Apr 222014
 

Day lily

by Avis Licht-

Although I often feel a little cynical by what I call manufactured holidays, like Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day and St Patrick’s Day, they do have their uses.  Any reminder to love someone, remember, care for, forgive, or celebrate with someone is a good thing.

The same goes for Earth Day.  I believe and practice in my life, that EVERY day is Earth Day.  Each day I try to start the day with intention to do no harm, or at least less harm, and to leave my place on earth a little better than before.  Each day I spend some time in my garden. Sometimes just to walk about and enjoy it, to listen to the birds, to smell the jasmine.  Sometimes it’s to work hard, dig the beds, remove weeds, sow delicate seeds, prune the trees. I am a caretaker.  We are all caretakers.

Today is a good day to take a few moments and listen to our co inhabitants- the birds, the humming  bees, the leaves moving in the wind.  Grateful for each day we can breath fresh air, drink clean water, walk on the earth. Grateful for being able to make a difference.

Thank you for reading my ramblings on the life of a gardener.

Here are some photographs of inhabitants of our Mother earth.

A place to meditate and contemplate

A place to meditate and contemplate

 

 

Our precious earth

Whether seen from the perspective from space or our own little garden, we still need to take good care of our Mother Earth.

Rose

Beauty in many forms

worlds within worlds

Worlds within worlds

Children are captivated by sowing seed.

Children are captivated by sowing seed.

Borage in the rain

Borage in the rain

 

 

 

Mar 222014
 
Douglas Iris

by Avis Licht

Borage in the rain

Borage in the rain

By the date on the calendar it’s Spring – but by weather it might be any of the seasons where you live. In warm weather areas it’s definitely time to start the garden work – from sowing seeds, getting beds ready, fertilizing your flowers and generally getting involved in the excitement of coming out of hibernation.

This is the time to make sure you have good tools that help you in your work. Visit my Store to see what tools I recommend and use myself.

 

In my garden the wisteria is blooming, the pear, cherry and apple trees are bursting with bloom. The strawberries and blueberries are putting out blossoms like crazy.

Crab Apple Blossom with bee

The bees adore this Crab Apple which blooms in early spring

I have a lot of flowers in my garden that the bees love to pollinate.  It is important to create  diversity in the garden to encourage beneficial insects, birds, and butterflies to create health and delight in the garden.

Edible flowers in early Spring bring beauty. Calendula is a powerful plant

Edible flowers in early Spring bring beauty. Calendula is a powerful plant

Native plants are starting to bloom and are a great addition to all gardens. In California where we are experiencing severe drought conditions, California natives are the perfect solution – they are happy in this climate and can flourish in the most difficult of conditions.

Douglas Iris

This Douglas Iris is native to the California Coast. I love it.

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can come and learn from me directly Hands ON! in the garden! I love to share my experience. Go to the Events page for all the dates.

You can sign up NOW right here.

Jan 242014
 
Hemerocallis - Edible flowers - look good and taste good

posted by, not written by Avis Licht

I make it a rule to only post what I write unless I have a guest blogger.  A friend sent me this story about lawns and drought and some other crazy garden behavior.  We haven’t been able to find the author but hope you enjoy the story.

Japanese Maple leaves resting on the ground in the Fall.

Japanese Maple leaves resting on the ground in the Fall.

Of Lawns and God

GOD: St. Francis, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there in the USA? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistles and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect, no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honeybees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But all I see are these green rectangles.

ST. FRANCIS: It’s the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers “weeds” and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

GOD: Grass? But it’s so boring. It’s not colorful. It doesn’t attract butterflies, birds and bees, only grubs and sod worms. It’s temperamental! Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

GOD: The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it, sometimes twice a week.

GOD: They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?

ST. FRANCIS: Not exactly Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

GOD: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

ST. FRANCIS: No, sir — just the opposite. They pay to throw it away!

GOD: Now, let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

ST. FRANCIS: Yes, sir.

GOD: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

ST. FRANCIS: You aren’t going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

GOD: What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves form compost to enhance the soil. It’s a natural circle of life.

ST. FRANCIS: You’d better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

GOD: No. What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter and to keep the soil moist and loose?

ST. FRANCIS: After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

GOD: And where do they get this mulch?

ST. FRANCIS: They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

GOD: Enough! I don’t want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you’re in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?

ST. CATHERINE: “Dumb and Dumber,” Lord. It’s a real stupid movie about . . .

