Tag Archives: Greenwoman

Ode to My Garden Pruners


Photo by Tricia Knoll

Ode to My Garden Pruners

The hardware store keeps your kind
under lock and key. I know I could lose you
like sewing scissors, postcard stamps,
that jade ring from China,
my purple pull-down hat for fall.

I rigged up a cinching-to-me. One Goodwill belt,
a leather holster, slick-draw me and you, my garden gun,
ready for mayhem to camellias. Or caressing.
I learned how to prune the rose bush from a master
with ten thousand in his care, and now you snip
rose hips and blind shoots under sagging lilacs and ambitious camellias.
Help me tame the vertical fig that smothers the quaking aspen.
What fears us? Your jaws of steel, anvil blade.

You are my costume, my going forth into green.
I swivel the holster to the small of my back
so you won’t fall when I lean, rip out blackberry.
I home you into your holster bed in one swift move.

There is so much to love about you, long-term.
How your swivel lock closes your eagle craw.
Did you ask for handles dipped in red?
Would you have liked dark green? Gold?
Sky blue? Red leads me to you.

Yes, I use your blades to dig dandelions
or slice open a bag of bark dust when no one looks.
I apologize for knicks from trying to bite off more
than we can chew through, your mouth
smaller than twinberry gone gangly.

You’re reluctant to disturb
the fat spider hung
who caught a fly and shrouded it in silk,
and you are right.

Later for the roses.

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Tricia Knoll is a Portland, Oregon poet who has maintained gardens all her life, sowing the seeds of sanity. She grew up admiring her mother’s roses and vegetable garden. She is an Oregon State University Master Gardener and volunteers at Portland’s Washington Park Rose Test Garden. Her chapbook Urban Wild is available from Amazon and focuses on interactions between humans and wildlife in urban habitat.

Her lyric and eco-poetry of  Ocean’s Laughter (Aldrich Press) focuses on a small town on the Oregon coast, Manzanita. Website: triciaknoll.com
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Because “Gardening Makes People Happy!” *

vermijo-garden-8-28-10-0051 (1)

My beloved plot at the Vermijo Community Garden in 2010. SO MUCH FUN!

This is going to be the short and sweet review of a great book I’ve had around for . . . <gulp!> a year.

Even though it’s taken a while to get to this review, it thrilled me to see that LaManda Joy had written Start a Community Food Garden: The Essential Handbook. Joy appeared on my radar some years ago (hee hee), when she was lecturing about World War II victory gardens, which were often a type of community garden. That subject fascinated me. For instance: Did you know that a lot of the people who started gardening then, in the big cities during the war, had zero gardening experience starting out? I sure didn’t. Captivated by the story of people getting together for the greater good, I thought my readers would love to know about victory gardening too, and so I asked Joy if she’d write something for Greenwoman. She did, and the result was an amazing historical story that actually fit in so well with exactly what many of us are trying to do today—growing food that is nutritious, organic, and so very delicious; making good use of our land in the city; exposing our children to meaningful, wholesome work; having fun interacting with and learning about nature; connecting with our community, etc. Back in the early ’40s these community gardens were created for the war effort, out of necessity. I’d argue that today they’re also being created out of necessity, to fill the many deficiencies in our modern, high-tech lives. But that’s another subject.

Joy’s curiosity about victory gardens, her love of gardening, and her desire to share her ample knowledge of food cultivation led her to creating a community garden in her neighborhood. Synchronicity is an amazing thing; while she was researching WWII victory garden community gardens, she learned that an empty plot of land near her home was the site of one. She dug in (literally & figuratively) and got a new community garden started there! The Peterson Garden Project has taught and fed hundreds of people since and has led to the creation of more gardens.


Start a Community Food Garden is the most comprehensive and easy-to-read book on the subject that I’ve read. Joy takes you gently and logically, step-by-step: from figuring out what kind of garden to create, to mobilizing others to help, to organizing and presenting meetings, to the dozens of practical considerations—water, security, soil amending, tools, and so on. I promise you that this is the only book you’ll need if you want to get started on getting a community garden in your neighborhood.

I know this book covers all the bases because I was a member of a community garden myself for a few years. For years, I had longed to try this form of gardening and was excited when I finally got the chance. The experience was, of course, hard work, and not without a few ups and downs (we experienced several late summer vegetable thefts) but I loved it. I only left because of the waiting list. It was time to let someone else have a go at it and I had the space and means to build some vegetable beds in my own backyard. Last summer I met the woman who had taken over my plot, and she thanked me for the rich, amended soil and a beautiful lily I had (accidentally) left behind. She said it had grew over 5 feet tall and was the centerpiece of her garden. Oh, the little surprises and fun we can pass on, even after we’ve left a community garden!

If you haven’t tried it, now’s the time. And you’ll have a wonderful blueprint with this book!

I’ll leave you with a special treat; a video where you can see LaManda Joy and the Peterson Garden Project for yourself.

—Sandra Knauf

(Note: While Timber Press graciously sent me a free copy of this book, I was not paid to review it, nor are any of my reviews purchased.)

*Quote from LaManda Joy.

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Garden Haiku – Beautyberry

allicarpa_bodinieri_'Profusion'_By Jean-Pol GRANDMONTcreativecommons.org, via Wikime

Callicarpa bodinieri ‘Profusion’ by Jean-Pol Grandmont, via Wikimedia Commons


A beautiful haiku about a beautiful berry . . . called, forgive my repetitiveness (I’m playing with you this fine morning), beauty berry! I couldn’t resist including a photo of the blooms–ah, dreams of spring!

