Monthly Archives: April 2017

Unify Summit!

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A year or so ago I thoroughly enjoyed Nathan Crane’s documentary series The Search for Sustainability”. (Check out the trailer on the link!) I found myself excited to see so many groundbreaking ideas and practices—I learned a lot and was introduced to many kindred spirits, those who want to work to make positive change in this world. Because of that introduction to the Panacea Community, I am thrilled to share information about another series that’s beginning this week, the Unify Summit! This summit is about: “Inspiring and practical wisdom for living with more abundance, meaning, love, health, and unity with advice from more than 12 world-renowned teachers.”

Mark your calendars and join me – starts Wednesday!

Attend the Unify Summit online for FREE.

April 19-26, 2017


—Sandra Knauf



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Filed under Garden Writers We Love, Power to the People

Awakening Spring


Detail of the goddess Flora from Sandro Botticelli’s Primavera (also known as Allegory for Spring), circa 1482. The painting is said to depict over 500 identified plant species, with about 190 different flowers.


Awakening Spring

Spring walks in on fog-bound feet,
Down country lane and busy street,
Touching trees and earth-bound bloom,
Dispelling snow and winter’s gloom.
She wakes the crocus from their sleep,
And hears the cherry gently weep;
Her hands caress my garden’s face,
And turns it now to flowered grace.

(March 20, 2004)


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Virginia with her grandchildren, Erica and Mikey. Photo by her son Michael.

Virginia Gambardella lives in New York, only three miles from where she grew up. Her dad was a naval engineer and adventurer, and her mom, who sometimes called her “lamb’s lettuce” was a dressmaker for Bergdorf Goodman. Virginia has one son and three grandchildren and enjoys: people, holidays, antiques, nature, gardening, fishing, decorating, fashion, sharing knowledge, cooking and baking. She’s a cancer survivor, a pancreatitis survivor, a widow, and the re-inventor of her life, “as necessary.”



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Eliza in the Garden


“Cat” by laziale93, via Wikimedia Commons


Almost two years ago I interviewed Simone Martel on Flora’s Forum after she came out with her first collection of short stories, Exile’s Garden. Before that, I’d featured her work in Greenwoman #3, (a very memorable story about how her rampant garden resembled her chaotic, seemingly untamed-at-times life), and also in an anthology of garden erotica, Fifty Shades of GreenWe had much in common; we loved to write both fiction and nonfiction and played in many genres, we both lived in Craftsman style bungalows, we were both mad about the garden.

Simone recently came out with a new book. I haven’t read it yet, but I am intrigued. It’s about a college student named Eliza who embarks on an extraordinary journey of self-discovery following a near-death experience. The twist? She’s trapped inside the body of a cat. The story follows Eliza as she adapts to her new reality, holding onto humanity through holding on to the love of the one man who knows she’s still herself. Of course problems abound and Eliza eventually has to confront the truth about what her love is costing both her and the man she loves.

The cover description: “A Cat Came Back is a moving parable about what it means to be a human being and how sometimes letting go can be the price of holding on to who you are.”

Here is an excerpt of Simone’s sensual prose describing Eliza in a sensual settingthe garden, of course!


Simone with roses

The author Simone Martel in her garden.

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Excerpted from A Cat Came Back, by Simone Martel (Harvard Square Editions):

It’s the garden that inspires me to continue this story. I knew I’d feel better outside, though after so many months indoors it feels foreign to me. When I look around, I see very little of Eliza left in the landscape. Wild morning-glory vines smother entire shrubs in heart-shaped foliage, while blackberry canes shoot out of dead plants and waggle in the breeze. However by the pepper tree five silky tulips glisten against the tree’s rough bark. Their colors look murkier to me than I know they ought to be, but my cat eyes can appreciate the tulips’ chunky shapes; solid, even monumental, standing up on thick stems above the sprawling weeds.

