55 Years Cradling Plants

I use a variety of interesting containers in my backyard garden. Along with standard clay flowerpots, I make use of metal buckets, wash tubs, tree stumps, and even a toolbox. One of my favorite containers is a green and white pot handed down to me from my mom. It has spent 55 years cradling plants.

55 Years Cradling Plants

Container for house plants

I’m not sure what the exact age is, of this vintage container. As a small child the southwestern style flowerpot sat in various corners of our Tulsa, Oklahoma home, and I am 60 now. My mom always grew a species of plant within it commonly known as the snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue. This tough house plant is easy to grow and thrives with little care.

First cultivated in China, the snake plant was treasured because people thought it bestowed eight virtues on those who grew it. Those virtues include long life, prosperity, intelligence, beauty, art, poetry, health, and strength. The plants were kept near the front doors of the home so that the eight virtues could circulate throughout the house.

I wonder if Mom knew this? Our snake plant most often resided in the foyer.

55 Years Cradling Plants

Cherished flowerpot for my plants

When we moved, this flowerpot moved with us, to fresh houses and new towns in different states. Eventually the container came to me. Mom knew I would keep green beauties growing within it.

And I have.

I switched out the snake plants for colorful portulaca, also known as sun roses or moss roses. These plants are just as easy to grow and care for. For years the old pot sat on my covered front deck or rested solidly among flowers growing in beds around the house.

Five years ago, when I created my backyard paradise, I moved the container to the area just inside the garden gate. It lends color with its spill of blooms and it anchors the area, filled primarily with ground covers such as creeping jenny and phlox. It’s an anchor for my heart and soul as well. Every time I see the now vintage container, or water the plants tucked inside, I think of my mom and my childhood. This pot has stood as a silent witness to many events and changes. It is dear to me.

55 Years Cradling Plants The container’s most recent home. Photo taken before the ground cover filled in the area.

New location new plants

As I watered and pulled weeds this evening, I knelt down next to this vintage container and rested my hands upon it. The setting sun kissed the rounded sides, warming them and creating a soft reflective glow. Energy hummed beneath my hands.

Because of its age, I made the decision to relocate the flowerpot indoors this fall, where it will be protected from the cold weather. And just as suddenly, I knew what to transplant into the pot.

How appropriate it feels to grow snake plants in the container again, bringing the flowerpot full circle. Inspired by my research tonight, I’m delighted to plop my freshly planted container near the front door where, feng shui style, the eight virtues can be unleashed within my home. I’m smiling already, thinking of this change. My old container…55 years cradling plants…and counting.

55 Years Cradling Plants

Spiders That Are Good to Have Around

I know. I’ve heard it said a bazillion times, “The only good spider is a dead spider”. Most people fear spiders or at the very least, dislike them. Is it because they surprise us with their beautiful but sticky webs? Or is it because, as Greg says, spiders are sneaky? Are we afraid they will hurt us by biting us? Perhaps we hate spiders because we don’t understand them.

Whatever the reason for our qualms, I felt inspired to introduce the Yellow Garden Spider that I encountered earlier this evening, and share her story. My hope is that rather than scream and find a shoe to smash with, we might allow the humble spider to live and grow in our esteem. At the very least I hope to lessen the fear of these industrious and beneficial allies. This gorgeous specimen definitely falls into the spiders that are good to have around category.

Spiders That Are Good to Have Around

All good introductions begin with a name. This big beauty, called Argiope aurantia, is commonly known as the yellow garden spider, black and yellow garden spider, golden garden spider, writing spider, corn spider, or McKinley spider. The Latin name, Argiope aurantia, means “gilded silver face”.

This species of spider can be found in Canada, the lower 48 states, Hawaii, Mexico and Central America, and as the nicknames imply, it prefers gardens as its habitat. As with many spiders, the female, who ranges in size from 3/4 of an inch to 1 1/2 inches, is much larger than the male, 1/4 to 1/3 of an inch full grown.

The Yellow Garden Spider is an orb weaver, meaning she spins her circular web, usually overnight. The unique zigzag down the middle of the web, which can have a span of two feet, is a signature design. Opinions vary on the purpose of the zigzag. Some speculate that it offers camouflage for the spider, some that it attracts insects and others suggest that the design keeps birds from flying into the web and destroying it. If only people understood the “look out” warning!

Spiders That Are Good to Have Around

This non aggressive garden ally is not poisonous to humans although her bite paralyzes prey when they become tangled in her web. After injecting venom, the Yellow Garden Spider wraps her meal in silken strands for later consumption. These spiders are beneficial to the garden and to humans because they trap and feed on aphids, flies, gnats and mosquitoes.

