The Garden Report April 10, 2021
Garden report: Planted seeds for sunflowers today after planting more seeds for hollyhocks and red and pink poppies. I am germinating some English lavender, “oriental” poppies, and larkspurs.
Buds are starting to bloom and it feels like the garden is about to pop with color. My intention is to plant tall flowers that can greet me as I head to the cottage. If they are successful, I would be great to have them around the cottage. The goal would eventually involve having tall and climbing flowers obscure the cottage altogether. Instead of entering from the left side, have it fenced with an arbor entrance in front and have people walk a path to the front door. I would still get light but it would be dappled light from hollyhocks, roses, lilacs, sunflowers, sweet peas, and additional color from lavender, poppies, irises, and larkspur.
The huge news i just noticed that one of my irises have finally sprouted after a couple of years not doing a damn thing except not dying. My neighbor has these beautiful irises and daffodils, so I know they work in this climate. So I am hoping to add irises and daffodils into the mix once the other flowers are established.
If you are a praying or chanting or able to put something out to the universe or god or spirit, can you direct that energy to break down the high and the ridiculously resilient ridge off the coast of California and bring much needed spring and early summer rains?
Don’t do it for me, do it for the garden that serves lizards, birds, bees, butterflies, dragonflies, and bugs. Do it for the animals up in the foothills around us. Do it so we don’t have a really bad fire season in the American West. If we can get a miraculous reprieve, that would be most appreciated. Thank you and enjoy.
The Cottage: How It Started
We had worked with our contractor, Jesus for some time before we had him build a storage shed. Our storage shed has been fantastic. He and his crew had done a stellar job building fences and large planters. We have always been impressed with the quality of his work and he was a pleasure to work with. The space inside is 10x14.
We needed to create a multipurpose space which is an office, art studio, and reading nook. The nook has the potential to be a place to have tea or wine with a friend or two when it is safe again. By moving things around I can stretch and do yoga, or turn it into a meditation space.
He started work on July 20th and we agreed that he could just work on weekends as we were not in a hurry. He was done in August and I was moved in by September. The space is very versatile and is comfortable year round. I can play music or make phone calls without bothering neighbors. The space has a reading nook. It is gets plenty of light to do art. He installed an AC/Heating unit in the wall which I really do not have to use too much because we are in a moderate climate. The space has been through strong winds, rain, heat waves, and wildfire smoke just fine. When there was a power outage for three days, this space was a great place to hang out and read in bright natural light.
We had him paint the exterior a combo of Behr Sliced Cucumber and used Behr Ultra Pure White to make the green pop. We had him paint the interior with Behr paint that was matched with Benjamin Moore White Dove and again we chose Behr Ultra Pure White for the trim. We chose White Dove because it is a favorite with designers. It is a creamy and soft greyish-yellow cream color that goes perfectly with the Pergo Outlast + waterproof flooring in Vintage Pewter Oak which is a grey or greige wood grain with greyish cream accents. I wanted to have neutral walls for when I do art, I did not want too much color bouncing off to mess up the color values. Jesus installed light cans and put in hue lights which can create color in the room when needed.
We are so happy with his work, we plan on using him in the future for other projects.
Garden Plans: Planting Seeds
There is a corner of my garden where hollyhocks have taken root in random ways that are now calling out for more tall flowers and other flowers for the foreground and in containers. My goal is to create a cottage garden for the cottage. At this moment, I am soaking more giant hollyhock seeds to plant.
I was painting sunflowers yesterday and got inspired to purchase sunflower seeds and teddybear sunflower seeds for more height and variety. Then ordered Delphinium seeds for more height and color. Then I remembered sweet pea flowers, so I bought seeds that promise the flowers pictured above. Sweet peas are fragrant and will contribute to the cottage feel. I may be a little late I am afraid but I can always try next year and plant in January. I do not normally choose annuals. I prefer perennials that come back every year. What I may do is plant some in containers and protect them from being blasted in the summer. I have also purchased seeds for various oriental poppies for borders and containers.
