Tag Archives: Greenwoman Magazine

Awkward Botany and Daniel Murphy

By Dave Whitinger (http://davesgarden.com/pf/showimage/80166/)  via Wikimedia Commons

By Dave Whitinger (http://davesgarden.com/pf/showimage/80166/)
via Wikimedia Commons


Yesterday I received a note from Daniel Murphy, who has been a friend of mine for years. We first met as pen pals/zine traders. It was back when I started self-publishing my little zine Greenwoman (scroll waaaaay down to the bottom of the link to read about the zines) in around 2007. These zines were 100% handmade by me—photocopies hand-tied with jute.  Rough, but, if I do say so myself, rather charming. In his zines, Dan wrote about gardening, punk rock, skateboarding, and trying to save the world. He bought my first zine and wrote me, by LETTER (as that’s the way the zinesters roll), and we immediately became friends.

Oh, those were the simple days! Dan was on his way to grad school, working at a community garden, publishing his own zines, and connecting with the garden-lovin’-freaks of the zine world. I was raising kids, gardening obsessively, raising chickens in the backyard, and wondering what would be possible with self-publishing.

We’re still working hard on our dreams, and Dan’s now at the Idaho Botanical Garden. As much as he loves plants, he loves writing too, and tries to fit that obsession into an already chock-full life. He’s doing some writing through his blog, Awkward Botany (how I love that name) and he shared the story about our very odd passalong plant yesterday. That’s what he was writing me about—well, that, and he was very curious about the Fifty Shades of Green book! I’m going to send him and his love (her name is Flora!) a copy next week.

I hope you’ll check out his post. The carrion flower is such an amazing plant. It has one of the most beautiful and strange flowers I’ve ever seen. I bought my cuttings from eBay; it was one of those instances where I read about the plant, became absolutely obsessed with getting one, and, well, you can find most everything on eBay.

To share a little more about Dan. He’s every bit as obsessed as I am about the world of plants and how we connect with it. Here’s one of my favorite essays of his, from Greenwoman, issue #4.

—Sandra Knauf


The Seed, the Radicle, and the Revolution

by Daniel Murphy

Many people are familiar with the “one straw revolution” proposed by Japanese rice farmer Masanobu Fukuoka, but what about the simple, revolutionary powerhouse that is the seed? Seeds have often been referred to metaphorically when discussing revolutions, new movements, new beginnings, social change, spiritual awakenings. It only makes sense that the first thing to emerge from a seed during germination is the embryonic root known as the radicle (pronounced radical). It has been said that it only takes one individual to start a revolution. It only takes one seed to start a forest. The process may be slow, but the potential is there.

A tiny seed finds its way into a small crack in the sidewalk. The radical emerges. Before you know it, a plant strong enough to push apart two concrete slabs has grown. A radical radical pushes headlong through a pile of dirt and much that has collected in a rain gutter on a rooftop. Up sprouts a renegade plant, adamant about making a human-made structure its home. Devastation can come in the form of a seed; ruins can be made of structures that were ignorantly thought of as eternal. Radicals rise up as radicles force themselves downward, rooting in new lives, and readying themselves for battle. Yes, the seed is revolutionary.

Words are like seeds, and their influence can cause a social sea change as the message spreads. The Juniper zine is microscopic proof of that. As letters have trickled in to the Juniperbug mailbox, this editor has noticed a thriving (albeit grassroots) social movement as readers have recounted their stories of gardening, biking, and going back to the land. Rusty bikes have been retrieved from dusty storage areas, tuned up and taken for a ride. Derelict areas of backyard lawn have been turned over, and gardens have sprouted up. The slow life is spreading just as fast as the seeds can germinate, and off we sprint toward ecotopia.

Spring is for sowing seeds and encouraging growth. Love is in the air, and heaven knows that the revolution needs much more of that. Cynicism can be brushed away for a while. Spring cleaning allows us to pull some of our skeletons out of their hiding spots and send them packing. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed while we’re at it. Certainly a seed recognizes the pressure that lies on its tiny self to thrive, flourish and produce. But there is potential in all of us; potential that will not be compromised: neither blacked-out by black hearts nor whited-out by whitewash. The subversive seed and its radical roots will be our mascot. Let’s make our gardens grow. Let’s not rot in the soil, but instead sprout and rise up. Your neighborhood is your seedbed. That’s where the movement starts.


I have mad green love for Daniel Murphy.

Mad green love for Mr. Murphy.


Filed under Garden Writers We Love

Artists in my Garden

Garage and Canadian Explorer Rose Painting by Laura Reilly

Garage and Canadian Explorer Rose Painting by Laura Reilly

This week something very interesting and unexpected happened in my garden. A group of talented painters came over, set up easels, took out canvasses, sketch pads and paints, and set to work doing something that I never imagined would happen in my garden—they memorialized it in fine art.

