Category Archives: DIY

Vintage Halloween

Halloween-Unidentified_baby_part_of_a_mixed_selection_of_lantern_slides_and_negatives_from_John_Flynns_teaching_days_in_Gippsland_and_early_AIM_Australian_Inland_Mission_1906_National_Li

As we harvest our pumpkins and begin to fully enjoy the fall beauty of chrysanthemums and colored leaves, I thought it would be fun to share some Halloween images of the past. All are from Wikimedia Commons. The featured photo of the baby (unidentified) sleeping in a pumpkin is a 1906 lantern slide from the National Library of Australia.

Halloween_pumpkin_carvers_1917-2Three-boys-on-porch-steps-cutting-faces-in-pumpkins-Library-of-Congress

This photo, showing three boys carving pumpkins, is from 1917 and came from the Library of Congress.

Halloween._Pauline_and_Barbara_and_Dorothy_Luck_1940Conrad-Poirier-via-Wikimedia-Commons

The well-known Canadian photographer Conrad Poirier took this shot of Barbara, Pauline, and Dorthy Luck looking out on a spooky scene in 1940. With the permission and cooperation of Bibliothèque et Archives Nationales du Québec and Wikimedia Canada under the Poirier Project.

Halloween-No_Halloween_without_Jack-o-LanternBy-Ruth-Edna-Kelley-Public-domain-via-Wikimedia-Commons

These two boys are from the Book of Halloween, 1919, by Ruth Edna Kelley. Titled “No Hallowe’en without a Jack-o’-Lantern.” (So true!)

Halloween-University_of_Southern_California_student_Halloween_party_ca._1890_uaic-stu-lif-1880-1940-001-1-2

An 1890 image from a student Halloween party at the University of Southern California. That’s a LOT of pumpkin carving!

Halloween-Little_girl_standing_inside_large_pumpkin_CHS-2509-3

This sweet toddler comes from the California Historical Society Collection, 1860-1960. Scratched on the pumpkin is the year “1901,” the pumpkin’s weight of “230#,” and “Raised by J.J. Teague.”

Halloween-WC_Halloween_Woman_1929

This photo came from a collection from the Waterdown Public School, Waterdown, Ontario, Canada. It’s from 1928. I’m not quite sure if it’s a teacher or a student, but I like her outfit! By UNK photographer: uploaded by WayneRay.

HAPPY (almost) HALLOWEEN!

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Sandra Knauf is the one-woman-show behind Greenwoman Publishing. Her books include the six-volume series Greenwoman (compilations of literary garden writing and art), her young adult fantasy novel, Zera and the Green Man, and an anthology of sexy gardening stories that she says is the feminist gardener answer to Fifty Shades of GreyFifty Shades of Green. She was a 2008-09 featured “Colorado Voices” columnist for The Denver Post and her humorous essays have appeared nationally in GreenPrints and MaryJanesFarm. She has also been a guest commentator on KRCC’s (NPR’s southern Colorado affiliate) “Western Skies” radio show. Sandra lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado with her family, dogs, huge urban garden, and lots of books.

 

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Thank You for Your Patience!

A_bear_coming_out_of_his_den,_Russia-LCCN2001697542 (2)

A bear coming out of her den. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

 

Flora’s Forum has been taking a break since Dec. 21st because, well, I really needed one. I think many will agree that 2016 might have been one of the most trying years (collectively, as a nation) in recent memory. Like many, I was emotionally exhausted. I needed time to heal and regain my strength. I needed time to rethink a few things, time to delve into other projects, time to get some kind of plan of action together for the future.

But now that spring is starting to stir, I’m getting out of hibernation!

I think I’ll be able to offer you a lot of great poetry again, soon. I don’t know for sure; I haven’t communicated with Tricia in a little while, or the other poets, but I think they’re up for it. Are you Tricia? Virginia?

I also hope to offer more prose! And other artwork that fits the Flora’s Forum art-in-nature/inspiration theme!

So, if you’re a writer or artist with work to share, I’d love to see it. Send me an email at maefayne(at)msn.com. As some of you know, I don’t bring in any money from this site, so I, sadly and regrettably, cannot offer payment for publication. (Full disclosure: I did receive $50 in the Tip Jar way back in 2015, and it went toward the $99/year it costs just to keep the site free from ads that I do not approve of. Remember that time that fracking ad appeared out of nowhere?? UGH! I could not let that ever happen again!).

