13 Easy Herbs to Grow

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When I planted my garden in 2014, I included a space for herbs. I called this section of my backyard paradise the Apothecary Garden. In Medieval times, the person who sold herbs for medicinal purposes were called apothecaries.

At that time, I had no idea the role herbs would play in my future life. I just knew I loved the way herbs smelled. My desire for an herbal garden stemmed from my intention to cook with fresh herbs and to dry them, creating my own potpourri, teas and skin products. (Read about the birth of my Apothecary Garden.)

Six growing seasons later, the Apothecary Garden thrives. It provides fresh herbs and brings me much joy. This year I am expanding the herb garden, adding more plants and new varieties of existing herbs.

Most herbs are very easy to grow, tucking them into the ground or in containers. Apartment dwellers can grow herbs as easily as homeowners with big yards. They simply require 4 – 6 hours of direct sun, good soil, and proper drainage.

To get you started, here are 13 easy to grow herbs.

13 Easy Herbs to Grow


Considered an annual, basil that is allowed to flower and go to seed produces volunteer plants the following summer. There are many varieties to choose from including one with dark purple leaves. Fragrant basil grows best in a sunny location.


Pungent and flavorful, use the leaves, yellow flowers and seeds in a variety of ways in the kitchen. Leave some plants with seeds, as they too will produce volunteer plants the next year. Grow dill in a sunny spot or tuck into a container that receives adequate sunlight.

13 Easy Herbs to Grow


One of the easiest herbs to grow, peppermint, spearmint and chocolate mint flourish and return each year. The plants made great ground cover in the garden. Mint does spread  rapidly, so place it in an area where its growth can be controlled. Or plant in large containers. Mint grows well in partial shade to full sun.


Another low growing herb, thyme is a perennial, returning year after year. It too makes a wonderful ground cover and can tolerate being walked on. In a container, thyme trails over the edge, partnering well with other herbs in a display. Grow thyme in full sun.

13 Easy Herbs to Grow


With their pretty pink blossoms, chives are attractive enough to add to a border garden. Harvest the flowers or the tubular stems to add a subtle onion flavor to dishes. Grow chives in a sunny location in well drained soil, or plant in containers. This plant is perennial.


Among the many varieties, English lavender is the most popular form of this wonderfully fragrant herb. It is a perennial that prefers full sun and well drained soil. Include lavender in the herb garden, flower border or in containers.

13 Easy Herbs to Grow


This well known herb thrives in full sun to partial shade. Sow chamomile seeds, which can be ordered here, in late spring directly on the ground or in a container. Use the flowers fresh or dried to create a soothing tea.

Lemon Balm

This extremely easy to grow herb offers a strong lemony scent and flavor with a hint of mint. A perennial, lemon balm is another plant that can take over the garden, if not controlled. Grow in a full sun to partial shade or tuck into a container.

13 Easy Herbs to Grow

Bee Balm

A perennial, bee balm, like mint and lemon balm, is simple to grow. And it too likes to spread. Bee balm’s gorgeous pink, white or purple flowers do indeed attract bees and butterflies. Use the flowers or the leaves to brew a fragrant cup of tea. Bee balm prefers full sun but moist soil, so surround the plants with a layer of mulch.


Resembling ornamental grasses, the tall flavorful leaves and tender bulbs of lemongrass are used in soups or teas. An annual in most regions of the US, lemongrass must be replanted each spring. Place in full sun and keep the soil well watered.


Sage’s grayish green or variegated leaves add rich flavor to foods and teas. The flowers are edible as well. Grow in full sun in well drained soil or in container combos. Low growing sage makes a great border plant also.

13 Easy Herbs to Grow


Fennel’s leaves resemble dill leaves. Very easy to grow, fennel provides a subtle licorice flavor to dishes. The dried seeds make a fragrant tea. Grow in a sunny location.


This shrubby herb can grow tall enough to resemble a small tree or train it to climb a wall or trellis. Rosemary requires a hot, dry, sunny location or it thrives in a container placed in direct sunlight. Bring rosemary indoors in the winter and replant in the spring.

13 Easy Herbs to Grow

Beneficial Herbs

Herbal plants add flavor to foods. I love walking into my garden and pinching off sprigs of fresh herbs to cook with. Actually, I enjoy walking through my herbal garden each evening, as the plants release their amazing scents as I brush the leaves.

