For as long as I can remember, I have always loved playing in the dirt.
I remember the fondness with which my father would recall the time when he first handed a very young me a squiggling, slimy earthworm. He said the sound that erupted along with the expression on my little face was nothing short of sheer delight.
That remains where I feel that I am the most present, the most in tune with myself.
The most connected to reality.
Whether I'm weeding flower beds or preparing a vegetable garden. I feel the most grounded, uncoincidentally when I am in fact, in the ground itself. Gardening is a hobby that gives back. Giving back to the gardener, to nature, and to all that behold the blooming splendor.
A hobby that one can enjoy at all ages. A hobby that has been known to impart a sense of wisdom to the young. And in turn, keep the wizened younger, in body as well as in mind.
The gift of things grown is one of the first presents I can remember receiving. It came from a dear Aunt, who knew the secrets of gardening well.
I was around three, maybe four when she gifted me two wooden planters. One full of strawberries with big shiny, delectably sweet, bright red fruit. The other, full of spicy green chives that produced purple flowers clustered in a ball on tall waxy stems.
Both planters proved fruitful and abundant for many years to come.
Not long after, perhaps even the same summer, I can recall planting nasturtium seeds in the backyard of the little house where I spent most of my childhood, in West Seattle Washington.
I remember my father handing me each seed one by one as I tucked them gently into the black soil. They seemed so big to me, strange and bean-like.
"Can you eat them?" I wondered. He informed me that though the seeds were not edible, the flowers that grew from them were.
Oh the wonder, at the time I couldn't have imagined anything more tantalizing than a beautiful flower you could put on your plate and enjoy with lunch.
As the flowers came up, a new wonder caught my attention, butterflies and bees!
I will always adore watching them dab from flower to flower, humming and fluttering in synchronicity with the wind, the trees, and the heart of the earth herself.
In my front yard now as an adult, I am fortunate enough to have a large purple flowering cherry plum tree that blooms in full for about a week each spring, provided no frost comes to kill off all of the blossoms.
That might be my favorite week of the year. If you sit under the tree while in full bloom, the murmur of the bees surrounds you from all sides.
Enveloping you in the high vibration of their wings.
The penetrating hum from their ceaseless activity drowns out any other noise from all directions.
Amidst the droning song of the bees, combined with the intoxicating smell of the blossoms. I am left dizzy, my head remains buzzing in bliss for hours afterwards.
The tree produces delicious fruit as well.
Cherry plums, sweet-tart and succulent, best enjoyed when warmed to delicious perfection by the mid morning sun sent filtered through its burgundy adorned branches. A magnificent tree that provides food and cover, bringing birds from all around as they migrate through the Northern California mountains.
I've seen western tanagers, goldfinches, purple finches, warblers, wrens, woodpeckers, flickers, hummingbirds, bluejays, doves, robins, swifts, thrush, sparrows, and of course California quail. They all stop by and hang out in and under that big beautiful tree.
I love to keep my front yard as bird, bee, and butterfly friendly as I can make it. This means I encourage native flowering plants to grow in abundance wherever they want to be. I let the mallow, saint John's wort, dandelions, milkweed, bluebells and of course the California poppies be.
Cutting them back only after they have had the chance to fully bloom and reseed themselves for the following season. My yard has no lawn grass, instead I grow three kinds of clover, plantain, and wild fescue. I cannot be certain that my neighbors appreciate the "cluttered meadow aesthetic" as much as I do, but I have to admit. I don't care if they do or do not. Indeed I care more about the birds, the bees, and the butterflies.
Nevertheless, I make sure to have some other more neighborhood-friendly plants front and center. In order to keep my life-sustaining micro-meadow sheltered from any discriminating glances.
Climbing rose bushes face the street. Calendula, hollyhocks, sunflowers, succulents, buddleia, foxgloves, snapdragons, cornflowers, lupins, morning glory, columbine, daffodils, and borage return each spring and summer to grace us with their vibrant colors, sweet scents, and prolific blooms.
The purple peony under my bedroom window grows such beautiful flowers, so large and so fragrant I wish they could bloom all year. Underneath the peony, coming up early every spring, when the peony is just starting to peek through the ground, grows the most beautiful and delicate fawn lily. White and yellow with a hint of pink, with the most stunning purple marbled foliage. Were I to choose a favorite, that fawn lily might have to be it.
I can't leave out the irises that flourish in the shade of the plum tree. This year the gigantic dark purple flowers grew to the size of my face.