–Sandra Knauf



when all has fallen
what is left




‘Happy Meal’ by Bob Peterson, via Wikimedia Commons


Tricia Knoll is a Portland, Oregon poet who has maintained gardens all her life, sowing the seeds of sanity. She grew up admiring her mother’s roses and vegetable garden. She is an Oregon State University Master Gardener and volunteers at Portland’s Washington Park Rose Test Garden. Her chapbook Urban Wild is available from Amazon and focuses on interactions between humans and wildlife in urban habitat.

Her lyric and eco-poetry of  Ocean’s Laughter (Aldrich Press) focuses on a small town on the Oregon coast, Manzanita. Website: triciaknoll.com
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Flocking to Freedom

By Lilly M., via Wikimedia Commons

By Lilly M., via Wikimedia Commons


As fall begins and the daylight wanes, my chickens start molting and stop laying eggs.  I haven’t eaten an egg in weeks, but nature is seasonal. Earlier in the year, the peaches ripened and we ate, cooked, and canned as many as we could. Later it was frozen beans and pickled cucumbers, but what all this produce has in common is a season that begins and ends. So it is with eggs. The chickens lay a few in the winter, peak in the summer and stop in the fall.

Two years ago, I brought these four birds home as two-week old chicks. When I told people I was getting chickens, we always had some variation of this conversation.

“Are you getting them as pets or for eggs?”

“Oh, they are livestock,” I would reply. They’ll provide eggs and then I’ll eat them when they get older.”

The other person, especially if she had known me a long time, would smile indulgently and suggest I was more likely to open a Chicken Retirement Home.

Sure enough, the laying hens became pets and I learned from farmers this isn’t uncommon. A three-year-old hen of a breed known for eggs yields tough meat and a certain amount of sadness at slaughter. You’ve cared for her a long time and gotten to know her, maybe she even has a name. It’s hard to let her go. If you want meat, it makes more sense to buy a batch of “meat bird” chicks. They’ve been bred to mature in six weeks and, if not slaughtered, die of heart attacks soon after. It’s easier to maintain an emotional distance and you get the added advantage of meat that’s good for more than stew.

The transition from livestock to pets began when I gave my chicks names. It happened naturally, as I watched them grow and I learned to tell them apart by the feather patterns on their heads. They became Redhead, Specklehead, Blonde Chicken and, because her head was somewhere between red and blonde, Middle Chicken.

When they grew into their feathers and out of the brooder, I built them a coop, affectionately referred to as “Chicken Shantytown”. Chicken Shantytown consists of a long cage made of hardware cloth with homemade doors at both ends. I’ve boxed in four feet with plywood and straw to protect them from the weather and provide some privacy for laying eggs.

Technically, this 30 square foot coop offers enough space for four hens, but every morning they squawk at the door, dragging their beaks along the wire, like prisoners with tin cups.

“Let us out of Chicken Jail!” I imagine they are saying. “We’re innocent!”

They are. And so I do.

All day long, my little bird friends roam around the backyard, doing what chickens were born to do. They run around and flap their wings. They eat all the kitchen scraps in what used to be the compost pile. They hold meetings under the deck. They make me laugh and remind me how to greet every day as an opportunity for something good.

And don’t forget about the eggs.

During the summer, they gave me so many eggs, I started tipping service providers with them.

“Here’s the check for the invoice and these fresh eggs are for you,” I’d say, starting yet another conversation about the novelty of keeping chickens in the city.

“What made you decide to get chickens?”

“I can’t explain it,” I always say.  “It seemed like the right thing.”

In this middle season of my life, I want the simplicity and quiet to hear God speak. I want to live like the chickens, expressing the best of my nature. I’d had enough of the rat race and its mirage of success. I wouldn’t trade my homestead and the chickens for any of its offerings.

Every day, they remind me to be grateful for that freedom.

Bonnie_Simon (2)





Bonnie Simon writes about locally owned businesses, the power of community and the American dream in Colorado Springs, CO.  Her business, Hungry Chicken Homestead, helps locally owned businesses tell their stories and connect with consumers.  Read more about Bonnie and the chickens at www.HungryChickenHomestead.com.

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Naked Tomatoes

Naked Tomatoes - Rachael Kloster (3)

Illustration by Rachael Davis.


Glass jars of home-canned tomatoes fill the cupboard over my refrigerator, ’50s icons in a 21st century kitchen. If I could, I would pull one down, unscrew the gold metal band and pop off the lid underneath to release the fresh aroma of tomato. It would be a reminder of summer’s abundance, a buoy against the ice and snow covering the ground and the downward slide of the thermometer. But I have moved out of the house while my husband and I sort our belongings. I saw no room in transient living for fragile, glass jars.

I almost skipped canning this year. The end of tomato season appeared unhurried on the horizon when tomatoes first arrived at the farmer’s market in July. And then I was lying in bed on an October Saturday, ticking off fall chores: change the storm windows, put the garden to bed, give the compost one final turn. I turned to Chris.

“We won’t miss canned tomatoes, will we?”

“It’ll be worth it in January,” he said. “I’ll work in the garden while you can the tomatoes. We’ll do the windows tomorrow.”

We drove to the market and wandered up and down rows of covered stalls in the YWCA parking lot. Bushels of canning tomatoes sat on the ground at every stand, their skins pocked by small scars and bruises. But their scent was fresh, and the autumn air was sharp and brisk. The growing length of the sun’s shadows enticed us to grab as much produce as we could. At home, vegetables flowed across the kitchen and spilled onto the floor: peppers for roasting, Roma tomatoes for drying, winter squash stacked in a corner and the canning tomatoes waiting on the floor.