Fresh or dried herbs are perfect for brewing health boosting cups of tea. And, as I intended, I create my own potpourri each fall, from the dried leaves and flowers.

When I planted my Apothecary Garden I did not know that in two years my life would shift drastically as I adopted a plant based lifestyle. Herbs play a huge role in keeping me healthy. As I realized the importance of these medicinal plants, I looked in amazement at my hardy and mature Apothecary Garden. What I needed for my health was already here, waiting for me to recognize the significance of my earlier actions.

How magical and enchanted life is. And how beautiful these life giving plants are.

13 Easy Herbs to Grow


Grow an enchanting herbal tea garden, with this package of seeds. Click photo for link to Amazon.



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Spring Garden Tips

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Happy first day of spring! I’m excited. Spring ushers in a time of renewal and birth and heralds the coming of warmer weather and longer days. For once, the fickle Missouri weather matched the approaching season. Sunshine and warm temps filled the days, encouraging me to get outside.

And my favorite outdoor activity this time of year? Tending to the garden.

I love seeing the first stirrings of life in my backyard paradise. It signals the return of colorful flowers, fragrant herbs and tall, waving ornamental grasses.

But first, tidying up is a must in March, after the garden’s long winter nap.

Check out these spring garden tips, to prep for the glory ahead.

Spring Garden Tips

Clear Away Debris

After months of cold, wind, rain and a bit of snow, the garden looks a bit bedraggled. The ornamental grasses droop along the fence row. Last summer’s flower stalks, which look beautiful contrasted against snow on the ground, can at last come down. And somehow, in spite of a six foot privacy fence encircling the yard, trash blows in.

As Greg and I survey the garden area, we pick up trash, cut down dry stalks and mentally take note of stray ornamental grass starts that need to be dug up.

Action step: Clear away garden debris including last year’s dead plants, dry stalks, leaves and any trash carried in by the wind.

Spring Garden TipsThe garden is a mess this time of year.

Trim Back Ornamental Grasses

Even during the winter months, ornamental grasses add interest to the garden. The stalks and tassels turn golden, providing color on gray, dreary days.

As the weather warms, the stalks need to be trimmed back, to six to eight inches above the ground. This allows fresh growth to appear. And trust me, the new stalks will quickly grow and fill back in.

We use an electric hedge trimmer to accomplish this spring garden task quickly and easily. The trimmed stalks go into a large metal barrel, for burning.

Action step: Trim back ornamental grasses. Burn the stalks or dispose of them via a trash dumpster. Don’t use them for mulch, as the seeds from the tassels will germinate.

Spring Garden TipsTrimmed ornamental grass clump. Cut back to 6 – 8  inches above ground.

Spring Garden TipsMetal burning barrel. The cover from the firepit keeps flaming debris from leaving the barrel. We keep a garden hose nearby, just in case.

Get a Head Start on Weeds

Everyone’s least favorite garden task is pulling weeds. It is an absolute necessity however. Not only are weeds unsightly, they crowd flowers, veggies and herbs, stealing their nourishment.

It’s early yet for most weeds. But not for eliminating ornamental grass starts that pop up all over the garden. It’s not difficult to remove these plants while they are tiny. It becomes a much bigger task if they’ve been left to grow.

I had quite a collection of starts, ranging in size from miniscule to large clumps. We noted the larger grasses last fall, and left them until spring clean up. Greg graciously removed the bigger grasses and clumps, while I dug up the smaller ones. After recent heavy rains, the small grass starts came up easily.

At the same time, I removed a couple of small tree starts and tackled clumps of dead crab grass. Greg used the weed eater to knock down dead grasses in the corners of the yard and along the edges of flower borders and beds.

Action step: Walk the garden area and inspect beds and borders for dry weeds and early starts. Spend a few minutes each day, walking the garden and pulling up weeds as they appear.

Spring Garden TipsRemoving a tiny ornamental grass start.

Check Soil

Before the garden begins to fill in, enrich the soil. Organic material like compost or manure adds moisture and much needed nutrients. My garden is six years old. Reworking the soil and adding compost nourishes the plants that are returning and gives new plants a great start.

