Snapshots from the Chicago Botanic Garden

It’s a beautiful day at the Chicago Botanic Garden, Day #6 of the CBG Healthcare Garden Design Certificate Program. Today we’ve had presentations by Marni Barnes, Gwenn Fried, Nilda Cosco, and Clare Cooper Marcus; and Mark Epstein led a super discussion about “real nature vs. virtual nature” outside in the Walled Garden. Here are some snapshots from my walk today…

Cercis canadensis (redbud). Photo by Naomi Sachs

Cercis canadensis (redbud). Photo by Naomi Sachs

Cercis canadensis. Photo by Naomi Sachs

Cercis canadensis (redbud), with blossoms springing right from the branches. Photo by Naomi Sachs

New soft leaves. Photo by Naomi Sachs.

I wish you could feel these new leaves. So velvety soft! Photo by Naomi Sachs.


(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

I know it’s hard to believe for many people in the U.S., but spring really is coming. One way to hasten its arrival is to cut a few branches from what will be a flowering shrub or tree. When you bring the branches inside and put them in water, you “fool” them into thinking that spring has arrived, and they bloom. Sometimes the sight of those blossoms is enough to give us hope for the not-too-distant future of warmth and rebirth.

Here’s an older post, “Forcing Spring,” on the subject that has links to some good how-to sites.


Planting the Healing Garden: Joys of Early Spring (Redux)

Serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.) in bloom. Photo by Naomi Sachs

Serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.) in bloom. Photo by Naomi Sachs

I wrote a post last year on this subject, and as it’s April again and I still feel the same way about the wonders of early spring (in my neck of the woods, anyway – I realize that down south things are much further along, and that things are way different in other parts of the country and world), I’m pointing you to that post from last year. Lots of pretty pictures in addition to my usual words of wisdom:) Planting the Healing Garden: The Quiet Joys of Early Spring. Enjoy!

The Healing Garden in Early Spring: A good time for planning

Crocuses and an early pollinator. Photo courtesy of Chiot's Run, www.chiotsrun.com

Photo courtesy of Chiot's Run, www.chiotsrun.com

Just a little green
Like the color when the spring is born.
There’ll be crocuses to bring to school tomorrow.

– Joni Mitchell, ‘Little Green’

Every year at this time, I kick myself for not having planted spring-blooming bulbs last fall. Other people are mooning about their snowdrops and crocuses, and I spy them blooming gayly, in spite of the cold, from gardens all over town. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s crocuses…

So don’t follow my example. In other words, do as I say, not as I do: Now is the time to look at your (or your clients’) garden – as depressing a sight as it may be if you live in northern climes – and think about what and where you might like to see things that will tide you over until everything starts going gangbusters in April or May. Take notes so that when fall rolls around, you will remember what to buy and where to plant. Write yourself a letter or a poem pleading with your future self to follow through with your plans. Take pictures of the barren ground from which, in your mind’s eye, you see brilliant sparks of hope waving to you like little beacons, and attach them to your letter/poem. I would (will!) plant crocuses and other early bloomers where I could see them from my kitchen window, which is the window that I most often gaze out of all year long. Perhaps also near the front door and outside my office window.

Crocuses, March. Photo by Philomena Kiernan

Crocuses, March. Photo by Philomena Kiernan

Also think about other plants, like evergreens – where could they be placed, as large statements or as small whispers tucked in here and there to provide green relief from the monotony of winter’s browns and greys? (more…)

Planting the Healing Garden: Plant Bulbs Now for Spring Joy

Siberian squill (Scilla siberica). Photo by Naomi Sachs

Siberian squill. Photo by Naomi Sachs

The growing season may be winding down, but the gardening season is still in full-swing (and I don’t just mean raking!). Fall is a great time for planting many shrubs, trees and perennials (it’s a good time to divide those perennials as well). It’s also the only time to plant most spring-blooming bulbs. After enduring a long winter with few signs of life in the garden, is there anything more exciting than seeing the first snowdrops appear? They are a sorely needed sign that spring – and more importantly, the end of winter – is imminent. Spring bulbs cheer up any landscape, and they give interest to a garden when most plants are either still dormant or just starting to leaf out.


Daffodils in April. Photo by Naomi Sach

Just like it’s hard to bring ourselves to buy a wool sweater in summer, even if it’s on sale, it’s a challenge to think about spring bulbs when summer is in her full glory. Which is fine, since that’s not the time to plant them anyway. If your garden is like mine, then its major bloom-time is now over, and you’re starting to see some holes, which is also what you’ll see in early spring. The perfect time to assess your garden and decide where to plant the earliest bloomers.

Some of my favorite bulbs are snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis), crocuses, daffodils (Narcissus spp.), Siberian squill, and early iris (Iris reticulata), but there are many more. The Better Homes and Gardens website has a nice slideshow of early bloomers, and BBC Gardening Guides has a good primer on bulb basics. So go ahead, get some bulbs in the ground – you’ll be delighted in the spring!