Thanks for sticking around, I love you all!

—Sandra Knauf

 

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Paper Roses and Marigolds . . . and Costumes!

vintageprintable-comflowerfairy

Image from VintagePrintable.com via Pinterest

This week I received a note from a friend. She’s read about my life through my newsletter, so I was very happy to finally get a glimpse into her life. When readers share, a connection is made. It’s beautiful!

Virginia (she signs her emails “Virg”) told me about her gardening history, how she’d had a lot of fun over the years tending gardens that she didn’t actually own. One she tended for 14 years, a church garden across the street from where she lived. When the Episcopalian priest went on vacation, she’d also take care of the “manse.” (Oooh, I thought, a manse! I wanted to see it, and the garden!) Other adopted gardens were a vacation rental by the water every August, and her son and daughter-in-law’s garden. As it was nearing Halloween, Virg mused on how she wished she had some marigolds. They would be just the thing for her black Depression glass salt and pepper shakers. Earlier she’d written to me about how her mother put garden flowers in the tiny containers, so fairy-like, so charming.

After mentioning the marigolds she wrote, “If I were my mother I’d just whip up a few crepe paper  marigolds! If I were only a witch I would conjure up a few. Concentrate, concentrate, visualize——I’m in a trance—I’ll let you know if it works.

No, no not daisies, marigolds!”

I grinned reading that—and thought about marigolds, the favorite flower of El Dia de los Muertos, or the Mexican Day of the Dead. I’ve been fascinated with that celebration for a long time—so much more meaningful than just dressing up and candy!

The thought of crepe paper marigolds really intrigued me. My mother had mentioned making flowers and decorations out of paper as a kid, but by the 1960s it was considered pretty “old-fashioned.” Decorations and fake flowers were now mass-produced.

I looked it up and found that others were intrigued by these delicate creations. Of course they sold them on Etsy. WHAT FUN!

buttonmumszobedesignsetsy

12 Button Mums, 1″ size, for only $4.80 on Etsy at ZoBeDesigns!

crepepapermarigolds

From SnootyBlooms on Etsy – 12 for $12.99!

simplecraftideamarigolds

I thought these were amazing. They’re not for sale, but you can learn how to make them at the website Simple Craft Ideas.

I wrote Virg back with the links to these blooms. I asked her if I could share her thoughts on crepe paper flowers and the holidays. She wrote back,

“I’m flattered, be my guest. I remember sitting in my crib downstairs when I was sick watching  Mom making crepe paper flowers at the dining room table after supper while listening to Wayne King (the waltz king) playing The Waltz You Saved For Me, The Lady Ester program—radio, of course.  I Remember Dennison crepe paper. This was BIG business back in the day. Look up the Dennison crepe paper costume books from the 20’s and 30’s, you will not believe Marie Antoinette in crepe paper complete with roses.!!!!! Do you have your black candles ready?”

She then sent me the link to a book on crepe paper costumes, which I ordered, and then she sent me a link for a free PDF of the book, How to Make Crepe Paper Flowers, now in the public domain, from the Dennison paper company.

Again—WHAT FUN. I was especially happy to the marigolds! Maybe next year I would (finally) be all set for El Dia de los Muertos. Maybe I would have some black candles, too!

Last night I found another free book, this one from Internet Archives. How to Make Paper Costumes, also from Dennison. It gives instructions for all kinds of enchanting costumes, including those that celebrate nature—flowers, vegetables, butterflies, birds, even “the elements.”

dennisonflowercostumes-2

Lily, Sweet Pea, and Jonquil

Somehow I feel that I will try this craft—or at the minimum enjoy some beautiful flowers from Etsy.

Perhaps poinsettias?

crepe_paper_flowers_2

Crepe Paper Flowers, by Chris, via Wikimedia Commons

Thanks for connecting with me, Virg. You certainly brightened my Halloween!

—Sandra Knauf

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Sandra Knauf is the one-woman-show behind Greenwoman Publishing. Her books include the six-volume series Greenwoman, (a literary digest), her young adult fantasy novel, Zera and the Green Man, and an anthology of sexy gardening stories that she says is the feminist gardener answer to Fifty Shades of GreyFifty Shades of Green. She was a 2008-09 featured “Colorado Voices” columnist for The Denver Post and her humorous essays have appeared nationally in GreenPrints and MaryJanesFarm. Sandra lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado with her family, dogs, huge urban garden, and lots of books.