We have a couple of places in the garden that hold too much water, creating boggy areas. Organic matter and peat moss worked into the soil will help to balance out those areas, creating better drainage.

Action step: Add organic matter to the garden if it is more than a couple of years old, to revitalize it. Balance out dry or boggy areas.

Spring Garden Tips

Spring Garden Tips for Mid Season

As the season progresses, these tasks will complete garden prep:

  • Plan out new beds and borders
  • Plant hardy annuals in containers and beds
  • Plant bulbs
  • Transplant seeds if they were started indoors
  • Plant cool weather veggies such as lettuce, cabbage and peas
  • Prune early flowering bushes, after they flower

Action step: This is the fun part, after days of cleaning up the garden and prepping for new plants. Take time to think about what you want to add to the garden this year. Visit nurseries. Tour other gardens. Check out Pinterest or browse online for ideas.

Spring Garden TipsLemon balm showing up in the garden. I’m excited to have my first cup of  freshly brewed lemon balm tea.

Spring Garden Tips for Late Season

Beyond the threat of frost, typically mid April to early May in most of the US, complete these tasks:

  • Cut back stems after bulbs bloom
  • Check garden for empty spots
  • Fill in with annuals and perennials
  • Plant herbs
  • Plant vegetables. Try out a raised bed garden.
  • Mulch with 2 – 3 inches of organic material such as cedar. Mulch helps to hold in moisture and prevents weeds and disease.

Action step: This is the time to bring winter dreams into reality. What do you want to add to your garden? Now is the time to do so. My garden changes every year, as I add to it. This year my intention is to rework the Apothecary Garden and add more herbs.

Spring Fever

I love this season and being outdoors. The garden is slowing awakening. New growth is appearing. Right now, it looks rather bleak. But I know. I know that just beneath the surface, life is stirring and soon my garden will fill with colors and scents.

In a couple of months, the garden transforms from this…

Spring Garden Tips

…to this! What a remarkable change.

Spring Garden Tips

Every task, every weed pulled, every plant tucked into the ground, is worth the effort. This backyard garden is, indeed, my paradise.


Try out these essential gardening supplies and tools! Just click on the picture to view product.



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Sweet Autumn Harvest

Working in my studio this afternoon, I paused to swivel my chair toward the windows. Golden October sunlight streamed into the room. Depending on one’s perspective, I was either distracted by the golden light…or invited outside by it. I chose to see it as a beautiful invitation. With October drawing to a close, and afternoons like this one becoming less common, it felt like an opportune time to move through the garden and harvest what I could.

Sweet Autumn Harvest

A Harvest of Sweet Produce

I didn’t change into gardening clothes, so sure was I that a stroll through the garden would satisfy my longing to be outside. Wearing a nice paisley shirt, vest, jeans and boots didn’t deter me though. Soon I was elbow deep in the raised veggie bed, digging up sweet potatoes.

What a great harvest this year! Sweet potatoes piled up in my red tub. I can’t wait to prepare and eat these sweet veggies in the coming days. I’ve already earmarked recipes such as sweet potatoes with braised red cabbage, chili roasted sweet potato fries and cardamom and coconut milk mashed sweet potatoes.

It is incredibly satisfying to me to tuck these little plants into the dirt in the spring, and harvest food during the summer and fall. I plucked a green pepper and a handful of cherry tomatoes from the garden as well. One tiny pepper remained on the last pepper plant, however my volunteer tomatoes vines are heavy still with green tomatoes.

Sweet Autumn Harvest

Herbs Abound

Most of my herbs are still flourishing. In fact, they are lush with new growth. Sage, lavender, basil, lemon grass, lemon balm, bee balm, chamomile, mint, dill, thyme and rosemary are available for teas and recipes.

The fragrant plants released their scents as I stopped to touch them and pull a few weeds. I feel such peace in my Backyard Paradise, such love. Lemon balm won me over this afternoon. I snipped sprigs of the bright green herb for tea time.

Sweet Autumn Harvest

Bringing the Vintage Flowerpot Indoors

Finally, I examined the vintage flowerpot, and made a decision. This container is almost as old as I am. (Read its story.) It has rested for many years in various spots around my front deck and garden. Instinctively, it feels like it’s time to move this treasured keepsake indoors. I fear a hard freeze, after a rain, could damage the flowerpot and that would make me sad.

