This Week’s Guest Blogger is Walter Cudnohufsky, a Landscape Architect and Author of Cultivating the Designer’s Mind: Principles and Process for Coherent Landscape Design

THE FOREST: Design Origins? Forests are sources of calming inspiration for many people. Living in Ashfield, MA, Susan and I walk several times a week, often on wooded Bug Hill Road and similar neighborhood roads.  We always return refreshed, full of healthy oxygen and with new observations. I regularly bring ideas back to the design and painting studios.

Healthy New England forests are diverse in species and appearance and occupy all “life zones” from ground cover, to low and high shrubs and understory trees to high canopy trees.  This idea is strongly suggestive to the earth-conscious landscape designer and the conscious gardener.  They, like all of us, may harbor an urge to create a felt sense of harmonious unity perceived particularly in our nearby forests. Unlike human manipulated objects and places, we look to nature generated forests with a non judging eye accepting what we observe.

It may be argued that many of the most persuasive and compelling principles of design—and, beyond that, of community living—are a heritage of human life in or near the “primeval forest”.

Some of the ways forests guide design are obvious. The straightness of tree trunks is imitated in the straight boards and timbers from which we build. Vertical and then rectangular forms are most easily achieved using the predominating verticality achieved from trees reaching for the sun. The vertical emphasis in buildings, churches and civic structures, has been inspiring their human occupants for centuries.

The tapering of tree trunks has also been noticed and imitated, whether in a cathedral or a New England barn or church. Most buildings move from a supportive, thick base to the roof, with the size of timbers diminishing at each level. The columns of the Parthenon—or, for that matter, the New England Greek revival porch—also taper, in part to appear “authentic or natural.”

Tree branching, not unlike the branches of river systems, shows division into smaller and smaller branches, a dendritic pattern and form that is predictable and has also been reflected in the structure of cathedrals and other buildings.

Moving from the single trees to the forest, we see that villages, towns and cities have many of the key elements of the forest: edges, corridors/roads, districts, nodes/rooms and landmarks.

As in design, edges allow us to recognize an element or feature as separate from its surroundings; in this case, the forest itself.  In forests, edges are often biologically rich and visually complex. The edge is often where the action is!

The forests have within them, furthermore, special districts of a few or sometimes a single species of tree, always reflecting the influence of soil and water. Such forest districts (we might call them neighborhoods) are replicated in our civic and garden plantings at all scales.  There are more subtle but, to the forester’s eye, richly complex nodes where different forest districts merge, sheltering animal and other life. We parallel these nodes in our town and city markets, town commons and urban squares. The node is again, where the most action is!

We all cherish the experience of a forest glade or outdoor room, and the experience is mimicked in designed landscapes from the humblest backyard to the grand estate or college campus quadrangle. Forests are, among other things, assemblées of rooms.

The path is another forests component that human buildings and communities have mimicked. Sometimes first made by animals, paths are enhanced and amended by humans. We then imitate them in our internal hallways, and, externally, in tree-lined allees of grand estates or paths through humble gardens. Canopied tree-lined streets are yet another example, none more grand than elm-lined streets, once common in New England and the Mid West before Dutch elm disease.

Forests also contain isolated trees standing alone, often an older tree, as in the wolf pine or parent oak or beech. Designers have imitated this by planting specimen trees that serve as a kind of monument, in our villages and yards.  At longer distance viewing, a group of trees can serve as a specimen.

Another helpful design principle found in the New England forests is the power of “aggregating uniqueness.”  Rather than scatter the anomalies of a forest, nature often concentrates them in a single location—the largest and youngest tree, more than one lighting condition, the rock outcrop and the small vernal pool. Imitating and aggregating similar combinations can add richness to landscape design and as with a painting, simultaneously assure focus and coherence.

The pattern of movement landing—such as a forest path as leading to an expanded open glade— is yet another principle that designers would best replicate both indoors and outdoors. Landings appear naturally along pathways, along streams, where we find large rocks, or fallen trunks. As landscape designers, we imitate and strengthen these visual and physical landings by offering benches, or widening a path, purposely interrupting predominating visual flow.

Forest lessons for human living appear limitless. In this age when pollution of all kinds is in the news; CO2, methane and hexafluorethane and more, we must recognize what the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) has professed and now accomplished, community, municipal and state nature protecting laws are now adopted by some 200 cities and towns. These measures assure that life sustaining nature has rights.