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Today through Saturday, October 1st – ZERA AND THE GREEN MAN – 99 Cents!

Zera Pin - Green Woman I'm a Firm Believer

Quote from Zera and the Green Man (drawing by Mike Beenenga). All posters are by Lisa Repka.

 

I should have told everyone about this Monday, but it’s been one of those weeks.

Anyhow, my young adult novel is on sale, Kindle edition, and I think you should download it today or tomorrow! I really want you to read it!

I’m currently making notes for the sequel, and will be writing it this fall and winter.

Here’s the link! Tell your friends!

XO,

—Sandra Knauf

 

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Apples are Ruling My Life

eleven-million-apple-trees-in-virginia-produce-fine-fruit-for-the-markets-of-the-world-with-plenty-of-culls-for-canneries-2

“Eleven million apple trees in Virginia produce fine fruit for the markets of the world with plenty of culls for canneries.” From the Library of Virginia’s 1939 World’s Fair Photograph Collection.

When I close my eyes, I see apples. When I step out my back door, I smell apples. When I look out my front door and windows, I see apples clinging to the trees and lying on the ground. For several weeks as I lie in bed at night I hear them falling, landing with a hollow thud.

We recently moved to five acres in Penrose. The half-acre, wedge-shaped orchard has thirty mature trees, twenty-five of them are apple and twenty of those are loaded with fruit.

Everyone I talk to, I ask if they’d like some apples. I cut and core apples for sauce, crisp, and pies. I freeze apples, I juice apples, but mostly I pick up and sort apples.

Initially I had three grades; human consumption, horse or deer consumption, and compost. Now that the neighbors’ horses are “appled out” and we aren’t going to Cedar Heights to feed the deer, I only have 2 grades; consumption and compost. Wormholes, bird pecks, squirrel bites, bad bruises or sunburn doom an apple to compost.

If I pick up the apples that fall daily, it takes two hours; if I miss a day, it takes four hours. I can empathize with migrant workers and they do this all day every day, with no end in sight. My livelihood doesn’t depend on my speed, however my sanity does, so I try to work as quickly as possible.

The apples are various sizes. I can barely pick up two of the largest ones in one hand, but I can handle six of the smallest. The taste varies too, sweet to puckery. Some have thin skins and other thick, some have small dark hard seeds and others pale soft ones. The colors vary greatly: deep crimson, wine purple, rose to pale green and light yellow.

As I’m picking up apples, I am sampling the fruits from the trees, determining my favorites. One tree seems to have two different types of apples, on one side, the apples are considerably smaller. Maybe it is the amount of sunlight since I don’t see a graft line on the trunk where the branches connect.

One tree is the favorite of the birds. I don’t know if that’s because of its placement in the orchard (it is shaded by a large elm) or the quality of the apples. There are no apples left on that tree. I didn’t like those apples too much, I thought they were mushy.

I had to get a handle on all these apples. The boxes were filling up the garage and I’d contacted everyone I could think of that might like apples. I called Care and Share to see if they were interested in apple donations. The guy I talked to was thrilled. “We’ll take all you can bring us,” he said. I felt such relief. I’m composting apples that I’d be using in a lean year and feeling guilty about it, so now I can feel good about my apple picking efforts. So far, we’ve taken three loads of apples to C&S – about 1,000 lbs.

A few weeks ago when one neighbor told me that I should spray my apple trees, I never dreamed that I’d have this many. Of course, I told him no. I want my apples to be organic and safe. It’s nice to have plenty to share with the birds, squirrels, rabbits and of course with the hungry people of Colorado Springs.

I figure that I still have a few more weeks of apple-ing before all the trees are bare. The strange thing is that I still love apples. I eat stewed apples everyday for breakfast and have several while I’m working in the orchard. When I get thirsty and come into the house for something to drink, you guessed it – I have apple juice.

I’ll enjoy the fruits of this summer all winter and to encourage next year’s crop perhaps I’ll follow the tradition that Thoreau writes of in his essay, “Wild Apples.”

