens.

This year the world has been experiencing the hottest weather on record. In the United Kingdom, July temperatures were as high as 25 degrees Fahrenheit more than normal. According to data from the U.S. Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the United States sweltered through 92 of the highest recorded heatwaves while worldwide, records were broken 188 times during this same period. Scorching fires are raging throughout Europe as well as the United States as firefighters battle the blazes and populations evacuate minutes ahead of blistering disasters. The influence of global warming is dire as this rapid climate change portends a hotter future.

As much as I adore the sunshine, it is critical to make room for shade in our landscapes to shield our bodies and our plants from the scorching weather. Although most colorful plants prefer sunshine, we still can create a retreat from the rays that will be beautiful and restorative. 

All plants need sunshine to photosynthesize. Most gardens enjoy the sun at certain times and shade at other times. It’s important to watch when that time is for your garden. Any area that does not get direct sunlight may be considered shade. When you read a label and it says, “Plant in full shade”, this means you must plant in an area that gets less than three hours of direct sunlight with only filtered sun the rest of the day. If the label reads “Plant in partial shade”, find a spot where there is more shade than sun. If you plant a specimen that requires full sun, it will not thrive in the shade.  “Partial sun” means four to six hours of sunlight. 

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Most shade-loving plants are understory plants that grow under the forest or jungle canopy. In areas where redwoods provide acidic leaf litter, ferns succeed. Shade-loving plants appreciate rich organic matter. Plants grow more slowly in the shade because the lower amount of light they receive causes photosynthesis to be slower. The good news is that shade plants usually require less water.

Trees are the anchors of any shade garden. They can be evergreen or deciduous adding beauty and privacy to the landscape with interesting bark, flowers, fruit, and potential vibrant fall foliage while blocking the hot sun and keeping our homes cooler. Oak, magnolia, maple, redwood, weeping willow, birch, horse chestnut, pistache, walnut, and many other species are possibilities depending on the size of your site, long-term expectations, soil conditions, height considerations, and watering needs. A tree is an investment in the future that may outlive several generations. Before planting any tree, do your homework while getting input from your family on what the desires and needs for a tree are. For example, do kids want to climb or build a treehouse, do you want to hang a hammock, are you looking for seasonal flowers and fruit, is autumn color essential, are you seeking a privacy screen, is year-round interest important, or are you seeking a tree that accents your home’s theme? 

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Once you have an established shade area, it’s time to fill it with plants that will not only survive, but thrive in dappled, partial, or full shade. 

Here’s a list of groundcovers, shrubs, perennials, herbs, and annuals that fit the requirements. As always, read labels before purchasing to determine necessary growing conditions and size at maturity.


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Golden Creeping Jenny


Tiarella Foam Flower

Vinca Minor


Bleeding Heart


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Bee Balm




Aquilegia (columbine)

Arum Italicum

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Heavenly Bamboo

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Chinese Yew



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Japanese Pittosporum (mock orange)


Tree Peony





Lemon Balm


Lawns: Growing a lawn in the shade is tricky. Fine fescue grasses will sprout in the shade. When installing a lawn make sure the seed mixture states, “for shade”.

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Finally, once you have designed your shade shelter, install a bench, swing, hammock, or chair where you can take a breather to cool off during a sweltering afternoon or recuperate from digging deeply. Drink plenty of water, hydrate your plants, and admire your horticultural accomplishments.

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Sometimes gardens are made in the shade.

Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!


Photos and more: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1612/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Made-in-the-shade.html

Cynthia Brian.jpeg

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

Buy copies of her books, including, Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul, Growing with the Goddess Gardener, and Be the Star You Are! www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store. Receive a FREE inspirational music DVD and special savings.

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



#climatechange,#fires,#shade,#trees,#rest,#water, #cynthiabrian,#starstyle,#goddessgardener,#voiceamerica, #gardening

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
Read more

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.

Expired Meds, Dead Wood, Frenemies

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Expired Meds, Dead Wood, Frenemies


with Cynthia Brian and Heather Brittany on StarStyle®-Be the Star You Are!® Radio brought to the airwaves under the auspices of Be the Star You Are!® 501 c3 charity, LIVE, since 1998.

This hour is fun, informative, and lively. Join us!
When was the last time you went through your medicine cabinet to check expiration dates on your medications? Dangerous consequences may result from consuming prescriptions that have expired. Learn what to toss and what to keep in Health Matters with Heather Brittany.

Trees are the life source of our world but do you know the signs of a tree in stress? Before tragedy strikes, find out how to identify problems, who to call for help, and what you can do to protect trees with Goddess Gardener, Cynthia Brian.
cotton wood, ivy, palms
Do you have a so-called “friend” who is abusive and dismissive to you? Frenemies are negative forces that need to be purged. Find out how to protect yourself and distance yourself.  True friends are supportive and loving.

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Read about Wheel of Fortune

Read our BTSYA April Newsletter
up in the bucket
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Help Be the Star You Are!® without spending a penny. If you’ve ever purchased a TV or computer screen, just 3 minutes of your time is needed to fill out the simple form and click submit. Every unit qualifies for a donation of about $20 to Be the Star You Are!®. You will receive a tax receipt once the donations have been dispersed. PLEASE do this today. Thanks from Be the Star You Are!®

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The award winning positive talk radio program, StarStyle®-Be the Star You Are!® broadcasts on the Voice America Empowerment Channel LIVE every Wednesday from 4-5pm Pt/7-8pm ET.  Cynthia Brian and Heather Brittany are the Mother/Daughter dynamic duo who have been co-hosting this program live weekly since 1998 bringing upbeat, life enhancing conversation to the world. With Cynthia’s expertise in interviewing the trailblazers, authors, and experts and Heather’s healthy living segments, these Goddess Gals are your personal growth coaches helping you to jumpstart your life while igniting your flame of greatness. Brought to the airwaves under the auspices of the literacy and positive media charity, Be the Star You Are!®, each program will pump your energy to help you live, love, laugh, learn, and lead.
For photos, descriptions, links, archives, and more, visit StarStyle Radio.
Get inspired, motivated, and informed with StarStyle®-Be the Star You Are!®
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Houseplant Happiness