I knew I couldn’t turn down this opportunity when Karen Storm wrote me in late April. She said my name had come up during a meeting in her group of plein air artists, “Garden Artists.” You can visit their Facebook Page here. They paint in gardens and a variety of other landscapes throughout our region twice a week. During the meeting someone mentioned the “Greenwoman” who was in the paper last year. Apparently my cottage garden sounded intriguing and they decided to give me a call. Karen said that she knew me from the neighborhood community garden and volunteered to contact me. Another friend in the group knew me too, Pat Nolan, whose haiku (and painting) has appeared in Greenwoman Magazine. (It’s a small art world where I live.)

"Old Garage" by Pam Holnback

“Old Garage” by Pam Holnback

I said yes right away. Exciting! I thought. Then I thought, Oh, shit, I’ve got so much work to do!!! And I did. I had just finished our tax season bookkeeping work (my second job) and had done no gardening yet. In fact, none had been done since fall, when we hauled in that topsoil and a truckload of antibiotic/hormone free/grass fed cow manure for my new raised vegetable beds that were built and filled (mostly) but were still not planted.

Our garden space, front and back, two lots, is maintained by a crew of me, and my daughters Lily and Zora, when they’re around. Unfortunately, they haven’t been around a lot since they started college. That’s it. So, I got to work and every week it took many hours just to hope to get it presentable by June. I was fortunate enough one day to get my nephews out for most of one day to pull weeds, (thank you, Cory and Cody), and Zora and her friend on another (thank you, Boomer) but that was the only outside help. Our family did the rest, with me doing the majority. Planting, weeding, mowing (with a push mower as most of our grass has been replaced with water-wise plants), tending to vegetable beds, flower beds, new beds, pots, tiny greenhouse, small pond, the list goes on forever it seems (if you’re a gardener and don’t have hired help, you know what I mean).

Needless to say I immediately got a little stressed, but I also had that satisfied premonition of “NOW I’m going to get some things done around here, because I have to!” Then a few insecurities rose up, because our sweet 1920s bungalow home is modest and very low budget. I’m the type of gal who recycles old bathtubs and clay roof tiles for planters and whose main palette of plants are hardy and promiscuous seeders and spreaders. Russian sage, blue mist spirea, mints, comfrey, wild roses, clary sage, borage, native “weeds” such as mullein and sunflower, and many more that others would find too pedestrian are welcomed here.

In comparison, I knew these artists were probably more used to the gardens of multi-millionaires. I have visited many one-percenter gardens myself. I even worked in some during a summer one year, just to see what it was like. (Beautiful, but not my cup of tea.) These gardens are usually lovely and often have amenities like sprinkler systems and unlimited water use, amenities I can only dream of! But don’t get me wrong, I’m not jealous. I actually like mine better. Because I’m really the gardener. Honestly, when you have a landscape designer, head gardener with weekly work crews, and an enormous budget . . . well, to me, that’s not really being a gardener. Not my kind of gardener anyway. To me, a gardener gets bruised and scratched and walks around in a stupor sometimes, tired because she’s been planting all day, and not knowing where to put the little plant she’s delicately holding in her hand. She intimately knows the birds and insects that call her garden home. They know her, too, because they see her so often. They stay out of each other’s way, unless she needs to rescue a honeybee from the lily pond or a web, or move a spider to a spot where it makes her feel more comfortable. She makes a lot of gardening “mistakes” (kills a lot of plants) and that teaches her more than any class could. There’s never a perfect canvas to start with or a perfect design or enough money in the budget.

And all is a work in progress.

Garden Artist Bridget O'Hara

Garden Artist Bridget O’Hara

My type of gardener does the best she can with what she has, and she loves her garden because it represents and nurtures her life. It’s not a showplace, it’s a part of her personality and soul. Failures and successes, hopes and dreams, passalong plants from friends, memories of every shrub planted and where it came from and how long it’s taken to get from twig to proper size are known. If she has children her garden is especially precious as it holds memories of a joyous playground (sometimes with fairies and exotic chickens).

Although my love is great, I couldn’t help but feel a little insecure about this visit. Luckily, I don’t let my insecurities stop me. My daughter Lily and I worked hard nearly every day, cleaning, hauling, planting, pruning. During the time we had two hailstorms to contend with and recover from and we hauled two truckloads of mulch and pink sandstone gravel to replenish areas that needed it most. And then the day arrived. The ladies came and nothing was perfect. (I could tell you how naughty our two little dogs were, but I won’t, I’m still too embarrassed. Let’s just say they pulled every ill-mannered dog act they could think of.) But then again, on second thought, it actually was perfect. I got to see a few old friends and meet a few new ones. I found out we were all deep and true lovers of the garden.