“. . . on Christmas eve . . . they salute the apple-trees with much ceremony, in order to make them bear well the next season . . . This salutation consists in ‘throwing some of the cider about the roots of the tree, placing, bits of toasts on the branches,’ and then, ‘encircling one, of the best bearing trees in the orchard, they drink the following toast three several times: —

‘Here’s to thee, old apple-tree,
Whence thou mayst bud, and whence thou mayst, blow,
And whence thou mayst bear apples enow!
Hats-full! caps-full!
Bushel, bushel, sacks-full!
And my pockets full, too! Hurra!’ ”

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Pat Cook Gulya enjoys Colorado living; biking, hiking, gardening and attempting to capture such experiences through words. She teaches and practices yoga and now has the luxury of living rather than worrying about making a living. She grows a variety of plants in her urban yard, and, thanks to Colorado’s legalization of marijuana, can now cultivate a favorite plant. Her work has been aired on NPR affiliate, KRCC’s, “Western Skies” and published in Greenwoman Magazine, Senior BeaconSprings Magazine, and The Gazette.

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The Green Wasteland

canstockphoto1881083 (3)vintage lawnmowers

Image from CanStockPhoto.

My sister and I ended many summer afternoons in the 1970s green from the knees of our jeans down, sweaty, and reeking of gas and exhaust. As servants of the Great American Lawn, we regularly mowed ours, the elderly Miss Howard’s next door, our grandma’s, and once in a while, our great Aunt Flora’s.

It was work that was necessary, and our lawn in particular was well used—the six kids in our family played games of tag, pitch and catch, badminton, and we used the space, as teenagers, for sunbathing. Dad saw physical labor as the best character-builder, so he “volunteered” us to maintain it. We received $5 a lawn, to share.

I didn’t mind the work, but Missouri summers were hot and humid, and occasionally at Miss Howard’s I ran over a toad (a horrifying thing).

I learned more about turf at age 20, verifying sales for a lawn-care company in Colorado Springs. I telephoned clients, confirming that they had joined our fertilizer/weed killer program, with insecticide and/or fungicide treatments as needed. With our help, their lawns would be the envy of the neighborhood!

During our one-day training, we learned to instruct clients with pets to remove dog and cat bowls before spraying, as there had been pet deaths from tainted water. We also cautioned them to keep pets and people off the grass until the applications dried. It sickened me to realize that the men who drove the trucks and sprayed these toxins daily would inhale them, get them on their clothing, their skin, and bring these toxins home. I wondered why people would pay good money for lawns you wouldn’t want a baby crawling on.

A decade later, as a college grad, mom, and hobby gardener, I had my own lawn—or, rather, weed/native grass lot. Seduced by the American ideal, we installed sod in our backyard. For a while, it looked gorgeous; but without pampering, chemicals, or a sprinkler system, it deteriorated fast. In Colorado, as in most parts of our country, lawns require not only constant maintenance but constant life support.

A few years later when I became a master gardener, I determined to get rid of our lawn. Bit by bit, with a tiny budget and lots of elbow grease, I created a garden instead—with fruit trees, herbs, flowers, native plants, sandstone paths, even a goldfish pond. I kept patches of grass/weeds for our dogs (and the occasional badminton game for the kids) and maintained it with a reel mower, enjoying a good workout in the process. Our established xeric garden requires less maintenance than a lawn. Except for the vegetable garden, I water once a week, deeply, and I do not water the grass/weeds at all.

I realize that turf is a multibillion-dollar U.S. industry and many are wedded to the old ways. Lawns, those pretty green carpets, do have an aesthetic charm, and they are good for sports. But they don’t support butterflies, honeybees, birds, or other wildlife, and caring for one is the antithesis of green. Five percent of all our nation’s air pollution comes from gas-powered lawn mowers. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, one gas-powered mower, used for one hour, emits as much pollution as eight new cars driven at 55 mph for the same time.

According to the EPA, Americans burn 800 million gallons of fuel each year trimming their lawns. Of this, 17 million gallons of fuel, mostly gasoline, are spilled each year while refueling lawn equipment. This is more than the oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez. Fertilizer pollution is a huge problem, and lawns require significant water, yet another burden on our limited resources.

In addition, nearly 80 million pounds of pesticide active ingredients are used on U.S. lawns annually. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported that “homeowners use up to 10 times more chemical pesticides per acre on their lawns than farmers use on crops.”

It’s past time to see traditional lawns for what they have become: antiquated, wasteful, and harmful. I propose that we return to our roots—cottage gardens. Gardens assist nature on a meaningful scale, and they are excellent outdoor classrooms/playgrounds for children and adults. My children had more fun in our back yard than I ever did in the 1970s as they had chickens, and flowers, and a pond—and lots of places to let their imagination run wild. Our home landscapes can also provide us with locally-grown food. You cannot grow luscious plums, pull up sweet carrots, snip chives for your potatoes (and grow potatoes, too), pick wildflower bouquets, or provide bird sanctuary or forage for honeybees with a grass lawn.

