Friday, April 30, 2010

Advice to Young Mothers and Others

"I've learned to take the hurried part of my life, slow it down, plant the seeds, and watch with patient eyes..." Emilie Barnes

Advice to young mothers. While you plan your child's education, nourish little bodies to help them grow strong- while you teach the importance of savings and discipline- provide the principals of your faith- do all this in an atmosphere where imagination flourishes. Be bold and be rewarded.

My garden celebrates the forgotten ingredient of American success: imagination. Other nations have excelled in math and science. Other nations have saved more. Other governments have been more directly involved in the welfare of the people.

What has set us above and apart thus far is what flourishes here as nowhere else, the spirit powered by imagination unleashed. Imagination propels solutions farther and faster.

When I am dispirited; a moment outside, watching bees called to the scent of lavender and roses, I am refreshed.

Keep your eyes open. I wasn't looking for this stained glass globe when I found it at Osh Hardware. The garden bauble was as good as I could make, cheaper than it would cost me, even without counting my labor's worth. To leave it on the shelf would be to regret having missed an opportunity.

How to display it: I had not a clue. Or money.

In a dream, the solution came. 4 fan trellises were robbed from where they stood as headstones to dead annuals. Spray painted white, turned upside down, screwed together at the top; a thrifty country tuteur was born.

A happy birth, but not mature as a garden statement.

A decade; many settings in the gardens tried, then abandoned. Still, the oomph factor wasn't unleashed. Studying a photo, it the little garden decoration sang the solution. She needed to be dressed in color, given a little detail at the neckline and glow.

Now the tuteur stands dressed in regal green. A collar made from scraps of wood frames frames the globe like an Elizabethan collar of a long-ago queen . A set of discontinued solar lights was bought for a song, dismantled and bulbs stuffed inside. The remote power source wired around the corner, where there is sunlight.

Imagination and Patience let the glass hummingbird do what she was meant to. Sing a smile on the face of all who knock.

Quote from Emilie Barnes Garden Moment Getaways, illustrated by Susan Rios. 2008. Harvest House Publishers

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Five Dollar Staycation

66° at 6 o'clock. The 1/2 inch of rain expected to dance on the rooftops tonight is tapping. 8 mph breezes are tinkling garden chimes. Whipping 32 mph gusts are whirring sounds of lushness from the hillside's palette.

Outside it feels like Britain. Sounds like Britain. It is a good day to taste like we're in Britain.

We did it for only $5.00 You can, too.

Of all the things I cherish from a handful of trips to the UK- scones are not normally at the top of the list. Too often, they are dry and dull. But a free sample at Williams-Sonoma of a mix they carry, took me across the Atlantic. Changed my mind. Not just about scones. About recommending a mix.

I almost forgot to kiss my husband as I ran in one door to set the oven to F425 ° and out the other to round-up a lemon. Less than a half hour later- the scent of lemon zest in the dough surrounding plump blueberries from the freezer filled our home. The juice of half a fruit was whirred with powdered sugar to drizzle over the treat; a sweet citrusy glaze.

My honey is also a 'scone skeptic'. Even memories from multitudes of trips to Britain didn't tempt him.

But the smell from the oven. The site of a scone split in half. He bit into what his wife was so excited to discover. He tasted bright freshness held aloft in the lightest texture. The batch was gone before the neighbors could be summoned to try a bite.

Garvey's 'Best of Britain' Traditional Scone Mix is available on and at many Williams-Sonoma Stores. Don't let the different packaging between stores dissuade you. Inside is the same great taste vacation: organic, to boot.

For the story behind how this marvelous product came to be, hop over to

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow.

8 AM. The house is quiet. But the garden is awake with birds and bees and color and scent. It is a favorite time to be outside. Alone. In contemplation of Yesterday- Today- and- Tomorrow.
This concept of time is also the popular name of Brunsfelia pauciflora.

Oh, that I could send you the scent as easily as the gardener's Latin. It sets alight the imagination. Takes me back to the moment I knew I had to plant some. It was walking past a hedge of the purple changing to lavender changing to white blossoms perfuming the walkway leading to the dentist's office.

Like an amethyst ring on a ladies finger, this stand of iris beneath the grapefruit tree points to the garden as God tends. He doesn't use the birds and mammals to plant the earth the same as I. Yet, I believe He approves. If not, why would He have given us free will?

The first bloom of clematis fills me with joy. She isn't native to California. But for the vision of the planners and engineers who brought water to Southern California, she wouldn't be here to clothe the chain link fence.

Thank God not just for what He has given us. Thank God for what He allows us to do. To contemplate, create and celebrate. In the garden.

