Creating harmony, simplicity and peace in the landscape......

"Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help.

Gardening is an instrument of grace. " - May Sarton

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Friday, May 27, 2016

PURSLANE - The Incredible, Edible 'Weed'

What was one of Mahatma Gandhi's favorite foods? 
What did Henry Thoreau eat while residing at Walden Pond? 

PURSLANE.
Purslane, long considered an obnoxious weed in the U.S., is, in fact, full of vitamins, minerals and fatty acids!  And now this overlooked gem,

'one of the most nutritious greens in the world',

is receiving the attention it is due.

Usha Palaniswamy of the Department of Plant Science, University of Connecticut, reports that,

"Purslane is receiving much attention for cultivation by the United States Department of Agriculture as part of their effort to bring about a modification in the western diet with increased intake of fresh fruits and vegetables."

Purslane contains a high concentration of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), one of the highly sought-after Omega-3 fatty acids. It has several times the concentration of ALA than is found in spinach.  So throw away those fish oil capsules and grow your own Omega-3 fatty acids! It literally grows like a weed.

from Family Food  - click here

Addiitonally, Purslane stems are high in vitamins A and C.  And it provides all of this wellness with only 15 calories in a 100-gram portion (as compared with 76 in a boiled potato).

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is a member of the Portulacaceae Family and is also known as wild portulaca and verdolaga. It grows all over the world, often in disturbed soil in sunny areas.

This low growing, fleshy leaved plant is native to Persia and India and was said to have been introduced into Europe by Arabs in the 15th century as a salad herb. But it was actually widely used in ancient Greece where Theophrastus (in the 4th century BC) named purslane, (called andrákhne) as one of the several summer pot herbs that must be sown in April.

 In traditional Chinese Medicine, it is used to treat infections or bleeding of the genito-urinary tract as well as dysentery.

And the Japanese use Purslane as one of the seven herbs in their symbolic New Year's ritual dish called nanakusa-no-sekku (七草の節句).

 Purslane has been eaten for generations as a treatment for arthritis, inflammation and heart disease and to promote general good health.



WOW! and you always pull it up and toss it away, yes?


Purslane is a tender annual and a perennial in USDA zones Zone 9 -11. It has prostrate reddish stems and succulent leaves that are smooth, paddle shaped and about a half inch long.  It has tiny yellow flowers about 3/16 of an inch open when the sun shines, followed by small dark colored seeds. When foraging for purslane, watch out for spurge, a poisonous plant that grows in similar conditions to purslane. Snap a stem to confirm your identification. If there’s white, milky sap inside the stem, you might have picked spurge – discard it.
Purslane stems are filled with clear water. Purslane stems are also thick, while spurge has a wiry stem.

Always check with someone who knows before you pull weeds and eat them.
Waterconscious gardeners will love its drought and salt tolerant qualities. Purslane has little to no disease problems in well-drained soil. You can pinch it back as it grows to maintain a bushy low plant.


Purslane provides cover to create a humid microclimate for nearby plants. Its deep roots bring up ground moisture that other plants can use, and some, including corn, will "follow" purslane roots down through the hard soil. Deep rooted 'weeds' like Purslane are extremely beneficial because they bring up needed minerals and nutrients from the depths of the ground.

This edible plant has a refreshing tart taste and grows from late spring to fall. I just pulled some up yesterday. You can eat Purslane raw in salads (it has a crispy texture and a peppery taste). It can also be sauteed as a side dish or boiled  - boiling will remove the tartness.

Bake it with breadcrumbs as a casserole. Use it in place of okra in recipes. Add it to omelets. Purslane is eaten extensively in soups and salads throughout the Mediterranean area. The Russians dry it and can it for the winter. In Mexico it is called VERDOLAGA.

 Star chef Steve Johnson has a Purslane cooking recipe for cucumber-yogurt salad (you can view his recipe for purslane at the Star Chefs Web site).


The wild Purslane is best for eating as the new cultivars are bred for flowers rather than taste and nutrition. But if you want to use the snazzy flowers of cultivated Purslane in your edible landscape try the new flowering series from Israel - Purlsane Pazazz. 



 Pazazz Purslane makes a great long lived spiller in combination planters for hot sunny spots. It is very forgiving, tough and needs little water. It comes in a variety of fabulous bright colors - Red Flare, Salmon Glow, Pink Glow and Ultra Pink. They all glow in an iridescent manner.

 But I wouldn't eat them.....

Thoreau wrote of Purslane:

 "I have made a satisfactory dinner off a dish of purslane which I gathered and boiled. Yet men have come to such a pass that they frequently starve, not from want of necessaries, but for want of luxuries."
 (so eat that Purslane!) - Jan

Here is a great video about Purslane from Green Deane (Eattheweeds -click here)




Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Restful Call of Green


Green in all its shades and tones is the tranquil color of Nature.