As the industrialized world races toward green living, homeowners everywhere can make a difference. It’s easy—take up your shovel and start getting rid of your lawn.

References:
People Powered Machines (much of their information comes from the EPA),
http://www.peoplepoweredmachines.com/faq-environment.htm

Environment and Human Health, Inc.,
http://www.ehhi.org/reports/lcpesticides/summary.shtml

CSU Extension Service,
http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/consumer/09952.html

Note from the author: This essay originally appeared in The Denver Post in 2009. I think it’s also one of the most important essays I’ve ever written, especially in light of the honeybee collapse that we now know is caused in great part by the use of insecticides and other toxins. The year I wrote this, turf was a billion dollar a year cash crop in Colorado. But the recession had just begun, and the numbers have changed as the lawn industry was impacted and continues to be. Times have changed (back then we did not imagine that marijuana would become our #4 cash crop in five years!), but lawns are still the norm for the home landscape. Fifty percent of all water used by homeowners in Colorado is used outdoors.

When I went to check the numbers last year, when this piece appeared in US Represented, I found few updates, but a new report on the EPA site showed, in alarming detail, the health impact on humans of not only lawn mowers, but all lawn and garden equipment. It is titled “National Lawn and Garden Equipment Emissions” and was written by Jamie Banks, PhD, MS, of Quiet Communities, Inc. and Robert McConnell of the U.S. EPA, Region 1. Here’s the link for this must-read.

—Sandra Knauf

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Michele Parker’s Garden Love

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I met Michele Parker last June, via email, when I sent a love letter to those who followed my newsletter. I wanted to make a deeper connection with my readers, I wanted to get to know those who were getting a glimpse into my life, my artistic dreams. A half-dozen souls answered my message in a bottle. Warmly and openly they shared their lives, their art, their garden dreams. I got to know them and was thrilled to share their beautiful paintings, poems, and stories.

I thought, Wow, how lucky I am to know these people!

I connected with them all, but Michele and I really hit it off.

This woman, who describes herself as “loving all things green, winged and dressed in fur,” is a force of nature (oh, the powers she embodies: a keen intellect, so many talents, and amazing energy), and yet the most beautiful thing about her is her wise, gentle soul. We connected deeply when we discovered that an experience I had written about years ago dovetailed (in a supernatural way!) to an experience in her life. It’s a long story that I hope to share one day, but let’s just say that it involved those who have passed on bringing us together. We call it “big magic,” a la Elizabeth Gilbert’s book. Michele and I became pen pals, shooting off dozens of emails, sharing joys, trials, ambitions, loves. You know something special is happening when you write a long email, press the send button, and the person you’re writing has written you at exactly the same time! That’s happened more than once.

I could go on and on about Michele, but I will instead do what I’ve set out to do and introduce you to her via an interview. You see, today is very special. It’s Earth Day and Michele is launching her new brand new blog, Garden Love! Her first post tells about her start as a gardener almost 20 years ago on her five acre, Zone 3, piece of land in Manitoba, Canada.

Sandra Knauf

Michele sitting by pond adjusted

Michele.

 

Flora’s Forum: Congratulations on your blog launch! Love and gardening, Garden Love. Yes, that says it all. How did you get your start in gardening?

Michele Parker: Thank you! The love of gardening is all down to my mother. Her greatest joy was nurturing the growth of plants. Each home we lived in growing up was filled with all manner of trailing, arching, bushy, spiky, flowering and upright plants. Seeds were started in the basement and transplanted in the backyard, trees planted, garden beds created . . . chives and herbs lived happily outside the back door and close to the kitchen.

The Findhorn Garden was one of her favourite books, and it led both of us deeper into the wonder and magic of co-creating with naturebeyond the practical aspects of planting and into the mystery of life itself. My website is dedicated in loving memory to her.

 

Bluebird Clematis in the garden

“The vine in this picture is Macropetala clematis ‘Bluebird.’ She’s been in place there for almost 20 years and I have a post on her in Garden Love. My blog will include Plant Profiles of some of my hale and hearty favourites every so often, just to highlight some of the plants that have been exceptional and admired for one reason or another.”

Flora’s Forum: I love your style—very cottage garden-y, with the vegetables and flowers, a blend of easy-going and organized. Who are your style influences?

