Showing posts from March, 2016

Oak Trees and Einstein

Why do certain tree species evoke the same response from all people? 

The Oak, for example, was considered  by the Celtic Druids to be the 'King of the Greenwood' . To them, oaks represented mighty and enduring power.  

The ancient Greeks also revered oaks - groves of them were deemed sacred territory.   And Native Americans viewed the oak tree as a symbol of strength with supernatural powers. In fact, the tradition of “knocking on wood” is said to be of Native American origin  - they would knock on an oak tree in order to avert the failing of a hopeful prediction.

This similarity is true for many other trees from Ash trees to katsura trees to maples.... So why do disparate cultures see tree 'personas' similarly?  
I think Albert Einstein figured it out.

  In  1905, Einstein, a young patent inspector in Switzerland,  came up with a simple equation that challenged the way we in Western society saw the  physical world:

Few people, at the time, realized what this mix of numbers …

Hanami - Annual Cherry Blossom Viewing Time in Japan

The Tradition of Hanami When I lived in Kyoto, Japan I was lucky to see Hanami in action.  In Japan, the seasonal blooming of cherry trees is celebrated nationally in an event known as hanami(flower-viewing). 
The practice of hanami is centuries old; it began during the 8th century, when it referred to the viewing of the ume, or plum tree.

 But  later hanami was synonymous with 'sakura' - cherry - and the blossoming of the cherry trees was used to predict the next year's harvest.

Hanami was a time to perform rituals marking the start of the planting season. These rituals ended with a feast under the cherry trees, and this persists to today.  

Starting in late March, television weather reporters give the public daily blossom forecasts, tracking the "cherry blossom front" as it progresses from the south to the north.  Families, coworkers, and friends rely on these to quickly organize hanami parties as the cherry trees begin to bloom locally.

 Parks like Tokyo's fam…

Spirit of Stone - My talk at Tower HiIl Botanic Garden April 2

Stone is so often overlooked but it is an integral part of our landscape. 

 I will be presenting my popular powerpoint talk, Spirit of Stone, at Tower Hill Botanic Garden next  Saturday, April 2. 10:00 am - 12:00 pm

During the informative and captivationg class, I will share the secrets of stone placement in the garden and talk about how to use stone in innovative ways.

Register for a  chance to learn how to create sublime gardens that feature both plants and stone!

Click here:

O sweet spontaneous - by e.e. cummings (an ode to spring)

O sweet spontaneousby: e.e. cummings (1894-1962)

 sweet spontaneousearth how often havethedotingfingers ofprurient philosophers pinchedandpokedthee,has the naughty thumbof science proddedthybeauty, howoften have religions takenthee upon their scraggy kneessqueezing and
buffeting thee that thou mightest conceivegods(buttrueto the incomparablecouch of death thyrhythmicloverthou answerestthem only withspring)

wordless wednesday


'Ivory Silk' Japanese Tree Lilac - A Tree for All Seasons

Years ago I moved to Northern Vermont  (Montpelier) and worked as a landscape designer for a design / build firm there.  I soon discovered that my 'plant palette' was greatly altered due to the colder climate. 

I had to learn about cold hardy plants - and fast.

One of my favorite cold hardy discoveries that has remained a favorite of mine is the ornamental tree, 'Ivory Silk' Tree Lilac  (Syringa reticulata "Ivory Silk" ).

This small flowering tree, which grows no taller than 25 feet, was selected by Sheridan Nursery of Ontario, Canada in 1975 as a compact cultivar of Japanese Tree Lilac.

 It needs full sun and is hardy to USDA Zone 3!

I love 'Ivory Silk' because it flowers later than other flowering trees and has spectacular creamy white, fragrant flowers borne in abundance in 6" - 12" long clusters.

In my part of the world it blooms from June to July.  The fragrance is similar to a common lilac.

photo from Colesville Nursery
I also admire its lovel…

Vivid Awareness in the Garden

The idea that we are living within a world swirling with unseen energies is not a new one...
The Chinese idea of Tao comes closest to what mystics, tribal peoples and modern day physicists explain as the basis of all life.
(white plumeria, Kauai )
The Tao, as Alan Watts writes, is not God “in the sense of ruler, monarch, commander, architect and maker of the universe,” but an “intelligent rhythm” (Watts, “Tao: the Watercourse Way”P 40):

“The great Tao flows [also “floats” and “drifts”] everywhere
to the left and to the right,
All things depend upon it to exist,
And it does not abandon them.
To its accomplishments it lays no claim.
It loves and nourishes all things, but does not lord it over them.
(Jim's Golden Laceleaf Elderberry - Jan Johnsen)

A flourishing garden spotlights this intelligent rhythm.
It is our everyday “repository of life …….with no claim to its accomplishments”.
NY Botanical Garden Cascade- Jan Johnsen
Alan Watts uses a stream as his principal metaphor for the Tao.A stream, he…

New Jersey Springfest - My Upcoming Talk

The New Jersey Springfest is coming! 
The show is held at the Sussex County Fairgrounds in Augusta, NJ, March 17-20, 2016.
Touted as "NJ's finest flower & garden show", the Springfest Conservatory and 20,000 square feet of exhibition space will be packed with vendors of garden related products - from displays to edibles to flowers to great garden tools.
The proceeds of the non-profit, inspiring event, produced for garden-lovers, benefit the promotion of excellence in horticulture.

Premier garden designers and landscape companies will  feature displays of natural stone, waterfalls and patios, and garden plants in all forms. I'll be speaking onFriday - March 18, 2016 at 12:30:
My Powerpoint talk is Serenity by Design:  Secrets for Creating Outdoor Spaces that Renew and Refresh
The description reads: "Why do some gardens make us feel relaxed? Landscape designer Jan Johnsen mixes ancient ideas with little-known scientific facts to sho…