 It wraps us in a multi hued cloak in a garden, twining lime green together with moss green, spring green, fern green and deep pine green to create a feeling so luxurious that we can forget all our cares. 




This is the siren call of a serenity garden at its best and it begins with the natural world’s ever changing show of green.


(garden & recirculating waterfall...Jan Johnsen)
If you love gardens you probably love green...

While some gardens seek to stimulate the senses, a predominantly green garden promotes relaxation and quiet contemplation.

The best model is the classic Japanese garden which uses striking plant textures and forms rather than myriad colors to create an oasis of green peacefulness. 

In such a serene landscape, pine, holly, azalea, ferns and junipers display the passing of each season in verdant contrasts.

 In summer, lush foliage play against deep shadows; in winter, variegated greens, evergreen boughs and the tracery of bare branches offer an austere and still setting.











Monday, May 16, 2016

Circles in the Garden



Our natural inclination, when in a group, is to gather in a circle.

The ineluctable unity of this shape gives each person equal standing, equal voice and equal support. It is a perfect shape for expressing ourselves to others.  The result? A unified purpose or intention arising from talking and listening, in turn.

Yay for the circle!






Like theater in the round, no one has a better seat than anyone else. It is no wonder that circular gathering spaces are popular for group activities and in various spiritual traditions.



The Contemplative Mind is enhanced through circular gatherings


This is why I advocate Circular Peace Gardens wherever people may gather.

A circle is a nurturing form that invites us in - there are no hard edges, corners or angles.


Alcazar Garden, Seville, Spain  photo by Jan Johnsen 

So what is the perfect size for a circular 'people space' outdoors?

 It is all a matter of proportion, scale, context and intended use.  If you are in a dense urban neighborhood - the size of the circle may be decided for you by what is available....if you are in a wide open flat space, the size would depend on intended use. 

Above all, I always counsel people to make it bigger than they think they need.




Always start with determining the personal space required for each person which is about a 2'6" radius around each person...then I add another 1.5 ft. for 'move around' space.

4' radius or 8' diameter for each person

I then use this as the space - 4 ft. - as the rough distance between people.



So if you want 10 people in your circle then multiply 4' x 10 to get a circumference (perimeter) of about 40 ft.  Once you know that you can go here (click on it) to determine that your circle's diameter should be about 13 ft.

The radius would therefore be about 6.5 feet.  If you wanted 20 people, then double 13 to get a diameter of 26 ft. This is the minimum - you can always go bigger.

Always work from the center point out when laying out the circle...Here is a wonderful diagram from a mathematics in gardening blog:




You can fashion a circular garden in a lawn, bordering it with rocks, bricks, tree stumps or shrubs. You can even mark one out on a lawn with some powdered agricultural lime.





Of course you can get very technical about the whole circle thing....The epitome of circular shapes in a green space are those famous Crop Circles that spring up overnight in the middle of a field.

 Some think these shapes are made by people with plywood boards in the space of 5 minutes, but I beg to differ :






Good Luck! Let me know....





Saturday, May 14, 2016

Garden Photo of the Day - and a Quote


“In every man’s heart there is a secret nerve that answers to the vibrations of beauty.” – Christopher Morley








Sunday, May 8, 2016

Butterfly Gardens - Open House for Butterflies


Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp,
 but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.
- Nathaniel Hawthorne

butterfly garden by Jan Johnsen 

This is why a butterfly garden should be in everyone's life.  
In the photo above, I planted 'Lucky White' Lantana and purple Callibrachoa to attract the summer butterflies....they love lantana! Plant lantana in all its ice cream colors and you will have an open house for butterflies.



Mexican sunflower and butterfly - photo by Jan Johnsen
Also perennial coneflowers, agastache, bee balm, chrysanthemums are butterfly attractors. 
 These all have nectar, a butterfly's delight.
 So if you have a sunny open spot, some shelter from wind and fresh water (butterfly puddles) then plant some butterfly flowers and enjoy a bit of happiness.
luscious citrus blend lantana
Cherry Lantana





And a great partial shade plant- a tall shrub -  that butterflies love is Bottlebrush Buckeye!