We know that forests do largely unsung heroic work in sequestering C02 and perform dozens of life-enhancing tasks, such as erosion control, pollution diminishment, shading and cooling, wind protection, flood prevention, soil building and more. They are truly the lungs of the earth.  In recent years, we have begun to understand more mysterious processes, that trees and plants have their own means of communication, warn against diseases and pests and live symbiotically as family and as community, modeling for us what we find in diminishing supply among ourselves.

We would do well by recognizing the true value and importance of forests. As with many subjects, they tend to be undervalued. We are better humans to the extent that we intimately know the forests as model, design guide, mentor, teacher, health sustainer, spiritual support, physical and recreational outlet, and muse.

High Meadow Farm Ashfield, MA  March 2020

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This Week’s Guest Blogger is Stephen Mason an Organic Community Gardener

Garden life
As a small boy I remember my grandmother walking me through the local park. She wore one of those square patterned woollen coats with a big collar. Every now and then we would stop and she would pull a small paper bag from her very large pockets.
With her free hand she would snap off a small piece of whatever plant we stood by and would place it carefully into the bag and then her pocket. As I watched she would always say `green fingers make things grow`.
When we got home she would show me how to plant out each broken piece into small pots. Trimming the broken end clean it again before sliding carefully into its new home. My recollection is that they always rooted and her garden was the most eclectic melange of plants I ever knew.
At the end of her garden in Winchmore Hill was a wooden gate. One day she took my hand and with a pair of secateurs and a basket she led me down the garden to the gate which until then I had never been through.
Beyond the gate lay a wonderful place, Humming with activity and laughter, busy with people pushing wheelbarrows ,digging and chatting.
There at the end of her garden was a huge shared allotment. Every house around it had some space to grow. Every space was a collage of greens reds and yellows, canes and frames, sheds of all sizes painted in bright colours. Butterflies fluttered and bees buzzed while spiders spun their silken webs and candy striped deckchairs lay under worn out parasols.
Together we walked past runner beans and artichokes, tomatoes and cabbages, past grape vines and roses clambering overhead.
Everyone we passed said hello with a smile offering cups of tea and occasionally gingernut biscuits.
For me as a small boy it was special , magical, a place where life felt good. The memory of it and it’s magnetic attraction have stayed a part of my life ever since.
Since then I have gardened in many places and with many people, some for fun and others for more complex reasons. I have designed and constructed, planted and cropped, sown seeds, pruned and trimmed.
Currently I work in two Community Gardens in London, each a charity offering a calm green space in a crowded hectic city . I support biodiversity and am totally Organic in every aspect of my life.
The Hoxton Trust Community Garden
The Community Gardens I work in are very different and offer a multitude of possibilities to their visitors. They are used for birthdays, educational visits, art classes, music events, poetry evenings and the obvious summer and winter celebration’s
Forest Gate Community Garden
I run workshops and short courses on a wide range of topics from Composting and Biodiversity to Organic Food Growing and Container Gardening.
Here are the links to both garden websites

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Ed Bowring a horticultural therapist and gardener living and working in West Sussex.

Coming from a long lineage of gardeners it wasn’t surprising that I too caught the gardening bug but it wasn’t until faced with my own serious physical health issues that I took what I ate seriously and looked into where our food comes from. Retraining for a more active and outdoor life, growing our own produce and dietary changes have played a huge part in improving my ankylosing spondylitis and combined with the healing process of gardening, growing has been a blessing on my mental health as well.

Through previously working as an occupational therapist in mental and physical health I realised what an amazingly therapeutic medium horticulture can be. Through further training with the RHS, Thrive, Pershore College and Coventry University I qualified as a horticultural therapist and gardener and have run and managed therapeutic kitchen gardens ever since. I currently manage a community garden in Chichester for Grow Chichester where we run supported gardening sessions for all ages and stages, those with no outside space of their own, mental and physical health issues or those socially isolated. The community garden is a wonderfully supportive and safe space where the harvest is shared between the volunteers, offered to the public and given to the local foodbank and homeless projects. 

Due to the Covid 19 pandemic anxiety is sadly rife at this time, but gardening can help, GPs and the NHS have been and continue to prescribing gardening to help with anxiety and depression. The process of connecting with nature, focusing on a gardening task and experiencing the following sense of achievement can be so grounding and really boost our mood and sense of well being.