Shortly before the accident last autumn, I planted those bulbs. I used my hands, performing a dance of thumb and fingers, wrist and palm, a sort of a hand-ballet, first digging in the earth with a trowel, forming a smooth-sided hole, then sprinkling a trickle of bone meal into the hole, mixing in some coarse sand, nestling the bulb onto the little cushion at the bottom of the hole, tumbling in the rest of the dirt and patting it down hard.

The shade is chilly here beneath the pepper tree. I want to find some sun. As I cross the ruined lawn, my paws disappear in grass so long and thick it perpetually shades the earth below it. The cool, sticky mud and furry moss disturb my feet. I flinch away from the wet and chill, but then I relax and accept the sensations. They remind me of when I used to garden out here. I didn’t mind getting muddy then.

The stone path is warm, so I lie here and enjoy the heat seeping into my body. When the sun moves from the path, I follow it. Eventually I climb into the lemon tree and drape myself along a limb.

The sunlight hits me in the face. I wake and scale higher up the trunk, all the way to the top of the tree. From the uppermost branch, I leap onto the neighbor’s roof, tilting my head before I jump, to help me judge the distance. The gritty roof tiles keep me from slipping back. As soon as I’ve caught my balance I creep up the peaked roof.

From the gable I see across town, clear to the bay and beyond it, to the enclosing arms of San Francisco and Marin, with a smudge of ocean between them, beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. Through this gap, the waters of the bay flow out toward Japan.

Sometimes I think about leaving this place. Maybe I will. For now, I’m content to stay in my garden. I can’t pretend the disorder is attractive, but it’s compelling. As the days pass, I explore deeper into it, creeping through the flower borders and finding tunnels in the tangle of plants. The overgrown borders are dark, secret places packed with life. Pill bugs trundle over fallen leaves, while strange bees drag scraps of shredded foliage into pencil eraser-sized holes in the dirt. Around the roots of the lemon tree, snails mate among the moldy powder-white lemons. I lie here in this patch of acanthus with the huge, jagged green-black leaves arching over me. Now and then, more lemons crash through the foliage and thud to the ground.

Below me I feel the roots of the weeds and trees traveling down through the dark soil, overlapping and winding together. I hear the wordless communication between plants and bugs and birds and even the fungus rotting the fallen branches, even the worms tunneling through the soil.

Rain is coming. I climb the lemon tree again and jump to the house next door. From the peaked rooftop, I watch the cloudy sky. I’m up so high that the rain, when it falls, hits me first. The drops etch runnels down my dusty sides as the wet fur shrinks back. Soon I’m clean and cold.

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You can read more about Simone in this interview, and you can buy her book on Amazon by clicking on the cover below.

 Simone_Martel_ACCB cover proof (2)

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Fox on the Dock in Vermont’s Early April


Photo by Gillian Trevithick

Fox on the Dock in Vermont’s Early April

She called to say the dogs took over the night,
four outrages barking at doors and scratching windows.

When all four agree, even the old deaf one,
the marrieds rise out of bed and look to the pond, solid

ice for fox footprints to carry across to the other side
from the dock pulled up high for winter’s storms.

After the night alarm, just this, rabbit fur in the gold grass,
eastern cottontails that drift up from the south,

the ones who gnaw blueberry bushes
and rosa vergosa if spring should ever come.

 —Tricia Knoll

Tricia Knoll has clan in Vermont and follows the ever-so-gradual coming out of snow and snowfest of this late to bloom state. Her garden is full of wildly blooming forsythia, daffodils, hellebore, and the tulips are thinking about it. In summer 2017 her new book, Broadfork Farm, is coming out from The Poetry Box. It salutes life on a small organic farm in Trout Lake, Washington.

Now available at from Aldrich Press, Ocean’s Laughter — a book of lyric and eco-poetry about Manzanita, Oregon. Reviews. 

Urban Wild, a poetry chapbook now available from Finishing Line Press
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