English gardens have always been my first love. The novels of Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy and of course, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden are dear to my heart and have been a huge influence on my garden style. I admire the English garden designer, Rosemary Vereyshe designed many quintessential English Country Gardens, including the Barnsley House gardens in the Cotswolds. I own several of her books and often return to them for a good inspirational shot in the arm whenever I need it.

On a more contemporary side, I have also been deeply inspired by the writing and gardens of Patrick Lima, a Canadian gardener who lives on the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario. His writing beautifully illustrates the growth and changes within his beloved Larkwhistle garden. If you get a chance to read his book The Art of Perennial Gardening I highly recommend it!

Flora’s Forum: Do you have any unusual garden obsessions? 

Michele Parker: Oh myYES! Aquilegia is my garden obsessioncommon name is columbine. The native Aquilegia canadensis has happily self-seeded in my garden for years, which has led me to explore all the colourful hybrids as well. Two years ago I purchased 7 seed packets of varying colours, shapes and sizes and tossed them with abandon into the garden surrounding my pond. I started to doubt my haphazard approach until this spring as I scratched around the fallen litter to discover tiny aquilegia seedlings emerging from the ground. I just about peed my pants I was so excited! I will definitely be sharing their progress on the Garden Love blog.

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“This is a southfacing foundation bed at what used to be the front of the ‘little blue house’ that was on the property. (Our addition is to the left.) All the perennials have meshed together and run in wild abandon: shasta daisies, daylilies, hostas. Virginia creeper, hops, and clematis ‘Jacmanii’ are the vines you see climbing the side of the house.”

Flora’s Forum: If you could only grow flowers or veggies, what would you choose, and why? (I think this means practical or frivolous to some, but not to me!)

Michele Parker: Flowers. There are many ways I can feed my body . . . but my Soul requires flowers.

Flora’s Forum: I agree! Sometimes I feel guilty about that, a little, because I feel I should grow even more food, but I can’t help it! What are your favorite books (gardening, fiction, nonfiction), authors, and music? 

Michele Parker: The books which have struck a resonating chord with me . . . Richard Bach’s Johnathan Livingston Seagull, The Reluctant Messiah, and One all contained a theme of following your heart and a knowing that there is more to living than meets the eye. Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet was a book my brother Jim gave me which touched me deeply with its prose and message of unconditional love. Mary Stewart’s tale of a young Merlin discovering his natural gifts in The Crystal Cave was an enchanting thrill for me to readbut one of my favourite books of all time is the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor/philosopher from the first century AD whose insights and wisdom are truly timeless.

Music is where it gets eclectic for me . . . our family grew up surrounded by musicmy Dad would often play Glenn Miller big band type music and always brought home a huge variety of music from the radio station where he was the morning man here in Winnipeg. My mom was an accomplished pianist and my brother Scott writes his own music and plays guitar beautifully. I instantly loved the piano and practically begged for lessons as a little girl. Dearest to my heart though, hands down is Beethoven. The Allegretto from his Symphony No 7 can literally bring me to tears. It’s funny, of all the songs I learned to play on the piano, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and Fur Elise have never left the memory of my fingertips . . . he is in my blood.

Flora’s Forum:  I know you paint too, and you write! A life surrounded with ART. I love it. Okay, back to gardening. What do you enjoy most about gardening? What do you hate?

Michele Parker: This is really difficult to answer. When I garden it is such an immersive feeling that it’s really challenging to pick out one aspect which I enjoy most. To be honest, I’ve recently had an insight into the heart of my love for gardening and nature overall which came to me on a walk the other day with the dogs . . . lost in thought, my mind swimming with ‘to do’ lists and questions, the song of a robin cut through my distraction and captured my attention instantly. I became present again to the beauty surrounding me in that moment.

Gardening, even one perfect flower, has the power to capture our attention and safely deliver us into the present moment where life is happeningaway from our stresses and worries of the future or demons of the past. I love the power of nature to heal the human spirit in this way . . . it gently reminds us to be fully present. If our mind is elsewhere when we are gardeningwe might as well be doing the dishes in the kitchen.

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“This is the vegetable garden being watered in the early morning. The scarlet runner beans are growing up a teepee I made out of branches collected from our woods–the hummingbirds of course love the red flowers, and I primarily grow it each year just for their pleasure. Our vegetable garden lies to the east of our house and receives full sun for most of the day, although there are shaded areas in the late afternoon as the sun falls behind the tall trees and house.”