I need to figure out how to keep them all watered during another dry season for us. I may have to shower with a bucket to capture water. This makes me wonder if we should indeed build a desalinization plant. I had been against it, but that was when we were getting rain water pretty frequently. The past couple of years has been dry. While I was writing this, I went to the Weather West blog by climatologist Daniel Swain to get more bad news. The Ridiculously Resilient Ridge is back keeping back any moisture from us in April. Just 3-4 years ago we would be in the track of all kinds of rain while other parts of the Bay Area might not get precipitation. This is how I got the idea I could have a cottage garden. I need to figure out something. Maybe I will need to get a drip system going, but also I will need to plan for recycling water.
I might very well need to focus my intentions and ask the next full moons to give us reprieve from this drought. Yes, I know that is probably an impossible ask to have climate change shift somewhere else to blast the RRR away so we can have late rain in May and June, but it doesn't hurt to try.
It is times like these, I wish I was a weather witch or that I was a weather witch. I will be praying for us to get stuck in an el nino pattern or a pattern that supports a cottage garden.
What My Garden Teaches Me
I am not proud to admit that 2020 put me in a state of not being interested in tending my garden when it could have provided therapy. It was almost like I couldn't bear the beauty when everything was going wrong. It almost seemed disrespectful. As we are re-emerging to a better place, I am returning to find that my garden is re-emerging as well. My lilac were barren just a couple of months ago and I feared my neglect would lose them.
Yet no fear, as they recently grew leaves and buds appeared, and now there are blooms. My roses are starting to bloom after being cut back drastically. My lavender asserting themselves and are, quite frankly, being showoffs. They have survived the pandemic, wildfire smoke, winds, drought, heat, and my neglect. Like the outside world, not everyone made it to the other side, but the garden for the most part the garden pulled through. I hope this garden provides inspiration for all of us.
Scenes from a Cottage
A cottage like this wasn't created overnight and it is still in the process of becoming although it feels like it is close to emerging into what it is going to be. The cottage officially has a House Whiskey. Once we finished up the Hibiki Harmony, I am reusing that beautiful bottle to store the house whiskey. The House Whiskey is 18 year old Glenmoragie which is pretty good stuff. There is nothing like ending the day with a large cup of Camomile tea and a shot of really good whiskey while listening to some Jazz and reading a good book.
As you can see I am adding house plants to the cottage and since they are ferns and tropical plants, I am working hard to keep the cottage with high humidity. This means being more thoughtful when I turn on the heat which brings down the humidity. It means not having it toasty in the morning, but waiting for the passive solar heat to come from the windows later in the day and making sure I keep the humidifier going earlier in the morning to later in the evening. The goal is to bring it up has high as I can and so when it goes down in the middle of the night it doesn't go down as far. Yesterday the cottage got up to 84 degrees with all the passive heat from the windows. If I lay off the heat in the morning, I can get the humidity up and only 74 degrees with passive heat.
Three more plants arrived today which and so I planted them in pots and hung them up with the macrame plant hangers. This will give a bit more of that Bohemian feel, but without going overboard about it. Plants are great to not only add a splash of green to a space but help with the air quality. If I can keep these 9 plants alive we may be able to find room for more over the years. There is plenty of room for hanging plants, so this could get interesting.
The next element will include hanging crystals and indoor chimes.
As I have mentioned before, I am into spaces that have layers of elements that have accumulated over the years and everything has a place to be and where it belongs. After years of dreaming and planning, it is finally coming together.
Day Bed Dreaming
Last night I found myself in my reading nook, staring at my latest artwork.
One of the main things I had day dreamed about for years is a day bed where I can read, nap, listen to music, talk to people on the phone, and just...day dream. I took on of the outdoor chaises to create a couch that is big enough to sleep in. I can actually stretch my legs on it and sink into all those pillows.