I spied this gorgeous lady as I dropped off a friend at her home in rural Aurora. As I carried items into the house, the web with the characteristic zigzag caught my attention first, and then I spied the occupant. I noted that her legs, all eight of them, appeared to be clad in black silk stockings. I was so captivated by her beauty that I had to snap a few photos.

Unlike most people I know, I love spiders. Missouri only has two poisonous species of spiders, the brown recluse and the black widow. I avoid those two, however all spiders fascinate me. As a child I talked to spiders and tossed flies into their webs so I could observe their arachnid behavior. As an adult, I still talk to them.

Today I crooned to the garden spider and told her how magnificent she was. She had caught an insect and as I talked to her, she busily spun a cocoon around her catch, unconcerned with my nearness. I leaned in closer, and I swear that she hummed happily as she worked, a little Pooh song I imagine. She never acknowledged me, unless her song was for my pleasure, and yet she did not hide from me either. I’m glad we connected.

The next time you see the Yellow Garden Spider, say a quiet hello and then leave her alone. She’s a friend and a helper. She’s one of the spiders that are good to have around.

Spiders That Are Good to Have Around

Twilight in the Garden

After rain almost every day last week, and more thunderstorms moving in tomorrow, a window of opportunity presented itself today to do much needed work in the garden. I put in necessary time weeding and trimming and tidying up, while Greg mowed the yard and helped out where he was needed.

I motivated myself to keep going with the promise that I would enjoy the fruits of my labor by lighting a fire in the fire pit and scattering a few candles around the garden.

Twilight in the Garden

As the sun set behind a bank of gray clouds, I stretched my weary back and called it good. I have more to do, however I accomplished so much today. My backyard paradise resembles a garden again, a wild one after a week of rain, but a garden nonetheless. Tired, I almost passed on building a fire. A job well done brought me great satisfaction and for a moment I considered heading indoors and taking a much needed shower.

The beauty of the garden in summer, the peace and invitation to rest, won out.

Here are pics, from an evening in the garden.

Twilight in the Garden

The fairy garden is all filled in and makes me smile every time I look at it.

Twilight in the Garden

I continue to monitor the mystery plant, which is looking more and more like a cantaloupe after all.

Twilight in the Garden

I love candlelight in the garden! It’s important to use safe containers and keep flames away from grasses and plants or anything combustible. The metal lantern was a gift from my son and daughter-in-law. I have no idea what the metal cylinders are usually used for but they make interesting candle holders. I purchased these at a 2 Friends & Junk show. The rusty table was in Bob Moore’s backyard. I was happy to transfer it to mine, after he passed away.

Twilight in the Garden

More candles, with a backdrop of ornamental grasses that are beginning to tassel. The bistro table and chairs were another 2 Friends & Junk find several years ago.

Twilight in the Garden

This…this was the beauty that called to me. I’m so glad I listened. Greg and I carried out bowls of madras curried lentils that had been simmering all day in the slow cooker. (Recipe HERE) Night fell as we ate and candles flickered in the garden, their flames tiny echoes of the fire dancing in the fire pit.

And that small fire was perfect. I watched the leaping and twisting flames, mesmerized. John Geddes said “Light a campfire and everyone’s a storyteller.” We told stories tonight, primarily around work we’ve both been doing on our family trees at Ancestry.com. It was the fire though that was the main storyteller. It spoke of ancient quests and ever changing mysteries and the power of Light to illuminate the darkness.

I listened, with gratitude.

Twilight in the Garden

My Garden’s “Bermuda Triangle”

You’ve heard of the Bermuda Triangle. It’s that mysterious space in the western North Atlantic Ocean, between Florida, Bermuda and Puerto Rico, where things seems to appear and disappear. As I watered my garden tonight and checked plants, I decided my garden has a mysterious space like that too, an area where strange things happen that I did not plan.

My Garden’s Bermuda Triangle

My volunteer watermelon plant is not in the garden Bermuda Triangle. It’s thriving well over near the back porch and I understand how it got there. I spit watermelon seeds onto the ground, while enjoying a slice as I was seated on the back steps. One of those seeds has produced a monster watermelon vine. I had to bring in wooden pallets as trellises for the wayward vine.

My Garden’s Bermuda Triangle

My Garden’s Bermuda Triangle

The enchanted garden space is in my southern border, where I have a variety of perennials growing. Among the ornamental grasses, field phlox, brown eyed Susans and Shasta daisies mysterious plants appear and existing plants create unusual shapes.