Resting on my potting table, the ceramic container received a good scrubbing on its exterior and a new plant to cradle. After removing the faded moss roses, I transplanted a Purple Heart plant into the pot. This seemed fitting, as the container came to me from my mom years ago, and the young plant did as well, last spring.

I discovered that the snake plant I had intended to grow in the container is poisonous to cats. Purple Heart is a safer alternative and thrives well indoors. The freshly cleansed and potted container has a new home next to my little entryway table, where it can continue to bring me joy.

Sweet Autumn Harvest

Harvest Smile

William Cullen Bryant wrote, “Autumn, the year’s last, loviest smile.”

Autumn offers the loviest smile, indeed. The very air shimmers with magical golden light that seems to ignite a kindred glow within my heart. I love this season of the year, this sweet time of harvest and brilliant colors and the soft sighs of nature as it prepares to sleep.

I’m grateful I turned my chair to appreciate the sunlight. And I’m ever so grateful that I accepted the invitation to venture outdoors.

Sweet Autumn Harvest

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

The Glory of Gardening

I experienced the incredible joy of being in gardening mode all day. My mom and I visited Sutherland’s Saturday morning, for their final half price sale. We arrived at the store’s garden center at 6:43…and there was already a long line of customers, eager for the gate to open at 7:00. We joined the crowd…and found all we were looking for!

I got very little done over the weekend, with those colorful flowers. However, I was up early this morning, ready to get everything planted before thunderstorms roll into the area tonight. What a full and beautiful day in the garden.

The Glory of Gardening

My garden lagged behind this year, hampered by a cold early spring. I learned much about patience and accepting what was this spring, as day after day I inspected the garden for signs of life. Just as plants began to emerge, and a few buds appeared, another cold weekend with below freezing temperatures shut the garden down. I was afraid I had lost plants. I had to be okay with that.

The Glory of Gardening

Today I couldn’t tell that the garden overslept. Colorful blooms are appearing at last, the empty patches of ground are filling in and although I was delayed in planting in the many containers scattered about, I remedied that today.

Here’s a peek into my personal paradise.

The Glory of Gardening

This ancient azalea bush, transplanted from Greg’s parents’ house in Arkansas, was budding when the cold touched it. Those early buds shriveled up. I am so grateful it survived. It’s putting on a spectacular show now.

The Glory of Gardening

The beauty of using annuals in the containers is that I can totally change the look of the garden each year. I opted for lots of color this season, focusing primarily on yellows, oranges and pinks. It feels very celebratory, an acknowledgment of perseverance.

The Glory of Gardening

All the containers were filled. I used zinnias, snapdragons, portulaca, and vinca. The potted plants on the metal shelf beneath the workshop window were moved to the rusty wire basket across the yard, where they will receive less sunlight. Potted vincas took their place.

The Glory of Gardening

The hostas are huge this year and filling in nicely. I used colorful flowers in the meditation area for the first time, instead of white blooms. And the southern border looks amazing. It will be a sea of purples, pinks and yellows soon.

The Glory of Gardening

For five years, I’ve used an old picnic table, made by Grandpa Moore in the early 60s, as a potting table. It has served me well, although the height was a bit low for me. To ease my back, I’d end up sitting on one of the attached benches as I worked.

Today, Greg finished a special project for me. He made me a potting bench, cleverly repurposing wooden pallets that he’s saved. I love it! Although Greg kept apologizing that the potting bench wasn’t fancy, I think it is absolutely perfect for my needs. And I appreciate that he recycled materials that he had, rather than purchasing new boards.

The Glory of Gardening

The potting bench looks adorable, with my hand tools hanging conveniently across the top. I now have a place to display two vintage water sprinklers that are so cool looking. I’ve yet to try them out in the garden, but I will!

I am grateful for Greg’s generosity. He has contributed greatly to the backyard garden. In doing so, he has been a supporter of my dreams and vision for this sanctuary.

The Glory of Gardening

I completed all that I set out to do today. I have a whole flat of flowers left over, that will go into various containers that are currently tucked away. In the meantime, those bright blooms have the perfect resting place on my new bench.