Flora’s Forum: Any big projects in the works?

Michele Parker: I have a major overhaul to do in two foundation beds at the front of the house this season. Tens years of certain plants running amuck (globe thistle I’m talking to you!) and others in desperate need of dividing means I’m planning some serious refurbishing!

I’ve also become interested in creating more habitats specifically for bees and butterflies in our yard. A new butterfly garden is in the works which will include many milkweed plants for the monarch butterflies in particular, but also another flower bed which will be a lot of fun, that will contain mostly colourful and nectar-rich annual flowers just outside the vegetable garden.

My husband Ray is going to begin work on the screened back porch off our living room as well, and part of his plan there is to include two large planters on either side of the stairs which will add some more wonderful plant life to that part of our yard as well!

Flora’s Forum: I know this is Flora’s Forum, but I could very well love having a blog called Flora’s Fauna, about animals! We’re alike in that way too; mad for our pets and the wild creatures. Tell us a little about your pets, please. 

Michele Parker: Cali and Max are the true heartbeat of our home in the country. We never went looking for any of our dogs, they all just kind of found us. Max arrived one Monday afternoon when I happened to be home with the flu from work. My older dog Lily was out on the back deck and I heard her barking so went to see what the fuss was all about. Standing shyly at the side of our house was an emaciated young dog. I said “Well hello there” and he ran over and pressed his body against my legs and looked up at me as if to say “Can you please help me?” He had grown into the collar that was around his neck and was desperately in need of food. I took him to the vet and we tried for a week to find his owners but no one appeared to be looking for him. The vet phoned after a week and told me they couldn’t hold him any longer and had to ship him off to the humane society. I said, “I’ll be right over to bring him home, thank you.”

Cali came on the heels of a summer where we had to say good-bye to our beloved first dog, Lily. I promised Lily in her last days that I would bring her home again if I could, and that I would watch for her and recognize her eyes when I saw them. A random email arrived later that fall from a rescue shelter in Saskatchewan with a handful of photo attachments of a litter of puppies they were trying to find homes for. One after the other I opened and each received the customary “Ahhhh!” then the last photo I opened sent an electric shock up the back of my spine when I saw the eyes looking back at me . . . I called Ray to come and see . . . at the same moment he was calling me to run into the living room and see this dog on television that looked EXACTLY like our Lily.

I don’t ignore synchronicity in my life. . . . We drove 6 hours to pick Cali up and bring her home and she’s been the Queen of the garden ever since. I brought my girl home again.

Dad's 80th birthday 006

Max is on the left, Cali on the right.

Zeus (2)

This is Zeus, Michele’s handsome American Paint horse. She has an amazing story about how he came into her life as well, which I hope she will share one day on Garden Love!

Flora’s Forum: That is a beautiful story about Lily/Cali! One more gardening question—do you find any big differences between American and Canadian gardeners?

Michele Parker: I’ve had a chance to meet some wonderful gardeners from Americayourself includedthat share the same passions we do here in Canada, and I have never come across any discernible differences between us. I really do believe this is a universal language we all share. The types of plants which are native to each of our varying zones may differ in form and habit, and I can only DREAM of growing magnolia trees or massive rhododendrons here, but the impulse and desire which gets us all digging in the dirt and nurturing plant life is the same wherever we are on the planet.

Flora’s Forum: I believe you’re right. The gardening heart is universal. My final question: In the overall garden of life, what’s germinating for Michele Parker now? What beautiful things will Garden Love to be the jumping off point for?

Michele Parker: Well, I’ve spent close to twenty years working in the corporate world with some incredible peoplesome will be friends for the rest of my life. I learned a lot about communication, teaching through documentation and having to think fast on my feet in order to find solutions to immediate problems. But I feel an internal shift happening that is telling me, “It’s really time for a change Michele.”

Setting up Garden Love and preparing all the tech side of things was a huge learning curve for meand yet I’ve never been so excited, scared or engaged as I feel right now. I’m doing what I absolutely LOVE; writing, sharing, expressing myself creatively and talking about gardening!

I don’t know where this will lead . . . I only know I’m open and ready for more adventures in my own backyard and can’t wait to find out what I’m going to learn from fellow gardeners in the near futurethat’s the x-factor and that’s where the magic lies . . . just keep moving forward.

Flora’s Forum: Thank you, Michele, and Happy Earth Day, everyone!

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