Thank you to Dr. Douglas Wyler, DDS- not just for being a great dentist- but for keeping that hedge all these years.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

"F" Words

Joe Biden has his favorite "F" word. I have mine. Actually- I have a whole set. Now that they are budding to bloom, let's raise a toast to Fuchsias.
Fuchsia flowers dangle like a Degas ballerina posed mid-twirl; a subliminal message that it is better to be remembered for keeping a colorful garden than for uttering colorful language.

Reminding us- It is best to conjure up healthy parts of the imagination. Fuchsias add enchantment. What little girl hasn't dreamed that at night- the sepal jackets and corolla skirts are plucked from the plant by fairies to wear dancing in the dark?

I look at Fuchsias and I see what is good about America. I see immigrants welcomed. Sheltered and fed. We learn what is needed- and we provide what resources are needed to flourish. In return- they give us beauty we could never achieve on our own.

God bless the American imagination. Long may she flourish.

These images of fuchsia standards were captured at

Persson's Nursery Inc‎
3115 East Sierra Madre Boulevard, Pasadena, CA 91107-2037
(626) 792-6073‎

Monday, April 12, 2010

Making Friends at a Bar

Meet Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri. Her friends call her Spring Cactus. Whichever name you prefer to remember her by, aren't her darling iridescent daisy- like blooms darling?

I met her at my favorite bar in Pasadena- the NEW potting bar at California Cactus. Now at home in a Bonsai pot back here in Diamond Bar, she is resurrecting smiles where just a week ago, the skeleton remains of a juniper soured faces.

Along with a new bar, The sister proprietresses of California Cactus have added new products- such as the colored "mulch" sample displayed like a fancy drink poured by an experienced bartender.

Doesn't this picture of real cactus attached to wire mesh backing bring a smile to your face? Have you noticed that as few things are impossible in this life, it is impossible to smile and not be happy?

Info on California Cactus Nursery in Pasadena can be found at

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

April Showers- Bring on the Flowers

The rain finally came. After the earthquake. After dinner on the patio. After midnight. After the Easter feast, featuring the vintage platter piled with marinated kebabs of lamb and vegetables faded from the here and now to become a family memory.

The next morning, as the clouds departed Alta Loma , Gene Sasse captured the artistry of the iris. No wonder Monet fell under the flower's spell. See how the blossoms pose ballerina-like: long limbs outstretched. Still; yet bursting with energy. Especially in this bold yellow.

In Alexandra Stoddard's decorating classic Creating a Beautiful Home, the decorator/writer and philosopher of fine living quotes her mentor, Eleanor McMillen Brown
" Every room needs a touch of yellow."

So does every garden. Look again at the backyard picture. Think of the space as a the horticultural equivalent of architectural open plan. Memorize the spacial arrangement of the elements. Then close your eyes and imagine the same image without the yellow iris.

Before I say good-bye, I would like to invite you to read an especially lovely issue of Weeks Roses Newsletter. If you haven't subscribed yet, you really should.

Image by Gene Sasse. Used with permission.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Reflecting the Garden

It was just a worn out cabinet. But objects, like people, have history. Passed from mother to daughter; the daughter sold it on eBay to another mother, who went in on the cost with her new daughter-in-law to hold the brides’ grandmother’s china. The young couple turned out to be two lovely people who did not bring out the best in each other. In the divorce, the bride got the house and the husband got the cabinet.

The now divorced man held on to his possessions. When he was ready to get rid of the remnants of the life he had tied to build, he held a garage sale.

The cabinet looked sad. She had mirror broken, was missing a knob from having spent its lives being passed around. Bruised and battered on the outside: her bones were solid oak. I had a plan. Cheap enough my husband said, “Go for it.” This is how the cabinet came to be setting on my patio.

The good folks at Ken’s Ace Hardware sold us a can of Howard’s Restore-A-Finish and a knob like those which had survived so many transitions. Tim at Brundige Glass in Brea ordered and cut 1/8” mirror to replace the broken panel.

My He-man husband dressed in Levi’s to perform the cabinet’s reconstructive surgery. Re-affixing cornice trim and cleaning out remaining glass shards from crevices, his patient was ready for careful fitting of mirrored panels ,then gingerly reassembled and sutured with staples.

Polished and filled with decorations collected over the years, it is already filled with memories. This Easter, the holiest day of my faith’s calendar, its new life will be christened on our patio. Reflecting what we value. The glory of the garden. The joy of family together.

Happy Easter from my family to yours. Whatever your faith. May the coming spring be blessed with abundance.