English poet Alfred Austin wrote, “The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.”

I experienced all of those nurturing things today, and by the end of the afternoon I was a sweaty, dirty, happy mess. It was glorious, indeed.

The Glory of Gardening

Signs of Life

I mentioned in another post that the cold spring we’ve had in the Midwest has greatly delayed my garden. I’ve had to make peace with that fact, more than once! This is my backyard garden’s fifth season, and never have I watched it so closely, for signs of life.

Signs of Life

Freeze warnings and temps that dipped into the low 20s continues to plague us this month. I lost plants that I potted, even though I had them on a protected, covered front porch. Perennials that bravely pushed through the mulch, expecting spring, got bitten by the frost and disappeared. My garden has remained empty long past what I considered normal, and I had to release, over and over, a tendency to fret about it.

It didn’t help that on Facebook I was getting notifications about previous posts. Those photos of the garden, in my Memories Feed, reminded me just how far behind my garden really was. It wasn’t my imagination. Plants, flowers and herbs were lagging weeks behind.

Signs of Life April 2016.

Signs of Life April 2018.

Finally, we have the promise of a gorgeous, and warm, weekend ahead. I spent time in the garden this afternoon, pulling the weeds that are popping up, and welcoming that task because at least the earth is stirring. I noted what I have lost: one clematis vine, that did not return after a cold snap, and I have a large bare patch in the border garden that should be full of primroses. A few more minuscule plants are peeking at the sky. I know I can replant that section if I need to.

Signs of life are present though and I am grateful. The herbal garden is filling in. The mint I thought I had lost is reappearing, its tiny leaves fragrant when I brush them with my fingers. Perennials are slowly pushing through the ground, a fraction of their usual size this time of year, but they are alive. The containers are all still empty, but I believe it is safe to plant in them again.

Signs of Life

Signs of Life

As it always does, the garden teaches me about life. I’ve learned this season about trust and acceptance. The garden is what it is. It changes every year, and this year is no exception, even if I don’t particularly like the changes. I must accept the reality of what is.

I’ve learned to believe more deeply in the unseen. It was tempting, more than once, to dig up a plant to see if the roots had survived the cold. How counterproductive that would have been! There was life beneath the surface, and things happening that I could not see. I learned patience watching a garden that did not appear to be doing anything.

Signs of Life

I learned about loss. A few plants did not survive. The majority did, however, and I practiced more acceptance and gratitude as I puttered in the garden this afternoon, observing the changes that have occurred in the last few days. All of these lessons apply to life. Part of my journey the last few years has been learning acceptance, patience and trust, and expressing genuine gratitude.

And I can compare the life sustaining work going on in the plants, beneath the surface and out of sight, with my body’s healing process. Although I have many visible signs of improved health, the deepest healing is happening at a cellular level. As health is restored there, it manifests outwardly. I love the mystery of that process of rebirth, in my body and in my garden.

Tomorrow I am buying annuals to fill containers and veggies for the raised bed garden. I’ll purchase a few new herbs. Before planting more perennials, I’ll continue to watch the bare places, for signs of life there.

All is well, my garden assures me. All is well, my soul agrees.

Signs of Life

Winter’s Continuing Lullaby

A month ago I shared a post about waking the garden up. On that day, after a cold and dreary February, it was promising to see signs of life stirring in that barren space as I prepared the garden for spring. However, standing in the garden today, I could see very little change from 30 days ago. In spite of the supposed arrival of spring, winter continues to pop by, crooning lullabies to my garden so that it slumbers still.

With temperatures that have periodically dropped into the low twenties, and bouts of ice, sleet and snow, not only has the garden barely stirred, I’ve lost plants. All the flowers I tucked into pots three weeks ago fell casualty to icy conditions and sub freezing temps on Easter Sunday, even though they were on a covered porch. With below freezing nights in the forecast for this weekend, I dare not plant anything. Winter, it seems, is reluctant to move on.

Winter’s Continuing Lullaby

The warmer temperatures this afternoon had me in the garden. But other than more tidying up and a bit of weeding there was not much that I could do, with the threat of freezing temps ahead. Walking around, inspecting the garden, I couldn’t help but note the lack of growth. I thought last year spring was slow to escape winter’s grip. This year, spring seems locked still in a tight cold embrace.