GOD: Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.

Source: Unknown

Plant food not lawns!

Plant food not lawns!

 

Jun 032013
 
Morning dew on poppies

Morning dew on poppies

Guest blog by Charlene Burgi from Marin Municipal Water District

I enjoyed Charlene’s post so much that I asked her if I could use it in my own blog and it turns out she and MMWD are happy to share her writings.  I hope you  enjoy it also.

Early this morning, Jack and I observed the prairie dogs scampering across the donkey’s pasture. The morning sun found the droplets of last night’s rainfall sparkling like diamonds clinging to the plants surrounding the deck. I was at peace as our two darling golden retriever puppies, Sassy and Misty, slept at our feet.Golden retriever puppies

During those quiet moments, my mind drifted to a conversation recently shared with Wendy, who I used to work with at MMWD. She had come up for a visit and driven off minutes before, but her words about what a healing place the ranch was for her reverberated in my mind. I have heard these words before from other visiting friends and wondered what healing elements found here might be captured in other gardens.

It is quiet here. In fact, I was once told it was “too quiet.” Nonetheless, as we savored the morning I found peace with the chirping birds flitting to the feeding stations set within the trees. Fragrance wafted through the air from the peonies in bloom. The spires of deep purple, sunshine yellow and pure white iris captured my attention as they gently swayed in the breeze. Below were shades of lavender and purple flowers from the sage and catmint. It was these elements that set the stage for the peace found here.

I thought back to meditation gardens I had designed in the past. What were the commonalities within those plans? Serenity was the primary thought. A quiet sitting area was essential, as well as exposure to the sun and shade to meet the varying needs of the garden visitor. The focal point of a bird bath, small fountain, or garden art always found its way into the design.

A simple bird bath can be an important design element as well as good for your birds.

A simple bird bath can be an important design element as well as good for your birds.

Plants in these gardens were chosen to offer year-around interest. Spring, summer and fall color and fragrance provided a sense of peace, attracted beneficial insects, and offered a place for our feathered friends. Winter elements included an Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku,’ better known as coral bark Japanese maple, which impressed the winter visitor with its magnificent red bark; or a Corylus avellana ‘Contorta,’ better known as a Henry Lauder’s walkingstick, whose growth twists and contorts to capture the attention of anyone viewing this uncommon aberration.

Sassy and Misty soon broke my thought process as they ran in a “ring around the rosy” chase through the lavender and flopped down on the daffodils that once added to the grace of the garden. The pups seemed to know those bulbs had completed their cycle for the year, as they avoided the daylilies planted amongst the daffodils.

Are you in need of a quiet place to recharge your batteries at the end of the day, but hate the thought of another work pill of maintenance? Consider finding a quiet place in your garden. For ease, choose a native plant palette that offers low maintenance, beauty, fragrance and color. You will be one step ahead if a large tree exists. If not, consider planting a cercis redbud. Add drifts of Pacific Coast iris, various heights and shades of blues found in ceanothus, or the diversity and subtle pinks of arctostaphylos. Include mimulus, cistus rock rose, salvias, ribes, poppies and Carpenteria californica. While it is from Chile, consider adding Berberis darwinii to provide winter berries for the birds and a thicket for their protection. Include a few well-chosen boulders, garden art, or a simple shallow garden bowl for a water feature. And don’t forget that bench or seat to provide a place to unwind.

You, too, can find that healing place right in your backyard—and a native garden can help heal a strained summer water bill from an otherwise thirsty landscape. Give it a try—you won’t regret it!

spring flowers

Bearded iris in Spring

Mar 282012
 
Honey bee in borage


Honey bee in borage

Borage blooms early and long - the bees love it (click to enlarge)

by Avis Licht

Often, when I design a garden people ask me if it will bring bees.  Usually, it’s because they are afraid of having bees in the garden. Bees, who are gentle creatures, are more interested in finding nectar and pollen than stinging you. Often people mistake yellow jackets, who come in late summer to eat your sweet fruit or meat at the outdoor barbeque, for bees.  They are not the same at all.

Bees are absolutely necessary to the health and productivity of your garden. We need them to pollinate our fruits and vegetables.  35%  of our food worldwide is pollinated by bees. Imagine a world without honey. Well, please don’t do that.

Recently there has been a disappearance of bees called Colony Collapse Disorder. Entire hives die without apparent cause.  By planting bee friendly plants you can personally aid in their resurgence.