Being shielded I keep thinking thank heavens this lockdown happened at the start of spring and not winter providing a chance to be outside and garden! It’s no secret that as a person who likes to actively do and achieve, not being able to work for months has been a real challenge. But being able to channel the frustration, anxiety and despondency into growing and developing our new garden as a family has been a lifeline for me. It’s been a joy to potter with our 6 and 4 year olds in the garden over the weeks and to slow down and focus on the small things. Whether it’s bringing the first cut dahlias into the house to brighten up a kitchen table or seeing the children’s joy at their now 8 foot tall sunflowers towering over them. It’s these simple pleasures that mean the most and have such a direct benefit on our wellbeing.

The uncertainty we are faced with currently has the potential to overwhelm and chip away at our security, but nature has provided us with the great escape. No matter what goes on around us the plants and trees still carry on, birds sing like we’ve never heard before, the seedlings tenaciously push up towards the light, buds open and the bees go about their essential daily business. Here is the hope that life carries on regardless and all will be well again.

 

Website: https://www.chichestergardener.com

https://www.instagram.com/thechichestergardener

https://www.transitionchichester.org/grow-chichester

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Walter Cudnohufsky, a Landscape Architect and Author of Cultivating the Designer’s Mind: Principles and Process for Coherent Landscape Design

Gardens and Gardening Are Good Medicine Take as self prescribed!

 Berkshires, USA in the Spring

It is a balmy Berkshire spring morning— the winter snows of 2002-3 have finally disappeared.  You have just taken a break from your first gardening chores of the spring and are having a glass of water on the porch. The sweet aromatic fragrance, deep brown color, and crumbly texture of rich garden soil has fully captured your senses as it has every spring.  You reflect momentarily on the aspirin bottle you brought with you in case your joints are objecting.  You notice as well that, like other medicines, aspirin contains claims, warnings and instructions for use.

It occurs to you that gardening is easily the best medicine for you. You have heard others proclaim something similar. Rachel and Stephen Kaplan, long time and highly regarded landscape researchers, hold the conviction “… everyday nature can make a significant contribution to people’s everyday lives.  Nearby nature can foster well being.” 1

 

No aspirin today!   You wonder quietly if you created a prescription label for the act of gardening, what would it proclaim?  Would it be the lengthy hype similar to the “cure-all” medicine peddlers of old?  It is certainly easy for you to imagine some of the things it might espouse.

 

Gardening – The Fine Print

Gardens are the Universal Medicine!

Indications: For those who need an immediate antidote for mental fatigue—at once therapeutic, healing and restorative!

  • Gardening is a restorative therapy, contributing in tangible ways to our physical health.
  • Gardening is a meditation, a desperately needed vehicle for reestablishing sanity, and thus restorative to our mental health as well.
  • Gardening provides the essentials for joyful celebratory living, and is a source of creative inspiration and expression.
  • Gardens provide the context for self-discovery and understanding. They are great teachers of patience, faith, and collaboration.
  • Gardens create a sense of place, a celebration of beauty in a chaotic world; they regularly serve as a basis for meaningful social exchange and community building.
  • Most of all, gardening generates empathy for other living things and connects the gardener to vital life. Gardening can demonstrate our ability to live in greater harmony with our natural world.
  1. Gardening is a restorative therapy, contributing in tangible ways to our physical health.
    Supported by science and our own personal experiences, gardens are known to have a therapeutic and healing influence on our lives, be it for individuals, communities, or our entire precious earth. Though outwardly a simple activity, its implications and results are multi-faceted.  In addition to the welcome physical exertion, gardening reduces stress and promotes healing.

 The Kaplans suggest we need most the “non-demanding quiet fascinations” that nature and gardening supply.  Consciously or not, we realize we need non-threatening and restful places to complement and relieve our anxieties and fatigue.  The more restorative of these environments are amply endowed with natural materials, and provide marked contrast to our daily (work) environments. They feel whole, complete and soothing.

Gardening with nature is well endowed with aspects of quiet fascination.  Flora, fauna, water and the endless play of light and shadow delight and intrigue us.  In addition, nature displays (to those who observe) the multitude of natural processes such as birth and death, growth, decay, predation, succession and even hopeful evidence of survival.

  1. Gardening is a meditation, a desperately needed vehicle for reestablishing sanity, and thus restorative to our mental health as well.

 The cycle of gardening, reflecting as it does the cycle of life and death, is a deep metaphor shared by all human beings.  Thus gardens have the potential to convey to us a more profound understanding of this universal cycle and our place within it. We understand the movement of seasons, and the concept of renewal.  There is often an introspective and meditative quality to time spent in the garden.