I thought the garden looked forlorn. Then I realized perhaps it was me feeling forlorn because of the condition of my backyard paradise. And that wouldn’t do. Gardening is about trust and faith. I needed to do the tasks I could and allow the garden to be exactly as it, trusting the cold spells will come to an end exactly when they are supposed to. As a result of this mental shift, I began to find gifts from the garden, little reminders that all is as it should be.

Winter’s Continuing Lullaby

Creeping phlox and creeping jenny greeted me near the garden gate, the first plants to show signs of being fully awake. These phlox plants were transplants from Leta Moore’s garden. Although she has been gone for 19 years, these hardy plants continued to thrive in her front yard garden with little care. I am grateful for their perseverance.

Winter’s Continuing Lullaby

As I turned soil in the raised vegetable garden bed, I discovered kale growing! How amazing, as I scattered these seeds early last summer. Not only was this little plant incredibly encouraging, it reminded me that there are vegetables that do very well in cooler temperatures. I may not be able to do all the planting that I am longing to do, but I can start lettuce, beets, cilantro and onions for an early harvest. That will satisfy the desire I have to get plants into the ground.

Winter’s Continuing Lullaby

Winter’s Continuing Lullaby

In the herb garden, the thyme, which stays green all winter, was flourishing. Tender shoots of lemon balm, while way behind their normal spring growth, were putting on more leaves. I took these hopeful signs as an invitation to create fresh thyme/lemon balm tea. I’ve used dried herbs during the winter, so what a treat to steep freshly picked leaves. I carried a bowl of fruit and avocado slices into the garden, along with my steaming cup, creating a spur of the moment afternoon tea.

Winter’s Continuing Lullaby

Winter’s Continuing Lullaby

Sitting there, sipping tea, I felt peace. The impatience I felt earlier to get going in the garden was replaced with acceptance of what was. To argue against reality creates stress. I did not create this garden to cause stress. This is my gym and my meditation center, where I ground myself and free my spirit. It’s where I can lose myself and find myself at the same time. My garden is my sanctuary.

The most precious gift that I found this afternoon, beyond peace and acceptance, caught my eye as I pulled weeds. A solitary grey feather lay upright in the grass nearby, as if growing from the earth. The feather quill is my symbol for 2018. Finding a feather carries great significance for me. I picked it up with care, marveling at its beauty. It felt like a sacred moment.

Feathers are a sign from spirit. And the color of the feather brings with it a message. When a grey feather is found, it signifies peace and faith, and promises that all is well. I took a deep, cleansing breath and smiled as I surveyed my sleepy garden. Indeed. All is well.

Winter’s Continuing Lullaby

Series Review: Big Dreams, Small Spaces

My mom suggested this wonderful series to me, that she discovered recently on Netflix. We ran an errand together this morning, and knowing my love of gardening, she shared about this British show in which horticulturalist Monty Don helps people with small gardens realize their big dreams for the spaces.

I was so intrigued that when we returned to her house, we watched an episode together. I loved it! During tea time this afternoon, I started at the beginning of Big Dreams, Small Spaces and watched the first two episodes.

Big Dreams Small Spaces

Big Dreams, Small spaces features Monty Don, a well know British writer, tv personality and gardener. He meets with two gardeners per episode, offering his wisdom and expertise as he helps them plan out the garden of their dreams, and then bring into reality. There are six episodes in this series, each with a run time of 59 minutes. In the US, this series is available on Netflix.

Not being familiar with him, I had to look Monty Don up. I am impressed. The 62 year old horticulturalist has a long history of gardening, writing and hosting shows on BBC about a variety of gardening topics.

I very much enjoyed his easy going charm as he visited amateur gardeners across England, helping people who faced challenges in bringing their small plots of ground to life.

In the first episode Monty helped a couple transform a steeply sloped back garden into a terraced paradise, just in time for their upcoming wedding. They were able to use freshly cut flowers from their own garden in the bride’s bouquet.

He also assisted a woman who was attempting to create a sanctuary for her bee hives, on an allotment plot that had been abandoned for years. The small piece of land was sadly neglected, overgrown and full of trash.