Here is a wonderful butterfly garden plant list from the Farmer's Almanac

Common NameLatin Name
AlliumAllium
AsterAster
Bee balmMonarda
Butterfly bushBuddleia
CatmintNepeta
Clove PinkDianthus
CornflowerCentaurea
DaylilyHemerocallis
False indigoBaptisia
FleabaneErigeron
Floss flowerAgeratum
Globe thistleEchinops
GoldenrodSolidago
Helen's flowerHelenium
HollyhockAlcea
LavenderLavendula
LilacSyringa
LupineLupinus
LychnisLychnis
MallowMalva
MilkweedAsclepias
MintMentha
PansyViola
PhloxPhlox
PrivetLigustrum
Purple coneflowerEchinacea
Rock cressArabis
SageSalvia
Sea hollyEryngium
Shasta daisyChrysanthemum
SnapdragonAntirrhinum
StonecropSedum
Sweet alyssumLobularia
Sweet rocketHesperis
TickseedCoreopsis
ZinniaZinnia









Friday, May 6, 2016

Fothergilla- A Deer Resistant, 3-Season Stunner


Fothergilla in bloom - photo by Laura McKillop

"Fothergillas, ask so little from gardeners, 
yet give so much; 
all friends should exhibit this kind of relationship."

 -  Michael A. Dirr


I adore Fothergilla gardenii Mt Airy.

Fothergilla is native to the Appalachians, is deer resistant  and sports fragrant, honey scented, early spring flowers before the leaves come out.

The flowers are white, short bottlebrush spikes that light up a sunny to partial sun woodland corner. The flowers are followed by blue green, heavily textured foliage.


Photo from Robs Plants Website - http://www.robsplants.com/plants/FotheGarde


'Mt Airy' is a dwarf form and got its name from the Mt. Airy Arboretum in Cincinnati, Ohio. When compared to the native species, Mt. Airy Fothergilla has more vibrant multicolored foliage in shades of yellow, orange and red in October through mid-November.

This fall color is the best! It is spell binding in the garden....


 Photo for Monrovia by Doris Wyjna


Photo by Plant Introductions, Inc

 I like to use 'Mt Airy' in combination with Fargesia, Manhattan Euonymus, hakonechloa, ferns and viburnums. I mass them in groups of 3 or more. They grow to 3 - 4 feet in height and tolerate moist soil...Zones 5-8.




 And now there is the cultivar ‘Blue Shadow’!  This exciting introduction originated as a sport from Fothergilla major 'Mt. Airy' and is blessed with the same vigorous constitution and habit..

 It has steely blue summer leaves with the same outstanding autumn display of rich yellow, red and orange.  

Blue Shadow is a medium-size deciduous shrub 5 to 6' high and wide and easily adapts to sun or partial shade. It is tolerant to a wide range of soil and environmental conditions, needs little pruning and has no major disease or insect problems.


And don't forget the shorter 'Blue Mist' dwarf Fothergilla (fothergilla gardenii Blue Mist) . It makes a great low hedge and is attractive in three seasons - the brilliant yellow, red, orange fall coloration is a show stopper. Grows 2' - 3' tall. Plant in non-alkaline soil.

Blue Mist Fothergilla gardenii  - photo from  Monrovia








Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Dandelion Love - Early Spring Greens



The dreaded Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), for which we spend tremendous amounts of weed killer money to eradicate, has been prized over the years for its medicinal and nutritious properties.

In fact, dandelion roots, flowers and "dandelion greens" (leaves) are all edible!

Dandelions are a rich source of vitamins A, B complex, C, and D, as well as minerals such as iron, potassium, and zinc. And in traditional medicine, dandelion roots and leaves were used to treat liver problems. Native Americans used dandelion decoctions (liquid made by boiling down the herb in water) to treat kidney disease, swelling, skin problems, heartburn, and stomach upset.

From a great blog: Sierra Foothills Garden 

• Dandelion roots can be roasted as a coffee-substitute, or boiled and stir-fried as a cooked vegetable.

• Dandelion flowers can be made into a wine.




• Dandelion greens can be boiled, as you would spinach, and served as a vegetable or can be inserted in sandwiches or used as a salad green (it has a little "bite.")


 Dandelion greens are high in vitamins A and C, and iron!  The French even  have a well-known soup called creme de pissenlits (cream of dandelion soup), which is easy to make.

Read more: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/eating-dandelions.html

 from Embracing My Health blog


Harvesting the greens (the leaves)  is the most popular way to eat Dandelions. The best time to harvest the greens is in early spring, before the flowers appear, when they are the tenderest and least bitter. 

Boiling them or stir frying them will further reduce their bitterness.




So why pay pay extra to purchase foods with similar (or even inferior) nutritional value, when you have a free source of leafy greens in your neighborhood?






My musings:  It makes sense that, at the end of winter, when our ancestors were probably hungry and vitamin deficient, that Nature would see to it that they had a great source of vitamins proliferating all around them! No one had to seed them or turn over the soil...the Dandelions appeared just for the picking! 

And today we spend so much money just to make them go away....something is wrong here.

Just make sure to avoid harvesting near roads, since road salt and/or toxins may be present. Likewise, you obviously shouldn't harvest from a lawn where herbicides have been used.