Gardens go beyond horticultural excellence and taxonomic dexterity, beyond plants and planting.  They embody the opportunity to increase genuine sanity and welfare for those who work in them and view them regularly. In this tension-filled, fear-laden period of human history, creating and maintaining restorative settings has some real urgency, according to the Kaplans.  Since our contemporary lifestyle tends to be centered around technology, our fatigue is more often mental rather than physical.  Gardens directly enhance our recovery from this mental dis-ease.

 

  1. Gardening provides the essentials for joyful celebratory living, and is a source of creative inspiration and expression.

 Gardens give us a sense of joy and abundance. After the basic human necessities of food, shelter, water and air (to which gardens contribute as well), gardens provide three additional components of a fulfilled life:  the opportunity to create something of beauty with our own hands; direct and meaningful contact with the earth and nature; and a locus for informal, gregarious contact with neighbors and friends.  There is great joy in discovering the first blossom on the peas in the spring, tasting the first ripe tomato in summer, harvesting the squash just before frost, and continuing to uncover root crops after snowfall.  The garden returns our labors with bounteous generosity.

Gardens and the environments they support also stimulate us intellectually; they evoke literature and poetry, inspire art and photography, advance a basic understanding and awareness of nature, and introduce concepts of ecology and biology.   As we experience our own creativity and discovery, we feel more deeply connected with our natural environment… and expand our sensitivities.

 

  1. Gardens provide the context for self-discovery and understanding. They are great teachers of patience, faith, and collaboration.

 It might be said that a prime reason for our earthly existence is to better understand ourselves.  This is accomplished not only by self-introspection but also by relating openly and interactively with our world, by understanding our place in it.  Environments—whether natural, social or manipulated—do provide a basis for self-learning. As we monitor our reaction to people, situation and place, we gain a better understanding of ourselves. The Kaplans suggest that this information is more basic to people than money.

Anyone who gardens must develop patience; gardening is an exercise in delayed gratification.  Thus, the practice is about the process as much as it is about product.  As we observe the plants, we develop greater respect for their needs.  It is a participatory process, one in which we learn by doing.  We do get some immediate responses as well, such as watching a plant perk up after we water it.  The ways in which plants respond to our care remind of us the interconnectedness of our own natural systems.

 

  1. Gardens create a sense of place, a celebration of beauty in a chaotic world; they regularly serve as a basis for meaningful social exchange and community-building.

Gardens are one way in which we create a “sense of place.” Psychologist and author Suzanne Langer 2 defines place as “space imbued with meaning.”  Successful “places” are often limited in scale, have clear boundaries, and read as a thematic and coherent whole.

Again according to the Kaplans, compelling places are characterized by complexity as well as coherence, legibility as well as mystery.  These seemingly opposite components must be in balance for a garden to be a place of comfort and stimulation.  Those elements that give pattern, order, predictability and coherence to a place provide a context for those elements that add contrast, focus, interest, intrigue and variety.

As gardeners, we are charged with the task of creating or sustaining place.  We attend to the relationships, qualities and conditions that make a space comfortable, intriguing, non-threatening and attention-holding.  An element as simple as a tree can be a focal point, as can a bird feeder, a colorful mass of perennials, a rich screen of foliage.   Anything that can arrest and hold our attention this fast-paced world helps facilitate place.

In addition to providing a place for private meditation, retreat, and self-understanding, gardens also provide a context for meaningful human relationships and connection with others.  Even as we observe our own gardens and our place within it, we recognize in others the same impulse to create, to build, to celebrate life in the gardens they have created.  We join with others to create memorials for important events or persons in our community. As we learn about “place-making”  in our own gardens, we can recognize the importance of creating sustainable and nurturing places in our communities.  Thus, gardening includes a community-building aspect.

 

  1. Most of all, gardening generates empathy for other living things and connects the gardener to vital life. Gardening can demonstrate our ability to live in greater harmony with our natural world.

One of the most significant gifts gardening bequests is the simple discovery that as humans we can live in harmony with our natural surroundings. Human compatibility, the sense that we belong in nature, is essential for our personal rejuvenation. Gardening is an encompassing act of domestication; our ability to domesticate the wild, whether plant or animal, gives us a sense of participation in the larger natural world.

In a period when the world’s attention is on death and dying, there is an accelerating need to be connected to living, healthy things.  We are confronted with  sick air, sick soil, sick lakes, sick streams, sick cities, and sick food.  We need, perhaps desperately, to connect with fresh food, active people, healthy environments and non-toxic materials.  We are gasping for assurance that life will go on.  We must nurture our goal of organically healthy living, and gardening is one very important objective on that path.