Recently I've gone head over heels for any and all bulbous, tuberous, and rhizomatous flowers. With the added benefit of coming back each year, and coming into bloom at all different times of the season. I feel you really can't go wrong with them. The variety is endless. I've acquired peach colored gladiolus, red and yellow daylilies, four kinds of dahlia, asiatic lilies, purple tulips, double irises, lily of the valley, heavenly scented freesias, and a spectacular black calla lily.
Each spring I plant sunflowers, zinnias and marigolds with the seeds I save from the year before. A variety of cold hardy succulents thrive in the brickwork underneath the rose bushes, hen and chicks, ice plant, and portulacas. And of course I keep going back to petunias and pansies for the hanging baskets on my front porch.
I have also recently included gooseberry, boysenberry, and three varieties of raspberry bushes: golden, brandywine, and strawberry shortcake. In pots and around the border of the yard.
And you bet I still grow strawberries, chives, and nasturtiums.
Over the years I've gone so gung-ho for flowers, that I now work part time at our local nursery just to keep up with my hobby. I dream of someday including a pond or water feature in my naturalistic front yard landscape. But for now appreciate the frogs in my water barrels and flower pots. And the birds bathing in the mist from my sprinklers
I'm also fortunate enough to have well established grape vines, four varieties: concord, green and red table, and long pristine green grapes, growing in the backyard. As well as a prolific pink lady apple tree.
Each year I plant as many greens, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, and onions as the fluctuating NorCal water supply can support without feeling too greedy.
I never take my city water access for granted as many friends in the area have wells that may or may not run through the extended summer season. Out here in Northern California drought and dry conditions are far from the only massive threat to the wildlife population. Not only does the drought and extreme heat further the threat of wildfires. It makes areas that were previously lush and fertile habitats, uninhabitable.
But so too does something else, monocropping.
Down in the valleys there are the orchards and the vineyards. Those almond orchards that run along the highway, account for millions to billions of bees killed each year. Almond trees need the bees for pollination, but the pesticides used on the trees are killing off bees in massive numbers.
Up here in the mountains, it's the cannabis farms. When I first arrived here and experienced what it was like to be able to grow giant fifteen plus foot tall cannabis plants, you bet I felt like I had landed in some kind of haven, a magical pothead's oasis. Grown fully organic, in living soil, full term outdoor sun grown cannabis. That's the way it tastes the best, smokes the best, and gives you the cleanest full-bodied high. The weather out here typically allows the time for the flowers to fully mature before they are harvested.
Nothing better than time, attention, and nature's best recipe. But, not everyone who grows it is willing to put in the effort or the funds to grow organically. And when the crop is threatened by some nasty cannabis targeting pest, most people will dump whatever fully-loaded ammunition they can get their hands on in order to quell the problem. damaging the soil's biodiversity in the process. And for the rest of the insect population, that can pose a threat. Not to mention all the water it takes for some to grow hundreds to thousands of plants per year.
Nowadays, more and more of the harmful chemicals are being made unavailable in the state of California. Slowly but surely, bee killing pesticides continue to be taken off the market.
But until the bees are safe back in the bushes and the trees, on the orchards, farms and vineyards. I feel called to ensure that I make my yard and my garden, a safe haven for as many insects, birds, and small animals as I possibly can. A magical pollinator's oasis if you will.
It certainly does take effort, and strategic conservative watering in the hottest part of the year. All organic fertilizer, and pollinator safe pest control for the cannabis.
But the extra effort is well worth it.
Our planet's precious pollinators deserve all the extra effort I have to give.
I don't believe that I can truly conceive of a peace comparable to the tranquility following the invitation of as much growth and vitality to your space as your space has to grow and thrive.
Years ago now, when I lived without a yard, window basking indoor plants were my main attraction.
And the few insects that they attracted had to be ushered back outside in order for them to continue to thrive. Inside of the house, I still keep cacti, dracaena, spider plants, ficuses, pothos, and geraniums.
But to now have the room to be able to share the things I grow with creatures that help sustain them as much as they sustain the other, it is an honor and a privilege.
One I hope to continue to give my support to, for years to come. As it in turn sustains me.
So here's to everything that puts down roots.
And all of the life that it attracts.
May your vegetables be plentiful, may many butterflies flutter on by.
May your weed grow fat and sticky, may the bees keep on buzzing.
May your trees reach tremendous heights keeping you in the perfect shade, and may your flowers bloom all season long.
Happy planting dear friends and readers,
Peace and blessings.