The Nourishment of Beauty: Autumn 2007 Garden Report by Jane Sherry
I am continuously amazed, inspired and guided by the wisdom found working in partnership with Nature to create a garden, filled with flower, vegetable and herb allies.
Gardens are expressions of Love and teach patience, perseverance and tenacity. The act of gardening encourages hope and faith and trust in an abundant future. Cultivating a garden assists us in the cultivation of our vision, helping us to see clearly the myriad of ways we human beings live in partnership with Nature.
Gardening calls forth our highest creative instincts and intuition as we work to optimize the conditions in the garden for the highest and best good of the myriad of beings that inhabit the soil, the air, the plants, worms, microbes, insects and small animals that know the garden as their home.
In return for our work, attention, and love, gardens offer up their nourishing fruits, leaves & seeds, feeding not only our appetites, but feeding the emotional body and spiritual heart as well.
Gardens nourish not only through the stomach, but through the feast of color, aroma, touch and sound which feeds all of our senses. One of the most important nourishments we receive in gardening, is from their Beauty! I think Beauty is something which is very undervalued in our culture, in spite of the many ways in which popular culture and advertising admonish & bombard us to become more beautiful.
The aroma of the moist earth after a spring rain, the buzzing of a crowd of honey bees on a stand of flowers, the procession of blossoms that appear on different flowers as seasons change, the tantalizing smell of tomatoes on the vine, the taste of a ripe green bean freshly picked, all combine to create a total sensory experience of the natural beauty which nourishes the soul and inspires our creativity.
If our culture here in America truly nourished and cultivated beauty, there would be more community gardens in cities, the arts would be supported and considered necessary to our children’s education and we would seek to acquire inner beauty instead of the many harmful varieties of beauty products advertised on television and in magazines. Day dreaming would be encouraged and lazing about with the birds & the bees would be seriously considered as worthwhile activities!!
So, yes, beauty in the garden is an important method we can use to nourish our eyes, our hearts and minds. Gardens remind us that all of creation is filled with meaning, with the immanence of Goddess and that we too are a part of Nature and therefore are filled with the Divine. Gardens remind us that Goddess is in all things and that Universal Life Force Energy is that which sustains us. Gardens are available to us on a daily basis, a form of free worship in which we can be brought close to our Divine Self.
Flowers are great messengers and a perfected delivery system for the Life Force energies available on our beautiful Garden Planet, Mother Earth. I am reminded of the sight of a bumblebee which has died in one of our pollen filled hollyhock flowers, the sight of which fills me with peace. This bumblebee lived his perfected Life and died a perfect blissful death surrounded in the gift of pollen, lulled to sleep by death's sweet flower filled embrace.
It's actually been three years since I've written a Garden Weather Report! In those three years, our gardens have not only changed their county and latitude, but have also changed in the sheer size & abundance of varieties planted.
This year’s spring brought with it both drought & flood conditions, which gave rise to a monsoon of bugs, double rainbows (more than once!!) & a flood of flowers. Summer brought more unusual weather patterns, moving into drought like conditions, but thanks to heavy mulching & good organic soils, most of our gardens continued to flourish. True to the idea that there is no longer normal weather, the temperatures & moisture cycles were wildly variable from Spring through Autumn.
As for lessons in perseverance, one of the lessons this year's gardens most skillfully offered up, was taught by the Japanese beetles. These much-feared and hated foreign invaders first made an appearance in our American gardens in 1916 in NJ and were thought to have been imported in larval form in a shipment of flower bulbs.
These emerald green invaders began to eat everything in sight. They went wild in our rose patch, made the hollyhocks stands their beetle condos and were even found in rows of marigolds. This was shocking and even unnatural. The marigolds are planted to keep creeping flying voracious bugs like them OUT of the garden!
Early in the summer, you would have found me mornings & evenings picking the beetles by hand out of our roses and hollyhocks and anywhere else I had the energy to look for them. Once I had them firmly in my grip, I transferred them to a Mason jar, where they were contained in large piles until the smell became too rank, and then they were given a proper insect funeral and returned to the earth.