 Reflection

The gardening prescription we have contemplated does have a pontificating ring of the medicine man of yesteryear.  Is it possible that these proclamations are true? Oh well you return back to your spring gardening and that’s scrumptious topsoil.

 

1 Kaplan, Rachel , Stephan Kaplan and Robert L. Ryan. With People in Mind. (Washington, DC : Island Press, 1998).

 2 Langer, Suzanne. 

Cultivating The Designer’s Mind by Walter Cudnohufsky

As a practicing landscape architect, design educator and founder of The Conway School of Landscape Design, I have developed a rich portfolio of design ideas and discoveries over the years. This tested and cogent process to achieve excellent landscape design is now in print and available for purchase.

Written with longtime collaborator Mollie Babize, Cultivating the Designer’s Mind: Principles and Process for Coherent Landscape Design is uplifting, accessible, practical, and broadly applicable across many disciplines. If you work with the land—as an established landscape architect or emerging landscape designer, master gardener or avocational home gardener, as an architect, civil engineer, planner or builder—our book offers techniques and tools to make one’s design more efficient, functional, environmentally responsible and aesthetically pleasing.

The highly illustrated book will be of particular interest for those studying design and is a comprehensive presentation of the elusive subject of design thinking. It presents a process that will lead to greater design confidence.

Reviews: Landscape Architecture Magazine August 2019 Issue

Ecological Landscape Alliance review 2019

Commonweeder review 2019 Greenfield Recorder review 2019

Cordially, Walter Cudnohufsky,
ASLA Walter Cudnohufsky Associates, Inc.
Landscape Architect & Planner

Are you interested in coming to one of my workshops or book signings?

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This Week’s Guest Blogger is Jenny Bailey Co-Founder and Author Tales from Mother Earth

Glorious Gardens and Busy Bees!

Any opportunity to get outside into a garden, park or woodland and surround yourself in the beauty of nature, has to be a great opportunity and one to be experienced with relish.

Better still, there are those areas where we can play a vital role, and where we can plan colour schemes, borders, structures and planting plans to our hearts delight.  I’m of course referring to the simple beauty of our gardens, and if you are lucky enough to have one, you’ll know how much pleasure you can gain from working in it and studying the simple things.  Like for instance, watching the bees and other pollinators hard at work busily harvesting the nectar and pollen from your garden blooms, or the sheer delight looking at the abundance of nature to be found there amongst the array and carpet of colours you’ve planted. Your hard work has created so much beauty and at this time of year you should be justly proud when looking at the many buds, flowers and shrubs you have tended as they come into their full glory.

Our bee-friendly garden

The immense benefit you feel from being outside is tremendous and it’s both psychological and physiological.  When we engage in nature in this way, by spending time outside and breathing in fresh air our well-being improves.  It’s good for us in so many ways boosting our mental stamina, happiness, fitness, creativity – and so much more.  For children it can even start them off with a lifelong passion for nature and learning as their inquisitive minds take in all of the new experiences.

We at Tales from Mother Earth like to see gardens with wildflowers in them, using plants that are native to our shores, where our insects can happily thrive.

For us it’s all about looking after bees and allowing them to prosper. 

A busy bee doing what they do best

Bees pollinate our crops, allowing us to grow the fruits and vegetables we need to live. Sadly, bees across the world are in trouble and are facing an unpredictable future. This is due to habitat loss, farming practices and of course climate change.

By clearing an area of your garden and planting wildflowers we can help bees get the source of nourishment they need to survive. By doing this, we in turn feel better as our mental health improves as we know we are doing something worthwhile – helping nature.  This in turn, can, and should be shared with children, as they will inherit the world one day and we must pass on the amazing goodness and wonder of nature to our younger generations.  It’s all about education and engaging children to understand the we all can help and make a difference no matter how small we are.

We at Tales from Mother Earth are a creative team of five friends who are passionate about developing young minds regarding conservation and helping children understand how their actions, no matter how small, can make an impact for good. We chose to do this by writing super stories and marvellous music, retelling the tales of our natural world in today’s climate. 

Phoebe the Bee is an educational tale about a worker bee who through her courage and determination manages to save the hive and her family when her natural environment is threatened by modern development. Phoebe the Bee is our first story which we hope will ignite the conservationist in all who read it and empower them to help in some way. Take action by following the conservation tips and help bees today.

Every one of us can help and do something that can benefit our wildlife directly. Little actions such as, picking up rubbish, planting wildflower seeds and feeding the birds can all help. 

Bees need wildflowers… so let’s go and plant some!