The enamel canning pot dwarfed the stove and a smaller pot of boiling water beside it. I dropped several tomatoes into the smaller pot and watched as bubbles rose up out of their scars. Fishing them out with a slotted spoon, I slipped them into a bowl of ice water, shocking the tomatoes so that a gentle squeeze slid their deep red flesh out from under their skins. Juice ran down my fingers and dripped across the counter, and the pile of naked tomatoes grew.

I started canning the year Chris and I moved into our first apartment. At the time I worked as a camp director four hours north in Ely, Minnesota every summer. On days off, I borrowed the neighbor’s chocolate lab and wandered through red and white pines over glacier-carved bedrock. I picked wild berries as we went: June strawberries in the sandy soils along the road, July raspberries in a sunny patch where trees had collapsed during a storm, and August blueberries nestled between lichen on top of a rocky hill overlooking the lake. While I filled my buckets, the dog ate blueberries right off the bush. I returned to our two-room cabin with too many berries to eat. Before long the freezer was full, and it became clear the berries would never survive the drive back to the Cities in September. I borrowed canning equipment from my neighbor and learned to make jam. The cabin windows grew dense with steam while I stirred and sampled the oozing, bubbling, sugary liquids, and by the time I was done, I had over a dozen jars.

When we returned to the city, I looked around our stale apartment—built to resemble a ski chalet too far from anybody’s slopes, with faux wood paneling and white carpet—and wondered if I could live without walks through the woods. How could I rejoice in sidewalks and asphalt? Images of the root cellar in my parents’ basement, lined with jars of home-canned peaches, tomatoes, and apricots, flashed into my mind. I remembered standing in my mother’s kitchen as a young girl, watching as she carefully lowered packed jars of tomatoes into an enamel pot of boiling water, knowing they would return to the kitchen in winter as stewed tomatoes, ruining a perfectly good plate of homemade macaroni and cheese. But I had since developed a taste for tomatoes. Maybe canning was just what I needed.

This year, the enamel pot came to a boil in the tiny kitchen of our one-and-half story bungalow. Empty jars floated and bumped into each other in the surge of the water as I waited for them to become sterile, peering through the steam on the windows at Chris ripping tendrils of runaway strawberries out of the garden. He yanked with the vibrant energy we’d both had in June, when we’d confined the strawberries to one small patch so they wouldn’t take over the basil or the potatoes. It was our first summer together since we bought the house three years earlier; Chris had finally quit working at camp and joined me in the city full time. We had already started counseling, but it felt hopeful to dig in the dirt together.

I pulled a jar from the boiling water and set it on the counter, where it steamed and dried instantly. I measured a teaspoon of salt and lemon juice into the jar, and its heat released their acrid smell, an odor I have come to recognize as the arrival of fall. I quartered a skinned tomato from the pile on the cutting board and slipped the pieces into the jar, gently mashing them down to release air pockets. Amber tomato juice spilled over the sides of the jar and onto the counter. Six more jars to fill, then back into the water bath for forty-five minutes to seal the lids. Noon had come and gone, and there would be at least two more batches. Tomato pulp and seeds dotted the floor, tomato juice had dried to the counter. The weekend was already spent, and I would barely leave the kitchen.

Every year, as soon as Chris headed north in May, some part of the house demanded attention: the bathtub clogged, the garage got tagged with graffiti, or it rained so much that the lawn sprouted up like a jungle. Two passes with the reel mower resulted in nothing more than a lawn with a bad haircut.

“You just have to keep the grass short, then a reel mower works fine,” Chris told me over the phone.

“So you don’t think mowing the lawn three times a week sounds like too much?” He didn’t respond the way I wanted him to, by saying he would come home to visit more often, to mow the lawn or pick out a new mower with me.

“We’re wasting our summers. We’re young. We should be spending them on the road somewhere, traveling, doing things.”

Chris’ answer was always the same: “Next summer.”

I hung up the phone, stepped out onto the back stoop and looked over at the retired neighbor’s perfectly-manicured grass to the dandelions growing up around our compost and the long strands of grass at the base of the crab apple tree. I sighed and let my gaze wander to the vegetable garden. A small purple flower on the dark green potato plant caught my eye; it hadn’t been there the day before. And a tiny green tomato had popped up during the night, too. I rooted through the garden with the same sense of suspense I felt opening the weekly delivery of produce from the farm share I joined. What new food would I find? Over the summer, I learned that the fennel that looked like fat celery could be roasted to mute its licorice flavor, eggplant grilled in olive oil kept it from turning into a mushy mass of slime, and kale was perfect sautéed in garlic. Only okra left me bewildered.

Every time I ate, I savored the knowledge that the basil came from the backyard, the corn had come from the farm an hour away, and the bread from the farmer’s market. Each bite felt like a thread that connected me to another person or part of nature, and I grew a new sense of home. But there was one part I didn’t like: sitting down to eat at an empty table. In Chris’ absence, I made pesto, blanched green beans and oven-dried tomatoes. I slid them into the freezer so I could carry that sense of place into winter, when I could extend that thread to my husband and enfold him in the web of connections I had found.

When I lined the jars up on the counter in front of the window, sunlight streamed through the window and lit their amber juices like jewels. If all had gone well, I would begin to hear the soft pop of first one jar and then another as a vacuum formed inside, the button center of the metal lid sucking down tight as the seal formed. The sound had become a sound of satisfaction, and this year, a sound of hope. Maybe they could become more than a buoy against the fading temperatures; maybe this year they could provide a buoy for me.

My energy was fading. I had stopped tending the strawberries. Using up the food from the farm share felt like a chore. I mowed the lawn only once, in spite of the new electric mower. We had discussed my growing weariness in counseling. Had started talking about building dreams that grew beyond the edge of the yard, about actually taking the next summer off and letting someone else mow the lawn. There was still hope that in January Chris might pull a jar down from the cupboard, his pent-up energy from a day in the office spilling out into the kitchen as he bounced around making chili. We might talk about our days and wonder what to do with the coming weekend, make plans for the summer. The thread between us could hold strong.