In a local fruit orchard where we go to pick blueberries the owner told us that when they first put the large Japanese beetle traps out this summer, that the traps filled up and needed to be emptied within 2-3 hours. This went on for days at a time!!
The beetles are pretty to look at, with their irridescent emerald green scarab bodies, but I say "yuck" and get very un-Buddhist-like in behavior when they appear in hordes!
As the season wore on and their depredations continued, my attitude hardened. In fact, one of our young friends was surprised and smiled to see me crush them in my fingers, by digging my nail into that lovely carapace. I believe her exact words were, "Eeoo, you're killing them with your hands! I could never do that!".
Speaking of tenacity, perseverance and faith, as I wandered around the gardens this morning, I saw my rosebushes looking lush and pink with fragrant blooms again and the hollyhocks are still blooming, putting forth their blossoms (making good food for the deer!). All of the damage the beetles inflicted is just a memory replaced by the garden's bountiful blooms.
And for all of my farmer friends who admonished me downstate, that my garden would grow much better in full sun, I must say you were certainly right! What a shock to find that lettuce can grow full heads, flowers can burst into a riot of color which keep blooming for months at a time and vegetables taste sweeter. Whole cabbage heads can grow, beets can reach maturity and tomatoes appear in such profusion they overwhelm us!!
Our vegetable garden was a more ambitious project than ever before and rewarded us with great baskets full of vegetables all summer along with fruits of that great American favorite: the tomato vine. The tomatoes are still producing even though it is the end of October as I write this letter to you. I keep promising to not pick any more tomatoes, but it is hard to resist yet one more meal of zucchini (yes, they're still producing too!) and fresh tomatoes, seasoned with the lovely aromatic tiny leaves of the globe basil, which also still rewards us with her spicy leaves and flowers.
I do so enjoy adding flowers into our meals and feel that flowers add tremendous healing energies into our etheric bodies as well as contributing to our physical health with their stores of anti viral and anti bacterial aromatic oils and minerals and vitamins.
Our flower and herb beds on the side of the house sit in partial sun and run downhill so it was very challenging to work on the steep slope, terraced through great effort, in each stage of its manifestation. I have found that the hollyhocks scattered in this garden do not mind the partial sun, however the echinacea angustifolia and one of our valerian varieties are very unhappy there and keep reaching across the bed, as if to climb out toward the sun!
One of the other challenges of a sloping garden are physical challenges. It is great exercise to work any garden, but especially a garden on a steep slope. The seeding, planting, weeding and harvesting is hard work on a sloping garden! Good work on those gluteous maximus muscles and all the way down the leg! And one has to consider whether there is enough organic matter in the soil to remain in place during a heavy downpour. Luckily, our beds are well made, with strong logs supporting the base of the most steeply angled of the terraced beds. We added enough organic material & plantings, so that we had almost no soil runoff during what were very frequent and heavy rains at times this past spring.
This year, the real stars of the herb bed were: the skullcap which finally took off, and both the angelicas and lovage plants, which tried to take over the place. And happily for the Devas and for us, the echinaceas are well established again.
Speaking of garden spirits, we have found that our little cat beast, miss Devi, loves to hide in amongst flowers in all of our gardens. Luckily, she does her business in an ornamental bed close to the house, which I think is her way of establishing her territory, essential because of the many barnyard cats which live and wander up and down our winding country road, visiting the cornfields, rows of vegetables, and fields of dairy cows and cattle at will, day and night.
The annual flower bed we added on at the last moment at the bottom of the hill in the herb garden has provided a torrential rainbow of color from the many varieties of zinnia, to the front row of orange and yellow and red lantanas (which we discovered were distasteful to the deer) and celosias of various colors, shapes and feathers!