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Houseplant Happiness

Digging Deep-Gardening with Cynthia Brian
“I couldn’t wait for success ― so I went ahead without it.”  ~ Jonathan Winters

It’s raining, it’s pouring, the old man is snoring! And, oh, how happy we are all! As those of you who have been reading this decade old column know, I am not usually a fan of winter because I adore basking in the sunlight of gardening bliss. But this January I am singing in the rain because raindrops keep falling on my head.  El Nino translated means our natural surroundings are finally receiving a well deserved soaking. Woohoo!

Since it’s wet and cold outside, we’ll bring the healthy spirit of the outdoors in with beautiful houseplants. Many plants that we relish as indoor specimens grow wild in the tropics or warmer climates south of the equator. To start the year out with wellness as a resolution, we can provide physical and psychological benefits to our families by introducing the bold shapes, exotic foliage, and cool colors of houseplants. Inside plants clean the air absorbing more than 87% of volatile organic compounds, including formaldehyde, benzene, and xylene from the air we breathe. VOCS come from  newer, more energy-efficient buildings as well as household cleaners, carpeting off-gasses, drapes, furniture, and personal care products including hair spray and nail polish. The Environmental Protection Agency reveals that indoor pollution can be five to ten times greater than the outdoors.
Houseplants to the rescue!

Contrary to what many people believe, houseplants are extremely easy to grow, maintain, and enjoy with just a little TLC-food, water, sunlight, and singing, if you so desire. Different plants require various amounts of each. Choose the right plant for your chosen location then allow the healthy plant to take care of itself.

Some of the best plants to absorb airborne toxins include spathiphyllum, also known as the peace lily, orchids, pothos, Chinese evergreen, philodendron, and dieffenbachia. All houseplants will clean the air and provide beauty.

Scientific studies indicate that houseplants keep us healthy in multiple other ways including reduction in headaches, colds, sore throats, and stress levels. Gardeners know that being in nature is good for our bodies, minds, and spirits. Bringing the outdoors in during the dreary months is a health booster improving creativity, cognitive skills, memory, and problem solving. When you have the heat on, the plants also act as natural humidifiers relieving dried skin, chapped lips, and discomfort.
My favorite indoor plants include the fiddle leaf fig for rooms with tall ceilings. In its native habitat of Africa the fiddle leaf will grow to forty feet, but indoors it may reach ten to fifteen feet, living for three decades or more. For longevity of blooms, you can’t beat orchids or bromeliads. They need almost zero care yet flower for months on end.  Another constant bloomer with bright shiny green leaves is the peace lily. It tolerates all levels of light and abuse and just brings tranquility to any room. Pothos has to be one of the easiest houseplants to grow. You can snip off a piece, stick it in soil, water, and let it do its thing.  At this time of year, Christmas cactus are in full bloom. After the blossoms are spent, put them outside on a porch or patio until they bloom the following season. Azaleas in bloom can be put on patios, porches, and brought inside as accents for short periods of time. If you are looking for plants that only need an occasional spritzing, buy tillandsias, or air plants. They live on air, literally. Palms, anthuriums, ZZplants, and many more are all available at your local garden center.

If you think you have a brown thumb indoors, here’s THE 101 on how to be a pro.
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1. Before buying a plant, decide where you will want it to be placed. Is it sunny, dark, warm, cold? Check plant tags for the information you’ll need to keep your plant happy. My measuring trick for light is that if you can read a magazine in the space, the plant can grow in that low light.
2. Avoid putting any plants on or near radiators, air conditioners, TV’s, or drafty areas.
3. Water only when the soil is dry an inch below the surface. Stick a pencil in the dirt and if it comes up dry, give your plant a drink. Don’t over water. Yellowing and dropping leaves is usually a sign of too much moisture. Don’t drown your plants or they will suffocate and die.
4. Always have a saucer under every pot and a protective element (a tile, coaster, CD disk, cork) under the saucer to prevent ruining furniture in the event of spills. Don’t let plant container sit in excess water.
5. Feed two or three times per year according to the plant tag directions.
6. Repot when root bound.
7. Enjoy clean air and a prettier interior with your houseplants.
Houseplants are happiest when temperatures are between 70 and 80ºF during the day and 10-15 degrees cooler at night, but thrive in basically the same temperatures that make humans comfortable.
SF flower show 2014-succulents - 18
Don’t wait to be successful. Just buy a few houseplants and breathe in nature 365 days a year inside your home and office.

Cynthia Brian’s Mid Month Reminders

PRUNE roses, berries, crape myrtles this month. Buy bare-root roses locally or to order the David Austin English roses. Use promo code UHA for 20% off your order through February 19.

TREES cleanse the air, filter water, clean the air, provide shade, and habitat for wildlife. Learn more about the benefits of trees.

SUBSTITUTE eggplant for any meat dish. Burpee has developed a new flavorful eggplant called “Meatball” with a density and texture that makes it taste like a hamburger, eggplant steak cutlet, and can be used in any recipe calling for meat.

ASHES from your fireplace can be added to the compost pile when you clean your hearth. Make sure they are cold or pour water into the bucket before pouring into the bin.

PLANT arugula in a pot for winter salads. Seeds grow quickly and the bitter leaves add zing to your dishes.

Welcome the rain and bring health and wellness into your home for the New Year because, baby, it’s cold outside!

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.

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