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Showing posts from March, 2010

Grow Stevia - The Natural Zero Calorie Sweetener

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(photo from Civil Eats)
In 2008  the Food and Drug Administration declared a natural zero-calorie sweetener derived from the herb Stevia safe for use in foods and beverages. A long time favorite of natural foodies, Stevia, or sweetleaf, is a tender herb native to South America (zones 10, 11 ). Its extract is widely sold here as the tabletop sweetener, Truvia.

There is a good reason why stevia is called sweetleaf. Its dried leaves are 15 times sweeter than ordinary table sugar and a glycoside that can be extracted from Stevia leaves is 300 times sweeter than sucrose!

In Japan stevia has been sold as a sweetener for over 30 years and they use it in their version of Coke. It  is also available  in Brazil and China. Stevia is banned for use in food in the European Union.
The story of stevia is quite interesting. It shows how a natural product can be banned by the government, only to be adopted by the largest multi-national beverage manufacturers in the world (Pepsi, Coca Cola) and then us…

Ovals in the Landscape - Elegance, Healing and Celebration

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(Garden by Johnsen Landscapes & Pools) Ovals and ellipses add an understated elegance to the landscape.

These elongated circles are perfect for ceremonial outdoor spaces and promote movement in a garden. 

Ellipses, ovals and the familiar 'racetrack' shape all contribute to a harmonious atmosphere outdoors.
(Garden by Johnsen Landscapes & Pools)
I utilized an oval shape when I created this level lawn on the side of a steeply sloping hill. 

I cut into the steep slope and retained it with a 3'10" ft high reinforced stone wall on the uphill side and a similar wall, which you can't see, down below on the downhill side of the lawn.
This special lawn was designed for the dimensions of a large tent to be used once a year for a grand outdoor party for children afflicted with brain and spinal cord tumors.

The Making Headway Foundation is the host of this wonderful event and the kids love it!
The most prominent feature of the Oval Garden is a row of Norway Spruce trees …

Now is the time! Don't delay!

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We all know that herbicides can harm us and the environment, so it follows that scientists are studying natural  weed control methods.

A team at Michigan State University recently studied the effectiveness ofmulched maple and oak leaves on common dandelions in bluegrass lawns. The team tested chopped up leaves of red maple, silver maple, sugar maple and red oak and looked to see how they worked to suppress dandelions in a lawn. They found that after one and two mulch applications (at a high rate of mulching)  up to 80% and 53% reduction in dandelions was achieved, respectively.

This makes sense since leaves lay naturally on a meadow and are not blown off. They block light and water and suppress weed growth.. But we, lawn owners, immediately blow off all the leaves on our lawn in our 'early spring clean up' which opens up sun to all weed seeds. We then apply pre emergent weed killers to prevent the dandelions from sprouting ...

Perhaps we should look at it from another perspec…

energy follows thought....

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A serenity garden is a place of respite where we might gaze upon the beauty of nature and ponder upon the wonders of our earthly abode...


If we create a peaceful setting then we will bring more peace into our lives....energy follows thought...and thus surrounding ourselves with a cherished zone of quiet and beauty, no matter how small, will inevitably affect our wellbeing.

This is the year when more and more people will understand the unseen mechanisms of our world.  It will come out of the shadows into the filtered light of day.  Almost 23 years ago I took a class, along with Christpher Reeve, that told us 'thought creates reality'.  It seemed absurd at the time. But now it is being discussed openly on Oprah!

So now I will also share my views on what is happening - the shift has begun! If you are interested in all this then click on 2010 predictions for more insight.

A serenity garden can be your oasis for such introspective thoughts. Calming and tranquil, such a space allows…

Green Walls, Vertical Meadows and Lawn Furniture

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You have heard of green walls?  Those wonderful, verdant vertical displays full of carex, mondo grass, ferns, spider plants and more....

G Sky is a great company who specializes in green walls and roofs. Their website is a compendium of all sorts of green wall info and pictures.