Big Dreams Small Spaces

In the second episode, Monty divided his time between a woman creating a community garden in her front yard, providing free vegetables for her neighbors, and a young couple who desired to fashion a sensory garden for their young son, who was born with Down’s Syndrome. Like some of the other Dreamers, the space that they had to work with was in horrific condition.

What I love about this feel-good series is how Monty meets each prospective gardener precisely where they are…in the dreaming phase of their projects. He’s thoughtful as he listens to their ideas, hopes and dreams, and then views the selected space. He is encouraging as he looks at their plans, if they have one sketched out. Most did. And he is realistic in setting expectations, offering suggestions and advice that comes from years of gardening.

And then Monty leaves them to begin their projects, checking in with them once a month or so, over the summer season. He occasionally shrugs off his jacket, rolls up his sleeves and handles a shovel or prunes back a tree. However his primary role is to encourage, instruct and to keep the gardeners moving forward.

Big Dreams Small Spaces

I was amazed by the hard work and determination of the gardeners. They knew Monty would be back by, and they wanted him to be pleased with their progress. He always was. And I was amazed by the transformations as overgrown, junk filled, or drab spaces became gorgeous gardens with water features, masses of flowers and interesting focal points.

I picked up some great tips for my own garden, such as using cardboard beneath a raised bed, to block weeds, and how to create better drainage for herbs. This is a show that I will watch with a notebook nearby so I can take notes.

And, I adore listening to Monty and the others chat in their British accents. I smiled over the differences in pronunciation, and learned new things such as entirely different words for the same flower or vegetable. The vegetable that we call a zucchini is called a courgette in England.

Big Dreams Small Spaces

I am inspired by Big Dreams, Small Spaces. Watching gardeners bring their dreams into reality makes me want to get out into my garden and take it to the next level. And I appreciate Monty’s observations and advice. He never took a dream away from a hopeful gardener, no matter how implausible those big ideas were. Instead, he guided them through the entire process, from adapting plans to selecting plants to tucking them into the ground in the right places. Watching those gardens become manifest allows me to dream big as well, and know that with hard work, anything is possible.

Big Dreams, Small Spaces is ideal for gardeners, creative souls, and anyone who enjoys different cultures. It’s perfect as well for those who want to feel good at the end of a program.

Monty Don is a true British treasure and I will be searching Netflix and YouTube, to see what else he offers via television, how-to videos and books. I saw a pic that has me hopeful!

Wakey, Wakey

I awoke this morning, with this children’s nursery rhyme in my head…Wakey, wakey rise and shine. You’ve had your sleep and I’ve had mine. I smiled, remembering the sing-sing chant. And glancing at the sunlight streaming in through the window, it was fitting. This was Wake the Garden Day, a celebratory holiday of my own making. It falls on different dates each year, depending on the weather and the severity of the winter. After a cold February with more than usual rain, snow and ice, Wake the Garden Day landed in March…on March 9, apparently!

Wakey Wakey A Gardening Story

I love this day for several reasons:

Although spring isn’t here yet officially, it’s rapidly approaching. This day of prepping the garden for the return of grasses, flowers and herbs signals that we’ve made it through another winter. The cold temps will soon be behind me and warmer, longer days are approaching. In fact, we switch to daylight savings time this weekend.

It’s great to spend the day in the garden. I leave up dry ornamental grasses and dead flower stalks, to create interest in my backyard paradise. The garden in winter has its own beauty. The brown, gray and tan remnants of last year’s season contrast with the snow or glisten with ice. That means as spring nears, there are many tasks to carry out: cutting back grasses, clearing away dead stalks, dividing plants that have grown too big and general clean up. It’s messy, hard work…and it is so rewarding!

Wakey Wakey A Gardening Story

Wakey Wakey A Gardening Story

Wakey Wakey A Gardening Story

As we worked, I was grateful for bright sunshine, sturdy work gloves, the right tools for the different jobs, and Greg’s assistance. The ornamental grasses were trimmed back and the bigger ones, divided. I left volunteer grasses growing in the garden from last fall. Those were all dug up today and bagged. I have 20 or more plants to give away.

Wakey Wakey A Gardening StoryOrnamental grasses nursery!

Wakey Wakey A Gardening StoryAnd a huge pile of trimmings to burn, on a less windy day.