My Garden’s Bermuda Triangle

I’ve had heart shapes and perfectly round living wreaths appear. Tomato plants have sprung up three years in a row. I allow them to remain and tend to them, as they begin producing tomatoes just as the plants in my veggie garden finish up.

My Garden’s Bermuda Triangle

One year a type of gooseberry plant sprouted in this area. And this year, I have a mystery plant vining through the brown eyed Susans and beyond. I thought the vine was a cantaloupe plant. The leaves are similar and the vine is producing yellow flowers. However one of the fruits has grown big enough to study…and I’m stumped. I don’t know if it’s a type of squash, or a pumpkin, or something else entirely.

My Garden’s Bermuda Triangle

The skin of the fruit or veggie is smooth, not textured like a cantaloupe. It reminds me most of a pumpkin, but the shape seems too oblong. If someone can identify this vining plant, please message me!

Just like in the Bermuda Triangle, the energy in this part of my garden is interesting, leading to unexpected results. Perhaps the southern border lies beneath a flight lane for birds. Perhaps garden fairies visit at night. Whatever the reason for the mysteries here, it reminds me daily that the world is full of fun surprises if I have the awareness to see and an open trusting heart.

At least in my garden’s Bermuda Triangle, unusual things only seem to appear. None of my cats, who dearly love exploring the garden, have disappeared yet into thin air. However I’m already wondering what will show up in this space next summer!

My Garden’s Bermuda Triangle

Circle of Life…in My Garden

I was working on another blog post early this evening, when I decided to take a break and water the containers in my backyard garden. Earbuds in, listening to music while I watered, I was humming along with a song when my eyes were drawn to a plant near my meditation garden.

It’s not the first time in recent weeks that I’ve paused to look at this particular plant, but tonight the wonder of it and the beauty of the gift offered to me caused me to drop the watering hose and crouch down to gently touch the plant. I spent several minutes plucking away a few weeds and feeling gratitude for this, another precious and unexpected gift from the garden.

Circle of Life in My Garden

This Sedum plant is a perennial that has returned to my garden five summers in a row. It has never grown in as it has this summer. Normally this succulent type plant forms a rounded mound of green leaves. As fall approaches it produces pink clusters of flowers on stubby stems.

But…look at it! Located near a tall ornamental grass that somewhat overshadows the Sedum, the plant has grown in this year in a perfectly formed circle with a hollow center. It looks like I dropped a wreath and it sunk roots into the ground.

Circle of Life in My Garden

These kinds of mysterious gifts keep appearing in my garden. The brown eyed Susans formed an equally perfect heart shape one year. Vegetables and fruits grow amid the flowers, even though I did not plant them nor have I ever had veggies or fruits in this part of the garden. Garden cranes called to me, insisting that they belonged in my backyard sanctuary. Then, after purchasing two metal cranes, I discovered my ancestral castle in Lauder, Scotland had a pair of the graceful birds near the massive front door.

Thomas Moore, author of The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life, writes:

“Gardens work powerful enchantment as they take us body and soul out of the busyness of life and into a place set apart. The garden is a proper place of the soul, where concerns of the soul for beauty, contemplation, quiet, and observance take complete precedence over the busier concerns of daily life. There you will likely see the butterfly, an ancient image of the soul, and the bee, representing the kind of work the soul does…unheroic, hidden, mysterious, and sweet. The garden is full of mysteries.”

Circle of Life in My Garden

I deeply appreciate the way Thomas views the garden as a spiritual place, full of beauty and mystery and lessons for the soul. My backyard paradise certainly inspires me, even as it surprises me and teaches me life lessons.

Back inside, I abandoned my other blog post idea and looked up the symbolism for the wreath. Wreaths have been used for thousands of years. Early wreaths in Roman times were made of laurel leaves and they were worn as crowns that represented victory.

Used often at Christmas time, decorative wreaths represent the Divine, eternity, completeness and wholeness. Their circular shape is symbolic of timelessness, infinity and eternal life, as there is no beginning and no ending with a circle, with a wreath.

I don’t know how the Sedum plant formed such an amazing and symbolic shape, or why. However, I accept this latest gift from my garden. I am ever so grateful for these reminders that Life is so big, so mysterious and magical. These messages are Divine in nature, and part of an ongoing conversation that continually delights me and raises my awareness ever higher.

As I read about the symbolism for the wreath, another aha leapt out at me, that made me laugh. Eternal life, without end. Do you know what nickname the Sedum plant has? It’s the name I originally knew this perennial by, earned because Sedum is so easy to grow and care for.

Sedum is also called Live-Forever Plant. How incredibly beautiful and extraordinary is this living wreath from my garden.