Garden Artist Marianne Flenniken

The paintings tell it all. It was a beautiful experience.

"Waterlily in Sandra's Garden" by Karen Storm

“Waterlily in Sandra’s Garden” by Karen Storm

Thank you for a very memorable June day, Garden Artists! I hope one day you’ll come back when I have it a little more together, or the dahlias are in bloom, or the tomatoes or coming on . . . or, heck, just come back anyway . . .

—Sandra Knauf


Filed under DIY

Happy Christmas! (And a Cheery Solstice to you, too!)

(This week I’m sharing my weekly Greenwoman newsletter. —Sandra)

Hi everyone,

I don’t know about you, but even though it can be a teensy bit stressful at times, I like the Christmas season, a lot. 

Not only do we allow ourselves a little more indulgence (which is not always such a bad thing) but when the shortest day of the year arrives, I am elated. To me, it feels like turning a corner, and it is. The days will now get longer, and soon it will be warming up, and another growing season will be here! (In my winter daydreams, I can almost feel the sunshine on my back and the warmth of the earth under my feet, and smell the tomato plant foliage . . . )

I tried to think of something entertaining or clever or educational to send you today, but it’s been a very busy week. Both our daughters are home now (they are, right at this moment, baking sugar cookies in the kitchen—and it smells so goodum, the vanilla).  I’ve also been focused on getting packages of magazines out to our contributors and to a local store or two.

To top it all off, yesterday we did our shopping, and the landscape looked like this. 

Well, not exactly like this. This is at a nearby park, but the streets were lined everywhere with just this kind of frosted beauty! (I’ll reveal who took this gorgeous photo at the end of this letter.)

But, seriously, with everything going on and with this beauty, is it any wonder I’ve been distracted?

I did make one fun publishing-related side trip this week. I spent an hour or two checking out the Christmas art at The Graphics Fairy. The site features public domain works—art and illustrations that are old enough to be available for free use to hobbyists, crafters, or, in my case, small self-publishers. I fell in love with this beautiful stag and wanted to share it with you.


(This particular image is from a rare, circa 1907 pyrography catalog. Pyrography is the art of burning a design into wood.)

Art found on The Graphics Fairy site has appeared in nearly every issue of Greenwoman. I am so grateful for the web creator’s sharing of these charming images.

So, that was my week. Between now and Wednesday there may be one more trip to the post office, one more visit to the store, the wrapping of a few more presents, but mostly, I’m looking forward to a bit of fun and much-needed relaxation. (Lots of cooking, visiting family and friends, movie time with popcorn and hot cocoa, reading, nature hikes.)

I’m feeling very lucky, as I do every year. What more could we wish for but to have loved ones close and time to spend together?

I hope you will be enjoying these days with your good friends and loved ones.

Merry Christmas and much love to all of you!

And thank you for your interest in Greenwoman Magazine. I look forward to sharing more of the art and wonder of the green world with you in 2014.


P. S. A very special thank you to Bill Griffin, who took this photo on December 21, 2013 at Palmer Park, and to his wife Lauri, who told me about it. Bill is also an amazing gardener. Lauri is an artist, writer, and teacher and she wrote about their backyard poly greenhouses in the latest issue of Greenwoman Magazine. Her column is named Green Heritage and her essay is entitled “Heirlooms and Hothouses”. I hope you will get to check it out.

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“Springs Woman Tends an Amazing Garden and Equally Lush Magazine”

Now here's a "before" picture of the garden in early June. "Before meaning before a summer of distractions, publishing a book, fires and floods, etc. A bit more orderly for Lily's graduation party.

Now here’s a “before” picture of the garden in early June of this year. “Before” meaning before a summer of distractions, working overtime every day, publishing a book, fires and floods, etc. It is often wild and out of control (as seen in the Gazette article) but I wanted to show that it can be more orderly, especially when we’re preparing for a party. This was right before Lily’s high school graduation party.

Yesterday Carol McGraw’s story about Greenwoman Magazine, my gardening life at home, the novel Zera and the Green Man and everything else related to what I’m doing and a lot about the “why” came out in the Gazette here in Colorado Springs.  Carol did a wonderful job–beautiful writing and perfect reporting.

There are a lot of complaints about journalism, and about how reporters “don’t get it right” in interviews (and I’ll admit, it’s an imperfect world) but she nailed it.

I’m grateful to be able to share it with you today. You’ll find the story here.


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Filed under Art & the Garden, DIY