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Ronald Pratt who suggests 5 ideal tools for your gardening tool kit

Ronald Pratt is a mechanic specialist who also enjoys working in the garden to make the perfect landscape. He can repair everything that’s related to a house and garden. Everything in his house is made by his hands. his free time he prefers surfing the Internet, reading and sharing his knowledge creating content.

Top 5 Essential Home Garden Tools to Make Your Life Easier 

Description: Are you new to gardening and wondering what garden tools should be in your essential kit? Or perhaps you’re a seasoned gardener who wants a better experience. Did you know, the right equipment can make all the difference when it comes to gardening? Follow our guide to garden tools for all our top tips!

Gardening is a relaxing hobby and a great way to stay active and enjoy time outside. Having the right set of garden tools for you can make all the difference when it comes to nurturing your outdoor space. The perfect equipment for your needs can save you time and energy and help prevent physical strain on the back and joints. With this guide to essential garden tools, gardening will be your new favorite hobby in no time! 

 

Pruning Shears or secateurs 

Pruning shears are perfect for trimming back borders, and chopping back hedges and shrubs, a good pair of pruning shears should be in your garden tools kit. A pair of secateurs are invaluable for taking cuttings to reproduce your favourite plants. You can buy all types of pruning shears and secateurs to meet your needs. When choosing a pair, consider whether you need a long reach to save you leaning or bending too much. You should also make sure that you can grip the handles securely. A pair of sheers or secateurs that fits your grasp just right will give you more flexibility and ease of maneuver when gardening so you can get creative. 

Trowel and Spade 

A hand trowel and small spade are essential garden weeding tools for any seasoned or first-time gardener. A lightweight trowel allows you to effortlessly remove weeds, and a small hand spade can help you uproot plants to be moved. Imagine the fun you could have redesigning your garden with these garden hand tools! New to gardening? Start small and try weeding and rearranging perennials that survive all year round and respond well to being moved. 

Sharpening File

It’s crucial to keep the blades on your garden tools sharp so that you have the easiest time possible using them. Dull blades can make it harder to cut through stems and reduce their grip, potentially leading to slips and accidents. Wondering how to sharpen garden tools? A large file can be used to spruce up almost any blade. Try this on your trowel points, your shovel edge, or even your mower blades

Garden Hose

A garden hose is a life-saving addition to your garden tools kit, especially if you want garden work that is light on your joints and doesn’t require too much bending. Rather than lug a heavy watering can around, a hose allows to you water plants from an upright position. This reduces stress on your back and eliminates heavy lifting. Great news – it’s also better for your plants as the spray nozzle on hoses allows you to water even hard to reach plants.

Knee Pads and Gloves 

Kneeling for prolonged periods can be tough on the knees. A cushioned pair of knee pads can really reduce strain and allow you to enjoy your garden for longer. Gloves are also essential garden tools because painful cuts and scratches are a real possibility when you’re working with sharp branches or plants with thorns. Remember, the more protection you have when gardening, the more likely you are to enjoy and repeat the experience, helping you reap the benefits of regular gardening for longer!

Happy Gardening!

This Weeks Guest Blogger is Jameka Smith a Professional in Landscape Architecture in Bermuda

Design Strategies for a sustainable home landscape

For many homeowners the concept of a sustainable landscape is a yard that needs little water or maintenance to survive.  Such a typical landscape includes a small lawn, few ornamental plants, a large natural area, and a fair amount of rocks and gravel or other hard surfaces.  Unfortunately this image gives the false impression that a sustainable yard must look desert-like, have a large hard surface, or look wild and unkempt.  The reality is a sustainable yard can be lushly planted, attractive, and undemanding.

The key concept is to choose the right plant and the right hardscape material (hardscape includes structures such as ponds, walkways, garden walls and rock gardens), then put these in the right place for the right purpose.  Doing so means your yard will be sustainable because it is functional, environmentally sound, low maintenance, cost effective, and visually pleasing. 

Many strategies can be incorporated in your yard to make it more sustainable.  The list below offers a wide variety of ideas to choose from:

Select the Right Plants

Think about the yard over many future years and seasons.  Although all newly installed plants will require water; choose plants that need little water once established.  Plant more trees.  They need less water once established and provide shade, which reduces temperature and evaporation of moisture creating a pleasant microclimate.  Consider vegetation that will produce food for wildlife. 

Keep up the Maintenance

Use naturalistic pruning techniques that maintain a neat, but un-sheared plant.  Use the natural form or habit of the plants as your guide for the trimmed form.  Use plants with the appropriate size and habit to avoid constant pruning.  Use mulch to control weeds. 