Circle of Life in My Garden

Garden Mysteries

My backyard garden is five years old this summer, and it is a constantly shifting and evolving work in progress. I love my garden. I love how connected it makes me feel, to the earth, to beauty and to myself. I pull weeds and snip herbs and gather life lessons from my personal paradise.

And…my garden seems to delight in surprising me.

Garden Mysteries

The first two years after its creation, my garden matured, the perennials filling in as they grew. I got to know my garden and it got to know me. The first surprise the garden offered to me, the third summer, was a perfect heart shape, formed from the expanding patch of brown eyed Susans. I was touched. I felt like I had poured love into the garden and it was loving me back, in a very unique and visible way.

Garden Mysteries

That same year, two Julys ago, I switched to a plant based diet. Vegetables became an increasingly important part of my health and wellbeing…and yet, I only grew flowers, grasses and herbs in my garden. Interestingly, herbs initially drew my interest because I loved the way they smelled, in the garden and dried, added to homemade potpourri. The Divine knew though, that herbs would be crucial to my health. By the time I figured that out, I had a mature herb garden at my disposal.

I didn’t intend to have a veggie patch. So my garden gave me a hint I couldn’t miss. A volunteer tomato plant sprung up in the middle of my southern flower border. I had no idea where it came from and assumed a bird flying overhead deposited a seed. Not only did I get the hint, I was inspired. I added a raised vegetable garden last summer.

Garden Mysteries

Fruits are important too. So last summer, while I tended my herbs, my flowers and my veggies, the garden surprised me again. A volunteer watermelon plant appeared in a corner, near the back porch. I could deduce that I must have spit watermelon seeds onto the ground the year before, while sitting on the back porch. That plant produced several wonderful watermelons for me to enjoy.

Garden Mysteries

Fast forward to this summer, year five for the garden. I have the herbs, the grasses, the flowers and the veggies. Another watermelon vine is growing near the back steps, and stretches 8 feet into the yard. I have not one, but two volunteer tomato plants growing among the flowers in the southern border. They aren’t in the same place as previous volunteer tomato plants. Even though I have five tomato plants growing in the veggie garden, which is no where near the flower garden, I allow these surprise plants to remain. They are gifts, after all.

Garden Mysteries

A week ago, I noticed a new plant growing in the flower bed, not far from one of the volunteer tomatoes. It looked vaguely familiar so I left it alone and didn’t classify it as a weed. I’ve watched it become a vine, and tonight, as I watered, I noticed tiny yellow flowers had appeared. I identified it. The mystery plant is a cantaloupe.

I’ve never grown cantaloupe in the back yard, although I had a plant last summer in the veggie garden, which is located in the side yard. The vine took up so much room that I didn’t plant any this summer. And yet…here lies a cantaloupe vine, snaking through the brown eyed Susans, field phlox and cone flowers. I don’t know how it took root here, however, I accept it as another special gift from my garden.

As I squatted down next to the vine, touching the leaves and pondering these mysteries, I recalled a radio show I listened to recently. During the show, called Growing Your Own Food, Anthony William shared that when we grow our own fruits and vegetables they adapt to our bodies. As we tend to our gardens, touching and talking to the plants, they know what our bodies need, to heal and to live in optimal health.

Isn’t that amazing? Our food adapts to meet our unique health needs. This information resonated deeply with me. Experiencing my garden the way that I do, I believe what Anthony shared. How could I not, when my garden surprises me so wonderfully with exactly what I need?

Thinking back over the past few years, I can see how my garden has progressively led me toward greater health and wellbeing, staying ahead of my growing awareness. Plants are adapting to meet my needs…and my whole garden is adapting to me as well, showing me what’s possible, surprising me with plants that I did not tuck into the ground and inspiring me to expand what I grow.

How marvelous and mysterious and grand my garden is. My own personal space is much more personalized than I realized. I am grateful for the gifts and the surprises, and I am open to receiving more from this living, adaptable, gracious benefactor. I can’t wait to see what the garden offers to me next.

Garden Mysteries

Creating a Fairy Garden

This is the fifth season for my backyard garden. Because the in-the-ground plants are all perennials, the garden returns, year after year. This means that although I weed and water and divide plants, as needed, and plant annuals in containers, the garden takes care of itself. It shifts each year, as plants fill in an area or pop up across the yard, however the garden no longer requires my creative input like it once did.

Therefore, my creativity turned this year to creating a different type of garden, one I’ve been thinking about for years. This afternoon I at last turned my vintage metal wheelbarrow into a fairy garden.

Creating a Fairy Garden

The old wheelbarrow has been in my garden for a couple of years. I’ve used it previously as a large container, holding neon colored portulaca. Last fall, as I cleaned up the garden and prepped it for winter, I eyed that wheelbarrow and knew it was destined to become a fairy garden.