As the seals started popping, Chris came inside and put his arms around me. “Fun!” he said, looking at the jars. We stood that way for a moment, and then he went back outside.

I hauled the enamel pot off of the stove, propped it on the edge of the kitchen sink and poured out the tarnished, pale brown water. Flecks of swirling tomato pulp streamed into the sink as steam rose up from its surface. I turned my cheek from the heat, glad that my work was done. Of the seventeen glass jars, three failed to seal. I placed them in the refrigerator, wondering what had been different about those three in particular. What had caused them to fail.

Chris stood by the stove putting leftovers into a Tupperware. It was early December, and the leaded panes of the storm window behind him and the early descent of night obscured the view of the yard. I sat, silent, at the table. Our dream of an Alaskan canoe trip, one we had actually started planning, had just been snuffed over a dinner out of a box. We were rushing to eat before a holiday party, and the words had come out of his mouth with a strong dose of disbelief, like I was crazy for thinking it could still happen: “There’s no way we’re going on a canoe trip this summer. Not with the basement renovation.”

He snapped the lid on the Tupperware and put it into the fridge. “This is life. A house and a mortgage. We can’t do it all.” I knew what he really meant. I had heard his implication the week before, from Chris and the therapist, at our final counseling session: it was time to grow up. To be content with what I had.

His logic was sound. A simple repair job had turned the basement into a major renovation. But we had never talked about it as an either-or, and I thought the basement could wait. I had inhaled sharply when the words flew out of his mouth, ready to argue. But then I thought of all the times I’d heard ‘next summer’ or ‘it just isn’t good timing,’ how we kept putting off all the dreams that mattered most to me. I knew with a sharp and painful certainty that it would always be this way. I could argue now and push for this dream, but only if I was ready to keep doing it, every year, for every dream after that. We would always be waiting, he and I. Like I had waited for him to want to come home during the summer and he now waited for me to be content. We would always be waiting to want the same thing.

It is January now. I go from work to my parents and their kitchen. I think of the tomatoes collecting dust in their cupboard and of Chris living in a house too big for one person; I hope he is taking the time to eat. I mourn the loss of those January dinners, just as I mourn the loss of my tomatoes. My parents have asked: “Why don’t you bring them here? Cook with them in our kitchen?” And I could. Instead of wondering if the future will include a place for canning, instead of debating whether preserving tomatoes is worth the effort for a pot of soup for one, I could uncoil the thread to my parents. And maybe bringing those tomatoes out of the cupboard would remind me of summer and the renewal that comes to those who have the patience to see the long winter through.

But to go back to the house that stopped feeling like mine the moment I left, to pull down the jars and pack them in a box. . . . I would feel no sense of delight. I would not think of one last stroll through the market. I would stand on a stool, hold a jar absentmindedly over the refrigerator and look out the kitchen window at the snow-covered yard. I would remember my husband clearing the garden while I covered the windows in steam, and I would marvel at how decisively the threads between us had broken.

Sometimes, the process of preserving does not work. Sometimes, the seals don’t form.


Alissa Johnson-056-small

Alissa Johnson is an editor at the Crested Butte News and an award winning writer. Her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Dirt Rag Magazine, and Mountain Gazette among other publications, and she’s a regular contributor to Wilderness News. Her writing has won awards from FundsforWriters and the Colorado Press Association. She holds an MFA in Creative and Professional Writing from Western Connecticut State University (WCSU) and has taught at WCSU and Western State Colorado University. She founded WritingStrides to help other writers find their voice and create meaningful stories.

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The Wandering Cat

“Apple Tree Branches” by Elizabeth Boott Duveneck, 1883, via Wikimedia Commons

The Wandering Cat

Under narrow November sun, the rock wall
of hand-piled granite river stones
surrounds a sagging herb garden
of leggy tarragon, wounded thyme,
and frost-black basil.

An orange cat leaps out,
no temper, tremor or twist –
just gone.

A white-haired woman in a blue apron,
a fisherman’s-knot wool sweater,
and gray leather gloves
kneels to plant
a lightning rosebush
to replace the crown-galled noble red,
a once-fecund rose too far gone,
sad-animal-energy end
of menses, succumbed.

She leans on the dark-green wooden gate,
breathing in her many days of growing
a homing soul that loves
the next yellow rose in the mint

and the apple fall
inside her garden wall.


Photo by Darrell Salk.

Tricia Knoll is a Portland, Oregon poet who has maintained a garden all her life, sowing the seeds of sanity. She grew up admiring her mother’s roses and vegetable garden. She is an Oregon State University Master Gardener. Her chapbook Urban Wild is available from Amazon and focuses on interactions between humans and wildlife in urban habitat. Her book Ocean’s Laughter will be out from Aldrich Press in spring of 2016. The poetry in Ocean’s Laughter reflects on environmental issues related to a small town on the Oregon coast. For links to many published poems, visit website: triciaknoll.com 

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Apples of Evil: Three Eerie Fruit Folktales

In the Garden of Eden, Eve offers Adam the apple. Line engraving by C. Galle after G.B. Paggi. Iconographic Collections Keywords: Johannes Carolus Avria; Cornelis Galle; Adam; Giovanni Battista Paggi; Eve

(The father of all evil apple stories?) In the Garden of Eden, Eve offers Adam the apple. Line engraving by Cornelis Galle after Giovanni Battista Paggi, via Wikimedia Commons.