That easy chair is also enormously comfortable and easy to fall asleep in. I look forward to having people over after this pandemic is over. I can pull out the chair and have seating for 2-3 people. For now, I just have my husband and teen son to visit me.
Another layer I am adding is ferns and house plants to add more splashes of green, which is one of the accent colors I have along with orange. The decor is grey, cream, reddish brown, black, and white with accents of green and orange. That is why the artwork is green and orange. So with the ferns, I have to raise the humidity of the cottage. That is why I have the humidifier going. Having the heat on in the morning means that I have to have it going all day and in the evenings while i am awake. The range so far has been 40-66% humidity. I am hoping to get that up in the 70s for the ferns. I am getting some more ferns and house plants to hang from the ceiling this next week. Ferns and houseplants clean the air and adds a great atmosphere. The humidifier also adds a water feature to the cottage which was missing. I got a digital thermometer and humidity gauge so I can work on getting the cottage right for the plants. I also revived an orchid. If you notice, there is a cream colored bowl where I put rocks in a bowl of water to add more humidity as the water evaporates. This also gives me another water feature.
I love the BOHO aesthetic but do not believe in going FULL BOHO. I like being bohemian without hitting people over the head with it. That is my philosophy with design don't go too literal or be too much into any one look. I love French country house, but carrying that too far would be too much. I like the shabby chic, but too much of it would be too much. My style is more in line with a sophisticated, layered New York studio apartment and office/studio with elements of bohemian chic. I love playing Jazz, classical, and shamanic music in the background so I need a space that would feel natural listening to Jazz with a glass a good whiskey as the sun sets over the foothills.
I mix woods, metals, and textures in this space. Nickle, copper, and gold play well in this space with copper fairy lights, gold accents in book spines and vases, and nickle curtain rods. Greyish woods of the flooring and bookshelves, play well with reddish woods of my desk and hutch (matching easy chair), natural wood of my art storage, and black woods of my worktables. I have a black metal accents of the bookcases that go with the black metal storage rack. My rug runner is dark grey, beige, and cream. I have gauzy grey linen curtains. I also have minerals of crystals and rocks. I have metal statues of Green Tara, White Tara, and Buddha, because this is a sacred space as well.
I mix textiles as well. I have faux fur, silk, knit, cotton, and velvet pillows and throws in green, cream, white, grey, and orange. I have a leather chair. I am not afraid to layer, people.
It was on my day bed that I joined into a virtual full moon women's shamanic journey ritual one night while holding my huge rose quartz specimen. It was a deeply satisfying experience where tears were shed and I had this deep meditative experience.
This cottage is this workspace where I can create art, write, take on projects, relax, read, meditate, and day dream. This wasn't created overnight. It took years for this to come together and lots of planning, dreaming, working, and collecting.
There is a design movement called maximalism which is a counter to minimalism. In interior design it is layers of materials and elements that fill the room without being cluttered or disorganized. When I look at interiors, while I appreciate the elegance of minimalism, I always lean in on a space that has layers of elements. Many of the elements of this cottage space has items that I have carried with me all my life, books, a chunky, amber candy dish my adopted mom gave me, shells, incense holders, vases, art, etc. When arranged thoughtfully, it becomes a place of wonder and comfort to day dream in.
Adventures in My Own Backyard
It is hard to capture this space I created the way I see it and experience it. Here is my attempt.
After being in this space for some time, I have made adjustments to make it workable. I have moved my computer where I can avoid the glare of the afternoon sun only to be foiled by a different season's sun. So I broke down and got curtains. I had resisted, because the entire point is to see the world outside, since the main house doesn't have great windows or views. The curtains I found offer diffused light to come in and the ability to see trees, clouds, blossoms, birds, and the weather outside. Being able to have ample natural light has been important not only to do art, but also when we lose power.
When we lost power for three days in Fall of 2019, our house didn't (and still hasn't) much natural light. It was nice to go out to the cottage and be able to read or journal with natural light for most of the day. The light the cottage gets provides passive heat as well.