Creating a Fairy Garden

I received my first miniature for the fairy garden as a Christmas gift. I purchased several other items in early spring at Michael’s Craft Store when cold weather kept my garden slumbering. I picked up a Dwarf Alberta Spruce recently during one of Sutherland’s half price sales, and the rest of the miniature plants this afternoon.

Today, I finally got to bring everything together…and have fun creating! And as with everything else in my life, the fairy garden is full of symbolism for me.

Creating a Fairy Garden

Because it was the largest piece, I planted the Dwarf Alberta Spruce first. The beautiful craggy rock next to it was in my herb garden, and originally came from Leta Moore’s garden in Arkansas. It caught my eye a few days ago as I watered. It’s interesting shape appealed to me so into the wheelbarrow it went.

Creating a Fairy Garden

After figuring out where the miniatures would go, I removed them and planted an assortment of sedum called the “carpet collection”. These plants will fill in, horizontally, but remain close to the soil. I used 12 of these plants in the wheelbarrow, plus I transplanted a hen and chicks plant set from another location in my garden. All of the plants thrive in full sun.

Next to the larger rock I planted a Danica Arborvitae, another miniaturized plant that is perfect for a fairy garden. The photo above shows the area behind the tree and rock.

Creating a Fairy Garden

I used a small terra cotta saucer as a shallow pond. The saucer is stamped with the words Made in Italy. I have never noticed that until today. How perfect! The saucer represents my love of traveling. And exactly one year ago today, I was in fact, in Italy, exploring the Tuscany region with my daughter and grandson.

I wondered aloud about placing small stones in the saucer, just as Greg came outside to inspect my work. He said he had a jar of polished stones. He let me use them and they look great in the saucer. I added a couple of small rocks to the wheelbarrow, to create balance. And then it was time for the fun pieces…the miniatures.

Creating a Fairy Garden

Daughter Elissa gave me the dwarf in a canoe for Christmas. It represents two things to me. The river and the canoe were my symbols for 2016, symbolizing the Flow of Life. The dwarf is a nod to The Hobbit story and ties in with other items in my fairy garden. I added water to the saucer and placed the canoe with its adventurous passenger in the “pond”.

Creating a Fairy Garden

I selected each miniature because of the story it tells. The castle tower connects me to my beloved Scotland, and also to the Lord of the Rings, and JRR Tolkien’s stories of Middle Earth. When Greg brought me the jar of polished rocks, I found a tiny ceramic butterfly mixed in with the stones. With Greg’s permission, I hot-glued the butterfly to the tower. The butterfly was a symbol for me, in 2011, representing Transformation. It is also a nod to a scene from Lord of the Rings, when a moth visits Gandalf as he is held captive atop a tower. Moth…butterfly…close enough for me!

Creating a Fairy Garden

And speaking of Gandalf…my fairy garden has a little wizard, complete with a hat and a cloak and a long beard. I used three flat rocks to create a path for my wizard to stand on. The owl perched on his staff reminds me of another series of stories that I love…in the world of Harry Potter. And look at that little house behind the wizard! The words Once Upon a Time connect to my theme this year, of Story. The wizard also fits perfectly atop the tower, if I want to play and move him around.

Creating a Fairy Garden

I am extremely pleased with my fairy garden. It looks and feels complete to me. And yet, if I find something else that draws me and connects to me, I have room to add more items.

I enjoyed this form of creative play this afternoon. And I love that each piece tells a part of my story, representing things that I identify with and appreciate.

Fairy gardens are a trend that began in the US with fairy doors. There are now many miniature items that can be purchased to create customized gardens. Here are three easy steps to create a fairy garden of your own:

1. Decide on a container for the garden. Possibilities include a large clay flower pot, a metal bucket or container, a wooden half barrow or a corner of an existing garden.

2. Decide on a location and note how much sun the garden will receive. A shady spot will require shade loving plants, whereas a sunny location needs plants that tolerate full sun. Purchase miniature plants accordingly. Lowe’s Garden Center has a great selection of plants that are ideal for fairy gardens. Be sure to read the care instructions for the plants and water them frequently so the fairy garden lasts all summer.

3. Pick a theme and purchase miniatures to support that, or go with an eclectic mix. This is your time to play and create. Have fun with the process. Miniatures can be purchased online through Amazon or at craft and garden shops.

My fairy garden is located in the backyard, near my back door. I’ve popped outside several times this evening, just for the delight of catching sight of that miniature garden. I look forward to seeing how it thrives this summer!

Creating a Fairy Garden