For your Halloween pleasure! Sheryl is a favorite garden artist/writer/greenwoman, and friend. She’s the author of The Haunted Garden: Death and Transfiguration in the Folklore of Plants, a deliciously creepy book on plant lore. I love her paintings as well, which were featured here a couple of years ago and in my article in US Represented this summer. You can see more of her amazing work here.

And now, her eerie apple stories!

Happy Halloween!

–Sandra Knauf

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A curious fact: The Latin words for “apple” and “evil” are the same: malum. This is odd, considering that the apple tree–fair of flower and of fruit–has many positive associations, and is celebrated with cheerful rhymes, stories, songs, and festivals. Nevertheless, an exploration of apples in folklore and legend does reveal a darker aspect.

It is apt that Pomona, the ancient Roman goddess of fruit, is sometimes depicted as a young woman holding an apple in one hand and a formidable-looking pruning knife or a sickle in the other. As demonstrated in the following tales, the Brothers Grimm story of Snow White, with its wicked queen who tries to kill her stepdaughter via a poisoned apple, is not the only folktale linking an apple with murder.

The Legend of Micah Rood

According to folklorist Charles Skinner, there was once a popular variety of American apple called Micah Rood, or Bloody Hearts. These apples were said to be “sweet of flavor, fragrant, handsomely red outside, and while most of the flesh is white, there is at the core a red spot that represents human blood.” A story was traced back to Franklin, Connecticut, where a farmer named Micah Rood lived in the late 1700s. In those times much commerce was done with itinerant peddlers, and these early traveling salesmen sometimes fell victim to violence because of the purses of money they might be carrying.

A peddler who had recently been trading with the local citizens was found dead under an apple tree on Micah Rood’s farm, his skull cracked open and his money stolen. Rood was suspected of murder, but there was no proof. He became a recluse to shut out the whisperings of his neighbors.

Later that year, the story goes, the tree on which the unfortunate victim had bled and died bore red apples instead of its normal yellow ones. And from then on the tree’s fruit had the red mark at the core, like a bloodstain. It was said that every apple was a curse on Micah Rood; he and his farm fell into decay and disrepair, and he died. The tree lived on, and grafts from it spread the apple to orchards across Connecticut and other states. The variety was said to have been widely cultivated, but I have not been able to find a Micah Rood apple available today. If it did really exist, I fear it has been lost like so many other early heirloom varieties.

The Bloody Ploughman

Luckily a similar heirloom variety of apple, also with a gruesome legend and a sensational appearance, still thrives in the United Kingdom. The Bloody Ploughman apple was first recorded in 1883, in Scotland. Like the Micah Rood apple, it has red “bloodstains” in its flesh, and dark, blood-red skin.

The tale behind the name is that a laborer was regularly stealing apples from a Scottish estate, but he got caught and was shot dead. His widow threw the apples out onto the midden with the refuse, thinking them unlucky. A tree sprouted there, grew into a tree, bore new apples, and was given a spooky new name. Bloody Ploughman apples are said to be juicy and crisp, a mid-season variety when grown in southeast England.


Apples_Apfelsorten_Diel-Lucas Image from the 6th edition of Meyers großem Konversationslexikon (1885–90), via Wikimedia Commons.

Image from the 6th edition of Meyers großem Konversationslexikon (1885–90), via Wikimedia Commons.


The Apple Girl

One of the most popular of the stories collected and retold by Italo Calvino in his Italian Folktales is “Apple Girl” (condensed and paraphrased here by me). Even though murder is attempted only indirectly in the tale, the imagery and rather nonsensical plot are eerie unto themselves:

A childless king and queen wished for a baby. The queen wondered why she couldn’t bear children the way an apple tree produces apples. Soon enough, she gave birth–to an apple. It was an exceptionally beautiful apple, and the king displayed it on a tray of gold, on his balcony. One day, another king glanced at the balcony and saw a lovely young woman, bathing and combing her hair. When she saw him, she ran to the apple, dove in, and disappeared. But this king had already fallen in love with her.

The king begged Apple Girl’s parents to give him the apple. They refused, but finally gave in to keep the peace with their royal neighbor. He took the apple home to his own chambers, and laid out everything Apple Girl needed: a golden fruit bowl, a comb, and water. Apple Girl would emerge from the fruit each morning; all she would do was comb her hair and perform her ablutions. She never spoke, and never ate.

The king kept to his chambers so much that his stepmother became suspicious. She wanted to know what he was up to. When he had to go off to fight in a war, he left the care of the magical apple to his most trustworthy servant. But as soon as the king left, the stepmother managed to sneak into his rooms. The only thing unusual she saw there was the magnificent apple in its golden bowl. Out of pure spite, she stabbed the apple all over with a small dagger she kept hidden in her gown. The apple began to bleed red blood out of every wound, and the wicked stepmother ran away in terror.

When the servant found the bloody scene, he panicked. The king would kill him for failing to protect the apple. Luckily, the servant had an aunt with knowledge of magical powders. She blended the right mix for him, which he sprinkled on the apple’s wounds. Instantly the apple split open, and out came Apple Girl, covered in bandages.

The king returned from war, and Apple Girl spoke her first words to him. She told him how she had been under a spell, and how his stepmother had almost killed her but that the servant had saved her. Apple Girl married the king and they lived happily near her parents; the stepmother fled and was never seen again.

© 2015 by Sheryl Humphrey. All rights reserved.

. . .

Further Reading

Calvino, Italo. Italian Folktales. Translated by George Martin. New York: Harcourt, Inc., 1980 [originally published 1956 in Italian by Giulio Einaudi, Torino].

Garden Apple I.D. website: http://www.gardenappleid.co.uk/index.php/alphabetic-list-of-apples/92-bloody-ploughman .

