Monthly Archives: April 2012

That Old Garden Magic

The Complete Book of Garden Magic by Roy E. Biles (1888-1941), first published in 1935, is an American garden writing classic. It might be a little out of date as far as the how-to (evidenced by the above amusing illustration championing the now known to be simplistic and ecologically damaging NPK way of feeding plants) but I went ga-ga over the vintage design.

I also loved Biles’ Intro:

“There is magic in the garden. I cannot create a daffodil in all its color and grace. No man can. I do not know how a daffodil is created. Yet each spring thousands and thousands of them are seen dancing in our gardens. There is law in the garden. It is the law of creation. If we follow that law we deal in magic. We cannot see the stuff of which the daffodil is made,–we need not care by what process it comes into being. If we take the dark brown bulb, plant it according to that law at the right time–we achieve a miracle.”

Biles wrote his encyclopedic tome (over 480 pages) in 1935. It  covers everything that was going on in the home garden then in plants and design and includes building projects (amateur greenhouses, water gardens, concrete installations, window boxes). The book was apparently very popular, going through several printings even after Biles death. The last issue I saw was printed in the early 1960s. This means that fortunately for us, there are many used, affordable copies still available.

What I love most about the book are the illustrations. My copy is from 1955 and has dozens of these hand-drawn gems. Biles acknowledges the artists in his Preface, noting his indebtedness to many including  “. . . last, but not least, to my friend–Jos. E. Ebertz, and other artists who drew the pictures and without whose painstaking work and patience this book could never have been published.”

I’ll leave you with a few words from the 1955 version’s Editor’s Foreword:

“I do not say that I agree with his [Biles] every view and recommendation; or that I might not do certain things differently than he has done them. But that is the joyful privilege of all gardeners: To have their own, pet methods of working toward a common goal, and to defend them valiantly in friendly discussion and debate.

The important and significant thing is that we gardeners all have that common goal–greater beauty and happiness for mankind and the world through the cultivation of plants in gardens. And it is not only a common goal. It is also a bond of interest and sympathy for which we can be everlastingly grateful.”

E. L. D. SEYMOUR  Horticultural Editor, The American Home

–Sandra Knauf

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Espalier Envy

Zoe Poster is one of the most soulful gardeners I know. She is also a talented photographer, elegant writer, whimsical artist and (I’ve never tasted her food, but I know it has to be divine) cook. When I saw this picture of her espaliers the other day and read her post, below, on her blog pearled earth I just said “Wow.” I’ve wanted to do this for so long! But I don’t really have a spot for it, and, okay, I’ll be honest, the discipline or time to take care of them properly. Now I’m thinking I really need to add espaliers to my bucket list. After I create that bucket list . . . the bucket list I’ve said I’d like to add things on before, but never created. See why I don’t have espaliers?

–Sandra Knauf

Espaliered Apples

For the first time, our apple espaliers look like the real deal (we planted them five or six years ago, depending on whose memory you’re asking). Their trunks have thickened up nicely, and they have the beginnings of gnarled spurs (the bits that bear the fruit). They are loaded with blossoms! This is all in thanks to Matt’s careful pruning and training. But getting apples is not easy. With diligent spraying of Surround, an organic clay-based barrier to keep out the evil curculio bug, we can coax a modest crop. Then, when squirrels haul our whole harvest up into the neighbor’s maple tree, we can dodge the cores as they’re hucked at us from above. None of this matters to me, though, because I am wholly sustained by beauty, and I do not need to eat food.

–Zoe Tilley Poster

* * *

I am a gardener by profession and pastime. I write about the art of cultivation, nature, and other items which take a brief roost in my brain before fluttering out the exit ear and away on the wind. I like to draw pictures, too. zoetilleyposter(at)



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Earth Day at Black Cat Books

Sunday, April 22nd, 2-4 p.m. and all day!

Greenwoman Magazine will join Black Cat Books and safron on Earth Day (720 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, CO; 719.685.1589) in a celebration that will feature up-cycled and recycled clothing lines, resusable bags, Earth Day-themed snacks, and a Green Carnation Project demonstration.

“Green Glam, I am a Fan!”

Amici Creations is the result of two friends (Susan and Tricia) and artists coming together to make fabulous scarves. Amici is the ltalian word for friends. These scarves are more than just an accessory. Each scarf is made either partially or fully from previously owned clothing. They bond silk, rayon, cotton, and viscose together with merino wool through a nuno felting process. The star found on each Amici Scarf represents friendship. For more information, check out their website at

Elisabethan Eco Fashion

They’re crazy about recycling! Since 1996, Elisabethan Eco Fashion has been committed to making exceptional garments and goodies from all the post-consumer fabric they can get their eager little mitts on. Using laundered second-hand clothing as their “yardage,” they hand-cut each piece using their original patterns, then lovingly combine them into one-of-a-kind items. It’s new, not more. Enjoy!

Greenwoman Magazine & The Green Carnation Project

Sandra Knauf with Greenwoman Magazine (“A Literary Garden of fiction, nonfiction, commentary, biography, art, and comics”) will have a display on The Green Carnation (Pesticide Awareness) Project.