And of course, our garden would not be complete without several varieties of our beloved marigolds. Right when the heat of summer is overpowering some of our flowering herbs, and the calendula spends most of its time putting out seed heads, before its second round of autumn blooms, the marigolds kick in with their golden, orange & maroon exuberance. I love picking them, as their scent is so piquant and reminds me of ritual ceremonies!
This past weekend, was our first two whole day weekend at home and our first weekend not working in 14 weeks! And because of global warming we got to enjoy our weekend with a cerulean colored autumn sky but warmed by summer like temperatures. We had our picnic lunch of tempeh reuben tortillas with more German tomatoes from the garden out in our backyard and homemade lacto fermented beets and cabbage to go with it. It was a very odd feeling to watch yellow leaves falling in the breeze and feel so hot as the sun beat down upon us!
We've been working hard all summer, not only with garden tasks (it's hard work to eat, preserve and share all that food!) but also with preparing for a Reiki workshop, working with Reiki clients, attending spiritual workshops with our teacher, buying pounds and pounds of new crystal acquisitions, but also in designing some new crystal pendants which we're having made exclusively for Satya Center Crystal Gallery. Check our crystal gallery to see some of our new treasures, but keep checking back, because we've barely had time to get any of them online!
Actually, we tried desperately all summer to give tomatoes away to anyone who came by (even the UPS driver didn't want any because he said someone else nearby had given him buckets of tomatoes!!). Yes, it was a tomato year, as all of our neighbors and farmers have been saying.
Tomato salsa, tomato soup, tomato broth for cooking fish, tomato sauce of course, but my favorite was the fast blended sauce made from the cherry tomato varieties all mixed together. It was like eating sunshine itself!
Another project we've been working on is 'watering' the garden with Reiki rain. You'd be surprised how much all of our flowers responded to this activity! Our only other form of fertility for the gardens was some fish and seaweed emulsion, some compost and nettles teas, but really steady 'applications' of Reiki and healing mantras were most effective energetically!
I am also working on more new projects requiring the assistance of the local devas and nature spirits--in creating a new anointing oil specifically designed to help us access & break through the wounded and abused parts of our natures, whether from events in this lifetime, or karmic accumulations which have impacted our abilities to accept and give love freely or to move in the world with confidence. This anointing oil is created to assist us in remembering that we deserve happiness and to help us achieve freedom from those wounds & dead weights we carry around in our bodies, both physically, emotionally and etherically. As you may have guessed, it is called "Breakthrough" and will be available in a couple of weeks.
Other treats from the garden will be forthcoming as well in November, such as a healing balm from herb infused oils, a healing massage balm with warming herbs, essential oils and flower essences for winter and cool weather and the Three Kings Anointing Oil Balm as well.
Our front flower border garden grew way beyond our wildest hopes this year that it would bring color and order as well as a sense of wildness to frame the house. The grasses are magnificent on one end, the cardinal vine almost took over the front doorway winding their way through the potted poinsettas which were on our front stoop. The crimson giant salvias are a boon for the honeybees which we can watch out our bedroom window.
Among our greatest joys is seeing the gardens filled with beneficial insects. Our gardens seem always to be busy with honeybees, they love the hyssop hedge, the flowers and herbs and especially the calendula patch! I was delighted to see my first view of parasitic wasp larvae on our tomato plants this summer. I had only seen one tomato horn worm and very soon after that, the wasp larva made their appearance! Welcome!
I also saw praying mantises, varieties of bees, spiders, bug eating beetles and dragonflies! Because we don't use any sprays to fight bugs, even so called organic sprays or soap sprays, I am very encouraged to see all this beneficial bug action in the garden. Now we need to encourage even greater balance to fight things like mildew, rodents and rabbits. Actually the rabbits ate mainly the violet leaves, which I was happy to offer to them, and a little of this and that in other well-circumscribed locations, so I suspect they are already kept in balance by the wonderful larger predators in our area such as foxes, coyotes & owls.