Humphrey, Sheryl. The Haunted Garden: Death and Transfiguration in the Folklore of Plants. Self-published, 2012. [The stories of Micah Rood and Bloody Ploughman in this post are excerpted, in slightly edited form, from this book.]

Skinner, Charles M. Myths and Legends of Flowers, Trees, Fruits, and Plants in All Ages and in All Climes. Amsterdam: Fredonia Books, 2002 [reprinted from the 1911 edition]

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Photo by Sheryl's husband, Edward Coppola.

Photo by Sheryl’s husband, Edward Coppola.


Sheryl Humphrey is an artist in Staten Island, NY; see her art at http://www.sherylhumphrey.tumblr.com/. She is also the author of The Haunted Garden: Death and Transfiguration in the Folklore of Plants, available at https://www.etsy.com/listing/118819081/the-haunted-garden.

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Filed under Art & the Garden, Garden Writers We Love

Everything She Needs is at Her Feet—the Garden Poetry of Barbara Crooker

Small Rain by Barbara Crooker

I was happy to hear that Barbara Crooker, whose poetry has been read many times by Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac and has also appeared in Greenwoman, has a new book out, Small Rain. Crooker’s sixth book of poetry, is described as “an exploration of the wheel of the year, the seasons that roll in a continuous circle and yet move inexorably forward. Here, gorgeous lyric poems praise poppies, mockingbirds, nectarines, mulch and compost, yet loss (stillbirth, cancer, emphysema), with its crow-black wings, is also always present.” I read her book yesterday and the writing is sublime, the themes deep. I recommend it highly.

Barbara agreed to share a couple of poems today, along with some insight into her gardening life. Thank you, Barbara!


Dianthus microlepis by KENPEI, via Wikimedia Commons

Dianthus microlepis by KENPEI, via Wikimedia Commons


My mother comes back as a dianthus,
only this time, she’s happy, smelling like cloves,
fringed and candy-striped with a ring of deep rose
that bleeds into the outer petals.  She dances
in the wind without her walker, nods pinkly
to the bluebells.  She breathes easily, untethered
to oxygen’s snaking vines.  Lacking bones,
there’s nothing left to crumble; she’s supple,
stem and leaf.  No meals to plan, shop for, prepare;
everything she needs is at her feet, more rich and moist
than a chocolate cake.  How much simpler
it would have been to be a flower in the first place,
with nothing to do but sit in the sun and shine.

Barbara writes:

The garden is a source of deep pleasure, and is also a source for many poems. In the front landscaping (azaleas, rhododendron, mountain laurel, holly), I usually plant annuals. When my mother was in a nursing home at the end, a visitor brought her a pot of pinks (dianthus), and she gave them to me to take home. After she passed, I planted them outside, and was delighted to see them come back after the first harsh winter.  She’s been gone almost seven years now, but I feel her presence keenly when they open their pink skirts, and dance in the May wind.

Sumac Leaf Circle by Rebecca Siegel via Wikimedia Commons

Sumac Leaf Circle by Rebecca Siegel via Wikimedia Commons


Autumn returns, and again we are cast thistledown together
on the winds, wrote Tu Fu in 755 AD, and I feel the cold air
blowing, the years falling by like so many yellow leaves.
Down in the meadow, some larkspur, a few black-eyed Susans
still bloom, but it’s late in the season, everything
going to seed.  The afternoon sun licks strips
of gold on my arms.  A drowsy silence, hummed
by bees. The thunk of an apple, finally ripe, falling.
We tilt at the balancing point, between summer’s too-much
and winter’s not-enough; the sumac flickers red in the hedgerow.
Last sweet raspberries.  The old cherry tree turning orange
peach orchid gold, a sunset of leaves.  Small sulphur butterflies
dance on the lawn.  Who could paint a sky this blue?
The pages of my notebook flutter in the breeze.

This poem pretty much describes my back yard, or some of it:  the little wildflower meadow I replant every year (corn poppies, California poppies (another poem in Small Rain uses them as the subject), Icelandic poppies, cornflowers, larkspur, coreopsis, rudbeckia), the old apple orchard (on retirement, my husband added two more apple trees, two pears, two peaches, one plum, one sweet and one sour pie cherry), the sumac (and goldenrod, thistle, milkweed) in the wild hedgerow, and the raspberry patch we put in almost forty years ago. When we bought this house way back then, the developer put sod in the front plus five small shrubs, and gave us a bag of grass seed for the back.  Everything else we put in ourselves, using a pick axe to break through the shale. The old cherry tree in this poem was put in the first year we lived here, but it split apart in a storm and has been replaced by a newer one.

The parts of my garden that aren’t in this poem are:  an iris bed, six mixed perennial beds, a row of flowering shrubs (red twig dogwood, two butterfly bushes (on purple, one pink), bridal wreath, tri-colored spirea, two weigela (one red, one pink with variegated leaves), forsythia, hydrangea, pussy willow, mock orange blossom, Viburnum, flowering quince, Viburnum Juddii, and sand cherry), a row of Rose of Sharons and lilacs, two day lily beds, a foundation planting of roses and mums, an herb garden, and a vegetable patch.

And a dogwood tree.  Hundreds of bulbs are mixed in; I like to have flowers from February to frost.  And there’s a compost bin (also a poem about it in this book).  Of course, you don’t see the enemies:  voles, rabbits, skunks (the callas need bone meal to flower; the skunks love to snack on this), and deer. . . .

—Barbara Crooker

Barbara Crooker

Barbara Crooker

Barbara Crooker’s work has been read many times by Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac. Her other books are Radiance (Word Press), Line Dance (Word Press), More (C&R Press), Gold (Cascade Books), and Barbara Crooker: Selected Poems. She lives and gardens in rural Pennsylvania.