Protect the soil

It’s much easier to grow plants adapted to the existing conditions than to change the soil.  If improvements are needed, keep the plant beds small and amend the entire planting bed, not just the hole for the plant.  Use compost and mulch to build healthy soil and improve plant resistance to pests and diseases. 

Use reclaimed, recycled or local hardscape

Reclaimed materials are the greenest option.  Reusing material reduces waste and the need for virgin resources and uses no manufacturing energy.  Use reclaimed or repurposed metal for fencing and structures.  Use reclaimed brick, concrete and aggregate.  Use materials made from recycled plastic, such as recycled plastic lumber.

Use natural pest control

Use artificial habitats, such as bat boxes and bird house, to encourage natural insect control.

Design for energy efficiency

Use landscape, such as trees and shrubs, to slow wind and mitigate temperatures.  Winds that skim across asphalt or other hard surfaces tend to pick up and transport summer heat into the yard and home, while winter winds tend to carry heat away from homes.  Climbing plants can be helpful because they create a layer of still or slow-moving air around the building, yet still allow wind flow through windows and doors.

Noise pollution

Loud, noisy power tools, such as leaf blowers, contribute to noise pollution, especially on weekends.  Switch to hand tools such as rakes.

Pick a few of these strategies that are best suited for your yard and your capabilities.  Even if you can only use a few ideas you will be contributing to the ecological heath of your neighborhood.

This Week’s Guest Blogger is John Quinn who has written an online guide to composting

When I’m not working with homes, I like to help people out with home-related questions, and I found a lot of guides covering this subject were a bit overwhelming at times. I wanted to make something comprehensive that demystifies this process for people hesitant to get started. I think a little knowledge goes a long way — especially when jumping into something new.

As people realise how composting can be a relatively simple and effective way to improve their gardens and reduce waste, they may wonder why they did not start doing it sooner. About one in three homeowners in the United States compost at least occasionally, with nearly one in five doing it on a regular basis. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans throw away over 250 million tons of trash per year. At present, around a third of this refuse is recycled or composted.

As much as 30 percent of residential waste can be turned into compost. This effort could dramatically cut back on an individual’s waste production. If they compost in the house or yard (make sure to check that it is allowed in your community), homeowners who are worried that the items they recycle will end up in a landfill can look for replacements they can decompose instead. People may be surprised with just how much they can toss into a compost pile. Composting can also save money by reducing the need to purchase expensive potting soil or fertilizers to promote healthy plant growth. It may also reduce irrigation needs, cutting down on water usage and utility bills. Composting is growing in popularity across the world.

To read John’s comprehensive guide to composting please click on the link below

https://www.johnquinnrealestate.com/home-composting-guide/

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Janet Elizabeth Rogers MBE, who received a grant from our charity

Hello my name is Jan Rogers, I was born July 1962. I met Mike Rogers when I was 16, he had four children living with him. We  married in  1979 (with the children’s permission).

As the years went on we had six boys together, so we totalled eight boys and two girls.

 In July 1992  our lives changed forever: after a horrific event I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress and depression. It was Mike and the children that kept me going, to be honest they kept me alive.

I’ve always loved gardening and outdoors and was always very sporty. Mike managed to revive my love for the garden amongst other things. I have for many years run a community garden in Ponthafren Association Newtown. This is a mental health charity based in Newtown and Welshpool: thanks to their open-door policy, anyone can pop in for a chat, or  take part in courses provided,  and come and help in the garden.

Over the years, I’ve seen my garden, along with other peoples’ gardens ,lifting people’s moods and putting a smile on their faces. We put plants and veg out in the yard for donations so the garden is totally self-funded. About five years ago we opened the garden to the National Garden scheme,  and now we usually have two or three open days a year. This helps in a few ways –  people get to see the garden but also plays  a huge part in reducing the stigma that goes  with mental health issues . Our garden was also chosen to be filmed for ‘Glorious Gardens from Above’ , shown on BBC One.

I could manage most things in the garden but if it was fences, walls, paths etc. which needed replacing, I would shout to our  ‘tribe’.  Mike would rally whichever sons weren’t working on that weekend to sort it all (as volunteers!).

In August 2019, my whole world fell apart. We lost Mike very suddenly.  Even my love for gardening was slipping away. Over the next six months I kept busy doing nothing really, it was a blur. I couldn’t face the garden at home or in fact the garden at Ponthafren, as Mike and I were a team.