Postscript: I got this wonderful comment from a member on the TLN’s Facebook page and would like to share it here, because I think she summed it up so perfectly: “I think bulbs are especially important in healing gardens because of their early awakening in the gray thaw of early spring; always the promise of renewed life!”

Planting the Healing Garden: The Quiet Joys of Early Spring

And now it is April. I was walking in a friend’s garden this afternoon and everywhere we turned, things were budding and leafing out. He kept saying “It’s all happening!” And it truly is. Actually, it has been for a little while now, but it a quiet sort of way.

I never used to like March. Growing up in northeastern Connecticut, March always felt much more like the last, grey, dreary, incredibly long month of winter rather than the first month of spring. When I lived in Berkeley during graduate school, March was lovely, of course. The incessant winter rains finally ceased, and the Ceanothus and rosemary bloomed, and the world felt right again. Then I moved to Santa Fe, NM, where March meant fierce winds that blew the ever-present dust into every nook and cranny of everything. And then I moved to the Hudson Valley. And after five years of thinking that I hated March (and very early April), I finally this year have come to realize that it’s actually one of my favorite times.

And here is why: March (or very early spring, really, which is March where I live) is about discovery. Before spring really takes off and everything bursts forth with verdant new growth and loud, colorful flowers like some tacky prom fashion show, we see spring’s emergence more slowly and subtly. Each new discovery is cause for celebration, a light at the end of winter’s tunnel. One day I see yellow on the fat Forsythia buds. The next day, they began to open, and I also notice the first new soft green growth of lady’s mantle pushing up through the soil amidst last fall’s leaves. The next day, I see the downy buds of the service berries, and every day they get bigger and bigger and soon they will open into delicate white flowers which will last only a week or two before the branches’ bright leaves begin to emerge.

To me, this time of year feels like falling in love. There is so much to discover, and it’s all wonderful. As in, I walk around filled with wonder and delight, like my “it’s all happening!” friend.

So if you can appreciate these small joys, before spring kicks into overdrive, please share them with others. Take a walk with your children and point out the little treasures that are emerging each day. Instill in them your love of nature so that they will become stewards for the next generation. Walk in the garden, or even just gaze out the window, with your mother or grandmother or the old man who lives next door and see what you both can see. Older eyes don’t always catch the small things, but they will appreciate the new life if it’s pointed out to them. I promise you, your world, and theirs, will feel all the richer and more meaningful for it. And that’s what a “healing garden” is all about.


Forsythia buds indoors

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” —Charlotte Bronte

*For more on how to force branches indoors for early spring blossoms, see this post.

Many thanks to Judi Gerber for bringing this lovely quote to my attention.

Daffodil Days with the American Cancer Society

The American Cancer Society’s Daffodil Days program is now underway, through early this month (March – exact dates vary by location). The ACS has been holding this particular fundraising campaign for over 35 years. Over the last 15 years, Daffodil Days has raised more than $240 million in gross revenue to support the ACS.

Why daffodils?

“As the first flower of spring, the daffodil represents hope and renewal. To the American Cancer Society, the daffodil symbolizes the hope we all share for a future where cancer no longer threatens those we love.”

How it works: You order bunches of daffodils through the ACS now, and they are then delivered to friends, family members, and people touched by cancer in mid-March. And/or you can send a Gift of Hope, a bouquet of ten daffodil stems, in a vase, that gets delivered as an anonymous gift from you to cancer patients in communities across the country. Daffodil Days options (dates, bouquets offered, etc.) vary by location, so click on the map for your specific community. You can also volunteer to help out with coordinating and delivering – see the website for that, too.

To learn more, get involved, or order up bunches of daffodils that will brighten someone’s day and help fight cancer, visit the Daffodils Days website, especially the FAQ’s page, or call the ACS directly: 1.800.ACS.2345.

Project Bud Burst – Be a Citizen Scientist!

Photo of flowering dogwood by Henry Domke

At this time of year, one sure-fire way to get yourself (and others) outside is to look for signs of spring. And like the Great Backyard Bird Count, Project BudBurst empowers us to become “citizen scientists,” observing the phenology, or recurring first phases, of plants.

For a good explanation of phenology, see Shawn Moriarty’s blog post, “How do you know it is spring?” A phenophase is the first phase of a plant’s cycle (first leaf, leaves unfolding, first flower, etc.).
By reporting when we see what, we contribute valuable environmental and climate change information. So go ahead, get out there, and get your kids and students and parents out there, too! It’s a great way to learn about the environment, connect to nature, and contribute to science, all at the same time.
Thanks to the Grass Stain Guru for her post about Project BudBurst; that’s how I found out about it, so thanks, Bethe!

Signs of Spring – Lovely images from boston.com

A/P photo of crocuses in Husum, Germany by Heribert Proepper. 
One of many beautiful images at boston.com’s The Big Picture.

Spring is inching along at a snail’s pace here in the northeast (in the 30’s and windy today), so boston.com‘s collection of giant, gorgeous images – “Signs of Spring” – were a welcome reminder that it really is coming. And that people and animals celebrate it in so many different ways. Enjoy!