Another small highly symbolic beast appeared this summer. Several milk snakes made their homes near our washer and drying machines in the basement. I was able to liberate three of them safely away from Miss Devi the cat & from potential dehydration. Even though I knew they were harmless, and after all they were so small, only a foot long apiece, it gave me a little ancient thrill of fear & delight to capture them & carry them upstairs & out the door to the back periwinkle bed. I felt that they were auspicious omens for our place being very protected and Sacred Space.
Now if I can find out who's eating our tomatoes (they must have heard me say I was tired of picking them!). I suspect it is mice, as there are also teeth marks on the winter squash and the inside of several beets were eaten in addition to the insides of large tomatoes. They must think there's too much skin on the cherry tomatoes and mini egg tomatoes (as much as I do), as they don't touch them. They like to dig a hole, pull the large tomato fruit onto the dirt & then hollow them out leaving a shell of skin. Same with the beets!!
Plans for the gardens to get 'put to bed' are pretty simple and will allow for a little cleanup, dreams for next year and lots and lots of straw and manure fed to the vegetable bed.
It's never too late to garden at any time of year! In autumn, plant bulbs to delight yourself in early spring before anything flowery emerges from the wintery ground. Plant ginseng, goldenseal and garlic or flower seeds which like to be overwintered such as hollyhocks, perennial forget-me-nots or echinacea.
Autumn is a great time to see what you've got going on in your gardens that you may want to change. When things begin to die back in places where you have cold winters, but before the ground freezes, you can do transplantings of bulbs, root hardy plants such as echinacea & hollyhocks and move things to more suitable locations.
I'll be moving some hollyhocks, echinacea purpurea, echinacea angustifolia and irises. And most of all, it's a good time to gather your garden catalogues so that you can do the most fun gardening activity of winter- dream gardens!!
Winter is a great time to sketch out ideas for new gardens or garden revisions, go through your boxes of seeds, order more seeds for the following season or trade seeds with friends. I have been known to scatter seed on top of the snow for some of those flowers which I mentioned above, which require stratification (needing cold in order to germinate once temperatures warm up.) Some folks just put their seed in the refrigerator, but I think it's fun to go out in the snow!!
And I assume you need no prompting to work in your garden come spring & summer. Spring of course, is the big time clean up, when even if it's cold & still wearing a snow cover, you can prune away dead flowers & grasses & begin to imagine warm days and nights of playing in the dirt.
However you garden, enjoy and don't forget that the power of the imagination and creative forces need gardens too! We give thanks for our bounty and blessings of Nature on our tables, to share with friends and loved ones, to store on our shelves and enjoy in our bodies!
And so as we enter the twilight of the year in this time of Scorpionic transformation, let us give thanks to all who have assisted us on our journey around the wheel of the year especially our ancestors, the friends, family and co-workers who fill our days and nights, to the Nature spirits, without whom we would have no Earth, no gardens, no pumpkins lit in windows and let us say a prayer that our Mother Earth can cool her fevers, can equilibrate the pollution and ease the burden of the results of humans not living in balance with Her.
May those who suffer from floods, fires out of control, illness and starvation find solace, gentleness and meaning in their lives and may those of us more fortunate find ways in which to help others, to do no harm, to live more lightly on the Earth and to always give thanks. Aho!
And in closing, if there is a lesson I have learned in the six months of gardening this year, I would have to say it is truly about Faith & Love & the power of creative life. If we are able to dream and to believe in something greater than ourselves, if we set our intention to tune into the forces of Nature and then enlighten ourselves through education, patience & trial & error and apply ourselves through acts of Will, we can co-create with Nature in Love, Light, Beauty, sustenance and inspired action! Blessings from our Gardens to yours!!
PS: We enjoyed a spectacular bright orange moonset the other night at 9:30 PM. Long after the sun had set, the crescent moon bestowed its magnificent glory upon the end of our day.
[Gibbous Moon in Cloudscape]
[All the photos are taken this year by me, Jane Sherry in our gardens and night sky!]