The best plants are ones that are native to your locale or grow well in your climate. Herbs, flowers, and flowering trees all contribute to their food source.

Using only organic controls in the garden is another way of protecting your bees.

 

Don’t forget to buy my ebook on The Spring Garden Made Easy 

Spring Garden Made Easy

 

There are many wonderful bee plants.  These are a few of my favorites.

Lavender and violas

Lavender can be planted in the ground or in containers. Beautiful everywhere.

1. Lavender: For millenium lavender has been used in soaps, balms and sachets as well as medicinally for its calming effect. My local ice cream shop makes the best honey lavender ice cream.  Grow it in full sun, well drained soil, in climates that don’t go below 20 deg F.

2. Salvias: In the sage family there are many herbal and ornamental varieties of Salvias.  Bees and hummingbirds love them and they come in many colors.

Salvia Hot Lips

This bi colored Salvia, Hot Lips, is just one of many varieties. (click to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

3. Lemon Balm, Melissa officinale – In the mint family, Lemon Balm has a wonderfully lemony flavor for tea. It is considered one of the premier bee plants. Melissa is a Greek word meaning honeybee.

Lemon balm

In the mint family, Lemon Balm has a wonderful lemon flavor and is easy to grow

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Ceanothus– California lilac (many varieties). Many native plants are helpful to the bees. The California Lilac grows on the hills in California and as its name suggests is wonderfully fragrant. It flowers in the blue, purple and whites and  can be a very low growing shrub or up to 15 ft. Well drained, sunny sites are what it needs to thrive. It requires very little care.

Rosemarinus officinalis

This rosemary is planted next to my Apple tree. It brings the bees to pollinate the tree.

5. Rosemary – One of the most loved herbs for cooking, rosemary is easy to grow and long lived.  The bees love it. In my garden it starts to bloom early in Spring and is under the apple trees which are just starting to bloom.  This companion planting encourages the bees to pollinate my fruit trees.

In the herb family you can plant Basil, Catnip, Dill, Fennel, Hyssop, Lavender, Parsley, Rosemary, Thyme, and Sage to encourage your friendly bees.

In the ornamental flowers, try Agastache, Salvia, Bachelor Button, Black Eyed Susan, Clematis, Coreopsis, Lantana, Larkspur, Sweet William , Yarrow, and Zinnias.

In shrubs, Ceanothus, Manzanita, Arbutus, Mahonia and Philadelphus are beautiful and useful.

The Crab Apple tree blooms early and is absolutely buzzing with activity.

California lilac

The buds on this Ceanothus are just getting ready to open. (click to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crab Apple Blossom with bee

The bees adore this Crab Apple which blooms in early spring

Coming in for a landing

Coming in for a landing

 

Aug 262011
 

Nasturtiums cascading over wall (click to enlarge)

There are some beautiful, easy to grow and fun to use herbs for the edible landscape. In the photo above, you see the Nasturtium (Traepolum sp.) hanging over a concrete retaining wall. This is one of the multi- purpose edibles that everyone should know about.  It is pretty, it grows easily and different part of the plant can be used. Leaves of nasturtiums are tangy and great in salads. The flowers have a spicy flavor and you can use them to decorate many dishes and also eat them. In mild climates they last through the winter, and in cold climates you should treat them as an annual.

Close up of Nasturtiums

Mixed herbs in the landcape

In the photo above, you will find thyme, sage, basil, both green and purple, parsley and tarragon. You should place these herbs close to the house where you can come out of the kitchen while you’re cooking and harvest them right as you need them. Fresh herbs are SO much better than dried herbs.

They make a nice edging along the deck and are easy to reach.

Purple and Green Basil

This is a close up of purple Basil.  It has a dramatic color in the leaf, but tastes the same as traditional Basil.  Green Basil can be seen in the background starting to flower.  Like Nasturtiums, Basil does not overwinter in cold climates. If you plant enough, you can make a great Pesto sauce and freeze it for a wonderful winter Pasta dinner.

Follow this simple recipe: so easy and so good!

1/3 cup basil leaves, chopped

6 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons Parmesan, grated

3 tablespoons walnuts, chopped

1 clove garlic, sliced

Salt

Put the basil in the blender with the olive oil, cheese, walnuts, and garlic.  Blend until smooth: then season with salt.

This pesto can also be used to garnish pizza, soups or vegetable dishes.

More great herbs to follow,  check back soon.

 

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