Showing posts from July, 2013

Gardening - Nature's Anti-Depressant

photo by Jan Johnsen Are you feeling a little down? depressed? Well here is a way to fix that -  go out and plant something...
Studies have found that an hour of gardening a day reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke and increases bone density more efficiently than aerobics or swimming!

In fact, even looking at nature can result in a drop in blood pressure within five minutes and lower our stress hormones.

One 16-year study in Australia revealed that those who did daily gardening even cut their risk of getting dementia in later life.

(Gardening boosts endorphins, the body’s good-mood chemicals. Personally, my theory is that we need the sunlight on our pineal gland and this can delay dementia, but I have no proof, its just a 'knowing')

Here is a lovely story from Timesonline United Kingdom, dated March 27, 2010

"...Jane Robertson was earning a small fortune in the pressured world of derivatives markets when she had a breakdown at the age of 27.

A spell in a psychiatr…

John Muir, Conservationist

"How hard to realize that every camp of men or beast has its glorious starry firmament for a roof.
In such places, standing alone on the mountaintop, it is easy to realize
that whatever special nests we make --
leaves and moss like the marmots and the birds, or tents or piled stone --  we all dwell in a house of one room --
the world with the firmament for its roof --
are all sailing the celestial spaces without leaving any track."
~  John Muir

John Muir was born in Scotland in 1838 and came to the backwoods of Wisconsin when he was 11.  As a teenager, he had no time for school or formal study. He worked with his father taming nature, clearing the forest, plowing with a team of oxen and other arduous tasks.

Yet he so desired knowledge that he would rise at one in the morning to read.
He wrote, “I had gained five hours, almost half a day! ‘Five hours to myself!’ ‘Five huge, solid hours!’ I can hardly think of any other event of my life, any discovery I ever made that gave bir…

Very short video: Great Garden Design Ideas

Very short video in which I point out inexpensive ways to make a small space (using my back yard as an example) sing!

Soil Makes You Happy!

The journal Neuroscience reported that contact with a soil bacteria called Mycobacterium vaccae triggers the release of serotonin in the brain.

Serotonin is the 'happiness' biochemical.  (Lack of serotonin in the brains is related to depression.)

So perhaps we should package some dirt loaded with this bacteria and tell city dwellers to rub it all over their hands! It would be a big seller! for sale - click here On second thought, growing a garden is much more useful...and healthier: dirt on heads, sweat on brow, sun on head, muscles moving. I remember coming to work the first day as a gardener on a resort known for its gardens (back in the 1970s). The French gardener was a true professional and when he saw me with my garden gloves he chided me, calling me a 'housewife'. Well, that was it! I threw away my garden gloves and never wore them again. Maybe that has helped me stay relatively happy all these years. My hands are in the soil a lot of the time.... so off wit…

The Sunflower - The 'Fourth Sister' in a Vegetable Garden

sunflower by Jan Johnsen
In one of my earlier blog posts I wrote about the Native Americans'Three Sisters Garden (corn, beans and squash ) but I neglected to tell you of the Fourth Sister...a very important member of this family.
This is from Hubpages
"Fourth Sister, didn't look anything like her other sisters, although she was as tall and as slender as First Sister (corn). That seemed fair to all, because Third Sister and Second Sister shared similar but different features.  They could climb and run, while their other two sisters were forced to stand tall and proud."
Mother Sun explained that each sister had her job and each had to benefit from and protect one another.  

But Fourth Sister's job was most important of all -- for she was the Guardian of the North, planted firmly, to protect others from the robbers who soon would come.

The fourth sister was the elegant sunflower.

The Four Sisters are known to the Native Americans as the “mothers of life”  but they all …

The Striking Acorus calamus 'Variegatus' - Striped Sweet Flag

Acorus calamus 'Variegatus' at the Missouri Botanical Garden Variegated Sweet Flag is a striking, wetland plant that grows from 2' - 4' tall. Each iris-like leaf sports a prominent creamy-white stripe. Zones: 4-8.

 It makes a punchy addition to a wet area; streamside, pond's edge, or in a container.

sweet flag in a pot
Creeping rhizomes slowly spread to form large colonies in favorable conditions, but the variegated form is not as aggressive as the regular green variety.

lovely leaves from grasslands nursery uk
This native perennial doesn't require a bog or wetlands but it needs to be constantly wet in the summer months. Sweet Flag is very hardy and semi-evergreen in zone 7 and south.
sweet flag photo from Waterford Gardens

OUTDOOR SHOWERS - cool off outdoors!

Show'r from Atelier Tradewinds
I cannot stop looking at pics of outdoor showers on the internet....perhaps because the temperatures in my area are over 95 F everyday right now.

So here are a few ideas for outdoor showers.

Show'r from Atelier Tradewinds is a mobile outdoor shower made out of galvanized and powder-coated iron tubes and a black locust wood base. (Cold water only)  Wheels are placed at the back to allow the shower to be moved easily. Just click your garden hose to the standard quick connector at the base and your garden shower is ready.  Show'r is also easily dismountable.

It is the setting that makes an outdoor shower outstanding.  Add color, texture, plants or all of the above! 

Guardian Paint a poured concrete and concrete block wall blue and it makes for a private 'Blue Lagoon.'
Sunset Magazine
Here is a bamboo and wood little hidden corner. Ahhhh.
Andersson Wise Architects What to do with all that wood from the trees you cut up? Make a privacy wal…

The Illusion of Space: St Mark's Square, Venice

photo by dangermouse Piazza San Marco or St. Mark's Square in Venice is one of the most beautiful public squares in Europe. Described as "the finest drawing room in all of Europe," this framed urban area is an example of ceremonial civic space that celebrates the power of people coming together. It is used for marches, festivals, parades, outdoor dining, pigeon feeding, and more.

Venice carnevale There is nothing more majestic than when entering the Square. You see the Doge's Palace, St. Mark's Basilica and clock tower. The buildings with their continuous colonnades wrap around the square and add a theatricality invites you in. And there are no vehicles or vehicle noise!
plan by Robert Gatje
The fascinating thing about the piazza's design is that it is not a true square.

It is a trapezoid where one side is a little bit longer than the opposite side.  This creates a space that flar…

Roberto Burle Marx and His Wave Pattern

Roberto Burle Marx Roberto Burle Marx (1909-1994) was my idol when I studied landscape architecture at the University of Hawaii in the 1970s: he worked with tropical plants and was trained in painting. I loved that Burle Marx painted every morning before attending to his design practice and that he said he 'painted his gardens'.

tablecloth design by Burle Marx
 He also asserted that the creation of a garden was 'an attempt to regain a lost paradise'. I could not agree more!

Flamengo park
Burle Marx's grasp of pattern was one of his signature features.  His bold use of color and shape captured the Brazilian culture masterfully and made them pertinent to the twentieth century. Burle Marx's designs are intimately linked with the Modernist style and Brazil's national identity; his lyrical landscapes have indeed become synonymous with the modern image of Brazil.

He had a painter’s eye and a superb sense of composition and form.  In 1965 the American Institute of Ar…