Now in the lovely gardener's paradise of New Zealand, Alan Joliffe reports that they have mastered the vertical meadow! He talks about it in his blog Alan Jolliffe - The Art and Science of Gardening
The Christchurch 'Festival of Flowers' commissioned a Vertical lawn / meadow for this year's show:
"Once the research and Development was complete special fabric was coated with grass seed and wild flower seed and grown in a greenhouse.

A large vertical scaffold was constructed and at the beginning of the Festival the Vertical Lawn was installed. In typical Kiwi Fashion a lawn mower was added to the installation.

The building in the background is the famous Canterbury Museum."





Isn't that a…

The Waterboxx - A Cure for Desertification?

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I have always been fascinated by the story of the ancient Roman soldiers who survived being in the desert by laying out sheepskins and each morning collecting the dew water that was caught on the wooly surface overnight. The water vapor in the air precipitated as small water drops on the fleece in the cool of the night and was wrung out in the morning.

Pieter Hoff, a Dutch 'green' inventor, utilized this principle of nature to create his celebrated Waterboxx.

Mr. Hoff was the largest grower of lilies in the Netherlands and the largest exporter of bulbs in the world when he sold his business several years ago with this stated goal:  "I wanted to leave a better world for our children."

He developed the Waterboxx, a protective shelter for young tree saplings, that catches water from the rare rain showers in the desert and more specifically from the air, in the same way that the ancient sheepskins worked. The condensated water from the air collects on the ridged surface …

A Special Plant Named for a Special Man

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Sometimes you just want to add 'sizzle' to a landscape. Especially in winter.....

This is what I wanted for a front entry walk that I was designing for a client. The plants I specified were common ones for my Northeastern woodland part of the world: rhododendron, azaleas, white birch trees and shadbush (amelanchier clumps).

They looked all great but I wanted the front door area to have something that gave it some 'punch' in winter.  So I planted the show stopping 'Harry Lauder's Walking Stick' (Corylus avellana' Contorta') to add some spice to an otherwise staid scene.

This tree, a Filbert variety, is known for its unusual twisted twigs and branches that give the whole plant a contorted appearance. It is actually a large shrub, growing up to 15 feet high and wide. In winter, the curly branches of the Walking Stick are truly delightful and make the entire tree appear as a work of sculpture.


During the growing season, the leaves have a crinkly appea…

what I look at when surfing the web...

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You can find out alot about a person if you know what they look at when they are simply surfing the web..
So you think that I am now going to talk about all the great gardening and design sites I go to...Not!

I must admit that my 'go-to' site is by Steve Jurvetson - who I don't know but am intrigued by....he is into science and photography and runs a great Flikr site...

he does not address plants or gardens at all but his photos are awesome and his interests are the complete opposite from mine..

which is why I like it so much.

His conversations portray a world that I am not a part of.  I do not understand many of the things he talks about and that is part of the fascination...maybe this is why I loved the movie, The Matrix.


It is like a foreign language from a foreign planet - like eavesdropping on Dr. Spock or something. ...

here is a sample:
For example, consider the chemical reaction of a caffeine molecule binding to a receptor (something which is top of mind =). These two…

The best place to seek God....

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The best place to seek God is in a garden. You can dig for him there. ~ George Bernard Shaw

Our rediscovery of nature's 'holy' qualities is a relatively recent phenomenon. In the last 100 years we have traveled from seeing the natural environment as something to be tamed or conquered to viewing it as something to be preserved and revered.

Chief Seattle's words from 1854 ring true:

“Man did not weave the web of life: he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web he does to himself.”
This ecological awareness has led many of us to yearn for a more meaningful connection to the outdoors which is why I write my ‘serenity in the garden’ blog.

I see the piece of ground outside our doors as an everyday conduit to the energy of life that flows within plants, water, trees, sunlight, rocks, birds and assorted creatures. It is here, in a garden, where we can touch the divine.

Looking at nature in this way is nothing new. The idea of special or rarified outdoor space can…