We bought a bench in memory of Mike and placed it in the garden, I had started popping in and sitting in the garden there but this was as much as I could do.

Then lockdown, PONTHAFREN had to close its doors but the staff carried on helping those that needed it, from home via phone and Zoom. The next few weeks were a blur but at once point  the police, the mental health team and the doctor were on the scene: I went to stay on the outskirts of the little village with one of my sons, his wife and four daughters. After a few weeks my son came home with some seeds as he had rented a small field, and decided to plant veg. He asked me to sow the seeds as he was working full-time but I decided to involve his four daughters. We popped the seeds into pots having picked up seed pots and trays and it just seem to grow from there. The garden was soon full of veg and sorted. I decided after several weeks I needed to face the demons and go home but we don’t have a garden for veg as our garden is full of shrubs and flowers.

It was then I thought about the Gardening for Disabled Trust Charity. I measured up and came up with a plan for three raised beds and a greenhouse.

When I got the go ahead, it was such a boost that I ordered everything but knew there would be a delay with the greenhouse due to Covid. Once the wood and soil were delivered, I was on a mission. The only thing was because of lockdown and my health problems only our son, his wife and daughters I stayed with previously could come and and help. But we managed,  and very soon I had hundreds of seedlings including tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes, a range of all sorts of beans, peas, brassicas, corn on the cob and more. Our back garden was full, our porch was bursting and also the downstairs bedroom which had been empty since our last son had moved out. It was a mission in itself to keep everything watered, but it was a mission I needed to help keep me going.

Then I got thinking, I can’t possibly plant all these in this garden. So I contacted local villages to ask if I could put a table with an honesty box by the village hall. The money raised I would give to Ponhafren .

I struggled sleeping but now instead of sitting in the garden I had a focus, I had been given the money to buy the wood so the greenhouse was a lifeline when everything was slipping away. It gave me a purpose – it didn’t change what had happened but it gave me a reason to stay.

I had spoken to the police and they gave me a card with a reference number on. This meant I  was able to drive around the villages to water the plants and to collect the money. I totalled up  the money and after all the seedlings had been sold I gave it to a staff member along with the collection boxes. I had also put a fundraiser page on Facebook, so that people who didn’t have cash on them were able to pay through this. In total this raised over £1300 but for me it was as much about helping the people that were also struggling: through this, others were able to carry on and get out in the garden as it was one of the very few places they could buy seedlings due to lockdown.

So you see the grant you gave me has not only helped me, and my family but has had a huge positive knock-on effect. I even had emails and messages to ask if I would put certain plants down the bottom of the road so people could get somebody to pick them up and I also had a request to put a box of plants on the number 75 bus!   I thought this was certainly different but it turned out that the bus driver picked up shopping for local or elderly people that live close to him. Some of these people had always bought plants from us so were over the moon when they found out that I taken the garden home and, although on a smaller scale, carried it on.

From the plants grown in our garden at home I have also put them to good use by giving them to local people who are self-isolating and also groups that have been providing meals and delivery of these meals to the vulnerable. So again another positive knock-on effect. Alas my greenhouse came too late for this season but I have even more  plans for next season. In fact my sons are putting the greenhouse up over the next couple of weeks so I have Christmas potatoes ready to go in there all planted in pots and growing well.

Finally I just want to say a huge thank you to all involved with the Gardening for Disabled Trust  – you are truly lifesavers take care. Janet Elizabeth Rogers MBE

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Sophia Cooper writing about herbs that cheer you up

Lavender

Lavender is known to be helpful in headaches, skin irritations, and hair loss. It is often used in aromatherapy, owing to its marvelous smell. A refreshing cup of lavender tea is sure to lift your spirits.

 

Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm is a perennial herb of the mint family and is helpful in headaches, insomnia, and indigestion. It’s refreshing smell and taste make it a popular flavouring ingredient.

 

Basil

Basil’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties make it a healthy addition to your diet. It is often used as a garnish. Basil boosts the immune system and the gastrointestinal system. It is considered beneficial for eye, liver, and heart health.

Chamomile

Chamomile is known to boost immunity and cardiovascular health. Chamomile tea is quite popular, but it can be used for seasoning as well. Aside from its medicinal properties, they provide aesthetic value as well!

Herbs can be very beneficial for your well-being, provided they are used thoughtfully. One should not forget that herbs cannot overcome poor diet, toxic relationships, and lack of sleep and exercise. The herbs mentioned above are not only healthy but are easy to grow, as well. Gardening in itself is a fulfilling pursuit, and having a herb garden is bound to cheer you up!