The idea behind the Green Carnation Project is simple: Put some white carnations in to a jar/vase of water with a generous amount of green food coloring overnight or a few hours. Then display at stores, schools, churches. Ask people to wash off the coloring. They can’t. Point made. This is the same for any pesticide/herbicide that is absorbed through the roots or leaves of trees and plants–even Roundup. There are so many viable alternatives instead of “the unthinkable risk to our children–ourselves.”

Sandra will also be giving away some copies of the first issue of Greenwoman Magazine.

We hope to see you there!


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The Lady and the Moon

I found this sweet tidbit on gardening by the moon the other day and learned a bit about the fascinating Lady Fortescue–actress, fashion designer, interior decorator, gardener, and author.

“. . . Everything, it seems, depends upon the moon. Beans and peas are amorous things, and must therefore be sown in the first quarter of the moon, for if they are sown while the lovely new moon is smiling down upon them, they spring towards her swiftly. During the last quarter, when her beauty is fading, they are less enthusiastic. Potatoes, carrots, and turnips, on the other hand, being, as I have always imagined, more phlegmatic in temperament, must be sown in the last quarter of the moon, who will drag their roots down for them as she sinks.”

 — Winifred Fortescue, from Perfume in Provence


Winifred Beech was born in Suffolk, England in 1888. At the age of 17 she became a stage actress to help with family finances and would gain some fame through her art. In 1914 she married John Fortescue, the King’s Librarian and Archivist, and famous historian of the British Army. Although he was 28 years her senior they were said to have had a happy marriage. After the marriage she left acting and founded CINTRA, a successful interior decorating and court dress designing business. Her next career would be writing–for the London papers, including The Times, Punch, the Daily Chronicle, and the Evening News.


In the early 1930’s the couple, now Sir John and Lady Fortescue, moved to Provence, France. There Lady Fortescue began writing books. Her first, Perfume from Provence, was published in 1935 when she was 47 and became a bestseller. (It would be a bestseller again in 1992 when it was republished by Black Swan). Her later books were: Sunset House (a sequel to Perfume from Provence),  the autobiographical There’s Rosemary, There’s Rue, Trampled Lilies, Mountain Madness, Beauty for Ashes, and Laughter in Provence (1950).

Her husband died after two years in Provence and Lady Fortescue bought a “tumbled down stone house” that she struggled financially to renovate. She wrote about this experience in Sunset House (published in 1937 and also a bestseller). 

At the beginning of WWII, Lady Fortescue opened her home as a shelter to soldiers and soon organized shelters all over the Alpes-Maritimes. When Italy entered the war, she was forced to flee to Brittany. All through the war she raised funds for ‘Amis des Volontaires Francais’ (Friends of French Volunteers) and in 1945 she returned to Sunset House. There she would devote herself to distributing the medicines, provisions, and clothing that were given as gifts from the people of Britain to the people of France who had been devastated by the war. She would write about this in her books and became known as ‘Maman Noel’  (Mother Christmas).

Lady Fortescue lived in Provence until her death in April 1951.

–Sandra Knauf



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Michael A. Stusser – Greenwoman’s Funny Man

Today I want to introduce one of the men who has written for Greenwoman Magazine. I came upon Seattle author Michael A. Stusser’s work while reading one of his brilliant essays in a Best Food Writing anthology.  Organicize Me, a hilarious and educational piece on attempting to eat only organic food for a month, (before it was easy) blew me away. This, I thought, would be such a fun way to introduce readers to all the aspects of the organic food industry. He let me reprint it in the first issue of Greenwoman.

Even though I did something mortifying in that first issue, misspelled his name, not once, but TWICE (“Strusser”–and with three proof-readers!) he still offered me another story for issue two, a personal tale he wrote about  a little neighbor girl who bullies him into starting a garden club (when I say garden club, I mean Michael, the girl, and, for a while, another kid, with the girl calling all the shots). Again, funny as all get out, but this time with a sweeter side of Michael. It’s one of those stories that, oh my, it leaves you with a feeling of satisfaction, a glow.

I had to share one of his video capers. In it, Michael parodies a beautiful but over-the-top-perfect yoga ad.

For those of you who have read and enjoyed his work you might be surprised at his derring-do–not to mention his mad yoga skills.

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The Life of Stones & Lois Beebe Hayna

Shortly after I started Greenwoman Magazine last year, the wonderful and helpful Carol Ciavonne told me about poet Lois Beebe Hayna. I was  embarrassed that I didn’t know about her (she is a former Colorado Springs’ poet laureate). Poetry is my weak area, the only literary form that I kick myself for not knowing more about. This was great–here was a chance to learn! I read all of Hayna’s books and was enchanted. What turned me on most was her connection to nature.  I wrote her, asking if we might publish something in Greenwoman and she gave me permission to publish anything I pleased, anytime. No payment necessary.

Her generosity astonished me. Other things would astonish me as well. That she is now nearly 100 years old (born in 1913) and that she did not publish her first book of poetry until age 70 (Book of Charms, 1983). Here’s a few wise words about art and about her late start in life.

