Monthly Archives: May 2012

Fresh Growth at Red Rock Canyon

Spring is a time of fresh growth and new chapters, an annual miracle that brightens our lives after the gray and brown and, sometimes, white of winter. I took this photo at Red Rock Canyon on May 11, a blustery day that blew the cobwebs out of my mind.

–Rhonda Van Pelt

(Photo of Douglas fir, above, showing baby cones and new growth; sunrise at Red Rock Canyon below.)

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A.K.A. Trumpet Honeysuckle

Flora’s favorite Pennsylvanian gardener shares a spring day.

Lonicera sempervirens 

This morning when I let the dog out onto the back porch to barf, the sky was just beginning to lighten, and I could hear orioles in the maple tree. Yippee! These days, when the baker gets out of bed to start his workday, the robins are already at it. This is 3am, or maybe 1am, I am not quite sure, because I am for the most part still sleeping.

Rafts of warblers have been blowing over in the spring rains. Today I finished my last two client gardens. I cursed my last lawnmower-man for mowing clippings into the beds instead of out of the beds. I peed my last desperate pee at the Pump ‘n Pantry after having held it for hours in a garden where the door was locked and the bushes were too thin for modesty.

From the final garden, my favorite garden, I helped myself to a little bundle of lily of the valley stems, because I knew my client wouldn’t mind. I threw them in my weed basket and they got all dirty, but that didn’t matter, because they were for Grandma, and she can’t see (but her sniffer still works just fine). We ate chocolate, talked about roasted lamb and peanut butter pie and a dog called Baxter, and smelled our fragrant flowers.

Lonicera sempervirens, trumpet honeysuckle, is budding up. It is native here, and this one came from cuttings of a plant that scrambled around at the bottom of my parent’s dirt road.

–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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“The Sisterhood of Flora” and the Art of Sheryl Humphrey

It was last March that I read Growing the Good Life author Michele Owens’ post on Garden Rant about the lovely seed packages from Hudson Valley Seed Library. Of course I had to go to the site at once and it was there that I first saw Sheryl Humphrey’s work, on a design for Rainbow Chard. The art, all by local artists, wowed me and I remember happily whiling away a good part of an hour immersed in the library’s work and their Art Packs of heirloom seeds.

When I came upon Humphrey’s work again this week on her Etsy site, her art and the “Sisterhood of Flora” theme spoke to me deeply. I had to share.

Here’s two more of her paintings and what she has to say about them and her gardening connection.

–Sandra Knauf 

I started gardening after I got married, and for 25 years my husband and I have created small urban oases in our yards in Brooklyn and now Staten Island. Learning about the plants, caring for them, and being able to appreciate their beauty and discover their structures on a daily basis was a life-changing process for me. My relationship to Nature became strongly spiritual. Nature themes began to appear in my artwork, in tandem with a looking inward.

“The Sisterhood of Flora” is my ongoing series of small-scale oil paintings, depicting girls’ and women’s faces surrounded by blossoms. These faces appear to me as I admire the flowers I am growing. Their mysteriously compelling gazes have an otherworldly aspect, and the invented portraits can be seen as the flowers’ guardians or spirits.

As an artist I really enjoy the challenge of combining observation of the floral still-life with a fantasy portrait in a stylistically unified painting. I have been influenced by painters of the early Italian Renaissance, and by the Pre-Raphaelites, the Symbolists, Art Nouveau, the Magic Realists, and many visionary, psychedelic, and outsider artists.

I read a lot about herbalism, alchemy, folklore, and mythology, and this enters into my work. My paintings are included in the upcoming group exhibition “Witchy Women: Mothers, Myths, and Magic,” curated by Laura James and Mary See (see catalog here ). I am working on a nonfiction book, “The Haunted Garden: Death and Transfiguration in the Folklore of Plants,” which will be published later this year thanks to a 2012 DCA Premier Grant from the Council on the Arts and Humanities for Staten Island, with public funding from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

–Sheryl Humphrey


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Ladybug, Ladybug

Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home,
Your house is on fire, your children all gone,
Except little Nan, who sits in a pan,
Weaving gold laces as fast as she can.

According to this site  the “Ladybird, Ladybird” song was sung in Britain before burning crops at the end of the harvest as a warning to the beloved insects. The ladybird beetles’ children could heed the warning but the pupae or larvae (“Nan” in some versions) were not able to escape as they were still fastened to the plants.

Gardeners especially love ladybugs (as we call them in the U.S.) for their value as a predator of crop-damaging pests but they are celebrated the world over as insects of good fortune. For interesting ladybug lore, check out this site.

Colorado Springs artist and writer Rhonda Van Pelt took this photo early last June in Monument Valley Park in Colorado Springs. As we are about a month ahead this year in growth, I felt this beautiful shot was appropriate for this week.