This video I filmed shows this space from morning to night time and how it feels. Even with curtains you can see the outdoors into the garden and still get rays of light. The rays of light have been muted and diffused.
I divided the room with a divider that adds another layer of diffused light. I can still see people coming to the space while having glare protection. While sitting in the reading nook I noticed that the divider gave the illusion of being a larger space. I can fool myself and pretend that there is not just an office studio on the other side of the divider, but more rooms down a long hallway.
Lighting is so key in any space. I have lights for Zoom calls and video recording. I have task lights doing art, taking notes, writing letters, or seeing the keyboard at night. Then I have hue lights for the ceiling and the reading nook. The nook lights are not only for journaling and reading, but to provide more ambient light. Hue lights give you the ability to control the color of the space, but allows you to have dimmed light that you find in high end hotels. There are apps that allow you to turn hue lights into party lights. Then I have another light on my desk that provides ambient colored light. Then to add the final touch of magic, I put up fairy lights. Some of the fairy lights blink and it can turn the space into a disco.
Fairy lights are magical.
As you can see, this space is a multi-functional space. It is an office, an art studio, and a place to chill, read, listen to music, journaling, exercise, dance, and meditation. The space is like a tile puzzle. I can shift things around to match the activity I want to do. I have a table easel I can pull out if I want to paint, or I can store it away and give myself some surface space. If life ever gets to be normal again, I can shift things around to have guests seated and have a small party.
It is a space that has made the past couple of years bearable. I have gone through at least 2 major wildfire smoke seasons, waking up to red skies, a three day power outage, a global pandemic and shelter-in-place, George Floyd protests, and being very sick at the very beginning of January 2020. There have been great memories in here as well.
I remember when the drywall wasn't even up, setting up a table, chair, and phone to make calls for work. I participated in a distanced shamanic journey on an evening of a full moon. I have had friends over, made art, finished a bulk mail project, danced to music, read great books and listened to beautiful music. In May 2020 military planes flew over the cottage to honor our nation's health care workers. In the Spring of 2020, the entire area would howl at 8pm every night during Shelter-in-Place. There were many Zoom calls with friends and colleagues for fun and productivity.
It went through several phases until it is finally how I like it. I am going to be adding some house plants. The only other purchase is a HEPA 13 air filtration system so the family can hang in here for most of the day when we have wildfire smoke season and make it safe for guests to come when we are all vaccinated.
This will not be the last post about this space for sure.
Clouds in Motion & Petrichor
Having a birthday during a pandemic is a bummer. Sure, I was able to spend time with friends on Zoom. It was lovely, but certainly not the same as going to brunch or dinner with friends. The next day I took solace by looking up into the sky. Since 2017, after enduring wildfire smoke seasons that turn the skies orange, I have learned to deeply appreciate clear blue skies. Since the iPhone has this cool time lapse function, I have been fond of capturing blue skies with pillowy clouds gliding across the sky. I want to remind people, especially in the American West that you should never take clean and clear skies for granted, because climate change is inch by inch taking those clear skies away from us.
A happy side effect of the pandemic when everyone was sheltering-in-place was that hardly anyone was driving and you started noticing the air was fresh and reflected in the skies. It is like when a power outage reveals the starry skies that light pollution normally obscures. These are the silver linings of natural and man made disasters. Will we learn to live lightly on this planet because we are so attached to these gorgeous skies?
These skies and clouds often come before and after a rain storm. One thing about me is I am a pluviophile.
(n.) a lover of rain; someone who finds joy and peace of mind during rainy days
Not only do I love what the rain does to the air and to my garden, but it energizes and/or calms me. Throughout my life, I have taken opportunities to dance and play in the rain. When I lived in Boston when I was 23-ish or 24-ish, there used to be these epic squalls in Summer. Usually, they would come when I had to haul laundry down the street to the local laundry-mat. One time, a friend from College came over to visit from the West Coast when one of these Summer squalls hit. We rushed out of my apartment on Hemenway Street and danced in the rain until we were completely soaked. The air was warm and wet, but being soaked fully through gave relief from the humidity. It was one of those moments that I realized was a wonderful memory in real time. I miss those Summer squalls and wish I had them in my garden.