Wakey Wakey A Gardening Story

I love this day because the results from our work are so immediate. It feels wonderful to clean up the beds and inspect for new growth. And it was evident. As we trimmed and cut away and raked, bright green shoots were uncovered. Tiny leaves are appearing on Russian sage plants and lemon balm and bee balm are pushing through the mulch in little clusters. The garden is stirring and that makes my heart sing.

Wakey Wakey A Gardening Story

Wakey Wakey A Gardening Story

Wakey Wakey A Gardening Story

As I observed the bare ground and tidied beds, after hours of work, I realized what I love most about singing wakey wakey to the garden. It teaches trust and deepens my faith. The straggling, messy remains from last summer are gone. The garden appears to be very empty. But I know, tucked beneath the earth’s surface, the roots of plants are awakening, gathering nutrients and strength, preparing to grow.

Every spring, I witness the miraculous…the return of life, of beauty. No matter how long the winter seems to last, it gives way, with grace, to spring, to rebirth. And where there appears to be nothing…in a couple of months there will be lush growth and riotous color. It’s never the exact same garden, as it shifts year to year, and yet it is always gorgeous.

Wakey Wakey A Gardening StoryLast year’s garden.

Wakey Wakey A Gardening Story

Wakey Wakey A Gardening Story

I am moved every year by the transformation.

I have a few more tasks to complete tomorrow…a lilac bush to trim back and the raised vegetable garden bed to prep. And then I wait and I watch. I’ll walk through the garden daily, softly singing wakey, wakey…and greet each plant, each flower that awakens into life with a joyful smile. Welcome back, my garden.

“Gardening is an active participation in the deepest mysteries of the universe.”

Thomas Berry

Wakey Wakey A Gardening Story

Creating a Fairy Garden

I am grateful to have drawn this Inspiration Starter out of the jar, for several reasons: I needed an easy task today, and the Divine said Here you go. I have wanted to create a fairy garden for years and have not done so yet. And the simple act of drawing out this slip of paper inspired ideas that took off in a creative direction that I am excited about.

Admittedly, this is not the right time of year to create a fairy garden, also called a miniature garden, outdoors. Tiny living plants are used, along with small structures and cute accessories. I wrote out these Inspiration Starters in July, and today, my garden is sleeping. However, not to be deterred, I found this chilly blustery day perfect for planning out a fairy garden and browsing through pages of ideas.

One of the reasons I have not included a miniature garden yet in my backyard paradise is because I didn’t have a designated space for one. My garden is well established, which means the flowers and grasses and herbs are approaching or at their full size. A tiny garden would be lost among the mature plants. However, as I considered a fairy garden this afternoon, my rusty wheelbarrow came to mind.

This old barrow has housed colorful annuals each summer, but it will make the perfect container for a fairy garden. And it has the added benefit of being movable, so I can wheel it into or out of the sun, depending on what miniature plants I select.

Once I visualized a fairy garden in the rusty old wheelbarrow, the rest came together immediately. I have a huge appreciation and fondness for the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit stories. The Hobbits are a peaceful, earthy people, who love gardening, good food and tea time. I had found my inspiration for my garden.

I wondered if there were Hobbit Fairy Garden kits or tiny houses at least. There are! I had such fun looking at miniature Hobbit houses and studying fairy gardens in general, to see what kinds of plants are used.

How adorable is this Hobbit Miniature Garden? Can you imagine one set up in a vintage wheelbarrow? I can! Several stores in the Joplin area carry fairy garden supplies. And I found a Hobbit House available through Amazon. They also have just a Hobbit door that could be added to a tiny mound of grass covered dirt.

In addition, I found a huge assortment of accessories. My garden can have tiny light posts, fake veggies, gardening tools, flowerpots, stone walk ways, a pond, a field rock bridge and even a tea set!

I am excited about the plans for a Hobbit Fairy Garden. My playful nature will enjoy combining gardening with this form of creativity. After the first of the year I will begin assembling the components for the garden and dream away until spring arrives. I will look forward to creating a Hobbit Fairy Garden DIY post at that time.

What at first appeared to be an impossible task today quickly transitioned into a fun time of playing and planning and churning out ideas.

I call that a very good day.