Rhonda’s “teeny tiny essay” on the photo:

“Sometimes people ask me how I get photos of insects going about their business on flowers. Generally, my hiking/walking buddies don’t even notice the bees or ladybugs until I freeze and focus my camera. ‘It’s easy,’ I say. ‘Just be still and quiet, and let nature come to you.’ ”

Rhonda enjoys celebrating nature through her art and sharing small, quiet moments of beauty with others. You can see more of her work here.

–Sandra Knauf

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Growing Where You’re Planted


My dog keeps lunging into the covered-in-white lilac bush on our walks at night.  She knows I will do the same action. I will stand and inhale, probably longer than a sane person should.  I’m a little too much into nature.  John Gardner believes we have multiple intelligences and so multiple ways to absorb the world.  (It’s a fun test, you should take it.) Besides being one hundred percent musical, I have to be around nature, deeply.  (Kinesthetic leaner that I am.) When I lean on a tree, its roots become my roots.  When I am around water, I am absolved of any problem, worry, or doubt.  I am at rest, myself.  I wonder if backyard gardens add to my intelligence? Well, they’ll have to because the nearest place where I don’t see a soul and feel submerged in “nature” is probably forty-five minutes away.

            Recently I lived in the Hudson Valley, fifteen minutes from the river at one of its widest points. It echoed my first twelve years in the Bay Area of California, where my grandmother had Italian plum trees weeping over her pergola and all of our trips to a park were either to the commercialized beach in Santa Cruz or up Route One to Greyhound Rock or Natural Bridges. We sat on edges of cliff jutting over tumbled water. 

            The nursery in New York told me the growing zone was five, but I’m sure they were undershooting for overly-enthusiastic gardeners.  When hydrangeas and rhododendrons grow in the middle of winter, I’d fudge that over to about a six. The soil was imminently wet and acidic, ready to produce a million rose bushes for any home owner.  The soil there eluded me, though, like it knew I was an imposter, buying my time as a loose inhabitant. Renting. I planted moss roses that bit the dust immediately, then a few bleeding hearts who took one taste of that acid and died. The reality? I am still a High Plains gardener.

            This spring I’ve returned to grass doing what grass does best: growing wild. It has invaded my garden, weaving through my early budding penstemon and rose campion clumps.  I’m taking it too personally. Yes, I would like to declare war. That sounds easy while I write it. Like grass’s deeply-rooted goal wasn’t to backbite and usurp a gardener’s soil in one lax and non-dead heading Fall. Both crab and regular Kentucky blue grass have fingered and laced through hens and chicks, roses, and oregano. I’m fighting them but I feel like Jean Luc Picard fighting the Borg.  Everything I do is futile.

            Part of that futility is that sent away feeling, but also, I had found where I belonged, like the Beatle’s Jo-Jo. I got back to water and now I know acutely that I belong near water. A friend put it well when leaving New York. She said she felt like she had been sent home from the party. I’m trying not to let my tail between my legs affect every part of my life now that I’ve moved back to Denver from the beautiful and wet Hudson Valley. Have you picked the place where you live? I have never done that, pointed to somewhere on a map and said, “This is where I’ll plant myself.” Up to my late thirties, I lived unconsciously, not knowing myself, not aware of any intelligence. The wind blew and I responded. My twenties and thirties flew by with patio parties and cool pictures with girlfriends sucking in cheeks all over Denver. 

            When I quit my job for a cornerstone class at MSCD that was smack in the middle of the day, my cool life crumbled and all of a sudden I became conscious. I began to write again. I hadn’t written, really sat down and let loose into a notebook, for years. This knowledge I possess now, like Jo-Jo, was only obtained through going back to school full time in my late thirties, working two to three jobs, and  looking around myself and at myself. As a side passion, I learned to grow in Denver. At Paulino Gardens, I wrote down everything I loved: mother of thyme, wooly thyme, variegated pineapple sage, and rose campion. For my Masters, we took the John Gardener test. When I found out where my intelligences were hidden, I took them out and dusted them off. Water. Seaweed jump-ropes. One day in the Hudson Valley as I stood at the water’s edge, a soccer ball floated toward me. I plucked the gift at the boardwalk out of the ripples and set it down for the next recipient. But before I did, I took a picture. Everything will come back to me.

            With the goal of wetness, of the exchange between water, body, and sky, I will take the mountains, and the bounteous lilac bushes Denver has offered these past two unseasonably warm weeks and say “Thank You.” There’s a reason, that after six years, rose campion has bunched its gray-green leaves up through the grass, fierce and tenacious in its goal for space and sun. I need to follow its lead. I can wait for the right time to re-plant myself. Until then, I can grow wherever I am.

–Elisabeth Kinsey

Be content with what you have, rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.  –Lao Tzu


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