One of the causes of my pluviophilia is what is called petrichor. The music from this video is called Petrichor, which is defined by Oxford as, "a pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather. "other than the petrichor emanating from the rapidly drying grass, there was not a trace of evidence that it had rained at all"
The smell from a first rain is divine and there is real science behind the smell.
The phenomenon was first scientifically described in a March 1964 paper by Australian researchers Isabel Bear and Dick Thomas, published in the journal Nature. Thomas coined the term "petrichor" to refer to what had previously been known as "argillaceous odour". In the article, the authors describe how the smell derives from an oil exuded by certain plants during dry periods, whereupon it is absorbed by clay-based soils and rocks. During rain, the oil is released into the air along with another compound, geosmin, a metabolic by-product of certain actinobacteria, which is emitted by wet soil, producing the distinctive scent; ozone may also be present if there is lightning. In a follow-up paper, Bear and Thomas (1965) showed that the oil slows seed germination and early plant growth.
Long before this phenomenon received its name in 1964, it had been noticed and discussed in scientific circles. In May 1891 a brief note by TL Phipson appeared in The Scientific American refers to the subject. He wrote, "This subject, with which I was occupied more than twenty-five years ago, appears from a paragraph in a late number of the Chemical News to have recently attracted the attention of Professor Berthelot and M. Andre." No doubt, Phipson was referring to a short paper read by Berthelot and André at the meeting of the French Académie des Sciences on 23 April 1891, and printed in Volume 112 (1891) of Comptes Rendus, entitled "Sur l'Odeur propre de la Terre".
Phipson continues, "I find, on referring to my old notes, which are dated 1865, that it is doubtful whether I ever published the results of these observations; and as the distinguished chemists I have just named have not quite solved the problem, I hasten to give the results I obtained so long ago." He then theorizes that the odour "... was due to the presence of organic substances closely related to the essential oils of plants ..." and that these substances consist of "... the fragrance emitted by thousands of flowers ..." absorbed into the pores of the soil, and only released when displaced by rain. After attempts to isolate it, he found that it "... appeared to be very similar to, if not identical with, bromo-cedren,[clarification needed] derived from essence of cedar."
It has been my tradition to go outside in the first rain of the season and smell and feel the rain. One of the best parts of having a cottage is that is in the garden is that I get to witness beautiful skies and rain storms. As I write this, I see fluffy clouds floating across the sky in my peripheral vision. I have to make my way from our house to the cottage walking on wet cement and grass. The walk is infused with petrichor of wet plants and pavement. When it is raining, I enjoy getting wet from the rains and have my clothes smell like rainwater.
I do not take rain for granted in a world that is in the throes of climate change.
The very birth of this cottage was due to the first storm of the year and the rituals around having that storm come through before a Super Wolf Moon Full Eclipse. I collected rain water from this storm and let the water bathe in the moonlight of that Super Wolf Moon Full Eclipse and used that to water my roses and garden on the night of the next full moon which was a Rose Moon or Strawberry Moon. I am still of the opinion that ritual had something to do with having this space in the garden. It is as if the intention was heard by the universe. Good things happen when you speak to the universe through thoughtful respect to the planets, minerals, water, and plant life.
My July Garden
This morning I was moved to film my garden. It is just breathtaking to me. I decided to pair it with Frederick Chopin's Nocturnes, Op. No. 1 in B-Flat by Peter Shmalfuss. When I walk through the garden I feel like I am transported to mythical romantic time at villa surrounded by a cottage garden. Wafting through and through opened wide casement windows is a piano playing a Nocturne. There are birdsongs and bees in busy flight.
My Spring Garden (2018)
This is something I put together last year as an ode to the garden I created.
In a Zone 9 garden, north of the Golden Gate Bridge.