You can get a signed copy of Small Rain from Barbara at bcrooker@ptd.net, or via Amazon http://goo.gl/CvtA4W,


Filed under Garden Writers We Love

Short and Sweet – Bruce Holland Rogers’ Fiction Subscriptions

Bruce Holland Rogers

Bruce Holland Rogers


For over a decade Bruce Holland Rogers’ fans have been enjoying his work in small, regular doses. For $10 a year he sends subscribers 36 amazing stories, three per month. The tales are described as an “unpredictable mix of literary fiction, science fiction, fairy tales, mysteries and work that is hard to classify.” Those who know his work describe them as addictive.

You can visit his site here and even sample almost a dozen stories for free. My favorites are “Dinosaur” and “The Bullfrog and His Shadows.”

Subscribers to short.short.short are encouraged to forward stories to friends; that’s how I was introduced to Bruce years ago. Once I got a taste I had to sign up. Bruce’s work is masterful, and there’s almost always a twist that leaves you viewing the world just a little differently. I wasn’t surprised to learn Bruce had won many awards: a Pushcart, two Nebulas, a Bram Stoker, two World Fantasy Awards, and a Micro Award. His work is known world-wide.

One day he sent a story about a depressed woman, obviously a victim of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), who finds her healing medicine in quite a surprising way—through the earth (literally). Garden writing! I wrote Bruce, suggesting that he send “A Fine and Private Place” to GreenPrints, which was then the only garden writing publication around. He did, and Pat Stone published it. When I started Greenwoman, I wanted to share Bruce’s work. I asked if I could reprint another story that he’d sent via subscription. Then another. And another.

I’ve always wanted to interview him, to introduce him in a bigger way to my friends. This winter we finally got together. I offer this small glimpse into his work.

Flora’s Forum: As you know, I was introduced to you and your fascinating work through shortshortshort.com—when a friend of mine, also a writer, sent me a story. How many subscribers do you have now and how many stories have you written since it began in 2002?

Bruce Holland Rogers: My high-water mark for subscribers was one thousand, but that was a few years ago. For the last five years, I have done little to promote the service or even to remind subscribers to renew, so the list has dwindled to about 330. Those remaining subscribers, however, are hard core!

I have written over 400 stories for subscribers now, and in recent years I haven’t been very good about submitting them to magazines and anthologies. I have quite a backlog to publish now.

Flora’s Forum: How did the idea for sending out three short stories a month to subscribers come about?

In 2001 I read a book called Guerilla Marketing for Writers that referenced someone who had sold his limericks by email. The story was that he spammed the world with emails promising a limerick a day to anyone who mailed him a dollar, and that he soon raised one hundred-thousand dollars this way. (This was in early days of the net, before spam was such a scourge.)

I liked the idea of selling directly to readers. I loved reading and writing very compressed stories. The stories demand so much that I knew I couldn’t write a story a day. I would even be hard-pressed to write one a week. But if I had, say, one subscriber, I would happily send him or her a story a year for three dollars. And if I had five subscribers, I could promise a story every quarter to earn their fifteen dollars in total. So I created a sliding scale: the more subscribers I had, the more stories I would send. Eventually, when I had a couple hundred subscribers, I settled at three stories a month. I felt that was about my limit.

Over the years, the subscription rate went from three dollars to five, and then ten. A few subscribers are patrons, which means they subscribe at the twenty-five dollar level, helping to keep me in tea and biscuits. (Tea and biscuits are essential to writing.) Other subscribers give subscriptions as gifts. It’s great to have an immediate and appreciative audience!

I launched and grew mostly through friends and their recommendation to their friends. Now I get new subscribers whom I think discover shortshortshort because they Googled me after reading one of my stories. Unlike the supposed limerick writer, I never spammed.

After I had been running shortshortshort.com for a few years, I tried to track down the limerick writer, to see if I could put a name to the story. I haven’t found any evidence that he ever existed. Perhaps he did. However, I like to think that my fiction service arose from my belief in someone else’s invented story.

Flora’s Forum: I like that idea, too. After hearing your story, I also tried to track down the limerick writer, with no luck. I think he’s a writers’ urban legend! Do you know of anyone else who has used your subscription model to bring in an income as a writer? (Yes, I’m personally interested!)

Bruce Holland Rogers: With fiction I have seen a couple of attempts that did not last long. It’s hard to say for certain why these efforts soon ended, but a lot of things have to go right. In these two cases, I didn’t like the writing very much, and that may have been the first thing that went wrong. But there may well have been an audience for those writers, and they just didn’t figure out how to find that audience.

There is a subscription program for children, Sparkle Stories, that sends weekly audio stories for a year and has several such series categorized by the age of the child.

For distribution by email or audio download, the nonfiction writer has all the advantages that a nonfiction writer has more generally. The audience is sorted by subject. The writer can more readily identify potential readers and go to wherever, online or off, those potential readers congregate. The readers of nonfiction are also more likely to find the writer while searching for information on the writer’s topic.

Flora’s Forum: You write short-shorts in many genres. Do you have a current favorite?

Bruce Holland Rogers: I am allergic to the idea of favorites. Maybe that just means that I’m indecisive, but I’m never able to name a favorite writer, a favorite move, a favorite shirt. So I’ve never been good at having a favorite genre. I started out in my teens writing science fiction, and I still write SF occasionally. But I like humor, contemporary realism, historical fiction, expressionism (which looks like fantasy), fantasy, mystery . . . I like being able to generate a story from whatever is going on in my life, including my imagined life. My readers don’t know what they are going to get.