Later last year I discovered this amazing interview  as well and I’d like to share it today, along with one of her wonderful poems.

From Lois Beebe Hayna’s  Northern Gothic.

Having Come So Far

Always in spring
we gather stones. Heaved up by frost
stones drag at the plow, strike sparks
from hoes. We glean them
as we gleaned last spring
and every spring before, piling them into cairns
before we plant.
I never understand why stones work up,
when, heavy as they are, they ought to sink.
I start to believe they have
some kind of slow, reptilian life,
struggling for ages up
through suffocating clay.
Maybe in some deep place they break away–
flocks of stones like just-hatched chicks–
always new broods of them
starting their long, blind climb
toward light. Seeds do that, seeds
as hard, as seeming-dead
as stones. Once buried in earth they climb
like the sun was a magnet. Stones
don’t put out leaf and vine but light seems
to pull them too, and they start
their vast subterranean journey.
Gathering them, I begin to feel
their almost-animate relief
at reaching light and air, and I was furious
when my sons skipped stones into the river–
undoing in one careless afternoon
who-knows-how-many centuries of progress.

                                                              –Lois Beebe Hayna

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Sylvia and the Bees

From Sylvia Plath’s Letters Home. London, Faber and Faber, 1975.

Dear Mother,

Well, this is the last letter I will be writing before you come! . . . I have been working so hard physically out in the garden that I am inarticulate and ready for bed by evening, hence my long silences. I don’t know when I’ve been so happy or felt so well. These last few days I have been weeding our strawberry patch and setting the runners, just as I did on Lookout Farm, and at night I shut my eyes and see the beautiful little plants with the starry flowers and beginning berries. I love this outdoor work and feel I am really getting in condition . . .

Today, guess what, we became beekeepers! We went to the local meeting last week (attended by the rector, the midwife, and assorted beekeeping people from neighbouring villages) to watch a Mr Pollard make three hives out of one (by transferring his queen cells) under the supervision of the official Government bee-man. We all wore masks and it was thrilling. It is expensive to start beekeeping (over $50 outlay) but Mr Pollard let us have an old hive for nothing, which we painted white and green, and today he brought over the swarm of docile Italian hybrid bees we ordered and installed them. We placed the hive in a sheltered out-of-the-way spot in the orchard — the bees were furious from being in a box. Ted had only put a handkerchief over his head where the hat should go in the bee-mask, and the bees crawled into his hair, and he flew off with a half-a-dozen stings. I didn’t get stung at all, and when I went back to the hive later, I was delighted to see bees entering with pollen sacs full and leaving with them empty — at least I think that’s what they were doing. I feel very ignorant, but shall try to read up and learn all I can. If we’re lucky, we’ll have our own honey, too!

–Sylvia Plath, 1963

–Posted by Sandra Knauf

Image of honeybee on strawberry blossoms, from 123rf


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Bright Little Flags – This Week’s Photo

Colorado Springs artist/writer Rhonda Van Pelt took this photo March 25 at Monument Valley Park in Colorado Springs. She says, “I love the optimism and determination of early spring flowers. Not only must they work their way through the soil, but also through the layer of last year’s leaves forming a blanket to warm the earth. These bright little flags signal the renewal and the hope that is spring.”

Rhonda Van Pelt enjoys celebrating nature through her art and sharing small, quiet moments of beauty with others.
To see more of her work, visit her website.

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Publishers Holding Out on Libraries? Price Gouging? I Never Thought I’d See The Day.

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Amy Tells All (about her garden writing success)

Greetings and welcome to Flora’s Forum! It’s our very first post and am I excited. Not only because this day has been a long time coming and we’re going to have a great time together, but because I’ve been itching to write about Greenwoman Magazine ‘s new connection with GrowWrite! magazine.

I first heard of GrowWrite! editor and author Michael Nolan when we reviewed his excellent book I Garden: Urban Style in Greenwoman’ s first issue last summer. Before that issue made it to press I heard that Nolan was doing guests posts for gardening blogs. I asked, “Would you do one for us, please?” He said, “Sure.” The result was a funny and charming post in Greenwoman Zine. He even sent me a funny picture.

The Garden Rockstar shows how to maintain a garden rockstar do.

Michael Nolan is the coolest cucumber in the garden patch. I sent him a copy of the 1st issue of Greenwoman and a copy of the 2nd issue in December. He liked what I was doing and decided to feature the magazine in his first issue of GrowWrite! Halfway through the issue I thought, “This new online magazine is fabulous. I want to be a part of it. Hmm, what can I do for GrowWrite!?” I came up with the idea of sending  Q&As to successful garden writers. Michael dug the idea.

My first interview is with Amy StewartNew York Times bestselling author (three times over), garden funnywoman extraordinaire, lover of worms and backyard poultry, and one hardworking lady. In this Q&A Amy gives wonderful advice to aspiring best selling authors.

Amy Stewart not only turned me (and GrowWrite! readers) on to all her publishing secrets, but inspired me to finally start a worm farm this spring.

Check it out in GrowWrite! ‘s second issue.

–Sandra Knauf

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