Flora’s Forum: You are not kidding there! This week you sent us an adorable personal story that you’ve also published on eBay! “My Girlfriend’s Shoes* (or a deed thereof”  where you have put your girlfriends’ shoes up for bid! (Click on the title to get the story.) Is publishing a story on eBay a first? 

Bruce Holland Rogers: It is, but it may not be the last. Unless, of course, this is the last time I ever do *anything,* which several women have informed me is likely.

Flora’s Forum: Ha! Women and their shoes! You’re a gutsy man, Bruce.

Three of the four stories that have been published in Greenwoman focused on women with a unique connection to the earth, or, in “Cows With Names Make 3.4 Percent More Milk,” to cows! I thought it would be fun to get some insight into how a couple of these stories came about.

We published your story “A Human Birth” in issue #1 of Greenwoman. As I don’t want to give too much away, let’s say it’s about a woman who discovers her unique connection to the soil. Why did you choose that connection and what’s your connection to the soil—(or what are your experiences with women and gardening—or both!).

It’s hard for me to talk about this story without spoiling its effect, so if your readers want to experience the story, they should do so before reading my answer. [Editor’s note: you can purchase a PDF version of Greenwoman Issue #1 here for only $2.95.]

Bruce Holland Rogers: The origins of that story lie in a practice that my ex-wife and I had, a joke about reincarnation. If we had an encounter with someone who behaved very badly, we would forgive that person and speculate on what he or she had been in a previous life. Sometimes the promotion from a non-human birth to a human birth is difficult. That is, this life might be that person’s first experience with being human, and the life of humans is a challenging one.

We might say about the man who had yelled because a line was moving slowly, “He doesn’t have much practice with patience, but even so, he didn’t yell for the first five minutes in line. That’s pretty good for someone who was a grasshopper in his last life.”

My ex, Holly, was a gardener. So was my mother. So was my friend Kate Wilhelm until, in her eighties, the physical demands became too much. In my little corner of the universe, gardeners have been mostly women.

My own connection with the soil has come from digging. As a toddler, I tried to dig as my mother gardened. (As my mother told the story, I was right next to her when her spade turned up a white grub. I said, “Candy!” and ate it before she could stop me.) As an adult, I have dug holes for posts or footings, and I’m always interested to see who comes up with the shovel. There is so much wildlife under out feet. Healthy soil is heavily populated soil. As much as I enjoy turning up a shovel-full of earth, it’s been more than fifty years since I ate a grub.

Flora’s Forum: I love that story, Bruce. And so true about the soilI’ve read that the number of organisms in a teaspoon of healthy soil can number up to a billion. Now to switch to bigger organisms; in the lighthearted and charming “Cows With Names Make 3.4 Percent More Milk” (Greenwoman #3) you write about a college student, Brenda, who is studying Dairy Science. She grew up on a dairy farm and loves to name cows, a quirky habit that serves her well when it comes to romance. One of the themes here is how naming forms deeper connections—and more milk! How did that story develop?

Bruce Holland Rogers: I attended a land-grant university, Colorado State University. I enrolled with a double-major in technical journalism and zoology, but I kept changing my majors. I knew that I wanted to write, but everyone said I’d need something to fall back on. But what? Every semester, I scoured the catalog, looking for a more appealing major. Going to a land-grant institution, the kind of school that used to be an A&M [Agriculture & Mechanical], meant that I read the requirements for all sorts of practical majors. I had classmates who had grown up on farms. I walked by the animal sciences facilities, drank unpasteurized milk from the university’s herd. In all, I had five different declared majors, and probably another four that I intended to pursue but never got around to officially recording. After six years, I graduated with the only degree that worked for my mishmash of courses, with the singularly impractical major of Humanities.

I had a truly generalist education, ideal for a writer.

Flora’s Forum: I have to ask, what were those five declared majors?

Bruce Holland Rogers: The five declared majors were technical journalism, zoology, English, history, and humanities. Majors that I planned my courses around but didn’t formally register included computer science, Spanish, physical sciences, and psychology. I also thought long and hard about engineering.

Flora’s Forum: Could you give a little more background into “Cows With Names Make 3.4 Percent More Milk”? I know it’s a very whimsical piece, but was Brenda based on a real student? Where did the idea of the naming of cows come from?

Bruce Holland Rogers: The title for that story is almost word-for-word the headline of a news item. No one knows why this correlation was found. Since cows tend to be a bit skittish and lactate less when they are stressed, it may be that the sort of dairy farmers who name their animals are also gentler with them, and that difference shows up in milk production.

Brenda doesn’t have a basis in any particular person, but I have a lot of experience with giving and receiving nicknames in intimate relationships. When the nicknames are ones that both the giver and receiver like, those names can become a part of their private language, part of what becomes reassuring and comforting between them.

Flora’s Forum: What is it like, gardening-wise, food-wise, living in Oregon? 

Bruce Holland Rogers: Eugene is very garden-friendly. We get our hard frosts, and even the occasional severe cold. Last winter, my fig tree died back all the way to the roots, for example, and I lost many of my landscape plants. But that was the first intense die-back in many years. Winters are mild compared to much of the country. I’ll risk starting this year’s salad greens in March. We have rain in abundance much of the year, but then our summers are so hot and dry that you really can’t have a garden without irrigation.

We have a thriving Northwest cuisine featuring salmon, hazelnuts and berries. An invasive species of blackberry is a tenacious weed for us, but it also produces big, sweet fruit.

Flora’s Forum: What are your plans for 2015?

This week, for the first time in years, I rationalized all my to-do lists on a spreadsheet. It came to 320 items. So my plans are to do a lot. A part of those plans is to write my 36 stories for the year and to write a book about money, the other cabbage.

Flora’s Forum: Thanks for spending some time with us, Bruce.




Filed under DIY, 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